11 courses at No. 246

From the owner of JCT Kitchen, comes a new restaurant in the heart of downtown Decatur, No. 246. In less than six weeks of it’s opening, Chef Drew Belline has worked his magic here, creating one of the most inspiring Italian menu’s in town!

While the restaurant boasts a casual elegance, yet cozy ambiance, the food itself is nothing less than 5 stars.  Each night, the restaurant takes reservations for four guests to dine at the Chef’s Counter. With informal bar stools overlooking the kitchen, the guests are in for a total surprise. They put themselves in the very capable hands of Belline, allowing him to prepare an impromptu multiple-course menu. He does note any dietary restrictions at the beginning of the dinner and checks in frequently for feedback.

This was my first time eating at No. 246 and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even so, I was very excited about the front row seating overlooking the kitchen, watching the crew as they sauteed, grilled and plated. It reminded me of watching one of those kitchen shows on TV, only the people on this show were very peaceful, cooperative and did not talk much (let alone yell at each other).

The food was a treat for the eyes, mouth and spirit. Each dish had an intricate blend of flavors so you never got bored after a few bites. Needless to say, there were multiple contrasting flavors in every dish to which words can’t do full justice.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect at No. 246 is the quality of it’s ingredients. Artisan Meat is bought from Pine Street Market, cheese sourced from small organic farms and the honey…well, the chef turned out to be a bee keeper as well. He brought out a live honey comb and scooped off fresh honey from it, which he poured over an aged Pawlet and topped off with toasted nuts. Yum!

The whole Branzino (a Mediterranean Seabass) served with shaved fennel and pesto was also an eye-catcher. The chef presented it in the pan and then processed it onto individual plates with perfection.

Brisket with smashed potatoes turned a not-a-meat lover (me) into one! A top cut cooked with pork fat simply melted into the mouth. The beef was well seasoned and I actually like the idea of keeping the potatoes whole and hearty, rather than whipping and mashing them with heavy cream.

Other highlights included an African squash soup with almond and sage, rabbit terrine with plum preserves (made fresh daily), and Guanciale pork scented carbonara tossed with corkscrew pasta.  Individual toasts served five different ways (house made lemony ricotta topped with preserved mild mushrooms being my favorite) are also reflective of Belline’s creative style where he blends sweet, pungent and salty flavors.

The grand finale to a heavenly meal was an olive oil-almond cake with plum extract and sweet cream. A dense home-made cake with the delicate moist richness coming from the olive oil. It did not look like much but was good enough for me to finish the entire plate as my 11th course!

No. 246

129 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur

Phone (678) 399-8246

www.no246.com