Redeye July 15 2004

Mind and body: I’ve been feeling sluggish recently, so I’ve decided to keep my drinking body conscious. I’ve shied from the temptation of fried pub fare, sugary mixers and peak-hour pulse racing. And a couple of new restaurants — both along North Highland Avenue — have helped facilitate my “fitness” quest.

Firstly, there is Zuma Sushi and Sake Bar in the base of Highland Walk apartments, directly across from Jake’s and the Roman Lily Cafe. Utterly contemporary in design, the space features banquette-rimmed walls lined with flat-screen televisions playing Asian pop concerts. Zuma’s interior is a stark contrast to the anthill apartments atop it. Not only does Zuma offer deft sushi to my new regime, but an array of premium sake available at nearly all hours, since it stays open till 2 a.m. And after all, they serve a sake imbued with gold flecks, which, a waitress explained, is believed to be good for the circulation. I can put my heart behind heart-wise imbibing.

Another new restaurant offering balance-friendly booze is Lush, located on Bernina Avenue, off North Highland by Freedom Parkway. Lush offers not only upscale vegetarian food with a fine wine list, but three signature punch drinks free of preservatives and processed substances. The cocktails are built from fresh fruit juices (including mango and papaya) and fruit puree — kiwi for the time being. With an intimate patio to one side and a skyline view to another, it’s an excellent evening starter with hours till 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, though the midnight closing on Saturday would allow for an extended sojourn.

The void stares back

The Crescent Room may have closed and taken with it the last vestige of Midtown’s formerly eclectic nature, but all is not lost; it’s merely at Peachtree and Pine. Newly opened next to the Shakespeare Tavern, Django Gypsy Kitchen & Saloon presents on first look the multiculti promise of what Nomenclature Museum once offered. Street-level, Django offers a dining room/bar that is crowned by a lush loft and extends into an open-air patio, which is revealed to be the mezzanine level to Django’s cavernous basement lounge (open Thursday through Saturday till 2:30 a.m.). This is where the potential exists. Handled properly, this subterranean space — crafted by James Booth, who had a hand in Nomenclature, among other places — has the vibe of an Eastern European outsider art gallery and could seduce the reclusive eccentrics who once made the scene without making a fuss. Kicking off with DJs including Cullen and Swivel, Django indicates bohemia may not have gone the way of Babylon just yet.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.