You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Review: Tyler Williams colors outside the lines at Tap in Midtown


Chef Tyler Williams could have been a painter. No matter what he’s cooking, his plates tend to get splashed with pools of color — brushstrokes and drips. When you talk about his food, you have to discuss the palette (the spectrum of colors) as much as the palate (the range of taste).

Just the other day, on the patio at Tap, I ordered a plate of corn fritters, one of the most common bar snacks, which arrived on an arrangement of herbed ricotta and chipotle jam that would’ve pleased an abstract expressionist. They were pretty good to eat, too.

<Learn how to make Tyler Williams' Israeli couscous salad here

Only a few years ago, Williams was one of Anne Quatrano’s prized proteges, promoted out of the kitchen at Bacchanalia and into the executive chef role at Abattoir. That gig launched him into the top role at Woodfire Grill, the fine-dining restaurant that had became a hot spot during Kevin Gillespie’s years as a “Top Chef” celebrity. Williams earned rave reviews there, including four stars from this newspaper, but the restaurant couldn’t survive the loss of Gillespie’s stardom. Williams left in 2014 and Woodfire closed in 2015.

Since then, Williams has been something of a nomadic chef, helming highly conceptual pop-up dinners (including a seven-course “Rainbow” meal soundtracked by the Radiohead album of that name), making Neapolitan pizza in the North Georgia mountains and, according to at least one interview, walking out on a television deal and hiding in Mexico for months.

It is a little surprising that he has returned to Atlanta as the executive chef of Tap, a long-running restaurant in the Concentrics group that largely has served as a burgers-and-beer joint for Midtown office workers in recent years. But Williams is clearly having fun with the challenge.

Why wouldn’t he? This is one of the most pleasant patios in Midtown.

The large, nearly map-sized menu is clearly designed to please more than one master. There are the recognizable bar snacks — corn fritters, chicken wings, a meat and cheese plate — for the happy hour drinkers. There are the relatively light salad entrees, necessary to please the office worker who doesn’t want to overindulge.

There is a burger, classic in every dimension — from the gooey American cheese to the crusty, charred patty to the house-made pickles. It is hard to imagine how anyone dropping in for a burger and a beer would be disappointed with such a thing.

Not to mention the beer list, whose fine print impressively stretches across the entire backside of that big menu.

But, in the middle of all of that rule-following, Williams is clearly trying to break out, color outside the lines, and travel all over the map.

His long-running taste for Indian flavors is all over the place here, most notably in the okra chaat, a bird’s nest of mandolin-sliced and crisply fried okra tied together by strands of tomato, onion and creamy yogurt.

There’s a brief visit to Japan in the pork belly steam buns and bowl of crispy calamari ramen. I see ramen too often on menus these days, as if it were a fashionable hat any restaurant could wear, but I was pleasantly surprised by this rendition. The broth was eloquent in its balance of salt and spice, the calamari flaky and crisp, the noodles satisfyingly filling. For the buns, the pork belly could’ve been a bit more tender, though the accompanying kimchi was nice.

Of the salads, a bowl of Israeli couscous is just the thing for a light entree. Those pearl-sized balls are tossed with parsley, chickpeas, arugula, cucumbers, feta and tomatoes, and topped with a precise soft-cooked egg.

During one of my meals, my anonymity was busted in rather spectacular fashion. As the hostess walked our party to our table, I tried to slip by a guest that, when I looked up, was not a guest at all but Williams himself. He looked at me, said, “Hi, Wyatt,” and walked off toward the kitchen. Over his shoulder, I heard him say, “You almost got away with it.” Needless to say, the dinner served that night was flawless, the service and pacing masterly, the suggestions from the beer and wine list excellent.

But another drop-in around happy hour proved different. We ordered about the same number of dishes, but instead of being coursed out and paced evenly, almost everything arrived at once. When I asked the server to hold off on the last of it, he said he wasn’t sure if that was possible.

That’s par for the course for a burger-and-beer joint, but Williams’ kitchen obviously aspires to more than that. It wasn’t possible to eat what we’d ordered without letting half of the dishes go cold. These are complex dishes that deserve to be eaten while still warm, even better if they have the chance to be coursed and paired with the right drink.

Growing pains like that are, perhaps, inevitable in pairing such an ambitious chef with this kind of format. It’ll be interesting to see how Williams continues to color outside the lines, especially in the evenings, when the rules of serving business lunches are little more relaxed.

I, for one, will be dropping back in to see what’s next.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

One wine glass to rule them all

At some point along every wine drinker’s arc of discovery, the time comes to invest in a set of glasses. Choosing the right one may seem complicated, confusing and occasionally overwhelming. The process can be fraught with anxiety, as many different glass styles are available, and points of view clash on what is proper and necessary. Corkscrew...
Our messed-up relationship with food  started with butter.
Our messed-up relationship with food started with butter.

Have you ever eaten butter by the spoon? Butter without toast to prop it up or eggs to fry in it - butter for its own tangy, full-flavored, exquisite sake? Elaine Khosrova does this, not infrequently. She warms a variety of types to room temperature, gets a glass of water to clear her palate between rounds and pries delicately at her subjects with...
Attention, America: Dorie Greenspan's bringing back the quiche
Attention, America: Dorie Greenspan's bringing back the quiche

Being a part-time Parisian allows me a full-time love affair with quiche. The savory tart is everywhere. My favorite cafes have a quiche on the menu; the flavor changes daily, but it's always served with the same little green salad (and a not very good dressing, which must come from cafe-central; it's inescapable). Gérard Mulot, the patissier...
Healthy Cooking: Finding balance with cauliflower rice
Healthy Cooking: Finding balance with cauliflower rice

I have plucked a Goldfish cracker from my child’s car seat and popped it straight into my mouth. I have served two kinds of potatoes and wished for a third. I think eating white bread is as natural as breathing air, only better because you can’t butter air. So given my starch-loving bona fides, you should believe me when I tell you that...
Nutty wild rice boosts flavor and nutrition in this creamy soup
Nutty wild rice boosts flavor and nutrition in this creamy soup

Wild rice isn’t technically rice. A seed grass, wild rice grows in cold water rivers and lakes throughout the Great Lakes region, where it became a staple in the Chippewa and Sioux tribes. The glossy, brownish-black grains contain twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, which dietitians say helps us feel full longer. The Kansas City Star&rsquo...
More Stories