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A Disappointment Since 'There's Always Alcohol!': Briza- West Midtown (Renaissance Hotel)
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A Disappointment Since 'There's Always Alcohol!': Briza- West Midtown (Renaissance Hotel) Featured

Briza is located in West Midtown Atlanta and is attached to the Renaissance Hotel off W. Peachtree Street. Executive Chef Janine Falvo is the mastermind behind the menus and I was excited to try her cuisine and critique its taste and presentation.

There were a number of things that drew me into Briza that particular chilly Thursday evening.  A friend and I wanted to grab a bite to eat before we enjoyed one of the last days of the Garden of Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and Briza was in a perfect location close enough that we could catch up over a nice dinner and then go to the gardens for an hour or so.  I was also drawn in by the items I saw on the menu on their website.  Items like a duck entree featuring fried liver and duck confit breast, a 48 hour beef short rib, and a sea bass with a truffled hollandaise sauce were what jumped out to me the most.


As I walked into the restaurant from the complimentary valet (thank you, Renaissance Hotel), I was in awe of the decor of the restaurant.  Plush velvet couches and seating, egg shaped and dome like seating against the wall of the bar that made you feel like you were sitting on your own thrown, chandelier prints, bubble lighting hanging from the ceiling and an amazing floor to ceiling glass wine cabinet that would amaze any wine-lover.  Needless to say, the atmosphere was very inviting, warm, low lit, and romantic.  I just adored their blend of modern and vintage style.

We were seated for dinner and immediately ordered the oysters. I had just come back from traveling to San Francisco, so seafood was on my taste buds.  Regrettably, they had run out, so the next best thing was the mussels.  They were soaking in a garlic butter sauce with hints of white wine and paired with this earthy bread that was great to dip in the sauce.  The mussels were very well prepared and that sauce was heavenly.

I ordered the 48 hour beef short rib with a side of the cypress grove mac and cheese,  and my friend ordered the duck with the lobster homefries.  Based on how things were going for the evening, we knew we were in for a treat with these entrees. However, this is when my experience turned south.  The plate was beautiful and the short rib was a large cut of beef that I anticipated to be tender and juicy, especially if it had been slow roasted for 48 hours. The first 3 bites were fabulous.  Great marbling from the short rib, which gave it the moistness from the fat and tender protein that seemed to just fall apart as my fork pierced through it.  As I dug deeper into the cut of beef, it was more and more dry and tough and was definitely over cooked and dehydrated.  It was as if my first 3 bites were teasers and the rest was pure disappointment.  The beef was also on a bed of black pepper pasta.  The sauce of the pasta was made from the drippings of the short rib, which made it very flavorful, but the pasta itself was underdone.  It was tough to chew and definitely not a compliment to the overall dish.  Of course I also had to try my friend’s duck to see if it was equally as disappointing.  The duck leg was dry and the confit breast had no flavor.  It needed salt or some seasoning to bring out that duck meat flavor. On a brighter note, my mac and cheese was great!  It had sharp and mild cheeses blended together and had a nice surprise of some mushrooms baked in, which are my favorite.  I was over my short rib entree and pushed it to the side.

            At this point, I saw the waiter pace back and forth a few times looking at our table since I had pushed over my entree plate with majority of the food left on it.  He knew I was not happy; however, he did not address it and did not even ask how we liked everything.  Mind you, we are the ONLY guests in the dining area so there was no one else to attend to.  He had nothing else to do but to watch us eat and converse with us to try and make our experience as pleasant as possible.  I noticed a gentleman that was dressed different from the wait staff and assumed he was the manager.  I called him over and immediately asked his name.  Thomas was kind enough to talk to us and explain how the 48 hour short rib is prepared.  It is slow roasted and vacuum sealed with vegetables like carrots and celery to keep the integrity of the flavor in the meat before the bag is cut open and seared with a bit of char and plated for its guest.  I explained to him that my short rib was overcooked and dry.  He proceeded to tell me that yes this may have happened in the process since it is vacuumed then freeze dried after its initial slow-roasting process. To me that sounded like an excuse.  I explained that I did not want a refund or free meal, and I just wanted to provide some initial constructive feedback to the chef. He thanked me and said, “I’ll go and make fun of chef for the short rib.  In the meantime, there is always alcohol!”  I was shocked!  For  management to express that alcohol was going to make my experience better does not put any good faith in the culinary staff.  The alcohol is purchased from wholesalers, the restaurant doesn’t make those, so why try and feature something you don’t make in the kitchen to hide what you should be highlighting which is your food.  And to say you will “make fun of chef” was a completely disrespectful display of appreciation for her.  I can give her constructive feedback and hope she takes it into consideration, but for a person in management to poke fun at someone’s craft and passion is not respectful to the chef or restaurant and definitely should not be expressed to the guests.  There were so many things wrong with this situation on so many levels.

            In addition, they had no idea who I was.  I could’ve been some young female that has no influence or clout to them.  I like to make sure that I am as incognito as possible when I visit an establishment to truly see its day to day operations.  To see this from Briza on a Thursday evening let’s me know why it was empty.  The food is not up to par to be charging $25+ per plate and $9+ per side and the management views the liquor as more of a key element to the restaurant than its food.  I walked out having paid $100 for a dinner I was not at all happy or satisfied with and had to fill my stomach with s’mores and hot cider at the gardens.

            1 ½ DIAMONDS OUT OF A POSSIBLE 7 for great mussels, beautiful ambiance, but dry and over cooked entrees with a management staff that is non-apologetic for the kitchen’s flaws.

Science Fact:


“These little creatures live in a hostile environment simply by hunkering down and holding on to hard surfaces,” observes J. Herbert Waite. He works at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As a molecular biologist, he studies the processes that happen inside living cells.

Some of the organisms he studies are mussels, a type of dark-shelled bivalve. Having no backbone, these invertebrates live inside two shells that can clamp together for protection. Some bivalves live in seafloor mud. Many others burrow into wood that’s submerged. Regardless of their lifestyle, most bivalves filter their food from the water that constantly flows past them.

But among bivalves, mussels are special, says Waite. “They have a heroic ability to stick to wet surfaces.”

And research suggests that science can learn a lot from mussels. The fibers they make to anchor themselves to hard surfaces are seven times stretchier than any fibers made by people. In fact, the filaments are so stretchy that they’ve been called “nature’s bungee cords.” The goo that mussels exude to cement the fibers to hard surfaces works wonders, too. It helps mussels stick around even in wet conditions, no matter if the liquid is as salty as the ocean or as fresh as lake water.

These unusual fibers and adhesive have captured the attention of materials scientists. The researchers are looking to adopt some of the mussel’s tricks to make new glues that will work even on things that are wet.

For instance, human blood is salty like the sea. This suggests a mussel-like glue might work on and in the body, such as to close wounds.

Yet even as researchers look for help from mussels to design new superglues, people may be causing some of these same animals to lose their grip. The global warming fostered by people’s extensive use of fossil fuels could be harming the natural anchors that mussels make.

Mussels often crowd together so thickly that you can’t see the near-shore rocks they’re clinging to. But byssal fibers don’t last forever. Mussels must replace the fibers that break or wear out. Carrington’s lab tests now show that not all fibers are created equal. Ones made during summer are definitely weaker than those made at any other time of the year.

Fibers made between January and May last about two months, she finds. In contrast, those formed in the summer may last as little as two to three weeks.

When Carrington and her coworkers probed why, they found temperature plays a big role. Mussels living in waters that are 10° to 18° Celsius (50° to 64° Fahrenheit), produce strong and very elastic fibers. But when the water climbs to 25 °C, the scientists found, newly made fibers prove far less stretchy and less than half as strong.

Climate change is making coastal waters in many areas warmer. That means mussels should increasingly have a tough time maintaining their grip.

Much of Earth’s slowly rising temperature is driven by all of the carbon dioxide spewed by the burning of fossil fuels. Global warming would be climbing faster if the oceans hadn’t started sopping up some of that gas from the atmosphere. But one byproduct of the ocean’s absorption of this gas has been to make sea water more acidic.

As human activity sends more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of that gas ends up dissolving in the oceans. That, in turn, makes the seas more acidic. In research published in March in Nature Climate Change, Carrington and her team showed water acidity also affects fiber strength. More acidic water weakens fibers. That’s a big problem, since scientists predict ocean acidity will increase even more in years to come.

The acid test

In lab experiments, Carrington’s team tested the strength of mussel fibers formed in waters with different pHs. A pH is a measure of water’s acidity. Each water sample’s pH was held at a different, specific number between 7.5 and 8. Waters with these pHs are slightly alkaline (a pH of 7 is neutral and anything below that is acidic). All of the test pHs were representative of seawater.

As the water’s acidity grew — meaning its pH fell — the strength of a mussel’s fibers also fell. The scientists then used a computer to mathematically analyze this relationship. Their findings suggest that at a pH of 7.5, a mussel’s ability to hang onto rocks is only about 40 percent as good as at a pH of 8!

Living in warmer and more acidic waters means that seashore mussels will have a tougher time clinging to rocks. (And that’s not even counting the fact that climate change could make waves stronger and more frequent.) If mussels can’t cling to rocks as effectively, then large patches of them could wash away. That would bring big changes to coastal ecosystems. For instance, it could open large patches of coastal real estate to invasion by seaweed or other invasive species.

Mussel farmers could also feel the pinch. These people grow the bivalves on ropes dangling in the water. The new findings suggest they’ll probably have to use longer ropes so the mussels can live in cooler, deeper waters. And the requirement for longer ropes means it will raise the costs of growing mussels. But the added expense might be worth it: Mussels are big business. The global sales of this yummy shellfish now exceed $1.5 billion.



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