In France, one of the highest compliments one can pay to a dish or a meal is: “It was correct.” Having grown up in this context, where proper execution is valued and silly hyperbole frowned upon, I am delighted to say that Forough Vakili’s posh new all-day restaurant in Buckhead—a celebration of the Parisian grand cafe—is bold, elegant, but above all, correct on almost every level. Located in a soaring space on the ground floor of the Irby condo building, Le Bon Nosh is a big-budget production, with acres of shiny marble counters, tile insets, and buttery drapes descending from 25-foot ceilings. Some corners of the restaurant are communal and almost utilitarian; others, such as the wine bar, plush and sexy. Two-thirds French, one-third Yiddish, the name of the establishment speaks of goodness and indulgent yet informal meals.
Vakili, who moved to the United States from Iran as an adolescent, has a technical background: She studied chemical engineering at Georgia Tech before deciding to attend culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, moving thereafter to a stage in a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Brittany. Now in her late 30s, she has become the food entrepreneur she always wanted to be. The other star here is pastry chef Daniella Lea Rada, formerly a baker across the street at the St. Regis Hotel.
Le Bon Nosh has a terrific coffee program (Intelligentsia) and quality breakfast and brunch options—tall Belgian waffles, cumin-scented shakshuka, and healthy, trendy dishes like chia-seed puddings and power bowls with bone broth, eggs, bacon, and avocado. But most of the food is driven by the bakery; for me, it is sufficient to start the day dunking a perfectly tender plain croissant into an Americano, or nibbling buttered sourdough bread with a rose-petal latte on the side and dreaming of Paris. Lingering in the cafe as the morning progresses, it’s a special joy to watch the pastry case fill up with almond croissants, scones flecked with orange zest, and a loaf version of hazelnut financiers perfumed with beurre noisette.
My absolute favorite things to eat are the extraordinary savory galettes that show up around lunchtime. As large as a sheet cake but flatter, they combine seasonal ingredients and a triumphant amount of melting cheese on a base of flaky puff pastry. Imagine the pleasure you will get from a hot square of leek and pear galette awash in Gruyère, or from any other combination involving crisp lardons, young onions, hazelnuts, and/or chard or mushrooms. Salads, prepared ahead of time and available in two sizes, may feature the hearty flavors of dark, tiny lentilles du Puys dotted with local feta and walnuts, or shredded kale that’s been tamed into submission by a tart dressing.
Establishing Le Bon Nosh as a wine bar is taking some effort. The menu sends mixed messages. On the one hand, there are plenty of light options to snack on: sweet and spicy fried almonds, classic steak tartare, crudités with whipped feta, even casual, if hefty, tartines. On the other hand, something about the presence of a giant wood-grilled Georgia prime rib-eye, or even an (admittedly impeccable) pappardelle with Bolognese and Grana Padano, feels too serious, too restauranty, for a wine-focused evening. There is nothing wrong with the duck confit over French lentils except its price, which—at $36—may cause you to whistle and mumble “Expensive little leg!” under your breath when it is set in front of you. The dessert I was dead-set on, ile flottante—poached meringue launched on creme anglaise with Persian flavors—was no longer on the menu when I tried to order it, but a not-too-sweet date and chocolate cake was a tasty consolation.
The entirely Gallic wine list (a single page, with whites on one side and reds on the reverse, all listed by grape varietal) is supposed to demystify French wines. Good producers, excellent service, and thin-stemmed Spiegelau glasses all make a powerful impression, but, here again, the price for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (a 2015 Domaine Duclaux, for $29 a glass) may be a shock to your system. Pick a simple vin d’Anjou or a bubbly cremant rather than a ruinous Champagne, and don’t worry about the list not being especially deep.
Everything from the cute cutlery to the curvy water carafes and the plate under the lobster salad has been chosen by an owner who is also an aesthete. The transformation of a giant concrete cavern into a two-story, palatial yet warm space to hang out is a tribute to Vakili, whose nostalgia for Paris and Brittany is genuine. Check out the private dining room at the top of a regal staircase. Admire Vakili’s cookbook collection, arranged on shelves you wish were your own. Explore the nooks and crannies of a gorgeous little wrap-around terrace furnished in the French style. You’ll hardly ever have an opportunity to open your laptop or chitchat with a friend in such an elegant space!
Eventually, Le Bon Nosh would like to be more like a Dean & DeLuca emporium—marketing its own products (spice blends, Dijon dressing, etc.), hosting cooking lessons, serving as a center for the food-obsessed community. At the moment, though, we can be happy to have an elegant cafe that makes its own pastries and serves quality, French-leaning food without the froofery of full service.
Some of the finest items at Le Bon Nosh are Daniella Lea Rada’s gorgeous pastries, like this rich hazelnut financier . . .
. . . this classic pain au chocolat (best enjoyed with a rose latte) . . .
. . . and chaussons aux pommes—aka French apple turnovers.
★ ★ ★ ★
65 Irby Avenue, Buckhead
This article appears in our April 2022 issue.
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