Commissary in Pacific Place has one of those locations to kill for, right next to the taxis and escalators where hungry shoppers and desk jockeys alike pass by in their thousands from the mall below and offices above. I visit on what turns out to be day four of opening, but already the place is heaving at lunch – a few plates later, it becomes clear why.
It’s run by an affable kiwi culinary director Morgan McGlone (main pic, centre), fresh from years living and working in the US, notably in Tennessee and South Carolina. Given his travels, it’s no surprise then that there’s a definitive southern US tinge to the menu in the bright and breezy spot. The decor is So-cal meets South Pacific, with 70’s throwbacks aplenty in colour and design.
Bruno Mars’ 24k livens things up and, followed by James brown’s brilliant The Boss and incomparable Stevie’s Superstitious, I begin to wonder if they’ve nicked my playlist.
As you’d expect with the office hordes, the bar is a big thing here and a cheeky lunchtime ‘kombucha koola’ from mixologist James Barker is bang on the money, even if the grammar is off. Tuna poke tostadas are a cracking start to the food with a hidden jalapeño kick, tomatillo salsa, clean and crisp coriander, pickled red onions, citrus, sesame seeds, a great guacamole – oh, and lots of diced tuna. These bad boys (you get 2 for $168) would be big enough for lunch but I soldiered on in the name of research.
Devilled eggs ($48) needed to be more a touch more diabolical – through extra mustard or whatever heat source they were using. (This was a half portion)
Peas and runner beans and egg with shaved pecorino ($78) was the perfect way to hit most of your five a day:
A healthy plate to be partly undone by the brilliantly-comforting grits ($158) which followed. As a former regular visitor to Atlanta, I learnt why they were so loved. They’d probably hate to hear this description, but it’s essentially the polenta of the deep south, here done with huge sweet shrimp.
Finally a tart, one whose filling was lovely but whose pastry ($68) definitely needed a couple of minutes longer in the oven.
Manager Enrique Martinez will be a familiar face to many and keeps his status as one of the best in town, keeping a watchful but friendly eye on proceedings. Once those small kinks are ironed out – which are totally understandable given it was day four – then Commissary will doubtless become a regular on the Pacific Place scene.