The Washington Times - November 14, 2008, 12:29PM

By Jacquie Kubin, Donne Tempo Magazine

Atlanta, Georgia…For this Amazonian Road Warrior, the apex of any hotel stay is always a bit of harmony.  A hotel property becomes home for those nights that you are there.  It is your personal space, your retreat.

The goal is to find that place where from the front door to the crisp of the bed linens, it all makes one want to sigh in pleasure.

Grand Hyatt Buckead entrance (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

This time nirvana was found on Peachtree Street at The Grand Hyatt, Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia.

Yes, Buckhead.

Buckhead is Atlanta’s uptown place for elite shopping and quality restaurants.  Large homes evocative of Georgian days-gone-by are set amongst old, old trees portraying a striking dichotomy to the glass and steel towers that line Peachtree Street.

In the midst of an influx of development dollars and shiny buildings, the elegant Buckhead Grand Hyatt sits stately amongst the uber-development warmly welcoming her guests to a true urban retreat.

The entrance opens up onto a grand lobby and open bar area.  Onyx at the Grand is a place where locals and out of town guests congregate surrounded by graceful arches, neo-modern chandeliers and glass accents.

The lounge features seemingly secluded nooks filled with chairs that radiate comfort.  Tall arched windows overlook the peaceful Japanese gardens.

What makes this area sing with early evening laughter is a singular dedication to the cocktail.

At Onyx at the Grand, the theme is “Revive.”  It is a place to breathe deep, relax, and enjoy the open expanse and hip luxury of the space. The cocktails reflect this as bartenders, such as Rina Lugo, prepare regalements that meet your desire. 

Too sweet, or not sweet enough and it is quickly replaced with a smile. 

This is all too often not the case.  In no other arena is personal taste quite so defined.  However a scornful waiter or bartender often meets a requested change.   It was joyous to be able to ask for my mojito sweet, with Seven-Up, instead of tonic as presented and be told, no problem. 

Breathe deep indeed.

Here the Grand Hyatt’s dedication to the environment, seen in recycling and water saving programs, is first expressed.

Placed on the bar are cocktail cards that carry an environmental message.  Another “card” is not a card at all but a packet of apple seeds with a recipe list for a Level One Vodka Wild Apple Pie Martini.

However, with all the amenities, luxury and comforts, for this traveler, the properties greatest feat is the magnificent Cassis Restaurant, headed by superlative Executive Chef, Martin Pfefferkorn.

Cassis Restaurant is nestled at the foot of a graceful 30-foot waterfall that splash to a river waterscape. The sounds of the water give song to the three-story Japanese Zen Garden outside its doors.

This verdant area provides the urban traveler a respite from the noise of the street, the stress of the business day. It is fully worth your time to walk among its path, sit within the authentic Azumaya, or open Japanese Tea House to contemplate the quiet, watch the birds dart between the trees.

Chef Martin is a long way from his native Austria, however he is able to name the trees that grow in this secluded spot. New to Buckhead, Chef Martin has enjoyed a history with the hotelier beginning with the Tamaya Resort and Spa, New Mexico and the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas.

A pre-winter season visit and Chef unveiled some of his newest recipes, hopefully slated for Cassis’ winter menu.  Immediately a delicate layering of flavors and textures was apparent in his Crab Parfait.

Crab Parfait, Cassis Restaurant(Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

A delicately presented dish that boasts visual layers of texture and flavor – succulent jumbo crab supporting a tower of finely diced avocados, mangos, tomatoes and green bell pepper.  A melody of flavor punctuated by a tomato with horseradish and white balsamic vinegar cocktail sauce.

Chef’s deft hand at creating dishes that are familiar but excitingly new continued.

Not to be outdone by other shellfish, Chef’s Lemon Dill Prawns feature curled ribbons of shrimp tossed in a cream sauce with hints of horseradish, lemon and dill, served with crispy strips of fried parsnips and carrot circles.

Chef Martin’s entrees continued a parade of delicate, and surprising flavor combinations.  The Pan Seared Striped Bass combines the sweet flesh of the bass, pan seared to a crisp skin, with only a simple seasoning of salt and pepper. Here the quality of the product shines through.

Pan Seared Striped Bass, Cassis Restaurant (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

The slightly salty bass is served atop a salsa that combines the sweet and tart of citrus and fruit – blood orange, grapefruit, orange and peach.  The grapefruit offers a unique burst with the fish, but what sets this dish apart is the aromatic and sweet fennel, prepared in a boil of wine and citrus juice.

This is truly a dish that inspires taste bud recall for days.

A further standout dish is the Filet and Sweet Potato Gnocchi, a warm, comforting dish that combines the richness of a quality, grilled steak with the warm, smooth textures of the sweet potato and ricotta cheese.

The Cassis environment is enhanced through luxe banquets and the silk sheered glass windows that looks out onto the three-story Japanese Zen garden.  All together, the luxury inside is enhanced by the peaceful sound of the waterfall and Zen garden that can be viewed by guests dining at Cassis, lounging at Onyx, or relaxing by the third-story pool.

Chef Martin Pfefferkorn (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)
In the morning, Chef Pfefferkorn’s heritage radiates off the Belgium Butter rich pastries served at the Onyx Coffee Bar where Starbuck Coffee, Tazo Tea and rich croissants, chocolate being a favorite, raspberry filled pastries and other treats wait, ready to set your day off on the absolute right note.

Hotel guests and locals alike partake in the elegant Cassis Sunday brunch.  This morning to mid-day feast is famous for its expansive buffet filled with fresh shellfish, meats, fruits, traditional breakfast foods and omelets, adeptly made to your specifications.

The Grand Hyatt Atlanta exude numerous small touches that are worth observation – the tin ceiling in the lobby vestibules, rich marble inlaid floors, glass vases, overstuffed upholstery and the subtly carved elevator doors.

Guest rooms are large and comfortable including a generously sized worktable with directed lighting for those times that work intrudes. The marble baths are well appointed with Portico personal products.

The Hyatt “Grand Bed” is fitted with quality linens, lush pillows and a down duvet.  The pillow top mattress guarantying a full nights sleep.  Unique to this property was never hearing the housekeeping staff outside the room.

Grand Hyatt guest rooms while very comfortable and well appointed will be undergoing a welcome upgrade after the first of the New Year (2009).

At the heart of all that a quality hotel offers are the people and here the Grand Hyatt does not disappoint.  The famed southern hospitality exudes from everyone you will meet, from the front door bell persons and valet, to everyone at Onyx and Cassis, to the young people at the front desk.

Every smile, helping hand and suggestion for our comfort enhanced our stay, making us feel not as a first time guest, but as valued guest who is being welcomed back again.

Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead
3300 Peachtree Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30305 USA