Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Atomica Gourmet Pizza & Wine Bar

This week, I'm dedicating the blog to my Grandma... One of my many favourite memories of growing up with her around was enjoying meals and laughing together... and I still love the opportunity when it presents itself. Recently, I was lucky enough to celebrate her birthday with her over a delicious pizza pie - I know she'd love Atomica if she could go. I love you, Grandma. 

On a VERY cold night (it was actually so cold it was hard to think) in the middle of a VERY cold week, cozying up with friends and good food was more than a welcome experience this week. There is something to be said about sitting around a dining table, seeing the blustery winter outside of the window and being nice and toasty while munching delicious food. Heaven... And this week, Atomica helped take us there.

Atomica Gourmet Pizza and Wine Bar is located in the lovely downtown Kingston on Brock Street. Yet another location for our adventure that is within minutes of shopping, Market Square and the waterfront. As I type this, I am quickly reminded of why I loved living downtown in the past... So many places to wander and enjoy. Downtown Kingston really is lovely - if you have yet to enjoy it, you should make a plan to do so.  Add it to your bucket-list!

Atomica itself isn't a very large restaurant - which isn't surprising... it is downtown after all... But it is certainly large in personality (In my notes, I wrote "it has such a nice vibe!"). With tables at the front window looking out onto Brock Street, comfortable and classy-looking booths, a brick accent wall, a long bar that is highlighted by plexi-glass panels that hang above it and glow with hued lights, single, colourful flowers sitting atop each table, and an exposed pizza oven and prep area in the back so you can watch a chef in action... There isn't anywhere that your eyes aren't drawn... On a number of occasions during our visit, I found the need to give myself gentle reminders to pay closer attention to what was going on at my table - which is a pretty good sign considering the quality of company I keep on these adventures!  Atomica truly is a restaurant that you need to experience for the look and feel of it alone - and then, the food just makes it more appealing.

And... this brings us back to the food. With a wide variety of appetizers, main courses (including pizza, pasta, paninis and more) and desserts, Atomica has a menu that can easily appeal to anyone. While I can only think of one friend who doesn't like pizza very much (a 40-in-40 adventurer, in fact; let's see if you can figure out who it is!), I think that it is always nice for restaurants to have other offerings - even if "gourmet pizza" is in their name. Now, in my opinion, pizza is quite delicious - but I also know that it can be screwed up royally. And; when you are looking for delicious, there is nothing more disappointing than an unpleasing "pie". Okay... perhaps there are things in life that are more disappointing than bad pizza, but certainly, it is high on the list.

On this night, there was a lot of food at the table (most of it in front of me, admittedly!) and I'm happy to share what we ordered.

Carrie: Hot chocolate to help warm me up! Fried olives to start (amazingly salty little bundles stuffed with sausage and deep fried, then served over marzano tomatoes); caesar salad, and the Italian Job pizza: la bomba tomato sauce, mozzarella, house made fennel sausage, mixed bell peppers, red onion. Once that was cleared away, I had Zeppole for dessert (it was a dessert kind of day): deep fried ricotta cheesecake, chocolate sauce, raspberry coulis, vanilla cream. A little cup of heaven. Actually - a large cup. A very large cup of heaven.

Tonia: Tonia was also chilled and ordered a hot chocolate. Caesar salad and the Retro Pizza: Genoese pesto, mozzarella, clarmel on the Rideau feta, Lyons farm chicken, sundried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers. Tonia also ordered a dessert - Tiramisu: frangelico, nutella served in a mason jar.

Samer: House salad and the Pan-seared wild salmon: lemon-roasted garlic orzo risotto, braised spinach, king oyster mushrooms, salsa verde.  Upon seeing the mention of "wild salmon", Samer stated "we'll see how wild this is..."

Kendra: Fried olives, caesar salad, Atomica Pizza: la bomba tomato sauce, mozzarella, local cremini mushrooms, "seed to sausage" calabrese, pepperoncini. Strawberry Gelato to finish it all off.

Jordan: Bruschetta to start: balsamic onions, cherry tomatoes, herbed chèvre; and the Pappardelle Bolognese pasta: local lamb ragu, granada padano, fresh basil. Chocolate Gelato as a dessert. 

Todd: Fried olives (we have some pickle fans in our group!!); caesar salad. Todd and Benoit shared the Italian Job pizza.

And how did things go?

Well, for starters, we were drawn to Atomica this particular week because they had their "Snowdelicious" deal on - a three course dinner "Prix Fixe" menu for only $22. In the end, only Kendra and Jordan ordered the special; but it was nice for at least a couple of people to have some savings! Sadly, though, when we sat down, we weren't given the "Snowdelicious" menu... and then we sat and waited for a server to visit our table for about 20 minutes (a major pet peeve!! As a former server, Tonia always speaks of how important it was to get to tables for drink orders within 5 minutes of arrival - and as a frequent restaurant diner, I couldn't agree more)... We had, by that point, ventured off to find our own copies of the specialized menu from the hostess table and were more than happy to order drinks; although had we had to wait much longer and we may have gone to another restaurant.  After the initial visit, service was much better through the night - and our server (regretfully, I didn't get her name) was very attentive and carried on friendly chatter with us upon every visit to our table.

Each course arrived in a well-timed fashion - which was especially nice for me since I had FOUR courses - and the comments around the table were certainly positive. Here's what we thought and our ratings:

Carrie: 4.75 forks. I will admit, if service was part of the ratings, the first 20 minute wait made me so sour that my score would have been very different, but since this is solely based on food, Atomica fared quite well. The olives were outstanding. Seriously. If you thought you liked olives before, you better get your butt down to Atomica to find out why you might LOVE olives (although I can see the faces of all of those out there who don't like olives... and while I don't appreciate your furrowed brow and crooked lips, I do appreciate that olives aren't for everyone). The caesar salad is served untraditionally - full romaine leaves on your plate - which I quite enjoyed; and the bacon bits were awesome - even without one in my mouth, the whole salad had a nice "bacony" flavour. The pizza? Delicious. I was slightly sad to be getting full because I would have been happy to continue to eat it, but since I had dessert coming, I was just as happy to pack it up for lunch the next day. And the dessert... oh my goodness. I don't know what I was expecting from the description... I guess I just thought "I like cheesecake, so I'll order that"... But what arrived was an absolutely heavenly dish. A tall cup of BALLS of CHEESECAKE (honestly - balls of cheesecake!) that have been deep fried. As if that wasn't enough, they smothered them in chocolate sauce. AND THEN they added small raspberry coulis and vanilla cream dipping sauces on the side. I don't know who came up with the idea for this dessert, but I'm certain the world would be so happy to eat it that people everywhere would forget about any anger and the chef would get a Nobel Peace Prize for distracting people from wars and fighting with balls of goodness. Maybe. We'd all be really obese. But we'd be happy. 

Oh - and why the .25 deduction? The hot chocolate! It was disappointing - lacking flavour, more than 1/3 of the cup was foam rather than hot chocolate... the only good thing about it was the biscotti on the side.

Tonia: 4.12 forks. Tonia had a similar sentiment towards the hot chocolate - and her cup had even more foam than mine... She said that the salad was "pretty darn good" and that the serving style of the salad was "neat". (Is it just me, or is the word "neat" making a comeback? I love it!) The tiramisu was good, but the pizza wasn't as flavourful as she would have liked - Tonia is a pesto fan and it was lacking this time around.

Samer: 4 forks. Samer thought his meal was good overall, but the risotto was "swimming in butter", and, sadly for Samer who isn't a big fan of cheese (have you figured out who adventurer is that doesn't like pizza much?), the dish had a cheesy taste, which of course wasn't to his liking.

Kendra: 5 forks. Kendra was disappointed with the wait, but stated that the food was "awesome". The caesar salad was very tasty (although having to cut it up herself wasn't for her). Kendra also very much enjoyed the olives - stating they were delicious - and the pizza was really great. She did mention that readers may like to know that it was a little greasy - fine for her, but perhaps not enjoyed by all.

Jordan: 4 forks. Jordan very much enjoyed the bruschetta - "it was really good - the caramelized onion was interesting with tomato on top". The meal overall was good in Jordan's opinion; the pasta tasted fresh and homemade, and dessert was delicious. The only drawback in his eyes - the lamb in the dish wasn't very noticeable - he was expecting some chunks but instead, it was more incorporated and hidden... almost mushy.

Todd: 4.25 forks. A direct quote from Todd regarding the olives: "I love those salty babies!" In other words, he thought the olives were fantastic. The caesar salad was tasty, but Todd was in Kendra's boat and would have preferred it to be served traditionally as the lettuce was hard to cut and the croutons were awkward to eat. The pizza was well cooked with a nice spicy bite.

While Benoit didn't give a score before rushing off for the evening, he definitely seemed to enjoy the meal. 

All in all, I know that we would all go back to Atomica, and I don't think there is anything other than the hot chocolate that we wouldn't venture to order again. The result? An evening in a restaurant that was cozy enough for us to sit for an extended period of time enjoying good food, good conversation, laughs while playing the "can you do this?" and "look at THIS scar" games, and an overall score of 4.35 forks. Pretty awesome night.  The only thing that could make it better? A visit from Grandma...

Next week, we will be heading to Mango - and hopefully the experience will be just as awesome.

Atomica Gourmet Pizza & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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