The reason, of course, is that our most intimate friends know us too well. They know how to push our buttons. They feel free to tell us exactly what they think. A friend is a spouse unblinded by romance. Yes, really good friends refuse to speak to one another for months at a time.
I had dinner with such a friend a few weeks ago at the new Cherry (1051 W. Peachtree St., 404-872-2020), a restaurant that is, if nothing else, a perfect stage for a personal drama. I love the space -- a retro monument to sensuality that begins with the front yard's sculpture of what I take to be a big maraschino cherry. That repulsive candied fruit, at home on a banana split or in a whiskey sour, was the very apotheosis of fun-in-the-mouth when I was growing up, the years before I lost my, um, cherry in so many ways.
The interior gets trippier with each glance, from cartoony lamps and self-punning gold-leaf wall treatment (of gold leaves) to projected fields of color that sent me back to that day in San Francisco when I, seated with a rolled-up Peter Max poster on my lap, watched Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane perform "White Rabbit." I wondered, sitting sober as hell at Cherry, what associations the younger have with such visions. Reruns of bad television shows? Fading pictures from dad's photo album?
Really, it's a clever space, with a big bar downstairs. The clientele is a groovy mix of the hip and the restless and you will need a reservation if you go on a weekend night. Seating occasionally is more interesting than comfortable. I was the last to arrive at the restaurant and my three friends had already been seated. I was impressed they had left what looked a bit like a leather throne for me to sit in. Basically, it required I sit with my knees and my chin in close proximity and didn't allow me to sit back. Actually, the regular chairs -- like those at Mumbo Jumbo when it opened -- tend to fall over when you stand up, creating a sound not unlike a gunshot.
Service, I'm afraid, is, like, totally spaced out, man. I think they have been staring at those color fields too long. We repeatedly had the experience of servers mixing up our dishes, not being able to describe what they were delivering, failing to fill water glasses. But everyone is friendly and earnest. That counts, yes?
The food, alas, is hit or miss. It's more of the cross-cultural "New American" cuisine we are seeing everywhere these days, with a heavy accent on the Japanese. I think a considerable bow has to be paid to Tom Catherall's Prime, where sushi, steak and seafood fusion are executed so flawlessly. Here, I'm afraid, faltering efforts get passed off as informality.
The sushi -- there's a bar upstairs -- is perfectly competent but not exceptional. I asked the sushi chef to make me something fabulous and received a "cherry bomb," a menu regular featuring tuna, avocado, dried cherry, cucumber and kabayaki sauce ($11.95). He added crispy salmon skin to the exterior (for a $1 extra) and the large roll was by far the best on the table. Isomaki, a deep-fried white fish roll with scallions and ginger, was disappointingly tasteless ($8.95). The super crunch roll ($8.95), which takes its name from some tempura added to smoked salmon, was tasty enough but still fell short of my doctored cherry bomb.
We tried nearly all the appetizers on the rather brief menu. Lobster purses appear to be more shrimp than lobster but in any case taste like any steamed dumpling you can buy in a Buford Highway restaurant for half the $8.95 price here. I very much liked the adobo chicken roll, though -- a big weirdly shaped, almost open eggroll with chicken, adobo sauce, cheeses and veggies ($6.95). Fried calamari was not available so the restaurant was subbing baby shrimp ($7.75). Skip the baby shrimp, if that's all that's available. For one thing, they don't tolerate salt the way calamari does. While the lemon-caper aioli and the roasted tomato chili sauce are tasty enough, they don't make up for the unappetizing shrimp. Fat diver scallops were overdressed in their sticky citrus barbecue sauce served with apple-smoked bacon over pan-wilted spinach ($10.95).
Entrees were similarly uneven. A huge bowl of "Thai shrimp" over noodles with vegetables, coconut milk and "Thai pesto," tasted completely authentic, hot and tasty, making my friend break a sweat ($15.95). The day's fish, a piece of roasted grouper with a tomato and black bean sauce and some pico de gallo, was bland but probably right for folks with baby palates ($16.95).
Completely forgettable was the steak churrasco ($18.95). First of all, why make a classic Argentine dish without Argentine beef? This is ordinary top sirloin in a chimichurri sauce that has none of the complexity it should. Either too much garlic, cooked acidly, was rubbed on the meat or infused in the sauce.
A round of desserts shared by my oh-so-sweet friends received favorable reviews. I was especially tempted by the ginger creme brûlée and a cake made with Bing cherries, but, feeling a bit bitter from the conversation and stuffed by the huge meal, I did not join them.
My first impression: A great scene, especially for drinking, but the food needs considerable improvement. It's not cheap, after all. Our bill for four, with no alcohol, was $171 before tip. Hmm. Maybe that's the real reason my friend got so pissed. It was my recommendation.
Sides, apps, drinks--whatever. What I want to know is how their beef and pork compares…
Great food, yummy drinks and perfect atmosphere who could ask for anything more! Oh and…
WOW, Cliff writes an article promoting a $9 crappy steak at a gay bar and…
Oh, this is sad.
Great, great food. I have been there 3 times. The smoked chicken wings rock. The…