On June 10, for the first time in 10 years, Polaris will once again revolve from the top story of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Atlanta, as it began doing in 1967. The restaurant's design and food reflect retro-yet-modern flavors, with local ingredients—and even honeycomb from the chef's rescue bees—taking center plate.
When Polaris shut its doors in 2004, knocked slightly off its platform due to a tornado, the plan was always to reopen it, says Executive Chef Martin Pfefferkorn. The restaurant was the final leg of a $65 million renovation for the Hyatt Regency.
"Polaris was the last, and most impressive, thing we wanted to do here," Chef Pfefferkorn says. The platform that supports the restaurant will rotate every 45 minutes.
While the former restaurant was designed as a classic dining establishment, the modern iteration is split into four rooms—a bar area, a library, a dining room, and a living area—and each is sectioned off and has its own feel. The kitchen is the only area that doesn't rotate, but even that room has a residential atmosphere.
"Polaris's primetime was in the 70s and 80s," Chef Pfefferkorn says. "We wanted to create something historic, but still modern and contemporary."
The food is similarly themed around classic dishes with a contemporary twist, and the emphasis is on local, fresh food—not a particular type of cuisine. "Maybe one week we can do sushi, and the next week it's Polish," Chef Pfefferkorn says. "We don't want to color ourselves as a specific concept."
The plan for the menus, which will rotate every two weeks, is to use dishes popular in the 70s and 80s, and take them up a notch, such as a deconstructed lobster tail. Chef Pfefferkorn intends to offer sharable plates that use the best ingredients available at any given time. Each dish will have at least one ingredient from the Hyatt's rooftop garden on the 25th floor, which is visible from Polaris, and the restaurant's short menu will consist of eight to 10 items.
Cocktails will also work in garden-fresh ingredients, and Polaris's beverage manager will be on hand to make wine pairing recommendations for guests.
Aside from the rooftop garden, the 25th floor is also home to another primary ingredient at Polaris: honey and honeycomb. Chef Pfefferkorn started with a small hive of 2,000-3,000 bees last year, after a UPS truck that was relocating the bees got into an accident and the chef got his hands on them. He has been working with the Atlanta Bee Association to learn how to take care of them; this spring yielded so many bees that he split the hive in two.
"I love talking about my babies," he says zealously. "We should get our first honey within the next couple of weeks, so that's very exciting, and of course the honey will be featured in Polaris."
He is already planning a dessert with honeycomb on it, and honey will pop up in beverages, as well.
The biggest challenge with Polaris, Chef Pfefferkorn says, is that it's a small space, which means he has to be aware of his methodologies. "The bar is on a rotating platform. Think about how you would normally get power, water, and everything to the bar—and then imagine that it turns. There were definitely some challenging design aspects of it, but nothing we couldn't overcome. I think it's going to be pretty impressive."
By Sonya Chudgar