Feedbag - Parlez-vous Francais?
Buckhead's Anis Bistro is fluent in the language of romance
there was no mistaking it. All around us, French was being spoken. By the chic waitresses, by the expats two tables over. I love the feeling that you're someplace else, temporarily forgetting that you're actually in smoggy, sweaty Atlanta in August.
And yet, Anis Bistro doesn't exactly feel French. The vibe is more French West Indies: You could be in Martinique, or St. Lucia. Inside the rehabbed Buckhead bungalow, whitewashed walls contrast with wood floors stained deep mahogany. Ivory leather chairs nestle under linen-topped tables. A mantel overflows with potted plants. In the back, a cozy bar area looks like the ideal spot for a cognac on a chilly November night.
But the patio is the real draw at Anis. You'll feel like you've stepped into a scene from The Mosquito Coast: Rusty fans spin lazily overhead, and skylights allow late-afternoon sun to peek through the rafters. At the periphery, wild tangles of plant life threaten to reclaim the patio.
The seafood-focused French menu has a Caribbean feel to it, too. Ahi tuna, served a la Nicoise with Yukon gold potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes and olive tapenade, should have been light and summery. But the tuna took a wrong turn at the deep fryer and came out batter-coated and unpleasantly heavy. There was also something unsettling about cutting into the crunchy coating to find rare tuna inside. Presentation was lovely, though: The tuna and vegetables sat atop swirls of red pepper coulis and pesto, crowned with a purple orchid.
The appetizer pizza du jour was simply disastrous: The crust, brittle at the edges and soggy in the middle, held a muddle of gooey mozzarella and mushy figs. I picked off the crispy strips of prosciutto and left the rest. Simple roast chicken fared better, with its homey side of creamy polenta and an arugula salad tossed with tomatoes and fresh corn.
Some folks may find the service on the slow side (how French!), but I think it works. It's rare these days that you're actually allowed a little time between appetizer and entree to digest and finish your glass of wine. But much as I tried to suppress it, I felt my American impatience bubbling up when we had finished our meal — dishes were cleared away, credit card was out — and our waitress left us to languish for 10 minutes, checkless.
I suppose you could say it added to the sense of "otherness" that Anis cultivates. And regardless of the slow service and uneven menu, that feeling of being someplace else is reason enough to pay Anis a visit.
''Covering Brookhaven to Inman Park.Dining events
GET FIRED UP — There's lots going on at Woodfire Grill this week. The restaurant celebrates its second anniversary Mon.-Sat., Aug. 9-14, by treating diners to a complimentary glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne. And Wed., Aug. 18, Woodfire celebrates the tomato harvest with a special five-course tomato dinner featuring locally grown, organic tomatoes and wine pairings. Call 404-347-9055 for reservations. 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road. www.woodfiregrill.com.
A TOAST TO THE TOMATO — It was such a smash hit last summer, La Tavola is bringing back its Tomato Fest. The festival runs from Thurs.-Sun., Aug. 12-22, and features a special four-course prix-fixe menu (including soup or salad, appetizer, entree and cheese course for dessert). Each course features the star ingredient, tomatoes. Items on the tomato menu also are available a la carte. The cost is $29 plus tax and gratuity, and a paired wine flight is an additional $14. 992 Virginia Ave. 404-873-5430. www.latavolatrattoria.com.
IT'S ALL WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE — Or is it? Market One attempts to enlighten the Atlanta populace on the finer points of nature's original beverage at a water tasting Sat., Aug. 14, from 5-7 p.m. The tasting, hosted by Slow Food Atlanta, will feature domestic, foreign, sparkling and still waters. Come quench your thirst. 1061 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-439-1100. www.m1atlanta.com.
MELON ON MY MIND — Not in a tomato kind of mood? Try watermelon instead. All week beginning Tues., Aug. 17, Eno pays homage to the summery fruit with a three-course, $35 prix-fixe menu. 800 Peachtree St. 404-685-3191. www.eno-atlanta.com.
A TASTE OF FRANCE — On Wed., Aug. 18, from 5:30-7 p.m., South City Kitchen hosts its monthly wine tasting. This month's theme: the wines of France. $20 includes five to eight wine pours and light hors d'oeuvres. 1144 Crescent Ave. 404-873-7358. www.southcitykitchen.com.
WASHINGTON IS FOR (WINE) LOVERS — The Inman Park Patio celebrates Washington wines on Wed., Aug. 18. A four-course dinner will feature wines from Brookwalter and Dunham. The dinner, part of an ongoing Wine Dinner Series, begins at 7:30 p.m. and costs $49 per person (plus tax and tip). 1029 Edgewood Ave. 404-659-5757. www.inmanparkpatio.com.
FILL UP IN STYLE — Every Monday and Wednesday night, Cherry in Midtown offers all-you-can-eat sushi from 7-9 p.m. 1051 W. Peachtree St. 404-872-2020. www.aboutcherry.com.
UNDER THE SEA — Every Wednesday night at Sala is a fiesta del mar — a seafood party. A family-style seafood platter ($21.50 per person) includes oysters on the half-shell, grilled shrimp, pan-fried tilapia, rice, beans, spicy cabbage slaw and tortillas. Beer and sangria is just $2. 1186 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-7203. www.sala-atlanta.com.''