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TWO. urban licks
by Kim Urquhart

If ONE. midtown kitchen is the star of the intown dining scene, then TWO.urban licks is the much-anticipated encore. The sequel to ONE, created by renowned restaurateurs Bob Amick and Todd Rushing and Partner and Executive Chef Scott Serpas, promises to turn up the heat as one of the city’s best new hotspots, with a high-energy atmosphere and fiery flavor.

Despite minimal advertising and an obscure location in a warehouse district on Ralph McGill, TWO has made a dramatic entrance onto the scene since opening recently on October 25th. The guest experience also begins with a dramatic entrance – I was surprised to find that you drive your car into the building for valet parking. You then pass through a lush courtyard with a retractable roof and a wall of wine framing the bar. Once seated amidst soft pillows it was almost sensory overload as I took in the soft red lighting, the riffs of live blues music and the savory smells of wood-fired food.

The centerpiece of the enormous, open dining room was the “kitchen in the round,” giving guests a fireside view of their meal. At the heart of the kitchen was something unique indeed – a 14-foot rotisserie, its revolving flames slow-roasting skewers of sumptuous meat. TWO says it’s the largest open fire rotisserie in the country. I discovered the wonderful mesquite smell was emanating from a refurbished forge, circa 1895, the kind old-timers used to bend glowing metals into wrought iron. Built exclusively for TWO by Italian oven designer Nobile Attie, the forge has been converted for wood fire grilling of whole fish and slow-cooked meats.

At TWO, it is all about the juice. The restaurant has an innovative wine program, serving straight from the barrel. The bar is buffered by an impressive wall of wine, featuring 42 kegs displayed in a 26-foot glass and stainless steel temperature-controlled tower. Wines pour from the barrels through an old-fashioned spout system and are served in a “thief,” TWO’s answer to carafes. The majority of the wine is domestic, and costs under $50. Champagne, sparkling wines and a selection of liquor and beer also are available.

I opted to start with a TWO signature martini, which was fabulous. The house-made martinis are infused, meaning the flavor ingredient, such as fresh fruit or spices, has been soaking in the liquor for days for a deliciously innocent flavor that packs a punch. The infusions also add color to the bar, where they perch prettily overhead.

With so much to see, I nearly forgot about the food, which turned out to be unforgettable. Appetizers we sampled – and savored – included the lemon crab fritters, filled with warm cream cheese, and the oh-so-cute lamb lollipops that come skewered on what looks like a Popsicle stick with a dollop of goat cheese. My rocket salad did rock, filled with Bing cherries and feta in a cranberry serrano vinaigrette. My dining companion enjoyed the spears of romaine salad, TWO’s version of a Caesar with a twist. The only appetizer I would not order again was the hot frog legs – served similar to hot wings -- that did, in fact, taste like chicken. The saucy flavor was fine – and I realize the delicacy is hard to find on most menus – I just didn’t care for the treachery of picking out the tiny bones. Have to save room for dinner, right?

Our main courses continued to delight. I chose an unusual menu item, which would also make a great appetizer -- the bronzed scallops served with smoked gouda grits and roasted eggplant butter. The smoky flavor of this southern-inspired dish enhanced the perfectly prepared seafood. But the caraway-cumin seared tuna served with swiss chard over a bed of spaghetti squash was by far my favorite. My date tried the prime rib, garnished with garlic horseradish sour cream. He was amazed by the tenderness of the fire-roasted dish.

I have a serious sweet tooth, so I always find room for dessert. And I was glad I did after one scrumptious spoonful of the peanut butter chocolate parfait, a towering concoction of gooey goodness. The homemade peanut butter cup – lovingly created by TWO’s pastry chef, Jennifer Etchison – was a treat unto itself. I also thoroughly enjoyed the rich, moist carrot cake iced with cream cheese. This dessert came with an equally edible garnish. The candied apple was divine – the delicate crunch of the candy complemented the crisp fruit.

The check was delivered with a lollipop, making me wonder how TWO.urban licks got its unique name. The energetic staff was happy to supply me with an answer: The food is so tasty that it’s finger-licking good, and it is enjoyed to the bluesy guitar licks of live entertainment. And entertained I was by the entire TWO experience.

TWO. urban licks is located at 820 Ralph McGill Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30306. Their phone number is (404) 522-4622. Or visit them online at www.twourbanlicks.com.
From top: Mussels; Shrimp salad; Lamb Lollipops; Fish; Rotisserie Pit; Wine from the barrel; Executive Chef Scott Serpas.