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by David Danzig

Shall I compare Atlanta’s restaurant scene to a summer’s day? In 2016 any would argue that it is even more lovely and temperate with brilliant new flavors, textures and atmospheres even Shakespeare could never had dreamed. So check these out soon as we know that summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Of all the trends that faced the reckoning of the Great Recession, perhaps the harshest backlash focused on the art of traditional fine dining. The words, “fine dining,” alone becameassociated with gluttonous excesses and useless formalities and the consumer dictated that dress codes, atmosphere and prices needed to significantly lighten up. Of course, Aria, which opened in 2000, had already firmly established itself in the upper echelon of Atlanta’s fine dining firmament by the time the banks were collapsing and it was Gerry Klaskala’s exquisite cooking that ensured that the restaurant would not only survive the Great Recession but exemplify Darwinian survivability.

Now, well on the other side of our economic trough, Aria has rebooted its interior and is ready for its 2.0 close-up. Both the bar and the dining room have undergone a transformation designed to update the mood of the moment and attract younger diners. The cream-colored walls and turnof- the-millennium fabrics have given way to a darker, more relaxed palette, new leather banquettes and chairs. Still there: the signature bejeweled dog sculptures and dramatic, space-age jellyfish-like chandelier. And, of course, Klaskala’s cuisine, delicious and always social media-worthy, steal the show. But now you can enjoy in a space where the fine dining party doesn’t feel like it’s 1999. aria-atl.com/#aria

Linton’s In the Garden
Two geniuses can now be found making art at the Atlanta Botanical Garden — world-renowned glassblowing maestro Dale Chihuly, who has a spectacular installation of his work living amongst the foliage, and our own James Beard award-winning Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch, who with his wife Gina has just opened a magnificent new restaurant, Linton’s in the Garden. Previously Hopkins operated a smaller version at the Botanical Garden — The Café at Linton’s — but this is a whole other level. A spectacular new structure has arisen in the gardens — a sexy and modern glass and steel box with dramatic lines that somehow, amazingly, melds right into the natural canopy. Inside this box Linton’s feels right at home in the space drenched in natural night, flowing curtains, a modern fireplace and warm earthy tones. On the walls: a series of stunning colorful Chihuly mixed-media works. And the food is as much a work of art as a massive piece of Chihuly glass. Hopkins’ genius has always been corralling hyper-fresh ingredients into time-tested recipes that act as epicurean time capsules from another era. The ever-changing menu will covet the bounties of each season in a way that only Linton comprehends. Vegetables of the moment, lighter fare for spring and summer, heartier in fall and winter. A recent menu featured a salad niciose, smoked eggplant with white Georgia shrimp, mountain trout, skillet chicken livers with pickled ramps, and chilled English pea soup. Everything I tried was world-class, perfectly balanced and Instagram-worthy. Check the website as the menus change each day.

You must pay for a garden entrance to dine at Linton’s during garden hours so do yourself a favor: Plan a morning or afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and feast your eyes on the works of Dale Chihuly and then feast your palate on Linton’s Hopkins amazing offerings at Linton’s in the Garden. intonsinthegarden.comTo read more of Season Eatings, click here, or pick up a copy around town.