A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to the media opening of a new aphrodisiac concept restaurant, Atame. The craze of the "Fifty Shade of Grey" books has influenced many to capitalize on the many gimmicks that can be associated with the BDSM lifestyle - Atame is no exception. I am in no way saying that Atame has a BDSM vibe to it, but the theme felt as though it was loosely based on the best selling and widely popular books.
We arrived at around 6:15pm to a crowded entrance and a chaotic line up for the bar. My guest and I were quickly greeted by the beautiful Tracey Brooke PR girls who offered us the option of being seated at our table and having our cocktails served to us rather than waiting in a disaster of a line up. We chose to be seated and graciously waited for our waiter to offer us drinks. Looking around the restaurant, I couldn't help but feel as though the decor did not fit the theme of the restaurant. I found the decor to be elegant and a bit on the tacky side - the crushed velour seats were a bit tacky to say the least. I did not see how white was an appropriate colour for an aphrodisiac theme. For me, darker and richer colours would have been more appropriate - to my surprise, I was not the only one who felt this way.
Our waiter offered us a glass of either champagne, white wine or red wine, we decided on the Pinot Grigio as it goes with almost anything. We asked him about the aphrodisiac signature cocktails and he promised to have some sent over to our table - needless to say, that did not happen until about an hour later.
As the restaurant filled up, I noticed some tables being offered appetizer, but for some reason my table was not offered any. Finally we were offered our first treat, an oyster served with a passion fruit jelly, lychee mignonette and an optional horse radish sauce. Did I mention that we waited over an hour for the oysters? I like oysters a lot, but this one was so over powered by the sweetness of the passion fruit and lychee mignonette that I cannot say I enjoyed this at all - way too sweet for my liking even with the horseradish sauce.
As we sat and chatted with others at our table, we all notice and how disorganized the front of the house seemed to be. I cannot say that this was a pleasant experience as we were always skipped over and missed tasting many dishes that our friends at other tables had. Next we were served lamb and veal meatballs served with a spicy mayonnaise and a really nicely flavoured Asian miso sauce. The meatball was tender and delicious, I just did not understand why it was served with a spicy mayonnaise, it did not add anything to the dish - to me they don't really go together.
Next came the Arctic Char sashimi served on apple slices and topped with a red caviar. I thought this was delicious, fresh and well put together except a bit too sweet. Another diner at my table suggested that the apples should have been lightly splashed with a touch of lemon juice to balance the sweetness - but besides that it was delish!
We finished the sashimi in seconds, just in time to be hushed by a strange woman preparing for her performance. After walking around and hushing the entire restaurant, she propped herself up in a stool on Atame's small performing stage, and began reading from what I believe was the Fifty Shade of Grey novel - her interpretation was a bit scary to say the least. I understand acting out a monologue or a reading, but this was very confusing and completely ridiculous - you couldn't even understand what she was talking about.
After the reading, a few more nibbles arrived at our table. The beef tartare was served on a baguette crostini and flavoured with Tonka, a vanilla flavoured aphrodisiac, and parmesan cheese. The tartare was tender and delicious, really well done! The baguette was perfectly crisp and held the tartare perfectly - my favourite bite of the night.
It was around this point that my fellow diners and I noticed how many people were posting pictures of dishes we did not get to sample let alone see being passed around. We inquired with our waiter who informed us that not everyone would be served all the dishes - I understood but thought this to be very weird. Were we not all there to sample what Atame has to offer? How can we all get the proper impression of the restaurant if half of us were not treated the same as the rest? Needless to say our friends let us know that we really missed out on some delicious food - a bit disappointing but how can I really complain.
Next we were served beautiful looking crab cake balls served lollipop style with a mild dipping sauce. I am a huge crab lover, but canned is probably my only exception - I hate canned crab meat, yuck! As I bit into the crab cake I knew this was not for me - mushy, bland and really unappetizing. The crab cake was made from canned crab meat and loads of mashed potatoes as a filler. Really the only thing you tasted was a fried taste, not even potato. The crab cake wasn't crispy at all, in fact it was so mushy and pasty that I couldn't finish it - yucky! I was not the only one at my table who felt this way, I would have to give them a fail on the crab cake - great serving idea though!
After the not-so-good crab cakes came the black truffle quail. The quail was cooked properly and deliciously flavoured, my only question, where was the black truffle flavour? All I tasted was a sweet Asian style marinade, no bold earthy flavours that would normally be associated with a black truffle sauce. I cannot complain about the quail at all as it was really delicious and we thanked our waiter a few times for serving us two plates - he tried to make up for us missing out on a bunch of dishes. I appreciated his effort, but would have loved to try something else rather than the same dish we had just finished - but thanks anyways!
After washing the stickiness of my finger, yes the sauce was very sweet, we were served probably the ugliest plate I have ever seen, but I knew instantly what it was - red snapper my favourite fish. Served whole roasted with an orange, fennel and pineapple salsa, this dish was delicious, except for all the bones and scales. We still managed to eat most of the fish as it was flavoured really well and not over-cooked.
It was about this time that the Burlesque performance began. A beautiful woman danced on the stage and interacted with the male patrons. I have seen burlesque shows before and thought the dancing was amazing and unique, the dancer at Atame was just that, a dancer. I thought she had talent but for some reason her performance felt more on the stripper side rather than a burlesque dance - either way it was unique and entertaining. The male attendees seemed to really enjoy her performance. I would just have preferred the show after eating dinner, not right in the middle.
Our waiter cleared our plate and informed us that he had checked and the only dish we had not been served was the sashimi - wrong we got the sashimi. He then came back with a beautifully presented plate of pasta served with a half a lobster tail and a claw. The pasta had a delicious lemon and parmesan flavour, and I for one loved the snap peas served in the pasta. How the lobster fit into this dish was a mystery to me, I thought the sauce had absolutely no flavour of lobster and did not blend particularly well with the sea critter. As I bit into the lobster tail, I was overwhelmed by the extra strong flavour. I want to say that it was a fishy flavour and smell, however it tasted and smelled more like a strong Limburger cheese. My only thought was that this lobster wasn't fresh or it had been cooked a day ahead of time and sat in the fridge, either way it was not appetizing at all and really ruined the dish - the pasta was good though!
Our pasta was finished and the next course was presented, filet mignon with a pomegranate sauce served with sauteed mushrooms and red peppers. The filet was served rare which was fine with me but I couldn't help to think that it was served too rare for most people. As I thought, someone at my table took a bite and immediately exclaimed how rare the meat was and how it should have been cooked a little longer. I agree that a chef should serve the meat rare, but this was almost blue.
Finally it was time for dessert. I imagined they were going to serve some sort of chocolate dessert, but I did not expect to love the brownies as much as I did. The brownies were light, chocolately and just plain old scrumptious, the salted caramel sauce was delicious too. The Amarula milkshake dipping sauce served with the brownies was a bit strong for my liking but others really enjoyed it. The only thing I thought would have made this dish perfect, was if there was less caramel at the bottom, it was more of a bowl of salted caramel soup - but still really delicious!
Atame was an experience to say the least. From the lineups and disorganization of the front of the house, to the provocative and unique entertainment, this place is definitely not for everyone. Many people didn't stick around until the end as they were so fed up with the service - someone at my table left and went for poutines at La Banquise! I for one stuck it out and wanted to really experience what the restaurant was all about.