Lazy Betty's untraditional take on fine dining is priming it to become an unforgettable experience.
When you walk into what used to be the Radial Cafe on Dekalb Avenue in Candler Park, the first thing that stands out is that it looks mighty casual for the food coming out of it. And that was intentional, according to co-owners and chefs Aaron Phillips and Ron Hsu. For Hsu—an Atlanta native (and Woodward Academy graduate) whose Malaysian and Chinese parents ran several restaurants in town over the last three decades—it’s a homecoming, one preempted by a lot of fanfare and testing. For almost a year, the duo hosted pop-up dinners to test the waters, and the end result is a restaurant with extremely elevated food in a relaxed environment.
Hsu has held titles ranging from executive chef at Manhattan’s outpost of Le Colonial to creative director under Eric Ripert at New York City’s three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin to partner with master Japanese chef Shin Takagi on Netflix’s The Final Table (Hsu worked with Takagi at his two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan). Phillips is formerly of Le Bernardin, Four Seasons Hotel New York, Bouley and Atlanta’s own Atlas. This pedigree shows in the food.
Charred octopus with fermented black beans.
While the menu rotates regularly, highlights abound, such as the foie gras mousse served over brioche, with a preserved gooseberry compote tucked inside and a pomegranate reduction. Another standout? The Truffle Hunting in the Georgia Terroir is a playful dish. Comprised of a potato puree, Peruvian potato soil, truffles from the south of France and the tiniest carrots I’ve ever seen, it’s an ode to mushrooms. A duo of salmon (butter-poached and sashimi style) is served with braised lettuces and white sturgeon caviar, and finished with a heavenly Parmesan lemon broth. I wasn’t full until Lindsay Davis’ cherry—that’s a cherry mousse over chocolate crumbs served with coconut foam and coconut sorbet, and covered in a mirrored glaze—set me over the edge. I was tempted to put the extensive petits fours selection in my bag and take it to go. I doubt anyone would have blinked an eye; they’re all so laid-back.
Hsu is the visionary; and Phillips, the implementer, responsible for bringing on and overseeing talent ranging from General Manager Peter Hill to pastry sous-chef Davis. The restaurant couldn’t be more personal for them. For example, Hsu “went to a lot of arts and crafts festivals. ... That’s how I found Jenifer Thoem... and I found Christina Kwan through friends on Instagram. I also found a lot of our ceramics artists just by walking into their studios,” he says. Phillips interjects: “Christina Kwan’s father-in-law works with my father.” Hsu adds, “All the flowers and plants are by my very, very good friend from high school, Cara Gray, and her mother.” (Phillips adds, “I actually did a lot of the building too; I managed the construction.”) Hsu’s siblings, Anita and Howard of Sweet Auburn Barbecue, are even managing partners of Lazy Betty, and Anita tied the bow on Praxis3’s designs.
The light and bright interior was designed by Praxis3 with input from chef Ronald Hsu’s sister, Anita, whose Sweet Auburn Barbecue is an Atlanta favorite.
A fun anecdote: Lazy Betty’s very first booked reservation was for a couple with an infant, who brought their child to dinner. “We’re not going to discriminate and say no babies in here—bring whomever you want,” says Hsu. (To his point, both the male and female restrooms have changing tables.) Nothing is off-limits, or strange, or unwelcome—not even my peanut and tree nut allergies, which were swiftly accommodated without any fanfare. “We take pride in being able to accommodate dietary restrictions,” says Phillips. “It gives us a chance to be creative as well. We like people to feel special.” Personally, it was remarkable to be eating food this complex in an environment this casual—I had to catch myself from tucking a leg up under me during the meal.
A nook for a larger group in the 10-course dining room.
Continues Hsu, “We offer the best world- class service, wine, cocktails and food in an unpretentious setting. We are very approachable in the way we talk to our guests and break the barriers of what fine dining really is.” Says Phillips, “It’s good to be able to see somebody come in and not really know what to expect, but you see their excitement to be here, and by the end of the meal, it’s like we are friends.”
1530 Dekalb Ave. NE, 404.975.3692
Sun. & Tue.-Thu., 5:30-10pm;Fri.-Sat., 5:30-10:30pm
Photography by: Heather Fulbright Grambergs