Earthly Delights

First visits to Midtown's Globe and the new Cafe at Woodfire Grill

Paymon, the waiter at the Globe (75 Fifth St., 404-541-1487), knew that I drank tonic water, that I've come to prefer Lavazza to Illy espresso and that a friend of mine who lives in Rome complains bitterly about the fresh mozzarella in Atlanta.

He turned out to be my regular waiter at Brasserie Le Coze, where my friend and I usually lunch when he is town.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"I followed the chef," he said, referring to Joshua Perkins. "His food is even better here than at Le Coze because it's totally his own."

I figured if the food was as good as the look of the new bistro, I'd be really happy.

The Globe, in Technology Square, has been opened by Govantez Lowndes, who operated the short-lived Commune - a restaurant whose cuisine never rocked me. Its decor was sexy and intimate, though, almost like a supper club's. This new space is at once witty and comfy - a bit Jetson and a bit study hall. Rectangular, it is divided into a front area with a zinc bar long enough for a gaggle of giants to sleep head-to-toe on. The main dining room is separated into two areas by gauzy curtains. Tables in the narrower area, behind the curtains, give a view of a patio and the comings and goings of Georgia Techies.

The walls are cream and aqua with countless suspended white globes lighting the rooms softly. There's no art. But there is, in the rear, a library with free Wi-Fi and a decent selection of design books. Obviously, Lowndes has it in mind to create a hangout as much as a serious restaurant. The Globe thus becomes the latest restaurant in Atlanta to attempt, Euro-style, breakfast, lunch and dinner service. Nobody's pulled it off yet, but perhaps, with Georgia Tech so nearby and a comparatively inexpensive cafe menu to be implemented soon, the Globe will succeed.

Even if it does not maintain all-day service, dinner here is certainly worth priority placement on your dining list. Perkins' food is uncomplicated, featuring organic and local ingredients whenever possible. And here's some cool news: The restaurant will let you split most dishes into half-orders with your companion. So it's a great place for grazing without succumbing to the tapas trend.

We started with an amuse-bouche of heirloom tomatoes - yellow and purple - topped with chevre and a tomato-water vinaigrette. Tomatoes aren't really in season yet, but these North Carolina imports were nonetheless flavorful. They are available as a full starter, too.

A special starter featured seared ahi tuna, sliced and arranged over a mild ratatouille-like mound of eggplant surrounded by a sauce made of the eggplant's juices, citrus oil and olive oil. Micro greens garnished the plate. We also tried a demitasse of piquant gazpacho colored with green-apple sorbet and a narrow ribbon of balsamic vinegar.

We split three entrees. I'd order any of them again. Seared diver scallops, on a plate dotted with balsamic vinegar, were served with a mache salad and oven-dried sliced strawberries and raspberries. You're getting the picture, yes? Chef Perkins overlaps textures and plays intense flavors against one another. Impossibly tender, coriander-rubbed Muscovy duck, for further example, is played against tender ravioli filled with duck confit and robiola cheese. Delicate wilted spinach tops the duck.

I was excited to see herb-roasted organic chicken with mashed potatoes on the menu, since that dish has long been one of my faves at Le Coze. Paymon insisted that Perkins' version here is even better since the chicken is so well-pedigreed. I have to agree. A roasted-garlic sauce adds another dimension, too. We were so stuffed by the time this dish arrived that we took most of it home; it reheated well the next day at lunchtime.

We could not have tried desserts if our lives depended on it after eating so much, but they are no doubt excellent since Kathryn King of Aria is their designer. Even the bread is better than average, coming from the Bread Garden.

I earnestly hope the Globe can sustain its plan to provide food service and hangout space throughout the day. As it is, it could well become one of Midtown's best restaurants.

Cafe at Woodfire

I've been salivating in anticipation of the opening of Woodfire Grill's (1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-347-9055) new cafe in the front of the restaurant, so I was there only a few days after it opened. The idea is to graze here on lighter, less expensive food than in the main restaurant. It's also perfect for takeout.

Of course, when I heard fried squash blossoms filled with goat cheese were being served in the restaurant, I insisted we add those to our sampling of the cafe menu. Chef Mike Tuohy serves the delicate blossoms over sweet creamed corn.

We ordered an assortment of cured meats and got into quite a discussion over the identity of one of them, which I was sure was a spicy sopressata but turned out to be something other. You can order the meats individually as well as in the assortment that features five. The meats will make you nostalgic for Salumeria Taggiasca, the Italian deli that went belly-up at Sweet Auburn Market. In fact, the meats are from Franco Boeri, the owner of that deli.

We also sampled a pizza made with chorizo, peppers, manchego cheese, cilantro and chile oil. It was flat-out fabulous. Our only disappointment was the designer hamburger with house-made pickles, aioli and fries. The burger itself, from meat ground at the restaurant, was tasty, but the bun was way too thick for the patty.

The cafe is also serving artisan cheeses and a variety of antipasti, including wood-roasted clams with herb butter, corn soup with pancetta, roasted peppers, spiced chickpea salad and three panini. Regular Woodfire diners will recognize some of the dishes from the restaurant menu, like a Basque tuna salad with garlic toast and assorted crostini.

Check it out and let me hear your comments.

Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.

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