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Sip Wine dining review, Milton

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I have arrived at Sip Wine from the south. Behind me wend the roads that led through Alpharetta and Roswell neighborhoods. Across the street lies the clear-cut acreage for a subdivision where homes may or may not one day surround the empty cul de sacs. Next to that is a kind of New Urbanist complex with a tavern and shops on the bottom floor of blocky brick buildings. And just beyond that lies the quaint intersection of streets that comprise downtown Crabapple.

Enomatic wine preservation system at Sip Wine (all photos by Becky Stein)

Enomatic wine preservation system at Sip Wine (all photos by Becky Stein)

Had I come from the north, the journey would have taken me through farms and horse pasture. I would have turned a corner and arrived at a country crossroads trying mightily to establish itself as a suburban town. In other words, I’ve found the invisible boundary of this amorphous thing we call greater Atlanta.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

But here’s the good news: Whatever direction you come from, Sip Wine proves itself to be the kind of place that helps define its neighborhood. If you’ve ever been to a local branch of the Grape then, well, it’s that: A wine shop. A wine bar. A menu of various small plates that pass themselves off as “tapas.” Even the dining room — stacked-stone walls; colorful, blown-glass pendant lights; open kitchen with a dining bar — has that same aura of slick urbanity.

I like Sip Wine better than other local wine bars for a number of reasons. For starters, chef Daniel Massie, a young Culinary Institute of America grad, cooks with more ambition and casts a wider culinary net than others have.

No red-grape-and-plastic-Brie platters for this guy, but rather composed bites of wild striped bass, house-smoked salmon, lamb loin and Thai nam sod salad. He doesn’t pull it all off — some of the dishes, in fact, taste like cooking school projects — but he makes you want to try more and more.

Then there’s the superior wine program. Sip pours 50 wines by the glass, half-glass or one-ounce sip, including many heavy-hitters. Thanks to the Enomatic wine preservation system, you can whet your wine hole with, say, a $4.90 sip of L’Arco Amarone della Valpolicella that retails for $100. Or maybe a Prunotto Barolo ($3.65 for a sip) or a Hubert Lamy Puligny-Montrachet ($3.50 a sip). More than 150 other bottles are in the shop, and if you want to crack one of those in-house, the price is only $10 above retail.

Beet salad

Beet salad

Interested? Good, then let me help you find something to eat. There’s some wit on the list of more than two dozen plates. Diced watermelon salad ($7) with toasted almond slivers and feta cheese gets a sharp edge from its white balsamic vinaigrette, so you keep taking bite after sweet-sour-crunchy-nutty bite. Ditto the diced beet salad ($5 at lunch) with goat cheese crumbles and herbal slips of mint in a well-balanced orange marmalade vinaigrette.

And then comes the polar opposite — a leek and prosciutto risotto ($8) that is the apotheosis of goo. Is it proper risotto? No. Is it an incredibly rich and irresistible mush studded with tiny pops of cured ham that tastes so, so good with a full pour of Gaba do Xil Godello ($8.30), a funky Spanish white? Yes, indeedy.

Stuffed poblano pepper

Stuffed poblano pepper

I’ve learned to avoid the composed dishes that sound like mini-entrees. Grilled wild striped bass with leek-fennel gratin and lemon beurre blanc ($10) seems so damp and oozy compared to the tender moules marienière ($8) — a huge serving in a butter-enriched shellfish liquor. Raw-in-the-center beef tenderloin ($11) on a square of mushroom bread pudding makes me feel like I’m at a wedding. But a poblano chile relleno stuffed with smoked chicken and smoked gouda ($5 at lunch) merits eating clean to the stem, then running your finger through the roasted tomato cream sauce.

It can be hard to tell what will be good and what won’t. Jumbo shrimp ($9) — highly recommended by our waitress — come swathed in thick, hard bacon shards that hang free like a bad skin graft. But butternut squash ravioli with toasted walnut cream ($5 at lunch), supple and suave, beats versions of this now-popular dish at many an Italian restaurant. It’s best to go at lunch where, as you may have noticed from this review, most items come at the value price of two dishes for $10 — a huge bargain.

Thai chicken skewers

Thai chicken skewers

I found that service turns from quick and efficient when you first sit down to almost nonexistent. If you want serving spoons or water or want to see some of your dirty plates disappear — well, raise your hand. (My dad would’ve stood up and started shouting “Miss! Miss!” to my undying mortification.) Also, don’t expect anyone to notice that you haven’t eaten the perfectly raw Kobe beef sliders ($9) you pushed to the side. The front of the house needs work.

As for the back of the house, Chef Massie might want to edit his menu and spend a little more time training his cooks to make sure the food comes out as intended.

But he does have a good sense of how to feed his guests. Whether they are exurbanites or suburbanites, they are all looking for the kind of urban experience that Sip Wine can deliver.

SIP WINE
12635 Crabapple Road, Milton; 770-475-7121
1stars5
Food: Moderate portions of food with an international bent
Service: Friendly but inattentive. Needs work
Best dishes: Watermelon salad with feta and almonds, leek and prosciutto risotto, moules marienière, smoked chicken stuffed poblano
Vegetarian selections: The usual — salads and pasta
Price range: $$-$$$
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 5:30-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday
Children: Older kids who can keep to themselves in an adult environment
Parking: In attached lot
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes
RatingsKey_3

39 comments Add your comment

Kirk

October 29th, 2010
8:28 am

Sounds like a place I would like to try. I hope the chef and staff read your review before I go.

A

October 29th, 2010
8:33 am

We live pretty close to Sip and have wanted to try it out but am not so sure after seeing your review, John as it seems hit or miss. Like Kirk said, if the chef and staff read the review and change things accordingly, I’d be more willing to give them a chance.

Jere

October 29th, 2010
8:39 am

Ditto — what Kirk said

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[...] Sip Wine dining review, MiltonAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)But butternut squash ravioli with toasted walnut cream ($5 at lunch), supple and suave, beats versions of this now-popular dish at many an Italian … [...]

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Dr Pheffer

October 29th, 2010
11:52 am

We live in Crabapple and have gone to Sip many times. It is terrific, just like Cans and Ole Bind Dog next to and across the street from it. Crabapple is quickly becoming a really great area.

Jeff

October 29th, 2010
12:01 pm

I live very close to Sip, have only gone once. It was a saturday night and the place was packed. I did not have service problems at all. In fact someone, possibly the owner, came by a few times to ask us how everything was and to help us choose a different tapa to try. I highly recommend this restaurant if you want to try a new wine bar. Definitely agree that you should plan to get a babysitter and not take the kids though.

Pam

October 29th, 2010
12:10 pm

The Midtown area really needs a purist wine bar (i.e., not just a restaurant that serves wine, a place that is wine-centric) and when I visited Orlando recently they have a place called Wine Room that is the exact same set up and concept as Sip. I love the pay-by-the-taste/pour idea since you have to get up and walk around and get the chance to really think about what you want to drink instead of feeling rushed by having a server waiting impatiently for your order. It’s disappointing to hear this concept is hit-or-miss at the moment!

James

October 29th, 2010
12:20 pm

Sounds like this place has real potential, and will definitely add it to the list to try. Hopefully they’ll build on some of the constructive feedback you’ve given here and become a real destination spot.

acf

October 29th, 2010
12:51 pm

I always enjoy the opportunity to enjoy a sip of various wines, particularly the extremely expensive or rare ones. I think that the contents of John’s review reflects a better experience than the one-star rating, which proves that a review’s opinion of a restaurant is better understood by reading the content of the review itself rather than considering only the star rating. I certainly would like to try Sip. The dishes that were panned were not ones I might have ordered anyway.

SIP fan

October 29th, 2010
1:06 pm

We go to SIP often – it’s our favorite restaurant in the Alpharetta/Crabapple area. I am so disappointed by this review. I have always found the service to be great. I have sampled the menu extensively and have not found one tapas item I didn’t love – the sliders and beef tenderloin the reviewer mentions happen to be particular favorites. We take our out of town friends to SIP when we want to treat them to a great meal and be impressed. This is one restaurant I hope will stay open for business for a long time.

James

October 29th, 2010
1:08 pm

@acf – anything higher than a one star article means the food is consistent, which would have completelely contradicted his review. But you’re right, the text of the article is definitely more helpful than the rating (as it tells you the types of things to order at a place where the dishes are inconsistent!).

J-Mac

October 29th, 2010
1:39 pm

Very accurate review from my recollection. Too bad the 5 star prices only get you 1 star quality food. And the pretension from the managerial/ownership types would be funny if it weren’t so lamentable. Lighten up, dudes! Wine should be fun!

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mary anderson

October 29th, 2010
2:26 pm

What a nice review, I will definitely venture into the wilds of greater Atlanta to try what sounds like great food , and good wines . Don’t understand why you stabbed them with one star, John, you know how shallow Atlanta is, and by the way, speaking as a long term resident, there might or might not be a Buckhead again.

mary anderson

October 29th, 2010
2:34 pm

Enter your comments here

John Kessler

October 29th, 2010
2:35 pm

Mary – Please read the behind the review post in which I further explain the star system. One star indicates a positive review.

I do hope you try this place. It is a lot of fun, and the food isn’t so expensive that you much mind the dishes that don’t work.

John Kessler

October 29th, 2010
2:38 pm

Sip fan – I can imagine the sliders would be nice if they had been cooked. Ditto the tenderloin. I do like the wine selection a lot.

lzcobb

October 29th, 2010
3:33 pm

I totally agree with this review of Sip. Their wine selection is amazing, the staff is knowledgeable, the food is good and the service is spotty. They also have weekly tastings and live music with accompanying specials, which I enjoy!

confused

October 29th, 2010
4:55 pm

Mr. Kessler,

I am so confused- do I try Sip Wine? Do I throw down money at Davio? Is Yeah Burger worth my drive inside the perimeter? I applaud your attempt to include reviews of the restaurants on the outskirts of “the invisible boundary,” but your rating system is very confusing. The Sip review sounds great- sounds like a place i would love to try!! But at first glance, one star does nothing to motivate me to even give it a chance. And there are many internet dining guides that will post that single star next to the restaurant’s name- without any further explanation as to YOUR rating system or furthermore, the content of your review, without further research. I feel that you are doing a great disservice to these restaurants- and quite honestly I find it a bit ego-centric on your part to devise a new rating system. Please Mr. Kessler- keep your celebrity palate and rating system away from my favorite restaurants- you’re not doing anyone any favors.

I second that!

October 29th, 2010
6:07 pm

I completely agree with confused! Having tried some of the restaurants you have such a problem with, and can ensure that if you (or perhaps your lovely daughter) have a problem with the restaurant or its decor it is going to be good!

another sip fan

October 29th, 2010
6:33 pm

Mr. Kessler,
I have to say I’m rather disappointed by your review of a place I have come to love and frequent.
SIP has been a wonderful place for my husband and I to go to enjoy an evening out. Chef Daniel has amazed me time and time again with his wonderfully tasty and unique menu items. As for the service, we have never had an issue with attentiveness from our waitresses- their friendly smiles and wonderful recommendations are much appreciated. As a matter of fact, their owner has stopped by our table several times on different occasions to see how things were going and ask us if we were enjoying ourselves. He has even offered us complimentary tapas items while we were waiting on a table in their lounge on a particularly busy Friday night. As for the statement on not bringing your kids- I can not think of a more interesting place to take my son on a Sunday night (when he eats for free!). They have a kids menu on- get this -an etch-a-sketch! And my son has loved their kid’s pasta since the first time we brought him.
I do understand that one star is still a positive review, but in fairness, they definitely deserve better.

Bruce

October 30th, 2010
8:14 am

“Apotheosis of goo”… huh? I have no idea what you mean by this. I have never thought of goo as being something particularly desirable and calling their risotto falling short of the ultimate goo seemed odd. What is your criteria for good risotto? Was their’s good or not good in your opinion?

Anonymous

October 30th, 2010
11:55 pm

We have gone to Sip a couple of times….but not recently. The food was delicious…but the portions were very small for the money. Nice little wine selection and the atmosphere was very nice. Hope they make it.

Josh

October 31st, 2010
10:56 am

@Bruce – what he meant by “apotheosis of goo” is that he took something (goo) that usually isn’t desirable, and elevated it to a higher form, making it desireable. And while the risotto may not have been cooked properly, the final result was still something very tasty. That’s the impression I got, anyhow…

bad review

October 31st, 2010
12:00 pm

Mr. Kessler.
I truly have no idea what you are talking about. I have been to Sip on countless occasions and have not once experienced any type poor service or less that fantastic food. Maybe you went to the wrong Sip? But I’m glad you were able to tell us about Sip’s surroundings. I feel that knowing that Sip is at crossroads between suburban neighborhoods and country farms will really help me to understand what the Sip dining experience is like. So Mr. Kessler (food critic?), maybe you would have more success depicting the Sip dining experience if you didn’t worry about being an egotistical quaestuary, and trying to impress your readers with clever contes of the ambiance of not the restaurant but the surrounding area. But thanks for your review; your readers should take your review into account when mapquest is offline next time.

Thanks,
Critic Kessler

miss under stood

October 31st, 2010
12:27 pm

So you never really got to try the sliders then, right? Its a shame because they are fabulous! The Kobe beef is top of the line! The onion marmalade is flavorful and smooth…with just the right amount of Zing. Here’s an idea. The next time something is undercooked (or not cooked the way you want) SEND IT BACK and actually try it! I can’t believe a man of your stature would actually push a dish over to the side to wait for your server to recognize there was a problem. Speak up for yourself and GET SOME MANNERS while your at it! Well done, Mr. Kessler, well done.

Chuck

October 31st, 2010
1:21 pm

Just to echo some former posts but with perhaps a bit more experience: my wife, friends, and I have dined here many times. I have never found the food to be anything short of fantastic. In fact, just last night I was discussing this article with both one of the owners and Chef Daniel.and they weren’t even sure how to interpret this review. Keep doing it guys…great good, great wine, great atmosphere!

John Kessler

November 1st, 2010
8:52 am

Thanks for sharing all your experiences at Sip, everyone. Obviously, two visits doesn’t make me an expert on the place, but I do stand by the review. The wine program is great. The food I sampled varied quite a bit in execution, and service was inattentive on both visits. I can only report what I experienced. Yet prices are reasonable enough to merit exploration, and it seems a worthy spot in the area.

granola girl

November 1st, 2010
12:50 pm

Sip is the bomb. I can see how you would think the beef tenderloin on the savory bread pudding is more wedding-y, but I have to say, if someone buried me in that bread pudding and let me eat my way out of it, I would never want for anything again. It’s amazing.

Other than that, I would be echoing all the other comments on the blog. It’s definitely a place to check out!

Louis

November 2nd, 2010
10:00 am

My wife and I have been to sip 4 or 5 times. Please give this place a try and you won’t be dissappointed. We have loved every food item we have tried. John, the sliders are cooked rare. You should know that if you are such an expert! I think most “great” restaurants that you give one star to, would rather you not review them at all! Maybe you need to have different categories of restaurants to rate. Not all places strive to compete with each other. Like I said, give this place a try.

Diana Ries

November 2nd, 2010
10:29 am

I’ve eaten at Sip many times.
Fabulous, intimate dining spot. Love the Tuna Tartar… a definite must.

is30303

November 2nd, 2010
2:52 pm

interesting place – nice find thanks for letting the rest of us know!

too bad about the one star review but it sounds typical of the food and service in that area – hit or miss.

Wow

November 2nd, 2010
3:39 pm

Ok are you actually a real food critic? your serious bent as of late makes me question how it is that you justify (to yourself) giving critical reviews of other people’s hard work and commitment.

In other words: how are you qualified to be saying what you’re saying. Are you a chef? Did you go to culinary school?

5 stars defines excellence for the whole region. Are you going to sample every restaurant in the south east?

Paul From Milton

November 2nd, 2010
6:10 pm

As a resident of Milton I think one of the reasons so many people are defensive about this review is because it is difficult to find good, independent restaurants in this area. We have plenty of chain restaurants and far too many Mexican and Chinese joints, but to find the type of restaurant that one would find in a intown neighborhood is still rare in this area and a treat for us (although thankfully not as rare as it once was). I hope that Mr. Kessler gives sip a follow-up review in six months.

John Kessler

November 3rd, 2010
10:25 am

Thanks, Paul, I hope to. I know that many of you here are first-time commenters and, perhaps, first-time visitors to this blog. I hope you see that that I do recommend Sip Wine. I went twice and loved the wine program, enjoyed the setting and found about half the dishes worth recommending. The service was slow and inattentive on both visits. I can only report what I experienced, but I certainly do listen to the opinions of people who know a restaurant better than me. Please keep reading and commenting — we appreciate all thoughtfully expressed opinion here.

Paul Broni

November 3rd, 2010
2:20 pm

We’ve been to Sip several times and have never had a bad meal. Does that mean we like everything? No, but isn’t that sort of the point of tapas dining? To try things out and accept the fact that, if your response is “Meh,” you can always order up another plate that will bring a smile to your face. We love Sip, plain and simple, and we’ll be back — again, and again. (Never had a bad server, either, but perhaps one reaps what one sows?)

Lynn

November 3rd, 2010
6:22 pm

I wish they had something like this in Cumming (possibly at Exit 13 near the Avenue’s or Exit 14 near so many other places but mostly chains. I will definitely try Sip.