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Restaurant Review - Location, location ... location?

Roswell's Pastis strays from its lavender-scented homeland



"So, I'm guessing by the name that this place is French?" asks my friend as we approach Pastis in quaint downtown Roswell.

I let the question linger in the air for a moment. I'm mesmerized by the goings-on of the restaurant's picturesque second-story porch, which has as many tables as possible packed into a tiny area. No one seems to have personal space issues, though. In fact, everyone up there seems to be happily chattering, tipping back white wine on a summer evening or repositioning themselves to accommodate a server navigating his way through the tight tables. Pedestrians strolling by on the street look up enviously.

"Yeah — Provencal, apparently," I finally reply to my friend as we make our way through the door. "It's owned by the same people who own Anis in Buckhead."

Pastis' interior surely invokes the French countryside. Well-worn wooden floors and smoky golden light create an appropriate setting for the merrymakers downstairs who sit at the bar and listen to the thumping band that plays on the weekends. Those who come for le diner are escorted upstairs to a large, open room (with the coveted porch at the other end). A map of the south of France is painted over the fireplace, with names of prominent towns written in swirly script. There's a huge iron chandelier with electric candles looming overhead. Need I even mention that the walls are painted mustard and have the faux stone look?

Servers greet us with lilting French accents, and in the convivial, bustling atmosphere I find myself getting into the spirit. I'm eager to sip a Bandol or another star wine from the southern regions of France. No such luck, though there are plenty of choices from Burgundy and Bordeaux in the north, most of which are offered by the glass. Instead, I order the restaurant's namesake aperitif. Pastis is an anise-flavored aperitif that turns a milky, cloudy color when mixed with water, which is how it's served to anyone but native Frenchmen, who drink it on the rocks. If you chose strawberry Twizzlers over black licorice when you were a kid, this drink is not for you.

Then I take a good look at the menu and my Gallic buzz abates. Apalachicola oysters with lemon, venison carpaccio and gazpacho are mixed in with the Mediterranean mussels and filet de boeuf. Hmmm ... where are the Provencal specialties? Does no one in the suburbs want bouillabaisse, or wild mushroom tart, or ratatouille?

I plunge in optimistically, nonetheless. A salad of watermelon and feta comes out in a cleverly constructed Rubik's cube of red and white. It gets monotonous after a bite or two, however. The gazpacho is made from bland yellow tomatoes and is served with a stringy crab salad and a mound of avocado. Tuna tartare is paired with tepid scallion pancakes that have no business emerging from the kitchen, though they inspire a good conversation about which Chinese restaurants in Atlanta offer superior specimens.

Things get better when you focus on traditional French offerings. A charcuterie plate is good for some appetite-inducing nibblies, including two kinds of homey pate, a slice of brie and a scattering of olives. Calamari, the popcorn of finer dining, is fried just until the batter is crispy but the squid is wonderfully tender. Better still is the fricassee of escargot in a lusty stew of tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and cream with a square of fried polenta plopped in the center.

Entrees lack a similar sense of place. There's an odd but enjoyable dish of pork tenderloin chunks paired with oyster mushrooms, tomatoes and other summery vegetables in a jus infused with coriander. It looks and tastes like a dish from the country, though from which country's countryside is hard to determine. Grilled Atlantic salmon over caramelized fennel risotto cake (which had an inexplicably haunting note of maple) with asparagus and black olive vinaigrette tastes like something offered in any number of New American eateries around town.

Lamb shank is heavy for warm weather but satisfying nonetheless. The meat pulls easily from its prodigious bone and is served with a garlicky socca pancake made from chickpeas. Ah, now my inner Francophile begins to purr. Bistro "Pastis" is classic Parisian fare — a grilled rib eye with herbed butter sliding off the top, set over a pile of thick, salty pomme frite and a lightly dressed salad. Simple, correct and delicious.

By dessert, I know not to take any risks on choices that don't have direct Gallic ties. Frozen profiteroles doused in chocolate sauce and panna cotta scented gently with lavender satiate the sweet tooth with grace.

It's evident from the crowds that turn up both weekdays and weekends that this place is popular with the locals. The prices aren't outrageous and the appealing laissez-faire of the staff and the room sets the stage for a relaxed evening of breezy conversation (this is not the restaurant to tell someone you're having an affair or filing bankruptcy).

But I can't help but want more Provencal from these folks. I envision the owners gathered around a butcher block in the back, sipping fish soup while the cooks pump out Americanized dishes. I want fish soup, man. Then I'll really see the world through rose-colored glasses as I sit on that lovely balcony and watch the world below meander by.

bill.addison@creativeloafing.com



More By This Writer

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  string(9695) "Cocoa-dusted marshmallows, apricot jellies and tiny chocolates sit in a military-straight line on a lithe tray. They have been offered as our meal's crowning flourish, but neither my friend Carol nor I reach for them with any enthusiasm. We've been eating and drinking for nearly four hours on this wintry Saturday afternoon. Our euphoric sense of satiety staggers ever closer to a state of overboard gluttony. At least the persistent myth that diners leave Buckhead's luxuriant Seeger's still hungry can be laid to rest once and for all.

We both rally to pop a final chocolate in our mouths. The first and only bite releases a floral somersault of lavender cream that mingles with the dark chocolate in a haunting waltz. Sigh. Ecstatic precision down to the minutest detail.

Then, a moment of terror: The check arrives. I make frantic calculations in my head before I crack open the discreet black book. We ordered the four-course option instead of the eight-course degustation menu, though if you opt for cheese service with the four courses — which we did — the price is the same as the eight-course. We asked for wine pairings. We each had a glass of champagne before the meal, and greedily requested an extra dessert.

"Hello, how much?" whispers Carol as I stare silently at the piece of paper. Our bill for two for lunch — including gratuity — tallies at $659.20.

Carol's eyes bulge in disbelief. She reaches for her mostly untouched glass of Moscato and downs a hefty swig. A fellow food adventurer, I had warned her that this meal would probably exceed the company's dining budget and we'd be pitching in dollars ourselves. But I don't think she expected the tab to equal a modest mortgage payment.

Neither did I, frankly, though as I reach for my credit card I realize that was a spate of willful ignorance on my part. This is Seeger's, after all — the non plus ultra for fine dining in Atlanta. If we'd confined ourselves to a single glass of wine each, we still would have spent more than $300.

The valet — a new feature at Seeger's — has pulled our car into a tent pitched over the driveway. I'm pensive on the drive home. It's not the bill, though this lunch undoubtedly ranks as the most expensive I've ever consumed in my restaurant-centric life. It's the swirl of thoughts and emotions a meal here conjures: The cerebral, sensory glory of the food juxtaposed with the tense tenor of the service and the atmosphere. The state of Atlanta's dining scene and the role that Seeger's plays in it. The enigma of the chef himself.

Guenter Seeger was introduced to Atlanta during a nine-year, star-making turn as the executive chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. In the mid-'90s, Seeger was a one-man revolution. Atlanta had never been exposed to a chef whose cuisine appeared so minimalist on the plate but revealed such an uncanny layering of flavors on the palate. He single-handedly elevated the national culinary status of Atlanta. If the personality that produced this ever-changing array of wonders could sometimes come off as laconic — well? The sumptuous luxury of the Ritz-Carlton sheltered diners from his gruff edges.

Seeger opened his eponymous restaurant in a converted Buckhead bungalow in 1997, and reactions by a significant contingent were pointedly negative. Besides the now anachronistic complaint regarding portion sizes, many labeled the behavior of the staff too formal, too chilly. Foodies and critics observed the frequent turnover of general managers and servers as proof of Seeger's challenging disposition. And instead of courting the dining public, Seeger remained largely defiant: His European vision of the restaurant would continue to be executed the way he intended it.

At a dinner last May, though, I wondered if Seeger wasn't readying to give up the fight. We occupied one of only three tables on a Tuesday night. The food arrived as exactingly prepared as always, but the usual spirit of experimentation and surprise was absent. Seeger himself sat in the dining room with friends. He never approached the other tables with a "Hello" or "Thank you." It compounded the discouraging sense of loneliness pervading the space.

I left that night questioning if Guenter Seeger still belonged in Atlanta. If he insisted on enrobing his exquisite cooking in such obstinate formality, surely New York, San Francisco or even Paris would embrace his ideology more fervently than this essentially Southern town. Should Seeger pack up his act and hit the road?

Not long after the meal in May, Seeger recommitted himself to the city by announcing he would close his restaurant in the early fall for renovations, and narrow the number of seats from 64 to a more intimate 32. Would changes in the physical space bring a shift in philosophy as well? Might this indicate evolution toward a warmer, less rigid tone in the service style?

On my first post-renovation visit, a woman wearing a form-fitting business suit and high-tech headset greets us halfway up the long steps outside Seeger's entrance. The dining room is now hidden from view in the foyer by a heavy velvet drape — she instead ushers us into the bar-cum-sitting room, and we plop down on a plush couch. Youthful general manager Scott Turnbull approaches us with greetings, and lists off choices of champagnes by the glass to start the evening. As the bubbly is poured, gorgeous individual goat cheese tarts and a bowl of nondescript popcorn appear for snacking. We are given menus and encouraged to make decisions before being shown to our table.

I believe I understand the intention behind this new pre-dinner ritual: It is meant to set the stage and the mood for a protracted gustatory event, to give guests time to relax. But I instead find this awkward interlude stressful. The servers whisper to themselves across the room in tight, conspiratorial circles. With no music, the room is squeamishly silent. I genuinely want to bypass this whole rigmarole and settle in at the table straightaway.

Finally, all the unnecessary pomp, the forced repose and the worries about cost fade away. We sit down to thick, lovely linens and wonderfully weighty silverware and are presented with the first amuse-bouche: a small sphere of foie gras covered in pecans. It is the savory bookend to the chocolate truffle, meltingly complex and thrilling. The precession of genius has begun.

Next, a brown egg filled with custard. The first spoonful brings the sweet pounce of maple syrup. Maple gives way to fishy bottarga, then a vegetable essence — all in what amounts to barely more than a tablespoon of food. This is a Seeger signature, designed to spark the dialogue between your engaged mind and delighted senses.

The courses start in earnest: Barely smoked Georgia mountain trout over a thin layer of horseradish cream are formed in such a perfect circle that it boggles to imagine mere hands constructing it in the kitchen. Two quenelles cap the trout: American caviar and beet apple chutney. Dots of ruddy juniper berry oil surround this work of art, evoking a Scandinavian combination of flavors not often executed in this country's restaurants.

As a meal at Seeger's progresses, and as intimidation eases into enchantment, you begin to revel in the chef's unexpected ways: Lettuce soup, served in a bowl shaped like a nun's habit, has a surprisingly toothy texture. At lunch, we try duck ham served with a yin-yang of accompaniments: prune stuffed with marzipan at one end of the plate and meticulously minced vegetable vinaigrette at the other. Both showcase drastically different aspects of the ham.

Poached loup de mer showered with wisps of shaved almonds and paired with a dollop of almond mousse is completely idiosyncratic yet absolutely right. I want to shatter the daunting calm of the room with a feral yelp of glee.

A couple of servers help take the edge off the tension. Molly Gunn, in particular, charms with her lack of pretension. When she approaches the table to inquire if we're enjoying our entrees, she asks specifically about the crock of spätzle served alongside venison medallions. I tell her I love its squiggly earthiness, and she nods and replies, "Awesome." God, it's refreshing to hear someone utter some slang in here.

Seeger himself tends to let his mop of curly hair down when it comes to desserts. Beignet-style "s'mores" are among the most playful concoctions I've seen near meal's end here: Two square doughnuts, when cut open, reveal a gush of chocolate and marshmallow. A Technicolor scoop of orange sherbet completes the tribute to Middle American sweets. Fuji apples marinated in lemon juice create a trompe l'oeil. The apple is dyed so yellow it looks like chunks of pineapple, though the lemony jolt quickly dispels the illusion.

Creating and shattering illusion is really what an experience at Seeger's is all about — whether it is intended or not. Of course, the intricate dishes, with their myriad startling components, invoke a feeling of fantasy. But the semblance of perfection Seeger and his staff strive to project sometimes crumbles under the gravity of their seriousness. I wish more humor ran through this place.

Will the subtle changes at Seeger's at last ingratiate the chef and his restaurant to Atlanta? Probably not. But those who can see past or even appreciate the formality of the service and hone in primarily on the food will find Seeger closer than ever to expressing his essential values as a chef.

Cost and stuffiness be damned: I'll be back next year to discover what the formidable mind and soul of Guenter Seeger will have in store for me."
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We both rally to pop a final chocolate in our mouths. The first and only bite releases a floral somersault of lavender cream that mingles with the dark chocolate in a haunting waltz. Sigh. Ecstatic precision down to the minutest detail.

Then, a moment of terror: The check arrives. I make frantic calculations in my head before I crack open the discreet black book. We ordered the four-course option instead of the eight-course degustation menu, though if you opt for cheese service with the four courses -- which we did -- the price is the same as the eight-course. We asked for wine pairings. We each had a glass of champagne before the meal, and greedily requested an extra dessert.

"Hello, how much?" whispers Carol as I stare silently at the piece of paper. Our bill for two for lunch -- including gratuity -- tallies at $659.20.

Carol's eyes bulge in disbelief. She reaches for her mostly untouched glass of Moscato and downs a hefty swig. A fellow food adventurer, I had warned her that this meal would probably exceed the company's dining budget and we'd be pitching in dollars ourselves. But I don't think she expected the tab to equal a modest mortgage payment.

Neither did I, frankly, though as I reach for my credit card I realize that was a spate of willful ignorance on my part. This is Seeger's, after all -- the non plus ultra for fine dining in Atlanta. If we'd confined ourselves to a single glass of wine each, we still would have spent more than $300.

The valet -- a new feature at Seeger's -- has pulled our car into a tent pitched over the driveway. I'm pensive on the drive home. It's not the bill, though this lunch undoubtedly ranks as the most expensive I've ever consumed in my restaurant-centric life. It's the swirl of thoughts and emotions a meal here conjures: The cerebral, sensory glory of the food juxtaposed with the tense tenor of the service and the atmosphere. The state of Atlanta's dining scene and the role that Seeger's plays in it. The enigma of the chef himself.

Guenter Seeger was introduced to Atlanta during a nine-year, star-making turn as the executive chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. In the mid-'90s, Seeger was a one-man revolution. Atlanta had never been exposed to a chef whose cuisine appeared so minimalist on the plate but revealed such an uncanny layering of flavors on the palate. He single-handedly elevated the national culinary status of Atlanta. If the personality that produced this ever-changing array of wonders could sometimes come off as laconic -- well? The sumptuous luxury of the Ritz-Carlton sheltered diners from his gruff edges.

Seeger opened his eponymous restaurant in a converted Buckhead bungalow in 1997, and reactions by a significant contingent were pointedly negative. Besides the now anachronistic complaint regarding portion sizes, many labeled the behavior of the staff too formal, too chilly. Foodies and critics observed the frequent turnover of general managers and servers as proof of Seeger's challenging disposition. And instead of courting the dining public, Seeger remained largely defiant: His European vision of the restaurant would continue to be executed the way he intended it.

At a dinner last May, though, I wondered if Seeger wasn't readying to give up the fight. We occupied one of only three tables on a Tuesday night. The food arrived as exactingly prepared as always, but the usual spirit of experimentation and surprise was absent. Seeger himself sat in the dining room with friends. He never approached the other tables with a "Hello" or "Thank you." It compounded the discouraging sense of loneliness pervading the space.

I left that night questioning if Guenter Seeger still belonged in Atlanta. If he insisted on enrobing his exquisite cooking in such obstinate formality, surely New York, San Francisco or even Paris would embrace his ideology more fervently than this essentially Southern town. Should Seeger pack up his act and hit the road?

Not long after the meal in May, Seeger recommitted himself to the city by announcing he would close his restaurant in the early fall for renovations, and narrow the number of seats from 64 to a more intimate 32. Would changes in the physical space bring a shift in philosophy as well? Might this indicate evolution toward a warmer, less rigid tone in the service style?

On my first post-renovation visit, a woman wearing a form-fitting business suit and high-tech headset greets us halfway up the long steps outside Seeger's entrance. The dining room is now hidden from view in the foyer by a heavy velvet drape -- she instead ushers us into the bar-cum-sitting room, and we plop down on a plush couch. Youthful general manager Scott Turnbull approaches us with greetings, and lists off choices of champagnes by the glass to start the evening. As the bubbly is poured, gorgeous individual goat cheese tarts and a bowl of nondescript popcorn appear for snacking. We are given menus and encouraged to make decisions before being shown to our table.

I believe I understand the intention behind this new pre-dinner ritual: It is meant to set the stage and the mood for a protracted gustatory event, to give guests time to relax. But I instead find this awkward interlude stressful. The servers whisper to themselves across the room in tight, conspiratorial circles. With no music, the room is squeamishly silent. I genuinely want to bypass this whole rigmarole and settle in at the table straightaway.

Finally, all the unnecessary pomp, the forced repose and the worries about cost fade away. We sit down to thick, lovely linens and wonderfully weighty silverware and are presented with the first amuse-bouche: a small sphere of foie gras covered in pecans. It is the savory bookend to the chocolate truffle, meltingly complex and thrilling. The precession of genius has begun.

Next, a brown egg filled with custard. The first spoonful brings the sweet pounce of maple syrup. Maple gives way to fishy bottarga, then a vegetable essence -- all in what amounts to barely more than a tablespoon of food. This is a Seeger signature, designed to spark the dialogue between your engaged mind and delighted senses.

The courses start in earnest: Barely smoked Georgia mountain trout over a thin layer of horseradish cream are formed in such a perfect circle that it boggles to imagine mere hands constructing it in the kitchen. Two quenelles cap the trout: American caviar and beet apple chutney. Dots of ruddy juniper berry oil surround this work of art, evoking a Scandinavian combination of flavors not often executed in this country's restaurants.

As a meal at Seeger's progresses, and as intimidation eases into enchantment, you begin to revel in the chef's unexpected ways: Lettuce soup, served in a bowl shaped like a nun's habit, has a surprisingly toothy texture. At lunch, we try duck ham served with a yin-yang of accompaniments: prune stuffed with marzipan at one end of the plate and meticulously minced vegetable vinaigrette at the other. Both showcase drastically different aspects of the ham.

Poached loup de mer showered with wisps of shaved almonds and paired with a dollop of almond mousse is completely idiosyncratic yet absolutely right. I want to shatter the daunting calm of the room with a feral yelp of glee.

A couple of servers help take the edge off the tension. Molly Gunn, in particular, charms with her lack of pretension. When she approaches the table to inquire if we're enjoying our entrees, she asks specifically about the crock of spätzle served alongside venison medallions. I tell her I love its squiggly earthiness, and she nods and replies, "Awesome." God, it's refreshing to hear someone utter some slang in here.

Seeger himself tends to let his mop of curly hair down when it comes to desserts. Beignet-style "s'mores" are among the most playful concoctions I've seen near meal's end here: Two square doughnuts, when cut open, reveal a gush of chocolate and marshmallow. A Technicolor scoop of orange sherbet completes the tribute to Middle American sweets. Fuji apples marinated in lemon juice create a trompe l'oeil. The apple is dyed so yellow it looks like chunks of pineapple, though the lemony jolt quickly dispels the illusion.

Creating and shattering illusion is really what an experience at Seeger's is all about -- whether it is intended or not. Of course, the intricate dishes, with their myriad startling components, invoke a feeling of fantasy. But the semblance of perfection Seeger and his staff strive to project sometimes crumbles under the gravity of their seriousness. I wish more humor ran through this place.

Will the subtle changes at Seeger's at last ingratiate the chef and his restaurant to Atlanta? Probably not. But those who can see past or even appreciate the formality of the service and hone in primarily on the food will find Seeger closer than ever to expressing his essential values as a chef.

Cost and stuffiness be damned: I'll be back next year to discover what the formidable mind and soul of Guenter Seeger will have in store for me."
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  string(9971) "    Weighing the agony and the ecstasy of a meal at Seeger's   2006-02-22T05:04:00+00:00 Restaurant Review - At what price glory?   Bill Addison 1223797 2006-02-22T05:04:00+00:00  Cocoa-dusted marshmallows, apricot jellies and tiny chocolates sit in a military-straight line on a lithe tray. They have been offered as our meal's crowning flourish, but neither my friend Carol nor I reach for them with any enthusiasm. We've been eating and drinking for nearly four hours on this wintry Saturday afternoon. Our euphoric sense of satiety staggers ever closer to a state of overboard gluttony. At least the persistent myth that diners leave Buckhead's luxuriant Seeger's still hungry can be laid to rest once and for all.

We both rally to pop a final chocolate in our mouths. The first and only bite releases a floral somersault of lavender cream that mingles with the dark chocolate in a haunting waltz. Sigh. Ecstatic precision down to the minutest detail.

Then, a moment of terror: The check arrives. I make frantic calculations in my head before I crack open the discreet black book. We ordered the four-course option instead of the eight-course degustation menu, though if you opt for cheese service with the four courses — which we did — the price is the same as the eight-course. We asked for wine pairings. We each had a glass of champagne before the meal, and greedily requested an extra dessert.

"Hello, how much?" whispers Carol as I stare silently at the piece of paper. Our bill for two for lunch — including gratuity — tallies at $659.20.

Carol's eyes bulge in disbelief. She reaches for her mostly untouched glass of Moscato and downs a hefty swig. A fellow food adventurer, I had warned her that this meal would probably exceed the company's dining budget and we'd be pitching in dollars ourselves. But I don't think she expected the tab to equal a modest mortgage payment.

Neither did I, frankly, though as I reach for my credit card I realize that was a spate of willful ignorance on my part. This is Seeger's, after all — the non plus ultra for fine dining in Atlanta. If we'd confined ourselves to a single glass of wine each, we still would have spent more than $300.

The valet — a new feature at Seeger's — has pulled our car into a tent pitched over the driveway. I'm pensive on the drive home. It's not the bill, though this lunch undoubtedly ranks as the most expensive I've ever consumed in my restaurant-centric life. It's the swirl of thoughts and emotions a meal here conjures: The cerebral, sensory glory of the food juxtaposed with the tense tenor of the service and the atmosphere. The state of Atlanta's dining scene and the role that Seeger's plays in it. The enigma of the chef himself.

Guenter Seeger was introduced to Atlanta during a nine-year, star-making turn as the executive chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. In the mid-'90s, Seeger was a one-man revolution. Atlanta had never been exposed to a chef whose cuisine appeared so minimalist on the plate but revealed such an uncanny layering of flavors on the palate. He single-handedly elevated the national culinary status of Atlanta. If the personality that produced this ever-changing array of wonders could sometimes come off as laconic — well? The sumptuous luxury of the Ritz-Carlton sheltered diners from his gruff edges.

Seeger opened his eponymous restaurant in a converted Buckhead bungalow in 1997, and reactions by a significant contingent were pointedly negative. Besides the now anachronistic complaint regarding portion sizes, many labeled the behavior of the staff too formal, too chilly. Foodies and critics observed the frequent turnover of general managers and servers as proof of Seeger's challenging disposition. And instead of courting the dining public, Seeger remained largely defiant: His European vision of the restaurant would continue to be executed the way he intended it.

At a dinner last May, though, I wondered if Seeger wasn't readying to give up the fight. We occupied one of only three tables on a Tuesday night. The food arrived as exactingly prepared as always, but the usual spirit of experimentation and surprise was absent. Seeger himself sat in the dining room with friends. He never approached the other tables with a "Hello" or "Thank you." It compounded the discouraging sense of loneliness pervading the space.

I left that night questioning if Guenter Seeger still belonged in Atlanta. If he insisted on enrobing his exquisite cooking in such obstinate formality, surely New York, San Francisco or even Paris would embrace his ideology more fervently than this essentially Southern town. Should Seeger pack up his act and hit the road?

Not long after the meal in May, Seeger recommitted himself to the city by announcing he would close his restaurant in the early fall for renovations, and narrow the number of seats from 64 to a more intimate 32. Would changes in the physical space bring a shift in philosophy as well? Might this indicate evolution toward a warmer, less rigid tone in the service style?

On my first post-renovation visit, a woman wearing a form-fitting business suit and high-tech headset greets us halfway up the long steps outside Seeger's entrance. The dining room is now hidden from view in the foyer by a heavy velvet drape — she instead ushers us into the bar-cum-sitting room, and we plop down on a plush couch. Youthful general manager Scott Turnbull approaches us with greetings, and lists off choices of champagnes by the glass to start the evening. As the bubbly is poured, gorgeous individual goat cheese tarts and a bowl of nondescript popcorn appear for snacking. We are given menus and encouraged to make decisions before being shown to our table.

I believe I understand the intention behind this new pre-dinner ritual: It is meant to set the stage and the mood for a protracted gustatory event, to give guests time to relax. But I instead find this awkward interlude stressful. The servers whisper to themselves across the room in tight, conspiratorial circles. With no music, the room is squeamishly silent. I genuinely want to bypass this whole rigmarole and settle in at the table straightaway.

Finally, all the unnecessary pomp, the forced repose and the worries about cost fade away. We sit down to thick, lovely linens and wonderfully weighty silverware and are presented with the first amuse-bouche: a small sphere of foie gras covered in pecans. It is the savory bookend to the chocolate truffle, meltingly complex and thrilling. The precession of genius has begun.

Next, a brown egg filled with custard. The first spoonful brings the sweet pounce of maple syrup. Maple gives way to fishy bottarga, then a vegetable essence — all in what amounts to barely more than a tablespoon of food. This is a Seeger signature, designed to spark the dialogue between your engaged mind and delighted senses.

The courses start in earnest: Barely smoked Georgia mountain trout over a thin layer of horseradish cream are formed in such a perfect circle that it boggles to imagine mere hands constructing it in the kitchen. Two quenelles cap the trout: American caviar and beet apple chutney. Dots of ruddy juniper berry oil surround this work of art, evoking a Scandinavian combination of flavors not often executed in this country's restaurants.

As a meal at Seeger's progresses, and as intimidation eases into enchantment, you begin to revel in the chef's unexpected ways: Lettuce soup, served in a bowl shaped like a nun's habit, has a surprisingly toothy texture. At lunch, we try duck ham served with a yin-yang of accompaniments: prune stuffed with marzipan at one end of the plate and meticulously minced vegetable vinaigrette at the other. Both showcase drastically different aspects of the ham.

Poached loup de mer showered with wisps of shaved almonds and paired with a dollop of almond mousse is completely idiosyncratic yet absolutely right. I want to shatter the daunting calm of the room with a feral yelp of glee.

A couple of servers help take the edge off the tension. Molly Gunn, in particular, charms with her lack of pretension. When she approaches the table to inquire if we're enjoying our entrees, she asks specifically about the crock of spätzle served alongside venison medallions. I tell her I love its squiggly earthiness, and she nods and replies, "Awesome." God, it's refreshing to hear someone utter some slang in here.

Seeger himself tends to let his mop of curly hair down when it comes to desserts. Beignet-style "s'mores" are among the most playful concoctions I've seen near meal's end here: Two square doughnuts, when cut open, reveal a gush of chocolate and marshmallow. A Technicolor scoop of orange sherbet completes the tribute to Middle American sweets. Fuji apples marinated in lemon juice create a trompe l'oeil. The apple is dyed so yellow it looks like chunks of pineapple, though the lemony jolt quickly dispels the illusion.

Creating and shattering illusion is really what an experience at Seeger's is all about — whether it is intended or not. Of course, the intricate dishes, with their myriad startling components, invoke a feeling of fantasy. But the semblance of perfection Seeger and his staff strive to project sometimes crumbles under the gravity of their seriousness. I wish more humor ran through this place.

Will the subtle changes at Seeger's at last ingratiate the chef and his restaurant to Atlanta? Probably not. But those who can see past or even appreciate the formality of the service and hone in primarily on the food will find Seeger closer than ever to expressing his essential values as a chef.

Cost and stuffiness be damned: I'll be back next year to discover what the formidable mind and soul of Guenter Seeger will have in store for me.             13018999 1256035                          Restaurant Review - At what price glory? "
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Wednesday February 22, 2006 12:04 am EST
Weighing the agony and the ecstasy of a meal at Seeger's | more...
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  string(5812) "Sunday supper. Two alliterative words that feel comforting to mouth and even more soothing to contemplate — an evening meal (dinner, of course, is served midday) of homey, hallowed dishes cooked by someone who hopefully takes intrinsic pleasure in the preparation. It is as much a time to ease into unforced conversation and eye contact as it is to hunker down on big plates of favorite foods.

And since Americans allocate ever-increasing amounts of their personal funds to dining out, it makes sense that chefs and restaurants across the country have begun to experiment with this deeply rooted tradition.

Linton Hopkins at Restaurant Eugene has stepped up to the stove to make Sunday supper in Atlanta, which isn't surprising: In the two years since Eugene opened, the timbre of Hopkins' cuisine has become progressively peppered with Southern overtones. Sure, he serves Hudson Valley foie gras, but he rests it atop a buttermilk biscuit. Sauteed striped bass goes Low Country on a fluffy bed of shrimp and grits. Carolina rice pudding is a staple among the dessert offerings. His native Southern soul must naturally gravitate toward feeding regional staples to folks one night a week.

The posh, sedate room also handsomely lends itself to a more relaxed dining experience. Even when crowded, the warm murmur in the air never ascends to a ruckus. And the service staff is unquestionably enthusiastic about Hopkins' foray into more humble terrains of hospitality.

Eugene's three-course Sunday supper costs $29.50 per person — less than some entrees on the restaurant's regular menu. If you're in the mood to gild your meal, spend some time with the concise but passionately assembled wine list. Don't hesitate to ask general manager Patrick Mitchell for help: He can direct you to an intriguing bargain or an electrifying, worthwhile blowout.

The supper menu has remained thematically consistent since Hopkins began serving it in early December, though the details vary from week to week. Three choices are offered for each of the three courses. The first sequence typically includes soup, salad and fried green tomatoes with a tangy rendition of rémoulade. Salads are lovely compositions — local lettuces arranged with goat cheese, batter-crusted duck cracklings and apple cider vinaigrette, or perhaps with blue cheese, spiced pecans and buttermilk dressing — but the kitchen really puts its heart into the soups. The wondrous potage on a recent Sunday was made with John Cope's dried corn from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Toasty aromas drifted from the bowl, and grace notes of smoky bacon and scallion awakened the summery sweetness in the pureed corn.

Hopkins' one-night-a-week fried chicken obviously begs comparison to Scott Peacock's Tuesday night efforts at Watershed. But the two are indeed birds of differing plumage. While Peacock pan-fries his chicken, Hopkins deep-fries his with cues from Mary Randolph, author of The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook published in 1824. I seriously doubt Randolph would have advocated Hopkins' outrageous concoction of frying fat — oil, lard, butter and bacon renderings — but it achieves his desired effect. Crackly skin leaves your fingers giddily greasy, while the meat has a clean, juicy honesty.

The first time I tried his chicken, however, Hopkins still seemed to be getting a feel for it: The white meat was on the dry side, the skin a tad too oily. By the second go-round, he'd nailed it. "God," sighed one tablemate, leaning in as she took another bite. "This tastes just like my mother's." Is there any higher compliment when it comes to fried chicken?

Pork and country-fried steak constitute the alternative choices among entrees (I suspect lighter options will rotate in as spring arrives). If the chicken is presented in unadorned austerity, with creamed greens and silky potato puree as simple accompaniments, things get cheffy with these other two meats. Suckling pig may be braised in Coca-Cola, strewn upon creamy grits, outfitted with a tuft of vinegary cole slaw, and drizzled with a barbecue sauce whose recipe was fashioned by Hopkins' Aunt Julia.

My reactions to the country-fried steak were reversed from the chicken: The first encounter bewitched me. The breading over the beef paralleled buried memories. I'd forgotten that odd, toothy-yet-soggy amalgam of textures that makes country-fried steak so ... irrefutable. And the black pepper gravy had just the right viscosity. Sweet potato puree and Brussels sprouts were on the side. Very meat-and-three, very appropriate.

The next time, the country-fried steak was smothered by a hominy and black-eyed pea succotash. Naw. Too fiddly. I'm not at all adverse to playfulness, and I expect a chef like Hopkins to incorporate the seasons and his own whims into this type of endeavor. Just be true to the soul of what Sunday supper means so the final results hum with a homespun veracity.

Like the desserts do. Red velvet cake. Lemon buttermilk chess pie. Banana cream pudding. These Southern beauts have been tweaked only to their highest, purist potential. The filling of the pie teeters right between tart and sweet, and is that a touch of lard I detect in the crust? The red velvet cake blazes scarlet, a blushing contrast to the snowy, buttery frosting. A toasted dollop of meringue tops the warmed banana pudding, which looks all grown up in its dapper metal goblet. Second helpings of each, please.

Hopkins is onto something important here. Iconic, caloric creations like these have become special occasion splurges rather than weekly mainstays in the Southern and American diet, and I await more Atlanta chefs willing to welcome these kinds of dishes into their professional vernacular. Bravo to Restaurant Eugene for taking the lead."
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And since Americans allocate ever-increasing amounts of their personal funds to dining out, it makes sense that chefs and restaurants across the country have begun to experiment with this deeply rooted tradition.

Linton Hopkins at Restaurant Eugene has stepped up to the stove to make Sunday supper in Atlanta, which isn't surprising: In the two years since Eugene opened, the timbre of Hopkins' cuisine has become progressively peppered with Southern overtones. Sure, he serves Hudson Valley foie gras, but he rests it atop a buttermilk biscuit. Sauteed striped bass goes Low Country on a fluffy bed of shrimp and grits. Carolina rice pudding is a staple among the dessert offerings. His native Southern soul must naturally gravitate toward feeding regional staples to folks one night a week.

The posh, sedate room also handsomely lends itself to a more relaxed dining experience. Even when crowded, the warm murmur in the air never ascends to a ruckus. And the service staff is unquestionably enthusiastic about Hopkins' foray into more humble terrains of hospitality.

Eugene's three-course Sunday supper costs $29.50 per person -- less than some entrees on the restaurant's regular menu. If you're in the mood to gild your meal, spend some time with the concise but passionately assembled wine list. Don't hesitate to ask general manager Patrick Mitchell for help: He can direct you to an intriguing bargain or an electrifying, worthwhile blowout.

The supper menu has remained thematically consistent since Hopkins began serving it in early December, though the details vary from week to week. Three choices are offered for each of the three courses. The first sequence typically includes soup, salad and fried green tomatoes with a tangy rendition of rémoulade. Salads are lovely compositions -- local lettuces arranged with goat cheese, batter-crusted duck cracklings and apple cider vinaigrette, or perhaps with blue cheese, spiced pecans and buttermilk dressing -- but the kitchen really puts its heart into the soups. The wondrous potage on a recent Sunday was made with John Cope's dried corn from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Toasty aromas drifted from the bowl, and grace notes of smoky bacon and scallion awakened the summery sweetness in the pureed corn.

Hopkins' one-night-a-week fried chicken obviously begs comparison to Scott Peacock's Tuesday night efforts at Watershed. But the two are indeed birds of differing plumage. While Peacock pan-fries his chicken, Hopkins deep-fries his with cues from Mary Randolph, author of The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook published in 1824. I seriously doubt Randolph would have advocated Hopkins' outrageous concoction of frying fat -- oil, lard, butter and bacon renderings -- but it achieves his desired effect. Crackly skin leaves your fingers giddily greasy, while the meat has a clean, juicy honesty.

The first time I tried his chicken, however, Hopkins still seemed to be getting a feel for it: The white meat was on the dry side, the skin a tad too oily. By the second go-round, he'd nailed it. "God," sighed one tablemate, leaning in as she took another bite. "This tastes just like my mother's." Is there any higher compliment when it comes to fried chicken?

Pork and country-fried steak constitute the alternative choices among entrees (I suspect lighter options will rotate in as spring arrives). If the chicken is presented in unadorned austerity, with creamed greens and silky potato puree as simple accompaniments, things get cheffy with these other two meats. Suckling pig may be braised in Coca-Cola, strewn upon creamy grits, outfitted with a tuft of vinegary cole slaw, and drizzled with a barbecue sauce whose recipe was fashioned by Hopkins' Aunt Julia.

My reactions to the country-fried steak were reversed from the chicken: The first encounter bewitched me. The breading over the beef paralleled buried memories. I'd forgotten that odd, toothy-yet-soggy amalgam of textures that makes country-fried steak so ... irrefutable. And the black pepper gravy had just the right viscosity. Sweet potato puree and Brussels sprouts were on the side. Very meat-and-three, very appropriate.

The next time, the country-fried steak was smothered by a hominy and black-eyed pea succotash. Naw. Too fiddly. I'm not at all adverse to playfulness, and I expect a chef like Hopkins to incorporate the seasons and his own whims into this type of endeavor. Just be true to the soul of what Sunday supper means so the final results hum with a homespun veracity.

Like the desserts do. Red velvet cake. Lemon buttermilk chess pie. Banana cream pudding. These Southern beauts have been tweaked only to their highest, purist potential. The filling of the pie teeters right between tart and sweet, and is that a touch of lard I detect in the crust? The red velvet cake blazes scarlet, a blushing contrast to the snowy, buttery frosting. A toasted dollop of meringue tops the warmed banana pudding, which looks all grown up in its dapper metal goblet. Second helpings of each, please.

Hopkins is onto something important here. Iconic, caloric creations like these have become special occasion splurges rather than weekly mainstays in the Southern and American diet, and I await more Atlanta chefs willing to welcome these kinds of dishes into their professional vernacular. Bravo to Restaurant Eugene for taking the lead."
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  string(6099) "    Restaurant Eugene serves up Sunday supper with true Southern soul   2006-02-15T05:04:00+00:00 Restaurant Review - Supper's on the table   Bill Addison 1223797 2006-02-15T05:04:00+00:00  Sunday supper. Two alliterative words that feel comforting to mouth and even more soothing to contemplate — an evening meal (dinner, of course, is served midday) of homey, hallowed dishes cooked by someone who hopefully takes intrinsic pleasure in the preparation. It is as much a time to ease into unforced conversation and eye contact as it is to hunker down on big plates of favorite foods.

And since Americans allocate ever-increasing amounts of their personal funds to dining out, it makes sense that chefs and restaurants across the country have begun to experiment with this deeply rooted tradition.

Linton Hopkins at Restaurant Eugene has stepped up to the stove to make Sunday supper in Atlanta, which isn't surprising: In the two years since Eugene opened, the timbre of Hopkins' cuisine has become progressively peppered with Southern overtones. Sure, he serves Hudson Valley foie gras, but he rests it atop a buttermilk biscuit. Sauteed striped bass goes Low Country on a fluffy bed of shrimp and grits. Carolina rice pudding is a staple among the dessert offerings. His native Southern soul must naturally gravitate toward feeding regional staples to folks one night a week.

The posh, sedate room also handsomely lends itself to a more relaxed dining experience. Even when crowded, the warm murmur in the air never ascends to a ruckus. And the service staff is unquestionably enthusiastic about Hopkins' foray into more humble terrains of hospitality.

Eugene's three-course Sunday supper costs $29.50 per person — less than some entrees on the restaurant's regular menu. If you're in the mood to gild your meal, spend some time with the concise but passionately assembled wine list. Don't hesitate to ask general manager Patrick Mitchell for help: He can direct you to an intriguing bargain or an electrifying, worthwhile blowout.

The supper menu has remained thematically consistent since Hopkins began serving it in early December, though the details vary from week to week. Three choices are offered for each of the three courses. The first sequence typically includes soup, salad and fried green tomatoes with a tangy rendition of rémoulade. Salads are lovely compositions — local lettuces arranged with goat cheese, batter-crusted duck cracklings and apple cider vinaigrette, or perhaps with blue cheese, spiced pecans and buttermilk dressing — but the kitchen really puts its heart into the soups. The wondrous potage on a recent Sunday was made with John Cope's dried corn from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Toasty aromas drifted from the bowl, and grace notes of smoky bacon and scallion awakened the summery sweetness in the pureed corn.

Hopkins' one-night-a-week fried chicken obviously begs comparison to Scott Peacock's Tuesday night efforts at Watershed. But the two are indeed birds of differing plumage. While Peacock pan-fries his chicken, Hopkins deep-fries his with cues from Mary Randolph, author of The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook published in 1824. I seriously doubt Randolph would have advocated Hopkins' outrageous concoction of frying fat — oil, lard, butter and bacon renderings — but it achieves his desired effect. Crackly skin leaves your fingers giddily greasy, while the meat has a clean, juicy honesty.

The first time I tried his chicken, however, Hopkins still seemed to be getting a feel for it: The white meat was on the dry side, the skin a tad too oily. By the second go-round, he'd nailed it. "God," sighed one tablemate, leaning in as she took another bite. "This tastes just like my mother's." Is there any higher compliment when it comes to fried chicken?

Pork and country-fried steak constitute the alternative choices among entrees (I suspect lighter options will rotate in as spring arrives). If the chicken is presented in unadorned austerity, with creamed greens and silky potato puree as simple accompaniments, things get cheffy with these other two meats. Suckling pig may be braised in Coca-Cola, strewn upon creamy grits, outfitted with a tuft of vinegary cole slaw, and drizzled with a barbecue sauce whose recipe was fashioned by Hopkins' Aunt Julia.

My reactions to the country-fried steak were reversed from the chicken: The first encounter bewitched me. The breading over the beef paralleled buried memories. I'd forgotten that odd, toothy-yet-soggy amalgam of textures that makes country-fried steak so ... irrefutable. And the black pepper gravy had just the right viscosity. Sweet potato puree and Brussels sprouts were on the side. Very meat-and-three, very appropriate.

The next time, the country-fried steak was smothered by a hominy and black-eyed pea succotash. Naw. Too fiddly. I'm not at all adverse to playfulness, and I expect a chef like Hopkins to incorporate the seasons and his own whims into this type of endeavor. Just be true to the soul of what Sunday supper means so the final results hum with a homespun veracity.

Like the desserts do. Red velvet cake. Lemon buttermilk chess pie. Banana cream pudding. These Southern beauts have been tweaked only to their highest, purist potential. The filling of the pie teeters right between tart and sweet, and is that a touch of lard I detect in the crust? The red velvet cake blazes scarlet, a blushing contrast to the snowy, buttery frosting. A toasted dollop of meringue tops the warmed banana pudding, which looks all grown up in its dapper metal goblet. Second helpings of each, please.

Hopkins is onto something important here. Iconic, caloric creations like these have become special occasion splurges rather than weekly mainstays in the Southern and American diet, and I await more Atlanta chefs willing to welcome these kinds of dishes into their professional vernacular. Bravo to Restaurant Eugene for taking the lead.             13018832 1255705                          Restaurant Review - Supper's on the table "
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Wednesday February 15, 2006 12:04 am EST
Restaurant Eugene serves up Sunday supper with true Southern soul | more...
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"Miss Lewis," as she was known by many in her later years, lived a spiritedly independent life. The granddaughter of a freed Virginia slave, she moved to Manhattan in her teens and in the late 1940s became chef at Cafe Nicholson, where she cooked for noted personalities such as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Richard Avedon. Later, she served as chef at the Fearrington House in North Carolina and at Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn. She was named Grande Dame of Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international association of women food professionals, in 1999.

During her long culinary career Lewis also penned three cookbooks: The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, 1976) is her most famous book, along with In Pursuit of Flavor (Knopf, 1988) and The Edna Lewis Cookbook (Ecco Press, 1972).

Lewis also co-authored The Gift of Southern Cooking (Knopf, 2003) with Peacock. The two met in 1990 when Lewis traveled to Atlanta to cook for a fundraising dinner. An enduring friendship both in and out of the kitchen was born from that meeting.

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"Miss Lewis," as she was known by many in her later years, lived a spiritedly independent life. The granddaughter of a freed Virginia slave, she moved to Manhattan in her teens and in the late 1940s became chef at Cafe Nicholson, where she cooked for noted personalities such as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Richard Avedon. Later, she served as chef at the Fearrington House in North Carolina and at Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn. She was named Grande Dame of Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international association of women food professionals, in 1999.

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Lewis will be buried in Virginia. No public memorials are scheduled at this time, though Peacock says opportunities to honor Lewis will be planned for the spring nearer to her 90th birthday, which would have been April 13."
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"Miss Lewis," as she was known by many in her later years, lived a spiritedly independent life. The granddaughter of a freed Virginia slave, she moved to Manhattan in her teens and in the late 1940s became chef at Cafe Nicholson, where she cooked for noted personalities such as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Richard Avedon. Later, she served as chef at the Fearrington House in North Carolina and at Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn. She was named Grande Dame of Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international association of women food professionals, in 1999.

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Lewis will be buried in Virginia. No public memorials are scheduled at this time, though Peacock says opportunities to honor Lewis will be planned for the spring nearer to her 90th birthday, which would have been April 13.             13018833 1255707                          Edna Lewis dies at 89 "
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Wednesday February 15, 2006 12:04 am EST
In memoriam | more...
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  string(6221) "I'm pulling up in front of one of the city's frenzied, of-the-moment hot spots. It's 7:20 p.m. on a Friday, and the valet attendant already looks like he's ready to bolt from his job.

"You're a lucky man," he says, motioning to the line of cars behind mine. "You just got the last spot in the lot. Everyone arrived at once."

The restaurant's crowd has nearly distended out the door. I wriggle inside to a familiar scene: darkness, clamor, jostling bodies, red lights over a crazed bar, small plates on small tables intermingled with the omnipresent conical shapes of martini glasses. No reservations are accepted and the wait is steadily creeping to an hour-plus.

I take a hard look around and suddenly find myself understanding how that valet must feel. Tonight, I'm just not in the mood for the restaurant rat race.

I slip back outside and call the friend who's meeting me here.

"OK," he says obligingly. "Where do you want to eat instead?"

Where do I want to eat? It's a question restaurant critics don't routinely ask themselves. I stand pondering the answer for so long that my pal thinks we've lost our cell phone connection. Finally, it comes to me.

"Kyma," I tell him.

The crest of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group's themed ventures, Kyma opened late in 2001 — not an easy time to sell the city on high-end Greek food. But the fire behind owner Pano Karatassos' objective to elevate his ancestral cuisine proved ultimately irresistible: The throngs descended to sup on legitimate and soulfully rendered meze appetizers and exquisitely fresh fish flown in daily from the Mediterranean.

Kyma has been and remains on my personal list of top five favorite upscale restaurants in Atlanta. The subdued, nautical decor puts me at ease. I love the "opa!-as-art" mosaic of broken plates in the spotless marble foyer. The smoky, meaty slices of wood-grilled octopus still lure the timid to tentacle utopia. And I'm always ready to throw down some serious cash for Kyma's reverential ways with fish.

Yet I do hear grumblings about this restaurant from time to time. And, after my arrival at Kyma from the hot spot and two subsequent visits, I can add my own voice of dissent to some aspects of dining here.

Rarely are any complaints directed at the food itself. Executive chef Pano I. Karatassos (the owner's son) can lovingly translate the flavors of Greece like few others. His saganaki — a slab of kefalograviera cheese sauteed in ouzo and lemon juice — is a charming amalgam of lowbrow ooze and uptown knife-and-fork fare. Spanakopita has so rarely been wrought with any finesse in restaurants that every bite of crisp filo and creamy, feta-infused spinach seems revelatory. Each component of the grape leaves — from the lemon-sparked rice and the suppleness of the leaves to the plush texture of the yogurt tzatziki spread — spoils you against any other rendition in town.

Speaking of yogurt, it is criminal to exit the restaurant without having spooned a few bites of voluptuous yogurt lacquered with Peloponnesian honey and candied walnuts into your mouth for dessert. Or gobbled several hot fritters dunked in the same honey, whose complexity makes it impossible to become cloying.

If you veer from these traditional tastes, you get what you get. A lump crab cake with shallot-dill mayonnaise? Neither better nor worse than the rendition you can order at most decent spots. Ahi tuna feels wonky in this setting, and white Tokyo turnips — though an intriguing pairing with tuna — don't ease the sense of displacement.

No, if you're here for fish — which you should be — then cast your eyes to the top of the menu and choose from the selection of piscine pleasures that are wood-grilled, filleted, scattered with capers and embellished with lemon and olive oil. I always gravitate to lavraki (also known as loup de mer), whose snowy flesh has a universal, gossamer appeal. Tsipoura (or royal dorado) is slightly more assertive but would never be defined as "fishy"; delicately rich is more accurate.

These a la carte fish entrees range from $22 to $34 apiece, and ordering sides like the tawny, crunchy Greek fries or the silken eggplant stew (at $6.50 each) is essential to round out the meal. Expectations, then, are naturally high around this centerpiece experience. And that's where Kyma can occasionally flounder.

The cooking is not at fault. I've never encountered an overcooked piece of fish here. But sometimes it arrives tepid, indicating a disconnect between the kitchen and servers. I sense, given the level of care typically tendered by the cooks, the blame lies more closely with the service.

Case in point: We arrive on a Monday night without a reservation. The main dining room is relatively quiet but we opt to sit in the more casual bar area. From the get-go, our server's mind is either elsewhere or bizarrely fixated. He turns his head while pouring bottled water and spills it on the table. He fiddles fanatically with the placement of our plates. We opt for the $39-per-person "meze dinner" that includes a grilled fish split three ways, but he neglects to bring out the first course, a tasting of signature spreads.

He tells us that mild, firm turbot is the only fish large enough for splitting that evening, and it's fine by me. He brings it forth from the kitchen on a platter — lovely — and proceeds to divide it for us. For 10 minutes, this guy gets full-on OCD with that critter. I've never seen a more pristine division of a fish, with a judicious tuft of sauteed greens and a lemon half poised just so on each plate. Alas, the turbot and the greens are little more than room temperature by the time we get our first forkful.

Obviously, that's an extreme example. The problem seems to have developed into an occasional but persistent glitch in the restaurant's otherwise sublime degree of polish. Fortunately, the professional yet concerned demeanor of the suit-clad managers helps enormously: They're happy to whisk your plate away and mediate with the kitchen.

The lesson? Remember to speak up if your meal's not right. Don't let a little situation turn you into a cold fish against this Atlanta gem."
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The restaurant's crowd has nearly distended out the door. I wriggle inside to a familiar scene: darkness, clamor, jostling bodies, red lights over a crazed bar, small plates on small tables intermingled with the omnipresent conical shapes of martini glasses. No reservations are accepted and the wait is steadily creeping to an hour-plus.

I take a hard look around and suddenly find myself understanding how that valet must feel. Tonight, I'm just not in the mood for the restaurant rat race.

I slip back outside and call the friend who's meeting me here.

"OK," he says obligingly. "Where do you want to eat instead?"

Where do I want to eat? It's a question restaurant critics don't routinely ask themselves. I stand pondering the answer for so long that my pal thinks we've lost our cell phone connection. Finally, it comes to me.

"Kyma," I tell him.

The crest of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group's themed ventures, Kyma opened late in 2001 -- not an easy time to sell the city on high-end Greek food. But the fire behind owner Pano Karatassos' objective to elevate his ancestral cuisine proved ultimately irresistible: The throngs descended to sup on legitimate and soulfully rendered meze appetizers and exquisitely fresh fish flown in daily from the Mediterranean.

Kyma has been and remains on my personal list of top five favorite upscale restaurants in Atlanta. The subdued, nautical decor puts me at ease. I love the "opa!-as-art" mosaic of broken plates in the spotless marble foyer. The smoky, meaty slices of wood-grilled octopus still lure the timid to tentacle utopia. And I'm always ready to throw down some serious cash for Kyma's reverential ways with fish.

Yet I do hear grumblings about this restaurant from time to time. And, after my arrival at Kyma from the hot spot and two subsequent visits, I can add my own voice of dissent to some aspects of dining here.

Rarely are any complaints directed at the food itself. Executive chef Pano I. Karatassos (the owner's son) can lovingly translate the flavors of Greece like few others. His saganaki -- a slab of kefalograviera cheese sauteed in ouzo and lemon juice -- is a charming amalgam of lowbrow ooze and uptown knife-and-fork fare. Spanakopita has so rarely been wrought with any finesse in restaurants that every bite of crisp filo and creamy, feta-infused spinach seems revelatory. Each component of the grape leaves -- from the lemon-sparked rice and the suppleness of the leaves to the plush texture of the yogurt tzatziki spread -- spoils you against any other rendition in town.

Speaking of yogurt, it is criminal to exit the restaurant without having spooned a few bites of voluptuous yogurt lacquered with Peloponnesian honey and candied walnuts into your mouth for dessert. Or gobbled several hot fritters dunked in the same honey, whose complexity makes it impossible to become cloying.

If you veer from these traditional tastes, you get what you get. A lump crab cake with shallot-dill mayonnaise? Neither better nor worse than the rendition you can order at most decent spots. Ahi tuna feels wonky in this setting, and white Tokyo turnips -- though an intriguing pairing with tuna -- don't ease the sense of displacement.

No, if you're here for fish -- which you should be -- then cast your eyes to the top of the menu and choose from the selection of piscine pleasures that are wood-grilled, filleted, scattered with capers and embellished with lemon and olive oil. I always gravitate to lavraki (also known as loup de mer), whose snowy flesh has a universal, gossamer appeal. Tsipoura (or royal dorado) is slightly more assertive but would never be defined as "fishy"; delicately rich is more accurate.

These a la carte fish entrees range from $22 to $34 apiece, and ordering sides like the tawny, crunchy Greek fries or the silken eggplant stew (at $6.50 each) is essential to round out the meal. Expectations, then, are naturally high around this centerpiece experience. And that's where Kyma can occasionally flounder.

The cooking is not at fault. I've never encountered an overcooked piece of fish here. But sometimes it arrives tepid, indicating a disconnect between the kitchen and servers. I sense, given the level of care typically tendered by the cooks, the blame lies more closely with the service.

Case in point: We arrive on a Monday night without a reservation. The main dining room is relatively quiet but we opt to sit in the more casual bar area. From the get-go, our server's mind is either elsewhere or bizarrely fixated. He turns his head while pouring bottled water and spills it on the table. He fiddles fanatically with the placement of our plates. We opt for the $39-per-person "meze dinner" that includes a grilled fish split three ways, but he neglects to bring out the first course, a tasting of signature spreads.

He tells us that mild, firm turbot is the only fish large enough for splitting that evening, and it's fine by me. He brings it forth from the kitchen on a platter -- lovely -- and proceeds to divide it for us. For 10 minutes, this guy gets full-on OCD with that critter. I've never seen a more pristine division of a fish, with a judicious tuft of sauteed greens and a lemon half poised just so on each plate. Alas, the turbot and the greens are little more than room temperature by the time we get our first forkful.

Obviously, that's an extreme example. The problem seems to have developed into an occasional but persistent glitch in the restaurant's otherwise sublime degree of polish. Fortunately, the professional yet concerned demeanor of the suit-clad managers helps enormously: They're happy to whisk your plate away and mediate with the kitchen.

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  string(6490) "    Kyma careens on as one of the city's finest dining destinations   2006-02-08T05:04:00+00:00 Restaurant Review - Grecian grace   Bill Addison 1223797 2006-02-08T05:04:00+00:00  I'm pulling up in front of one of the city's frenzied, of-the-moment hot spots. It's 7:20 p.m. on a Friday, and the valet attendant already looks like he's ready to bolt from his job.

"You're a lucky man," he says, motioning to the line of cars behind mine. "You just got the last spot in the lot. Everyone arrived at once."

The restaurant's crowd has nearly distended out the door. I wriggle inside to a familiar scene: darkness, clamor, jostling bodies, red lights over a crazed bar, small plates on small tables intermingled with the omnipresent conical shapes of martini glasses. No reservations are accepted and the wait is steadily creeping to an hour-plus.

I take a hard look around and suddenly find myself understanding how that valet must feel. Tonight, I'm just not in the mood for the restaurant rat race.

I slip back outside and call the friend who's meeting me here.

"OK," he says obligingly. "Where do you want to eat instead?"

Where do I want to eat? It's a question restaurant critics don't routinely ask themselves. I stand pondering the answer for so long that my pal thinks we've lost our cell phone connection. Finally, it comes to me.

"Kyma," I tell him.

The crest of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group's themed ventures, Kyma opened late in 2001 — not an easy time to sell the city on high-end Greek food. But the fire behind owner Pano Karatassos' objective to elevate his ancestral cuisine proved ultimately irresistible: The throngs descended to sup on legitimate and soulfully rendered meze appetizers and exquisitely fresh fish flown in daily from the Mediterranean.

Kyma has been and remains on my personal list of top five favorite upscale restaurants in Atlanta. The subdued, nautical decor puts me at ease. I love the "opa!-as-art" mosaic of broken plates in the spotless marble foyer. The smoky, meaty slices of wood-grilled octopus still lure the timid to tentacle utopia. And I'm always ready to throw down some serious cash for Kyma's reverential ways with fish.

Yet I do hear grumblings about this restaurant from time to time. And, after my arrival at Kyma from the hot spot and two subsequent visits, I can add my own voice of dissent to some aspects of dining here.

Rarely are any complaints directed at the food itself. Executive chef Pano I. Karatassos (the owner's son) can lovingly translate the flavors of Greece like few others. His saganaki — a slab of kefalograviera cheese sauteed in ouzo and lemon juice — is a charming amalgam of lowbrow ooze and uptown knife-and-fork fare. Spanakopita has so rarely been wrought with any finesse in restaurants that every bite of crisp filo and creamy, feta-infused spinach seems revelatory. Each component of the grape leaves — from the lemon-sparked rice and the suppleness of the leaves to the plush texture of the yogurt tzatziki spread — spoils you against any other rendition in town.

Speaking of yogurt, it is criminal to exit the restaurant without having spooned a few bites of voluptuous yogurt lacquered with Peloponnesian honey and candied walnuts into your mouth for dessert. Or gobbled several hot fritters dunked in the same honey, whose complexity makes it impossible to become cloying.

If you veer from these traditional tastes, you get what you get. A lump crab cake with shallot-dill mayonnaise? Neither better nor worse than the rendition you can order at most decent spots. Ahi tuna feels wonky in this setting, and white Tokyo turnips — though an intriguing pairing with tuna — don't ease the sense of displacement.

No, if you're here for fish — which you should be — then cast your eyes to the top of the menu and choose from the selection of piscine pleasures that are wood-grilled, filleted, scattered with capers and embellished with lemon and olive oil. I always gravitate to lavraki (also known as loup de mer), whose snowy flesh has a universal, gossamer appeal. Tsipoura (or royal dorado) is slightly more assertive but would never be defined as "fishy"; delicately rich is more accurate.

These a la carte fish entrees range from $22 to $34 apiece, and ordering sides like the tawny, crunchy Greek fries or the silken eggplant stew (at $6.50 each) is essential to round out the meal. Expectations, then, are naturally high around this centerpiece experience. And that's where Kyma can occasionally flounder.

The cooking is not at fault. I've never encountered an overcooked piece of fish here. But sometimes it arrives tepid, indicating a disconnect between the kitchen and servers. I sense, given the level of care typically tendered by the cooks, the blame lies more closely with the service.

Case in point: We arrive on a Monday night without a reservation. The main dining room is relatively quiet but we opt to sit in the more casual bar area. From the get-go, our server's mind is either elsewhere or bizarrely fixated. He turns his head while pouring bottled water and spills it on the table. He fiddles fanatically with the placement of our plates. We opt for the $39-per-person "meze dinner" that includes a grilled fish split three ways, but he neglects to bring out the first course, a tasting of signature spreads.

He tells us that mild, firm turbot is the only fish large enough for splitting that evening, and it's fine by me. He brings it forth from the kitchen on a platter — lovely — and proceeds to divide it for us. For 10 minutes, this guy gets full-on OCD with that critter. I've never seen a more pristine division of a fish, with a judicious tuft of sauteed greens and a lemon half poised just so on each plate. Alas, the turbot and the greens are little more than room temperature by the time we get our first forkful.

Obviously, that's an extreme example. The problem seems to have developed into an occasional but persistent glitch in the restaurant's otherwise sublime degree of polish. Fortunately, the professional yet concerned demeanor of the suit-clad managers helps enormously: They're happy to whisk your plate away and mediate with the kitchen.

The lesson? Remember to speak up if your meal's not right. Don't let a little situation turn you into a cold fish against this Atlanta gem.             13018752 1255531                          Restaurant Review - Grecian grace "
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Article

Wednesday February 8, 2006 12:04 am EST
Kyma careens on as one of the city's finest dining destinations | more...
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  string(5649) "Ah, actual natural light. How refreshing to have it flooding over our injera and doro wot at lunchtime.

In its previous digs in the Cheshire Square shopping center (home of Tara Cinemas), Meskerem served some of Atlanta's most soulfully prepared Ethiopian cuisine — in one of the gloomiest tombs in which I've ever consumed a meal. What had once been a New Age bookstore became an immense, sunless echo chamber of a restaurant. Even when substantial crowds gathered on weekend nights, the place never gained critical conviviality. The tables were too spread out to generate any collective sense of good cheer.

When it was announced that a Publix would be moving into the shopping center and Meskerem's lease would not be renewed, the restaurant — in a barely disguised blessing — was forced to seek a new home.

Its current digs, in a quirky strip mall just off the I-85 Clairmont Road exit, feel much more fitting to the welcoming intentions of owners Martha Teshome and Wossen Fikru. During the daytime, the mustard-colored walls and big windows make the dining room look downright phosphorescent by comparison. The bar has been set up just like its first incarnation, in the center of the back wall, paneled with rounded mirrors. In this blissfully shrunken setting, you can even detect enticingly exotic aromas whispering through the room — a mixture of dusky spices, sizzling meat, incense and coffee.

Ooh, yeah. The traditional coffee ceremony. The one standout benefit of the old space was to partake in the ritualized preparation of coffee, performed several times daily in Ethiopia, in a sectioned-off corner of the restaurant. I see the same setup here. Can we have the ceremony after lunch today?

"I'm sorry," says our server. "We aren't ready to do it right now."

I become intimately familiar with this tone and corresponding facial expression during the course of several visits. My numerous attempts to order the more uncommon dishes listed on the menu — fried fish (any fish), lentil sambusa pastries, lamb soup, Ethiopian honey wine — are met with the same kill-you-with-kindness smile and gentle apology: "I'm sorry, we don't have that right now."

"Will you have it soon? I know you only reopened six weeks ago."

"I'm not sure, sir." Unwavering, unflappable, maddening patience.

Fortunately, the standard offerings are made with uncommon care. Skip the few appetizers and soups. You want to dive right into the main event.

The food, as at most Ethiopian eateries, is presented on a large platter lined with injera, the spongy, softly sour bread that also serves as a utensil. Always order one vegetarian combination for the group as the foundation for your meal. The kitchen makes particularly good gomen — chopped collard greens mildly flavored with onions, garlic and green pepper, and glossed with butter. That and the misir wot — thick red lentil stew redolent of berbere, the essential spice combination for Ethiopian cooking — are typically the first to vanish from the platter.

Neither a similar yellow lentil preparation with much milder seasoning nor a bland collage of cabbage, carrots and unwieldy chunks of potatoes are intrinsically offensive, but neither do they add much savor to the mix.

Unless vegetarians are dining alongside carnivores, meat entrees will be interspersed among the vegetables. Doro wat is perhaps the best known Ethiopian dish: a chicken leg simmered in a berbere-infused sauce and paired with a boiled egg. At Meskerem, though, I prefer the lamb and beef dishes. Ye beg wot is the lamb equivalent to doro wat, and I'm more enamored of the way the chiles and the cumin and cardamom in the berbere mingle with that meat's gamy prowess. Ye beg alicha looks less fetching with the lamb left on the bone, but the meat proves supple and the tumeric sauce is nicely poised between mild and zingy.

Every table in the restaurant seems to order zizil tibs, the fabulously onomatopoetic moniker for what is essentially an Ethiopian beef fajita. Here it comes on its sizzling tray, billowing smoke. The steaky strips are a tad chewy but also a needed contrast to the soft textures that dominate this cooking.

You can eat until your stomach protrudes. Injera is sneaky: It feels light and thin but fills you up quickly. Servers will bring you baskets of injera, but you want to try and save a little room until most of the meal is polished off. Then you hunker down on the injera draping the platter, which is soaked through with spicy, buttery juices.

I could cope with the unusual dishes not being available, but I longed for the coffee ceremony after lunch and dinner. Finally, before my third visit, I call ahead and am promised I can imbibe that night. The restaurant is quiet when I arrive with a couple friends. Two customers are already in the ceremony alcove, contentedly sipping from small white cups. I tell the server that I called ahead, and she suggests we eat first.

Dinner's over, we're lapsing into injera food comas, we could use some java. But business has picked up and our server is starting to hustle. She avoids eye contact. I remain stoic. Finally, she ushers us to the alcove. She begins by lighting incense, a mixture of loose ingredients that smells partly of frankincense, partly of the piñon wood burned in the Southwest in winter. It's an ancient scent of community and ritual. The perfume of the coffee beans roasting on a round, flat pan soon weaves its way into the fragrant tapestry. This pungent whirlwind, I realize, is the true heart of the ceremony. I'm satisfied before I even take my first rich sip."
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In its previous digs in the Cheshire Square shopping center (home of Tara Cinemas), Meskerem served some of Atlanta's most soulfully prepared Ethiopian cuisine -- in one of the gloomiest tombs in which I've ever consumed a meal. What had once been a New Age bookstore became an immense, sunless echo chamber of a restaurant. Even when substantial crowds gathered on weekend nights, the place never gained critical conviviality. The tables were too spread out to generate any collective sense of good cheer.

When it was announced that a Publix would be moving into the shopping center and Meskerem's lease would not be renewed, the restaurant -- in a barely disguised blessing -- was forced to seek a new home.

Its current digs, in a quirky strip mall just off the I-85 Clairmont Road exit, feel much more fitting to the welcoming intentions of owners Martha Teshome and Wossen Fikru. During the daytime, the mustard-colored walls and big windows make the dining room look downright phosphorescent by comparison. The bar has been set up just like its first incarnation, in the center of the back wall, paneled with rounded mirrors. In this blissfully shrunken setting, you can even detect enticingly exotic aromas whispering through the room -- a mixture of dusky spices, sizzling meat, incense and coffee.

Ooh, yeah. The traditional coffee ceremony. The one standout benefit of the old space was to partake in the ritualized preparation of coffee, performed several times daily in Ethiopia, in a sectioned-off corner of the restaurant. I see the same setup here. Can we have the ceremony after lunch today?

"I'm sorry," says our server. "We aren't ready to do it right now."

I become intimately familiar with this tone and corresponding facial expression during the course of several visits. My numerous attempts to order the more uncommon dishes listed on the menu -- fried fish (any fish), lentil sambusa pastries, lamb soup, Ethiopian honey wine -- are met with the same kill-you-with-kindness smile and gentle apology: "I'm sorry, we don't have that right now."

"Will you have it soon? I know you only reopened six weeks ago."

"I'm not sure, sir." Unwavering, unflappable, maddening patience.

Fortunately, the standard offerings are made with uncommon care. Skip the few appetizers and soups. You want to dive right into the main event.

The food, as at most Ethiopian eateries, is presented on a large platter lined with injera, the spongy, softly sour bread that also serves as a utensil. Always order one vegetarian combination for the group as the foundation for your meal. The kitchen makes particularly good gomen -- chopped collard greens mildly flavored with onions, garlic and green pepper, and glossed with butter. That and the misir wot -- thick red lentil stew redolent of berbere, the essential spice combination for Ethiopian cooking -- are typically the first to vanish from the platter.

Neither a similar yellow lentil preparation with much milder seasoning nor a bland collage of cabbage, carrots and unwieldy chunks of potatoes are intrinsically offensive, but neither do they add much savor to the mix.

Unless vegetarians are dining alongside carnivores, meat entrees will be interspersed among the vegetables. Doro wat is perhaps the best known Ethiopian dish: a chicken leg simmered in a berbere-infused sauce and paired with a boiled egg. At Meskerem, though, I prefer the lamb and beef dishes. Ye beg wot is the lamb equivalent to doro wat, and I'm more enamored of the way the chiles and the cumin and cardamom in the berbere mingle with that meat's gamy prowess. Ye beg alicha looks less fetching with the lamb left on the bone, but the meat proves supple and the tumeric sauce is nicely poised between mild and zingy.

Every table in the restaurant seems to order zizil tibs, the fabulously onomatopoetic moniker for what is essentially an Ethiopian beef fajita. Here it comes on its sizzling tray, billowing smoke. The steaky strips are a tad chewy but also a needed contrast to the soft textures that dominate this cooking.

You can eat until your stomach protrudes. Injera is sneaky: It feels light and thin but fills you up quickly. Servers will bring you baskets of injera, but you want to try and save a little room until most of the meal is polished off. Then you hunker down on the injera draping the platter, which is soaked through with spicy, buttery juices.

I could cope with the unusual dishes not being available, but I longed for the coffee ceremony after lunch and dinner. Finally, before my third visit, I call ahead and am promised I can imbibe that night. The restaurant is quiet when I arrive with a couple friends. Two customers are already in the ceremony alcove, contentedly sipping from small white cups. I tell the server that I called ahead, and she suggests we eat first.

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In its previous digs in the Cheshire Square shopping center (home of Tara Cinemas), Meskerem served some of Atlanta's most soulfully prepared Ethiopian cuisine — in one of the gloomiest tombs in which I've ever consumed a meal. What had once been a New Age bookstore became an immense, sunless echo chamber of a restaurant. Even when substantial crowds gathered on weekend nights, the place never gained critical conviviality. The tables were too spread out to generate any collective sense of good cheer.

When it was announced that a Publix would be moving into the shopping center and Meskerem's lease would not be renewed, the restaurant — in a barely disguised blessing — was forced to seek a new home.

Its current digs, in a quirky strip mall just off the I-85 Clairmont Road exit, feel much more fitting to the welcoming intentions of owners Martha Teshome and Wossen Fikru. During the daytime, the mustard-colored walls and big windows make the dining room look downright phosphorescent by comparison. The bar has been set up just like its first incarnation, in the center of the back wall, paneled with rounded mirrors. In this blissfully shrunken setting, you can even detect enticingly exotic aromas whispering through the room — a mixture of dusky spices, sizzling meat, incense and coffee.

Ooh, yeah. The traditional coffee ceremony. The one standout benefit of the old space was to partake in the ritualized preparation of coffee, performed several times daily in Ethiopia, in a sectioned-off corner of the restaurant. I see the same setup here. Can we have the ceremony after lunch today?

"I'm sorry," says our server. "We aren't ready to do it right now."

I become intimately familiar with this tone and corresponding facial expression during the course of several visits. My numerous attempts to order the more uncommon dishes listed on the menu — fried fish (any fish), lentil sambusa pastries, lamb soup, Ethiopian honey wine — are met with the same kill-you-with-kindness smile and gentle apology: "I'm sorry, we don't have that right now."

"Will you have it soon? I know you only reopened six weeks ago."

"I'm not sure, sir." Unwavering, unflappable, maddening patience.

Fortunately, the standard offerings are made with uncommon care. Skip the few appetizers and soups. You want to dive right into the main event.

The food, as at most Ethiopian eateries, is presented on a large platter lined with injera, the spongy, softly sour bread that also serves as a utensil. Always order one vegetarian combination for the group as the foundation for your meal. The kitchen makes particularly good gomen — chopped collard greens mildly flavored with onions, garlic and green pepper, and glossed with butter. That and the misir wot — thick red lentil stew redolent of berbere, the essential spice combination for Ethiopian cooking — are typically the first to vanish from the platter.

Neither a similar yellow lentil preparation with much milder seasoning nor a bland collage of cabbage, carrots and unwieldy chunks of potatoes are intrinsically offensive, but neither do they add much savor to the mix.

Unless vegetarians are dining alongside carnivores, meat entrees will be interspersed among the vegetables. Doro wat is perhaps the best known Ethiopian dish: a chicken leg simmered in a berbere-infused sauce and paired with a boiled egg. At Meskerem, though, I prefer the lamb and beef dishes. Ye beg wot is the lamb equivalent to doro wat, and I'm more enamored of the way the chiles and the cumin and cardamom in the berbere mingle with that meat's gamy prowess. Ye beg alicha looks less fetching with the lamb left on the bone, but the meat proves supple and the tumeric sauce is nicely poised between mild and zingy.

Every table in the restaurant seems to order zizil tibs, the fabulously onomatopoetic moniker for what is essentially an Ethiopian beef fajita. Here it comes on its sizzling tray, billowing smoke. The steaky strips are a tad chewy but also a needed contrast to the soft textures that dominate this cooking.

You can eat until your stomach protrudes. Injera is sneaky: It feels light and thin but fills you up quickly. Servers will bring you baskets of injera, but you want to try and save a little room until most of the meal is polished off. Then you hunker down on the injera draping the platter, which is soaked through with spicy, buttery juices.

I could cope with the unusual dishes not being available, but I longed for the coffee ceremony after lunch and dinner. Finally, before my third visit, I call ahead and am promised I can imbibe that night. The restaurant is quiet when I arrive with a couple friends. Two customers are already in the ceremony alcove, contentedly sipping from small white cups. I tell the server that I called ahead, and she suggests we eat first.

Dinner's over, we're lapsing into injera food comas, we could use some java. But business has picked up and our server is starting to hustle. She avoids eye contact. I remain stoic. Finally, she ushers us to the alcove. She begins by lighting incense, a mixture of loose ingredients that smells partly of frankincense, partly of the piñon wood burned in the Southwest in winter. It's an ancient scent of community and ritual. The perfume of the coffee beans roasting on a round, flat pan soon weaves its way into the fragrant tapestry. This pungent whirlwind, I realize, is the true heart of the ceremony. I'm satisfied before I even take my first rich sip.             13018869 1255773                          Restaurant Review - Waiting to inhale "
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Wednesday February 1, 2006 12:04 am EST
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