Feedbag - The elusive flavor of Cherry

Exploring the mystique of a Midtown hot spot

"Is this what I ordered?" I wonder aloud as I peer down at the plate of glistening, ruby-red tuna sitting in front of me. "I thought the menu said it was seared." A quick glance back at the menu, and sure enough, the server had brought me tuna tartare, not tuna tataki. No mind, I like it either way. When it's good, that is. Cherry has been around for several years now, but it's consistently had a reputation for plenty of flash and not much substance. You know the routine: haughty hostesses, indifferent service, middling food. And yet, business still seems to be steady. So what gives?

One thing's for sure: Cherry has a great look. Red predominates, from the sumptuous velvet-upholstered banquettes to the gauzy sheers to the mottled-glass light fixtures dangling over the burnished metal bar. From the looks of all the size-zero beauties hovering around the bar, I'd say quite a few of Cherry's patrons make do with a liquid dinner.

Me, I like to eat. I have a weakness for dumplings of any sort, so an appetizer of lobster pot stickers grabbed my attention. Plump and seared golden-brown, they sure looked appealing, but the flavor just wasn't there. The bland lobster and rock shrimp filling had less nuance than the $5 order of pot stickers I get from my local Chinese takeout spot. For nine bucks, I want to taste lobster.

The aforementioned tuna tartare suffered a similar fate: one-dimensional flavor. Like the pot stickers, the dish pleased the eye, with a mound of bright green seaweed salad perched atop the shimmering tuna. But the tuna, though fresh, tasted flat and overwhelmed by its spicy dressing.

By far, the best thing we tried was a simple, straightforward grilled filet with potato pancakes and haricots verts. The potato pancakes were fluffy inside and crisp outside, the steak rosy and tender. A fragrant wild mushroom and ginger sauce amped up the dish's flavors. Dessert, a custardy bread pudding studded with dried cherries and drenched in créme anglaise, was a delectable blend of homey and sophisticated.

Service was a bit muddled, since our server was being trailed by a trainee all evening. At one point, the well-meaning trainee whisked over with a dish of sour cream, apologizing profusely for not bringing it sooner. We wondered what it was for, until we realized it was meant for the quesadillas at the next table over.

Nothing about Cherry is blatantly unappealing. But it seems like, in an effort not to offend anyone, the kitchen has turned down the volume on everything. My advice: Crank it up.


Dining Events Covering Brookhaven to Inman Park

Turkey on the town

If the thought of roasting a turkey is more than you can bear, not to worry. Quite a few intown restaurants are whipping up Thanksgiving feasts this year:

The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead is offering a four-course Thanksgiving dinner that includes two choices per course. The cost is $108 per person with optional wine pairing. 5:30- 8:30 p.m. 3434 Peachtree Road. 404-237-2700. www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/atlanta_buckhead.

The Clubhouse at Lenox Square mall will be serving a menu of traditional Thanksgiving Day fare along with its regular a la carte menu. Thanksgiving menu is $14.95 for adults, $7.95 for children 5-10, and free for children under 5. 3393 Peachtree Road. 404-442-8891. www.theclubhouse.com.

Horseradish Grill will be open from 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., serving its regular menu of Southern dishes. 4320 Powers Ferry Road. 404-255-7277. www.horseradishgrill.com.

The Savoy Bar & Grill in the lobby of the Georgian Terrace will be serving a special Thanksgiving brunch buffet beginning at 10:30 a.m. Cost is $35 for adults, $18 for children, kids under 4 eat free. 659 Peachtree St. 404-898-8350. www.thegeorgianterrace.com.

103 West hosts its second annual "Hassle-Free Holiday," featuring appetizers, roast turkey, traditional side dishes and lots of dessert. Wine additional. Cost is $60 per adult, $35 for children under 12, free for children under 6. Noon-5 p.m. 103 W. Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-5993. www.buckheadrestaurants.com.

Food 101 in Sandy Springs will offer Thanksgiving dinner featuring holiday favorites like leg of lamb, cured ham with Coca-Cola glaze and roasted turkey. Dinner also includes side items, salad and unlimited trips to the American Pie dessert buffet. Cost is $29 for adults and $18 for kids 5-12. 4969 Roswell Road. 404-497-9700. www.food101atlanta.com.

Le Cafe in the downtown Atlanta Hilton is doing a Thanksgiving Day brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Look for traditional Turkey Day fare, plus made-to-order omelets and a chocolate fountain. Brunch is $29.95 for adults and $14.98 for children 4-12. Complimentary self-parking is available. 255 Courtland St. 404-659-2000. www.atlanta.hilton.com.

Imperial Fez is the choice for a slightly less conventional Thanksgiving dinner. The restaurant will host a Moroccan feast beginning at 6 p.m. The four-course meal will feature exotic interpretations of traditional holiday dishes, including turkey and quail. $35 per person plus tax and tip. The evening's entertainment will be a special belly dancing show. 2285 Peachtree Road. 404-351-0870. www.imperialfez.com.

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