There are meals that induce an almost ecstatic state, and there are those that make you wish you were a liverwort subsisting entirely on air and a bit of moisture.
And then there are those that turn us into sleepwalkers. Yawning and chewing, we do our duty and eat what is brought to the table. Mediocrity makes the mind wander. Conversation turns strange.
"Haricots verts? I can't pronounce it," says the server at Pacific Kitchen (913 Bernina Ave., 404-223-9292).
Wayne pronounces it deliberately for her. She repeats him.
"Just call them French green beans," I suggest.
"Whatever, we don't have them tonight," she says. The menu changes every day or two and she has difficulty keeping up with side dishes.
Wayne looks at her blankly, since the dish he is ordering says nothing about haricots verts. He takes a breath and explains that the word "zydeco" derives from the French "les haricots." He loves how language leaps about cultures. "Did you know the Japanese 'arigatoh' is actually from Portuguese?"
"I just remember a few words from my Spanish class," the server says.
The appetizers arrive. Wayne has ordered the crab cake and is mortified that he only receives one for his $10. By the time our meal is done, I regard it as the best dish we've sampled here. The crab is in large chunks, unbound by fillers, and served with a beurre blanc. Watercress, red onions and blood oranges are also on the plate.
My own app is the first snoozer. It's a "California pizza" -- super-thin dough, grilled until almost crisp, topped with a flat tomato sauce and puddles of buffalo mozzarella with, as usual in our city, practically no taste. The menu says Italian sausage and basil pesto are also on the pizza. I can find neither but, being charitable, decide only to complain about the missing sausage.
Our server gasps. "They forgot the sausage," she says, running off to the kitchen. She comes back to explain that the pizza I was served was "correct." The one described on the menu was yesterday's. "Sometimes they don't charge you if they mess up like this," she says. I am charged.
"How was your meal?" I ask a couple putting on helmets and mounting their bikes. We are eating on the pleasant patio, which offers an almost rural view of trees and is planted with pansies.
"It wasn't what we were expecting," the man says.
"Oh?" I ask. "Did you think Lush was still open?" Lush is the marvelous vegetarian restaurant that lasted less than a year in the same location.
"No," the couple responds together. "We read that it was a fusion of Asian and Mexican flavors. It's nothing like that."
"Um, oh," I say, looking at Wayne. I reported that description in my own column last week, as did several other publications. I perk up, though, realizing my column wasn't out by the time we were dining there.
"Well," the server says. "We do have some sauces with Mexican influences, I think. Our spring roll is kind of Asian. I don't know."
Our entrees arrive. Wayne has ordered the adobo-rubbed pork tenderloin. It is sliced and served nearly cold. The adobo is too heavy and contrasts dreadfully with the "raspberry chipotle sauce."
Wayne disagrees with my assessment, but only because he thinks the sauce is powerful enough to completely eclipse the adobo. "That's hardly a compliment," I snap.
On the plate is a bizarre potato, a Yukon gold whose contents have been scooped out and mashed with caramelized onions and stuffed back into the crispy skin. It is served standing on one end with the stuffing overflowing slightly, a tangle of microgreens pressed into the overflow. It looks like an oddity of nature, some sea creature turning itself inside out while it camouflages itself with vegetation. Happily, it tastes like bland mashed potatoes.
My own dish, rack of lamb, is overpriced for the quantity -- two double chops -- at $20. But it is very well-cooked -- medium rare, tender and subtle in its flavor. I want a double portion. But, please, leave off the risotto full of sun-dried tomatoes. A few of those tomatoes goes a long way. Actually, I thought sun-dried tomatoes had been retired from most contemporary menus. My other side of fat grilled asparagus is A-plus. The useless "wild berry coulis," which should not appear on a plate with sun-dried tomatoes, is easy to ignore.
Yin and yang. Good and bad. It all adds up to mediocrity. Wayne reads a poem from the New Yorker aloud. It's about identification with another person's suffering. We discuss it at length.
"I want to go home," I say.
We order dessert and it turns out to be a winner. It's a brown-butter tart -- flaky, surrounded by tons of sliced almonds. Blueberries and blackberries are hidden inside and scattered on the plate, which also holds some crème fraîche ice cream.
The chef here needs to settle on a menu for a while and work on the side dishes. They seem consistently to bear no relation to the main feature of the entree plates.
Inman Perk Coffee (280 Elizabeth St., Suite B-103, 404-523-7774) is the clever name of a new coffee shop in Inman Park. It's in the warehouse development next to the old Johnny's, and across the street, sideways, from Fritti and Sotto Sotto. This development is best known for its Nazi-style enforcement of parking rules, so be careful where you park.
The shop is mellow to the point of being a bit gloomy, due to its vertical floor plan and poverty of windows. But it's nicely furnished and has enough electrical outlets to accommodate the countless laptops I saw browsing the Internet with free wireless access.
I ordered a latte -- made with a double shot in a small cup. The espresso was a bit mild for my taste but it was well-blended in the steamed milk, creating a silky texture from first to last sip. Bakery goods are yummy. My molasses cookie set up a daylong craving for sugar.
@TheGorgeousJR: "[It is] very inexpensive; we sell it at the shop. You can get it…
Where can you buy caul fat?
This looks amazing. However, I see a bell pepper on the counter, and bell pepper…
Love pork belly.
Some food just doesn't photograph well, even if it is tasty.