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Strip tease 

Atlantic Station's newest meat market stumbles around the pole

There are strippers in the world who are true beauties, and for whom sunlight is as flattering as neon. Then there are those who need those nocturnal enhancements -- the lights, the makeup, the booze -- to make them attractive. Strip, the Atlantic Station restaurant brought to us by the same group that brought us Prime, Twist, and Shout, among others, is such a girl. At night, she is all flash and sex. In the harsh light of day, the gaudy pink accents lean toward trashy, and the restaurant that managed to look high-class the night before suddenly reveals herself as a bit of a tramp.

Early in the evening in the upstairs bar and sushi lounge, with that cursed sunlight still streaming through the windows, men in suits hang around the bar, glancing at the legs of the cocktail waitresses and waiting for the ladies to arrive. It is a sad scene; the pole in the middle of the room that is meant to evoke a strip club is forlorn, and the men look forlorn as well. The cocktails aren't even that good -- there are no clever infusions or fresh juices, just a list of "specialty" drinks that the average 14-year-old could (and would) replicate with his parent's liquor cabinet.

Later the same evening, it's a whole different scene. The room is crowded. Some drunken girl or another is hanging off the pole. In the area reserved for champagne service, people are being serviced (with champagne, of course). The restaurant has dubbed this level of the 13,000 square foot restaurant the Meat Market. They aren't kidding.

Downstairs in the dining room, people are dining. The menu is mainly steak and sushi, with some of Thomas Catherall's signature dishes and some fusiony add-ons thrown in. There is also a strange infantile thread running through the menu, with entrees such as spaghetti with ham and eggs. An appetizer of fries smothered in melted cheese and gravy might be a good way to kick-start your heart attack. Or as a side, you could order cheesy toast with your steak.

I kid you not.

Steak is by far the best bet here. High-quality cuts of meat are cooked and seasoned well. Sides are a bit more problematic. Creamed spinach is too rich and gluggy, with so much goop that it's hard to taste the spinach. A BLT salad, while huge, tasted of old grease, presumably from the bacon that had been cooked in some other era and then hung around waiting for its turn on the plate.

Something strange happened every time I ate at Strip, and that is that I always left feeling a little queasy. This was universal among my dining companions as well. I'm not insinuating that the food is subpar in terms of health risks, but more that there is an over-the-top quality to almost all the food that is quite literally unsettling. That overly rich creamed spinach, for instance, or a sushi roll so besmirched with sickly-sweet teriyaki sauce that it brings to mind carnival food. A Thai beef salad is really a piece of steak over greens that are sopping with sugary dressing. Even sashimi, the purest of foods, was suspiciously slimy, and gobbling it up seemed foolhardy. On one visit, the only member of my party who was able to avoid the post-meal queasiness did so by playing it almost absurdly safe with a well-done hamburger.

If you miraculously make it through a full meal here and still want dessert, don't expect more from your cobbler than mushy pastry and overly sweet fruit, or imagine that your chocolate concoction will deliver more than a sugary bash on the head. Subtle seduction is simply not in Strip's repertoire.

Strip is a fun girl on some nights, there's no doubt about it. Her rooftop deck is quite admirable. Her black patent-leather booths downstairs are a little sticky to sit on, but sexy nonetheless. But you won't want to introduce her to your parents, or make this little fling official. There are too many true beauties out there to waste much time on a dolled-up floozy.

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