When Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar opened on Sunday at The Avenue East Cobb, it was another sign of the big changes in the area’s dining scene pioneered by chef Doug Turbush.
The highly anticipated new concept from Turbush, the restaurateur behind hot spots Seed Kitchen & Bar and Stem Wine Bar in the nearby Merchant’s Walk Shopping Center, brings the chef’s talent for seafood cookery together with a sophisticated beverage program.
Those were things that critics took notice of when Turbush debuted Seed in 2011 and followed up with Stem in 2013. But Drift is bigger and more ambitious, and in many ways, it’s a tribute to the popularity of those places.
“This was kind of a logical next step,” Turbush said on Sunday, a few hours before Drift opened to the public. “I have a pretty strong background in seafood, so I wanted to do something I was strong at, and I thought this fit the demographic.”
The sprawling, multi-room corner space was created by ai3 studio, the same Atlanta company that brought Seed and Stem to life among a similar suburban shopping center landscape.
The layout features warm woods and includes an 18-seat bar area designed for dining and drinking, an eight-seat oyster bar, a semiprivate wine room, a chef’s table, and a section dubbed “the oar room” with a collection of old wooden oars suspended from the ceiling.
“It’s about the same size as Seed and Stem combined,” Turbush said. “I kind of fell in love with their idea of dividing up the space. Every time you come in, you could have a different experience, depending on where you sit. Obviously, the oyster bar was something I wanted.”
The menu from Turbush and executive chef Brendan Keenan mixes oysters and other raw bar classics with shareable plates and entrees, and a signature blend of Asian, Mediterranean and Southern flavors.
“We’re a classic fish house, so you’ve got a lobster roll, and fried calamari, and mussels,” Turbush said. ”But we are rolling the dice on a few things, like chowder fries, which are a play on poutine. Instead of using gravy, it’s fries with chowder, Benton’s bacon, fried clams, scallions and fresh chiles.”
And look for the likes of wood-roasted oysters baked with anchovy garlic butter, breadcrumbs, Parmesan and lemon, or bourbon-cured salmon perched on benne crackers and topped with slivers of jalapeño and apple. A whole wood-grilled branzino is beheaded and deboned and plated with fragrant Moroccan charmoula and seven-herb salad.
Director of operations and sommelier Jason Raymond and bar manager Jose Pereiro are in charge of the beverage program, which features a concise, curated wine list that leans to whites and lighter reds with a selection of sparkling wines by the bottle or glass.
“I think we have good variety and value with 39 wines by the glass and a lot of lighter styles with no oak,” Raymond said. “But I’m still going to have some big cabs and small reserve list with all the major varietals.”
The cocktail list has some 15 different house creations, including draft, barreled and bottled drinks, a section of refreshing, low-alcohol “suppressors” and a smoked old fashioned made tableside.
“We’re pretty much following the same procedures that Doug has for the kitchen, with everything sourced and made fresh,” Pereiro said. “I’m bringing in a lot of rum, and we’re following that coastal, Caribbean idea with a lot of citrus and herbal flavors to match the food.”