Cafe Sunflower thankfully keeps the mock meats to a minimum on the menu, focusing instead on tofu and lots of fresh veggies. A bento box is the best way to sample the terrific appetizers (and you'll definitely want to try a few). Each compartment of the lacquered box holds a petite and elegantly presented morsel. Golden-brown pot stickers, stuffed with a savory mix of tofu, black mushrooms and glass noodles, are every bit as good as their pork-filled brethren. Spring rolls may be a bit pedestrian, but they're crispy and delicious nonetheless. Melted asiago cheese oozed out when I bit into a breaded and fried olive. Junk food masquerading as vegetarian food? This is a concept I can get behind.
Sadly, the appetizers set a standard the entrees just can't live up to. Tri-color ravioli with sun-dried tomato pesto is a muddled mess of a dish. The ravioli are gummy, the ricotta cheese filling nearly tasteless. As if to compensate, everything else in the dish is a riot of competing flavors, from green beans and asparagus to wilted spinach and a one-dimensional tomato sauce that in no way resembles the advertised pesto. Thick-cut potato wedges on the side of the veggie burger have homey appeal, but the dry burger itself is lifeless.
My husband, my constant dining companion, has become nearly as intolerant of inept service as I have, and I noticed a pained look flicker across his face when our slightly dippy server asked if he could sit down with us at the table to tell us about the specials. Is describing butternut squash soup really so exhausting? I know, I know - waiting tables is hard work. But I don't think it's appropriate for a server to take a load off at a guest's table.
It was with some trepidation that I considered the completely vegan dessert menu. Some of the desserts, like red velvet cake slathered in strawberry jam, looked too weird to try. But a dense, rich-looking chocolate cake lured me in. And wonder of wonders, it was fantastic. Fudgy cake was topped with lush, creamy chocolate frosting. I didn't miss the dairy for a second, though I did wonder how they do it. Cafe Sunflower may not get everything just right, but they definitely have a trick or two up their sleeves.
Smile for the CameraPull out your mink and diamonds: Pricci is rolling out the red carpet Sun., Feb. 27, for an Oscar party to remember. The evening, hosted by Star 94's Tom Sullivan, will feature a lavish four-course dinner and movie-themed cocktails in the lounge. The first seating is $50 per person, and the second seating is $60 per person. 500 Pharr Road. 404-237-2941. www.buckheadrestaurants.com
Atkins Park in the Highlands has officially achieved landmark status. The tavern will celebrate its 83rd birthday Wed., March 2, with a special dinner menu prepared by Chef Andrew Smith. Seating begins at 6 p.m. 794 N. Highland Ave. 404-876-7249. www.atkinspark.com
What's New, Pussycat?
Martinis are so 2004. Einstein's in Midtown has introduced a new drink menu featuring fun and flirty champagne cocktails. Highlights include the Pomegranate-Ginger cocktail (champagne, pomegranate juice and ginger), the classic Bellini (champagne and peach schnapps), the Poinsettia (champagne, vodka, cranberry juice and orange zest) and fabulously retro Kir Royale (champagne and Creme de Cassis). 1077 Juniper St. 404-876-7925. www.metrocafes.com
Five for five
Starting this month, Spice will feature a special "Simpler Spice" menu on Wednesday nights starting at 5 p.m. The revolving menu will feature five items priced at $5 each. Each week's selection will include hot and cold appetizers, cocktails, and wines by the glass. Atlanta DJ crew Rare Formation provides the auditory entertainment. 793 Juniper St. 404-875-4242. www.spicerestaurant.com
Two Midtown newbies
The Oceanaire Seafood Room (1100 Peachtree St., 404-475-2277) has quietly filled the vacancy left by former occupant Coohill's Steakhouse. The Atlanta branch of this small national chain should be quite the draw for Woodruff's symphony and theater patrons. Right up the street, Shout: Food Fun and Flirt (a classic Midtown moniker) has opened its door in Colony Square on the corner of 14th and Peachtree (404-846-2000, www.heretoserverestaurants.com). The latest venture by Tom Catherall (and sister effort to Phipps Plaza's Twist) features tapas, sushi and pizza cooked in wood-burning ovens. Check these two out before the stand-and-model set catches word.
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