peasant-bistro-smallItem from the newspaper: Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was seen dining with Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at the Peasant Bistro in downtown Atlanta.

One thing you can say for sure about our mayor: She has good taste.

The Peasant Bistro is a new choice on my personal list of Atlanta’s best restaurants. In the downtown area, it is now the best choice for eating out.

Located at 250 Park Avenue West on Centennial Olympic Park, the Peasant Bistro has been celebrating its first year anniversary all this month. The restaurant describes its menu as “fresh, seasonal cuisine with country French and Mediterranean influences.” Those are reliably good influences.

I have no idea what the mayor ate on her visit, but I’m willing to bet it was good. On my most recent visit to the Bistro, my entrée was the best duck I have ever eaten. At $22, it was served with sweet potato gratin and Brussel sprouts, which also ranked among the best I’ve had. (The Brussel sprouts can also be ordered as a side dish for $5 with other entrees.)

While I relished my meal, my wife dined on melt-in-your-mouth grilled lamb chops ($24) and our friends raved about the blackened tuna ($26) and pumpkin ravioli ($14). The entrée I hope to try on my next trip is the lamb tagine — braised lamb with carrots, onions, minted Israeli cous cous and Moroccan spices ($19). Other entrees range widely from bouillabaisse to braised short ribs.

The appetizers are enticing, too. The calamari ($9) is fried with roasted red pepper, lemon and herbs. Duck confit ($9) and pate du jour ($10) are other appealing offerings, and our friends really loved the mussels au Nage (thyme, lavender, shallots, garlic cream and Pinot Grigio) for $11. The Peasant Bistro has an all-you-can-eat special on mussels (au Nage, Provencal, curry) for $15 on Monday nights. It also offers jazz nights from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays with special $5 appetizers in the bar.

v-atlga-55111438_id245144_guide_inclusionAlthough I’m not much of a dessert fan, I highly recommend the crème brulee trio ($6), and my friends gave a big thumbs-up to the chocolate mousse with chocolate fudge cake (also $6).

With a striking spiral staircase, the two-story restaurant features a quietly modern interior décor that is reminiscent of  the newer upscale bistros of Paris and Rome. A group of Italian baristas who ate there the last time I did felt right at home. The staff is friendly, and a valet service makes arriving and departing a snap.

So take it from the mayor and me. The next time a member of the president’s cabinet comes to visit you, take him or her to the Peasant Bistro. And if no cabinet officials are handy, go with your friends. I was glad I did.

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Keith Graham

Keith Graham

Keith Graham was among the recipients of the prestigious Stella Artois prize at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. Named for a blind piano player, he is also well known for always giving money to street accordion players. A quotation that he considers meaningful comes from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle: "The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height." In addition to contributing to Like the Dew, Keith frequently posts quotations and links and occasionally longer articles at http://tartantambourine.com/