I recently visited Cafe Circa with ATL blogger Malika, a cool restaurant tucked into Downtown/Old Fourth Ward on Edgewood Ave. Armed with a Scoutmob coupon and empty bellies, we went in ready to try anything. Our meal, the service, and the ambiance were fantastic.
We started with the roasted lamb ribs in mango bbq sauce and the ackee and salt fish (red peppers, poblano peppers, onions, salt cod, ackee, hard dough bread).
I was excited to try the latter dish because although I didn’t get to try it then, I learned on my trip to Jamaica last year that it is their National Dish. Our waiter also promised that we wouldn’t be disappointed with it. Unfortunately, we both were. This is likely more due to the fact that we didn’t know what to expect than the possibility that it was cooked badly–neither of us were fans of the taste of ackee, a fruit with insides that look like scrambled eggs. Thankfully, our meal was quickly redeemed by the tender and flavorful lamb ribs.
For entrees, I chose the shrimp & grits (Andouille sausage, stone ground grits, peppers, onions, blackened butter sauce), and Malika had the seared scallops (Curried baby cabbage, sweet potato pureé, spicy tomato emulsion).
Wow. Wow. Wow. I literally could not stop eating until my plate was clean. I’d occasionally set my fork aside long enough to make conversation with Malika, but for the most part I was savoring the super creamy and cheesy grits and the fantastic sauce they were covered in. Malika felt the same way about her scallops, and when we traded servings from each other’s plates I could see why. The scallops were nicely seasoned and cooked to perfection with a nice crust on both sides. The spicy tomato emulsion was more than a little spicy, but I thought if you carefully meted it out, it was a nice addition to the scallops. Sort of like using wasabi on your sushi.
I started writing this article Friday morning. Since I had been thinking about it all day, Friday evening I convinced Mario to use it as our date night dinner spot. He ordered the jerk pork chop, and I tried the pan-roasted salmon. The pork chop was fantastic–tender, juicy, and with a fabulous jerk crust. The salmon was good, but nothing special. Though service was stellar when I visited with Malika (a sparsely populated Thursday night, I believe), service with Mario on a more crowded Friday night was not nearly as attentive. It took nearly 10 minutes just to receive our drinks (just Sprite!). It did, however, look like the waitstaff was working hard, as they were doubling as hosts and waiters.
For the last 2 Mondays in December, Cafe Circa has jazz singer Francine Reed performing during dinner service. Enjoy her smooth stylings with your meal, and try Jake’s “Brown Sugah” Ice Cream for dessert–you won’t be disappointed!