If you live inside the Perimeter
and you're the sort of person who likes to visit new restaurants frequently, you've probably noticed the sudden halt in new openings. Between saturation of the pricey intown market and the recession, restaurateurs have headed to the suburbs. In the June issue of Knife and Fork
(404-378-2775), for example, four of the six restaurants reviewed are in the 'burbs and there's one feature on dining in South Carolina and another on Macon.
So, it was quite a surprise to discover three new restaurants in Midtown last week. The first, Blue Trout
, has been opened by Fariba and Tommy Todd. The couple are best known as founding partners of Metrotainment Cafes, which operates Einstein's and Cowtippers. After leaving that company, the Todds opened Atlantic Star in Decatur, which recently closed.
Blue Trout is located in a 1920s building catty-corner to the new Publix on Piedmont Avenue (554 Piedmont Ave., 440-685-9575). It is in the space formerly occupied by Patti Hut, my favorite Jamaican spot, which never quite recovered when it was forced to move from its original location in the old Rio shopping mall that was demolished to build the Publix complex.
The Todds have wisely produced an inexpensive menu for their new space, which includes a bar area, a large and rather gloomy dining room in the rear and a brighter, smaller one with garage-style windows that look over a street-facing terrace. (Surprisingly, considering their use of patios at Einstein's and Cowtippers, the terrace is barely furnished.)
I dined with my friend Rose D'Agostino on a meal we found mainly good, especially for the prices. Her starter of chopped salmon tartare ($8), seasoned with parsley oil and shallots, also included eggs, capers and cornichons. It sounds a bit like salmon with a kitchen-sink treatment but it worked quite well. I was just as pleased with a fat croquette of goat cheese ($8) served over a tomato-basil fondue good enough that you'll want to sop it with toast on the side.
Entrees were less satisfying. In fact, Rose's yellow fin tuna ($20), a special, was vastly overcooked and served with an utterly tasteless but enormous mound of orange and white veggies. Carrots and lotus root? Carrots and daikon? Flavor and texture provided no clue. The bok choy on the plate was fine.
My own dish, the signature roasted trout was a bargain at $12. While the skin on the filet could have been a bit crispier, the fish tasted great over some sauteed spinach with a sauce of brown butter dotted with capers.
You'll also find slow-cooked pork, roasted chicken, a couple of steaks, burgers and other sandwiches on the brief menu. There are some shellfish dishes -- ceviche, oysters on the half shell, steamed shrimp, mussels -- that recall Atlantic Star. The restaurant is also open for lunch and is offering a $6 bargain of a sandwich, a side item and a soft drink through June 30.
Dessert can be a slab of satanically rich chocolate torte with unsweetened whipped cream from the Bread Garden, which is also supplying the restaurant's table bread.
Sushi and discoMF Sushibar
(404-815-8844) has opened at 265 Ponce de Leon Ave. in the new apartment development that wraps itself around the Krispy Kreme. The "MF" stands for "Magic Fingers," the nickname of the chef who operates the restaurant with his brother, a designer. The latter's influence is clear in the space, which is quite lovely -- a study in cherry wood and gold walls with arched windows draped in muslin. The bar is tended by three chefs working under lamps that look like perforated dried chilies.
The restaurant is unique in that its entire menu is sushi. There are a few dishes that deviate from pure sushi, but there are no Japanese-style entrees at all. I've dined at MF twice -- once at lunch and once at dinner -- and found my evening experience much better. The lunch specials, combinations of rolls, are not really much of a bargain on close examination, so I recommend you order instead from the regular menu, which you'll have to request.
The restaurant appears to be a bit understaffed on the service end. Not long after we sat down, Wayne began a very lengthy synopsis of a movie he'd recently seen in which all the characters turned out to be dead people, ghosts, who refused to leave the house in which they'd been burned to death.
As we waited and waited for our sushi, our waiter making frequent apologies, I realized that he was describing our own situation. To make things worse, two of the items I requested were not available. And the green tea was dreadful.
However, the sushi we did eat was quite good. I ordered a special roll -- the "atom bomb," a dubious name for a Japanese dish. It was a classic spicy tuna roll but topped with fresh salmon and then baked lightly and served with eel sauce and roe ($9). Even better was a "Tony roll" -- an irresistible combination of crunchy shrimp tempura, crab and avocado ($10.50).
Tako Sumono is octopus, cucumber and toasted seaweed tossed in a delicious combination ($6.50). Wayne compared the baked green mussels ($7.50) to deviled eggs and they are indeed as rich and spicy. The mussels are chopped and baked lightly with the incredibly rich Japanese mayo and then garnished with masago roe. A couple of veggie rolls were less interesting, though Japanese gourd ($4.50) has, oddly, the texture of fish. Mountain root ($4.50) put me to sleep.
We spent well over $60 with only one sake for Wayne. You can spend less by ordering special combinations of sushi or sashimi, but you won't get to sample the more interesting rolls. The restaurant appears to be doing a very good evening business already, which probably explains the shortages and irregular service.
It's not as exotic, but the Disco Diner
(129 North Ave. at Courtland, 404-249-6444), is certainly about as weird a restaurant as I've visited in quite a while. Located in the former International House of Pancakes, the diner is a livid purple inside and decorated with campy posters of '70s pop culture.
The music, of course, is relentless old disco. I guess if you didn't actually hang in discos during the '70s, you'll find this charming. However, if you shudder to imagine someone finding old pictures of you in a polyester disco shirt at a Saturday Night Fever
party, you'll likely find the experience unnerving.
It's all in fun, I guess. The menu is very Waffle House. Wayne and I went in for lunch and had breakfast. Four "disco pancakes" with caramelized bananas for Wayne ($5.50) and country ham with two eggs over easy for me ($6.75). There are burgers and other breakfast dishes. The best thing about the place is that it's open 24 hours and decadent friends tell me they have been decently fed at outrageous hours.
Service during our visit was sweet but clueless.
Feedback and gossip
Joe Johnson writes in search of frozen custard. As far as I know, the stuff is not to be found in Atlanta, since the closing years ago of Beren's on Buford Highway. Please e-mail me if you have a lead. Beth Hagberg writes to recommend Goldberg Bagel Co.
on Roswell Road to whining Yankee transplants who claim there are no decent delis in town.
There's a rumor going around that the recently vacated Camille's
on North Highland has been snapped up by one of our trendier food groups in town. The Twisted Taco
, a Tex-Mex concept by the Cherry and Leopard Lounge folks, is due to open soon on 12th Street in Midtown. Taqueria del Sol
is inching toward an opening in Decatur.
Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504, or e-mail him at email@example.com.