The rotating restaurant – originally a feature at the 1962 World’s Fair, this one-time symbol of American post-war innovation and optimism has, over the years, become known as the place to go for tourists who want to pay thirty dollars for a Coke and overcooked steak for the opportunity to sit by a window and get a 360 view of the surrounding urban landscape in an hour or less. Sideshow kitsch it most certainly is; fine dining, it is usually not.
So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I booked my reservation at The Sun Dial Restaurant. Situated on the top floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, the Sun Dial is Atlanta’s only rotating restaurant, and, from the looks of the website seemed to be a classy place. Linen table cloths and napkins, Gordon Ramsay-esque food presentation, bottles of wine for upwards of one hundred dollars…if nothing else, my interest was certainly piqued.
On the evening of our reservation, my dining partner and I entered the massive honeycomb complex of the Peachtree Plaza and briefly wandered around like lost sheep until we eventually found the reception desk for the private elevator that would squire us up to the hotel’s 73rd floor. Upon checking in we were seated at a formally set table right alongside the soaring 30-foot windows overlooking the sprawling city. As we waited for our server, my dining partner and I debated the mechanics of our barely perceivable movement.
“What’s moving? Like, is this part moving or is the outer ring moving?”
“That makes no sense. The outer part is structural. How could it be moving?”
Our server Ann (who has reportedly been working at the Sun Dial since 1988) arrived, putting a stop to our asinine conversation and we got down to business. After listening to Anne’s helpful and informative recommendations, we put in our order and happily munched on the delicious parmesan oregano bread she had brought out for us while we waited for our meal.
In the spirit of a city where every other street is named Peachtree, we both decided to kick off our dinner with the Peachy Keen daiquiri, a blended cocktail served in a hurricane glass. As a girl who likes her cocktails, I was pleased to discover that the Peachy Keen, while dessert-like in its thickness and sweetness, was also alcoholic enough to satisfy the boozehound in me, and my dining partner agreed. (Plus, you get a free souvenir glass just for ordering the drink – sweet!)
Our first course arrived, a beautifully presented spread of the restaurant’s signature appetizers; the sweet potato tortellini, shrimp and grits, and the crab and bay scallop fondue truffle, served with a parmesan crostini. While the fondue was a little boring (and the crostini not the best match for the dip in my opinion), the tortellini and the shrimp and grits were pitch-perfect: the tortellini had a strong meaty flavor nicely complemented by the sweetness of the sauce, and the grits were creamy home-cookin’ deliciousness.
For the main course, my dining partner and I shared the blue crab, bacon, and spinach-stuffed Idaho trout served atop mashed potatoes in brownbutter sauce and the 8 oz beef tenderloin with haricot verts, baby carrots, and mashed potatoes in black winter truffle butter. As with the first course, both tasted like an excellently rich meal your gourmand grandmother made with thick, flavorful sauces and out of this world mashed potatoes. Of the two, I’d pick the hearty and moist tenderloin over the fishy and slightly bland trout, but god knows we licked both plates clean.
After such ridiculous first and second courses we both questioned our ability to eat dessert, but when we saw the stunning piece of artwork that Ann informed us the pastry chef had prepared especially for us, we couldn’t say no. (Note: something like this will cost you extra, worthwhile, dollars.) A sculpture of white and milk chocolate festooned with truffles and fancy sandwich cookies surrounded by tiny strawberry cheesecakes, key lime pies, chocolate mousse cakes, and something Ann described as “fudge volcanoes,” it was so gorgeous I almost felt a bad about disturbing it. Thankfully, I quickly got over that, because everything was decadently amazing, particularly the light and flavorful key lime pie (dining partner’s pick) and the fudge volcanoes, especially when paired with the neutralizing side of vanilla ice cream (my pick).
By the time we were finished, my comrade and I were both a little sick, as much from gorging ourselves on fantastically rich food as from sitting on a constantly revolving platform for nearly two hours. In fact, we agreed upon reaching the solid ground of the street, while we appreciated the experience of the rotating restaurant, neither of us would ever engage in the nausea-inducing activity again.
However, if you want to want to give a 360 dinner a spin (har-har) and find yourself in Atlanta, the Sun Dial is most definitely the place to do it. With its fantastic service, outstanding food, and serene upscale atmosphere, it is most certainly one of the city’s top dining experiences.
Note: The dishes at the Sun Dial are available seasonally, and therefor the pieces reviewed here may not always be on the menu.
By: Lyndsey Aho