- Bob Townsend For the AJC
Though it’s only been open for a few weeks, Kaiser’s Chop House on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs already has the look and feel of a classic dining destination.
The modern steakhouse from Atlanta chef Peter Kaiser is billed as offering “an elevated dining experience with quality cuts of meats, superior ingredients and a boutique wine and cocktail program.”
Beloved Atlanta chef Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun Steak and KR Steakbar is a longtime colleague and friend of Kaiser, and an investor and consultant in the business.
“Kaiser’s has nothing to with Rathbun’s Restaurants,” Rathbun made clear in a recent phone call. “I’ve searched out people who have talent and need help, and that’s why I invested in Peter and his wife Valerie.
“They are super people with super talent. For me, this is about paying it forward. Somebody did that for me at one time, and thought I was worthy, and I think the same thing about Peter. He’s a rock star.”
Another old friend, Bill Johnson of the Johnson Studio took on the restaurant design, which mixes contemporary and traditional elements in a space that features open bar and dining areas separated by a library wall, and cozy arrangements of wooden tables and booths.
Kaiser, who is originally from Liechtenstein, came to Atlanta in 1986 and has been part of the dining scene here for over 30 years, working for Paul Albrecht and Pano Karatassos of Buckhead Life Group at iconic restaurants such as Pano’s and Paul’s and Buckhead Diner.
More recently, Kaiser worked for chef/owner Tom Catharall at the now defunct Here to Serve Restaurant Group, serving as executive chef of Goldfish and Twist, and eventually becoming executive corporate chef.
At Kaiser’s last week, Kaiser talked about his long history in fine dining, and how he finally came to open a restaurant of his own.
Growing up in Liechtenstein, Kaiser’s family owned a popular cafe and grocery, and at 16 he apprenticed as a pastry chef, before deciding that he preferred cooking to baking.
“My father got me a job in a French restaurant called Real and in those days, around 1979, its was already about farm to table, because everything was fresh,” Kaiser recalled. “That’s why I fell in love with cooking.”
Later, Kaiser landed at several elite Michelin star restaurants in Switzerland, including Chez Max in Zurich. And then he wound up in Atlanta.
“I came to visit my sister, who was living here, and I wanted to learn English, so I came over and went to school and started working for Pano and Paul,” he said. “I learned a lot from those guys.”
Asked why it took him so long to open his own restaurant, Kaiser shrugged his shoulders.
“I had a wife and family and a steady job with Tom Catharall, who was really good to me, and we kept opening more restaurants, so it got away little bit,” he said. “But when the whole thing got sideways with Tom, I started looking.
“Kevin said, ‘It’s your time now.’ And my wife said, ‘You’re not taking another job. You’re either doing your own thing or we’re going to open up a barbecue place or a hot dog stand. Anything.’ When we came upon this location, that was it.”
Talking about the vision for the restaurant, Kaiser calls the look “London chic” and describes the menu as steakhouse with some twists and turns.
“We wanted steakhouse with all the cuts we have and then we wanted a little more choices in salads, hot appetizers, raw items and seafood. But, of course, we’re going to react to the neighborhood and see what does and doesn’t work.”
One of the raw items that has found an audience so far is the Hamachi with ginger ponzu vinaigrette, cucumber, radish, and Pink Lady apple.
“That comes back to when I was working for Tom Catharall and doing a lot of sushi,” Kaiser said. “Hamachi is one of my favorite fish. We do it with a little ginger spice, and it’s clean and refreshing.We’re also doing a slow-roasted golden beet salad with feta cheese that we whip up with a little greek yogurt and walnut vinaigrette with arugula.
But meat eaters need not fear, because along with those lighter items there’s the likes of a 20-ounce, dry-aged, bone-in Prime Cowboy Ribeye on the menu, too.
“We’re getting our beef from Allen Brothers in Chicago,” Kaiser said. “That’s old school. They’ve been since 1893, we just get fantastic cuts, and the quality is just there.”