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Lure restaurant review, Midtown

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When I visit a restaurant with a creative approach to seafood, I often put it to the mental sauce test. Would the intriguing fillet of spice-crusted fish bathed in a colorful sauce that I ordered actually taste better with just a little lemon and butter?

That’s the thing about seafood. If it’s fresh, well-sourced and prepared with skill, it doesn’t need much.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

And that’s the thing about seafood restaurants. They too often can’t help but distinguish themselves with, well, much.

Lure, which opened in the former Vickery’s space in July, has no shortage of intriguing ideas, especially on its drinks list. The inside bristles with urban energy, while the best new patio in Midtown meanders about, offering many quiet corners. Then there’s the menu — a showcase of innovative modern cooking, international flavors and sustainable seafood awareness. It all combines for an alluringly shiny bauble that most definitely attracts my attention but hasn’t quite yet reeled me in.

If this makes me sound like a lush, forgive me. But what I most want to do at Lure is drink. The bar is a lively slice of adrenalized space, with a great lineup of bartenders eager to pull a pint of Allagash white ($6) or, better yet, introduce you to the shochu, which is low enough in alcohol to work as a terrific aperitif. We love the smoky Kannoko ($9), and we love its garnish: The bartender dipped an orange segment in sugar and torched it until it caramelized.

If the wine list doesn’t beckon, you might want to try one of the punch bowls or a hand-bottled cocktail that you open yourself at the table with a church key. The Micha Caliente ($9) combines lemon-lime soda with jalapeno vodka, orange liqueur, white wine and fruit juice. The presentation isn’t just clever, it reinforces the thirst-quenching nature of this drink.

Oyster slider with a Micha Caliente on the best new patio in Midtown (all photos by Becky Stein)

Oyster slider with a Micha Caliente on the best new patio in Midtown (all photos by Becky Stein)

You want great bites to go with this great bar program, and the menu tries every which way but sideways to hit the snackum button. My favorite so far has been the fried oyster slider ($4.50), which gushes with saline juices and remoulade sauce inside its soft bun. A close second: the fried Ipswich clam bellies ($15), crisp and chewy in just the right way, which will have you licking your fingers.

But before you start thinking this is some kind of fancy clam shack, the kitchen shifts tone. Sauteed scamp grouper ($15) with curried corn, yogurt and spicy lime pickle knows exactly what to do with Indian seasoning to bring out the sweetness of the fish.

Sauteed scamp grouper with curried corn and lime pickle

Sauteed scamp grouper with curried corn and lime pickle

Seared scallop crudo with sugar snap peas, a pea puree and horseradish ($12) comes out a bit too warm and soupy, and the sear on the scallop makes it all seem weirdly uncooked rather than gloriously raw. A trio of house-smoked seafood choices ($15) — salmon, bluefish and trout pate — is dry here, salty there and lacking that collusion of smoke and fish oils that distinguishes great smoked fish.

Better is the grilled baby octopus with tiles of pork belly ($17), which come with lettuce and herbs for wrapping and dipping, Vietnamese-style, into nuoc cham sauce. It’s fun if not quite convincing as a great Asian food-wrapping experience.

I applaud chef David Bradley for his many creative vegetarian plates, large and small. I enjoy the luscious, chewy french horn mushrooms ($12) served with baba ghanouj and chickpeas, even if an overdose of cinnamon in the sauce nearly derails the flavors. And I was smitten the first time I ordered roasted small eggplants ($7) with dill, pickled banana peppers, mild sheep’s milk feta and watercress. It was prepared with such a keen eye to cut and proportion that it sold the unusual flavors. The second time it was a big heap with too much creamy dressing and seemed an odd mishmash without a sense of place or season.

This kitchen does sometimes lose its technique as it piles up ingredients. I hate to rag on the cassoulette ($15) — a clever and evidently time-consuming play on cassoulet, the Toulouse specialty of cured meats and white beans. Here we have a bready seafood sausage atop mushy beans holding sproingy ringlets of squid in a saffron-heavy tomato sauce. I also must say that cassoulette, rather than a diminutive of cassoulet in French, is actually, um, well, a slang term that doesn’t belong in a seafood restaurant.

I haven’t had much luck so far with the main courses. Fish and chips ($16) prepared with redfish again shows that this kitchen knows its way around a fryer. But braised snapper ($28) with beans and peppers in a saffron-coconut broth has slimy skin and flavors that never cohere. Grilled Georgia rainbow trout ($24) with sweet, sweet muscadine butter illustrates the lemon-butter rule. It’s a big plate of “why.”

The kitchen should leave the sweets to the pastry chef, who’s got a rice pudding sundae ($7) with rum-raisin caramel and vanilla soft serve to send you off on a high note.

Truthfully, I suspect you’ll walk away from Lure thinking well of the service, the design and the great attention to detail. You might even put it on the short list of Midtown restaurants that bear further exploration. If it doesn’t quite touch that seafood-loving part of your soul yet, give it time. It has plenty of other things going for it.

LURE
1106 Crescent Ave., Atlanta, 404-881-1106
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Food: A fun, varied selection of seafood

Service: Personable and welcoming
Best dishes: Scamp grouper, french horn mushrooms, fried oyster slider
Vegetarian selections: Several appealing and unusual ones
Credit cards: All major
Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m, daily; Dinner: 5-10 p.m., Sundays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays.
Children: This would not be my first choice for younger kids, but the patio would be workable early in the evening.
Parking: Valet
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Full
Smoking: No
Noise level: Very high inside
Patio: One of the nicest new patios in Midtown
Takeout: Yes

ratings_key_febUSE

17 comments Add your comment

[...] Lure restaurant review, Midtown [...]

sheriff john brown

October 18th, 2012
7:57 am

Great review….and agree 100% with your lemon and butter test…look forward to trying the Scamp grouper at what seem like a reasonable price…which is nice to see
any perspective on their soups or stews?

Stan Brevard

October 18th, 2012
9:01 am

I’ve tried this restaurant several times since it opened just around the corner from my house. The staff is knowledgeable, really seem to be happy to be working there, the drinks and wine list is on par with the best in the city, there is no attitude, and it’s easy to see that this group really thinks about the details and keeps progress and improvement in mind- Something I can’t say for the majority of other restaurants in this city! My wife and I spoke briefly with the cheft the other day and it seems like as soon as the brunch menu is offered in a month or so,.. He will begin making more frequent changes to the menu to reflect his commitment to seasonality in seafood. We are thrilled for this addition to the midtown scene,,.. Another huge win for FifthGroup and a win for Atlanta! This place will be here in 20 years… We look forward to many meals at lure!

Donald

October 18th, 2012
9:19 am

Lure is one of my favorites on the Atlanta dining scene! Highly recommended.

M. Johnson

October 18th, 2012
10:06 am

Hate that I missed the cocktails you mentioned. They all sound fabulous. My family enjoyed a lovely dinner at Lure recently and cannot wait to try out the patio. Alas, I ordered that cassoulette and was underwhelmed. Not my favorite flavor combination. Others ordered the fish and chips and the salmon and loved it.

Bring on the caramelized oranges and the Micha Caliente!

Rod Allen

October 18th, 2012
10:38 am

John: I would be highly surprised if “cassoulette” was anything other than an unfortunate misspelling of “cassoulet”. That you would not only call the restaurant on this accidental homophone but go even further by directing your readers to discover the alternate meaning is a bit mean spirited, and kind of….well….disgusting.

jj

October 18th, 2012
11:10 am

Rod, I agree. John, get over yourself.

Gimp

October 18th, 2012
11:45 am

Thanks Rod, you learn something new every day!

RK

October 18th, 2012
11:56 am

When I read “cassoulette”, I wondered if it was a typo. If you’re in food, and it’s on your menu, get it right.

Time to check Stan’s email address…sounds like he works for a marketing firm.

Great intro, John — that’s the way I feel about fish, and steaks, in general.

At least it's not..

October 18th, 2012
12:46 pm

It already sounds better than the option next door (Front Page News)
That place has the WORST SERVICE.

*SMH*

October 18th, 2012
3:46 pm

John, my guess is you may have struggled with your final rating but from what you wrote above, it seems more like a one than a two star. I read more hit and miss than consistency. But Lure is on our “to try” list now.

southern hope

October 19th, 2012
9:22 am

There’s something about Lure…it’s within walking distance of our home so we’ve been there 4 times in 5 weeks…and it is truly alluring….wonderful servers, great drinks (as you note), the smoked fish platter is great…and the deck…the deck is the best. Its one of those rare restaurants where you feel comfortable the moment you sit down and you can’t wait to come back.

Jo

October 19th, 2012
11:49 am

Those who can’t, critique.

Jerry

October 19th, 2012
12:07 pm

John, why two stars? Where is the “food consistency”? Please give an insight to your thinking…

Robert

October 22nd, 2012
11:55 am

My advice for chef David Bradley. Take a trip to Washington, DC (Jerry’s Seafood) or Baltimore/Dundalk (Jimmy’s Italian Seaford House) and taste what “real” seafood looks and taste like. I have not found a seafood restaurant in ATL that sells authentic seafood (crabcakes, etc.). The quality of this seafood does not match the price.

Mike

October 23rd, 2012
10:39 am

I’ve been to Lure twice and thoroughly enjoyed both visits. I live in midtown so it’s an easy walk and we’re gald that it’s in the neighborhood.

The coctails are great! And I’ve tried different varities of raw oyster appetizers. The scallop entree I recently had was fantastic. The service is great. Get a table on the patio while the weather is perfect right now. Highly recommended!

Krystle Meyer

October 23rd, 2012
3:27 pm

@Robert: Have u tried Long John Silver’s?