Bite-size bounty 

Park 75 marries dim sum with luxury at Sunday brunch

Brunch, like vintage champagne and handmade shoes, is an acquired, and not inexpensive, taste. In essence an extended late breakfast, the meal can encompass everything from fruit juice and scrambled eggs to baked Alaska. The ritual requires at least two hours to complete, plus an afternoon to sleep it off. Brunch buffets at deluxe Atlanta hotels and restaurants cost up to $35 per person, not including tax, tip or drinks. The heyday of brunch in Atlanta began with the opening of the Omni Hotel's Bugatti Ristorante some 30 years ago. (Prime Meridian, a world-class culinary misstep, currently occupies the space.) Novelties such as sauced-to-order tortellini, steamed mussels and squid salad set the Italianissimo tone. The Waverly Hotel weighed in with what ultimately became (and I exaggerate but not much) a 100-station culinary combat zone featuring antelope crown roast, grilled quail, truffle soup, Shanghai dumplings and a hot-fudge bar for children. The pair of Ritz-Carltons flew in pedigreed chefs to spread the modern-day gospel of conspicuous consumption redux: sushi and stone crab claws, caviar and blini, rare tuna and steamed whole salmon, lamb chops and organic lettuce, artisanal cheeses and passion fruit soufflé. And wine, wine, wine.

It all got to be a little much. Many of us turned to the dim sum parlors of Chambodia. On Buford Highway, in half the time and for no more than half the money, a weekend feast of Asian comforts and oddities could be easily assembled, consumed and digested.

In a bid to revamp what had become a signature meal for Atlanta luxury hotels, Chef Brooke Vosika and his clever assistants at the Four Seasons have combined the two concepts: dim sum and Sunday brunch. Unlike a somewhat similar experiment at Fusebox, dim sum carts have been dispensed with. Instead, two- and three-bite tastes are delivered, a pair at a time, by a cadre of enthusiastic, well-informed, freshly uniformed servers. Each item is presented on a different dish, resulting in an extravaganza of square, round and oblong glass and Limoges porcelain dishes. The meal is offered only on Sundays in the hotel's main restaurant, Park 75. On the day we enjoyed it, the brunch was prepared by Robert Gerstenecker, the hotel's executive sous chef. Remarkable in almost every respect, it cost $25 per person. Here are highlights of what we had.

Scrambled eggs on wonderful hash browns -- just a mouthful of each -- were paired with doll-house tomato and broccoli quiche to start. The initial bread basket, which contained blueberry muffins, biscuits and marvelous dinner rolls, was later supplemented by other equally peerless pastries.

Next came warm crab-claw flan on English pea essence and tuna sushi. The peas, transformed by a trip through a Champion juicer and then warmed, but not seasoned, were a valuable lesson in less-is-more simplicity. Changing continents and cultures, the next offerings were delectable lobster guacamole with blue-corn chips and micro greens and (the least successful hot item) a comparatively pedestrian goat cheese puff on a salad of apple sticks.

Then the high point of the meal: two silver-dollar coins of medium-rare lamb loin with mashed potato, garlic cream, a caramelized shallot and a waffle-fry garnish arranged on a white asparagus plate. I could have handled -- and the servers assured me they'd have supplied -- half a dozen more of these. Beside this Yankee wonder was its down-home cousin, barbecue pork loin with celery root-and-caper slaw and smoked tomato sauce in a green-glass, avocado-shaped plate.

Because servers explain everything as they go (there is no menu and selections change weekly), guests can choose what they want, omit what doesn't tempt them and double or triple up on dishes that make their socks roll up and down.

Without the running commentary, we'd have liked, but not understood quite so well, the next course which featured an interplay of my favorite flavors: mini pancakes (light as prayers) topped with mango coulis, Grand Marnier-spiked whipped cream and a chocolate coffee bean, arranged like a tiny mountain on an oblong green plate.

As a course, dessert fared least well. Though good, there was nothing memorable about what we were offered. And a choc-olate something that appeared at another table never made it to ours; maybe the kitchen ran out, though we arrived before noon. At any rate, we were given, one at a time, modest portions of opera cake (yawn), green apple sorbet in a crisp tuile-cookie dish and a delicious scoop of raspberry sorbet albeit in another tuile.

Next time, I may skip dessert in favor of more lamb, more crab flan and another basket of rolls.

Park 75, Four Seasons, 75 14th St. 404-253-3840. Brunch offered Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Cash and credit accepted.


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