Feedbag - Small-plate sensation

Eclipse de Luna still the life of the party

Small plates rule in Atlanta: It’s the trend that won’t die. With this in mind, I decided to venture back to the place that started it all, Eclipse di Luna. Chef/culinary madcap Paul Luna opened Eclipse di Luna in 1997. These days, the kitchen is helmed by chef Roberto Garrett.

“I have 6:30 and 9:30,” the host said when I called one recent Friday afternoon to make reservations for the following evening. Grumpily, I accepted the 6:30 p.m. reservation, wondering if the host was just being difficult or if Eclipse di Luna is really so popular that one can’t get a prime-time reservation when calling a day ahead.

It really is that popular. The place was packed at 6:30 on a rainy Saturday night. Oddly, our reservation didn’t guarantee an actual table — the hostess led us to a sofa near the bar. I get that tapas are bar food, but come on. I can eat on the sofa at home. When I go out to dinner I prefer eating at a table. The hostess seemed perplexed by our refusal of the sofa, but within five minutes she managed to scrounge up a table for us.

The menu hasn’t changed much in the past few years, but most items are skillfully prepared. Empanadas, deep-fried and crispy, ooze spinach and melted cheese. Patatas bravas are simple but satisfying: spicy sauteed potatoes accompanied by a cool romesco sauce for dipping. My favorite dish is grilled skirt steak topped with chimichurri; the bright, herbal sauce is a perfect foil to the smoky flavor of the beef. Chorizo sausages, skewered and grilled with slices of onion and apple, had intense, spicy flavor. Too bad the sausages were dry. Sauteed shrimp and garlic is a pungent dish — not advisable on a first date, but delicious nonetheless.

We ordered everything at the beginning, expecting that we’d get one or two dishes at a time, with more arriving once we’d finished what was on the table. Not so. Everything was delivered within 10 minutes of placing our order. It made for a less leisurely meal than we’d hoped for.

That being said, Eclipse di Luna is a blast. The originator of Atlanta’s tapas trend continues to go strong, and for good reason. The atmosphere is festive, the food is reliably good, the mojitos are potent, and the prices are reasonable.

Long live tapas.

Extra helpings — ‘’covering Brookhaven to Inman Park?Openings

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE — Inman Park has two posh new dining options: Lush and Rathbun’s__. Health-conscious types will love Lush, whose menu is strictly vegetarian. For the more self-indulgent types, there’s Rathbun’s, the eponymous venture from chef Kevin Rathbun. Rathbun is a veteran of Buckhead Life restaurants — he was opening chef for both Nava and Bluepointe. Rathbun’s is located in the Stove Works lofts in the space where Virginia’s was once housed. Rathbun is doing some exciting things in the kitchen — have a look. Lush, 913 Bernina Avenue. 404-223-9292. Rathbun’s, 112 Krog St. 404-524-8280. www.rathbunsrestaurant.com.??
Dining events?A VINE TIME — Sample Spanish food and wine this Thursday at NuVo Bistro and Tapas Bar on Thurs., July 1, 5-9 p.m. The restaurant, which recently opened in the former Meritage space on Piedmont Road, will pair wines from Spain and Argentina with tapas. For $28, you get a bottomless glass of wine, and all tapas are $5 each. David Aferiat, a wine educator and columnist, will provide observations on the wine and food. Call 404-231-6700 for reservations. 3125 Piedmont Road.__

TAPAS REVISITED — Every Thursday night in the front room, Woodfire Grill dishes up a small selection of tapas paired with appropriate wines and sangria. Space is limited at this popular event — call 404-347-9055 for reservations. 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road. www.woodfiregrill.com.

BLOODY SUNDAYS — Dantanna’s, the clubby seafood-and-steak house next door to Lenox Square, is offering a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until close. Cost is $5 per person, and you create your own refreshing concoction from an assortment of mixes, spices and garnishes. 404-760-8873. 3400 Around Lenox Drive, Suite 304. www.dantannas.com.

HELLO, CUPCAKE — Finally, the cupcake trend has arrived in Atlanta. Belly General Store on North Highland Avenue is offering an assortment of the delicious and nostalgic sweets. Opt for a traditional vanilla cupcake with buttercream, or go extravagant with a blueberry jelly-filled cupcake topped with peanut butter frosting. You can even join the cupcake club: Get your cupcake card punched 12 times and receive the 13th one free. 772 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-1003. www.bellystore.com.

CLEVER TWIST — If you find yourself shopping at Phipps Plaza on a Sunday afternoon, drop into Twist for a great dining deal: all the tapas you can eat for $10. 3500 Peachtree Road, Phipps Plaza. 404-869-1191. www.heretoserverestaurants.com.

CLASS BY THE GLASS — Coffee and wine seem like natural companions, so it makes sense that we’ve finally got a coffeehouse/wine bar in Atlanta. JavaVino, next door to Babette’s on North Highland Avenue, bills itself as a “coffee and wine house with a Latin flair.” Co-owner Heddy Kuhl, a native of Nicaragua and fifth-generation barista, hopes to raise her patrons’ consciousness toward issues like rainforest preservation and social conditions in her native Latin America. Of course, she hopes to sell them coffee, too. 579 N. Highland Ave. 404-577-8673. www.javavino.com.



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