Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Restaurant Preview: Lure

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Fifth Group just gets it right. Their restaurants always boast an enviable combination of great food, stylish environs and friendly service. So it was with great anticipation that I checked out their newest restaurant, the Midtown seafood spot Lure.

Once again, Fifth Group has hit it out of the park. They totally replaced the oh-so average old Vickery's with a hip, appropriately nautical dining room (think wood paneled bar and an anchor out front saved from being overly thematic with comfy cream banquettes).

Despite being open only since late July, the service is already up to the standard set at neighborhood faves like La Tavola and Ecco with none of the delays or confusion that typically come with openings. Our server and the other staff members who stopped by were knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

But it's really all about the food, right? And they get the food so very right. I have a long standing ambivalence about seafood. I love sushi and raw oysters, but the cooked stuff usually leaves me feeling underwhelmed. Well, surprise, surprise, Lure wowed me with every single dish!

The menu is an interesting combination of influences. You see Latin (a Veracruz style seafood cocktail), Asian (a Vietnamese-inflected octopus and pork lettuce wrap) and even Indian (with a curried creamed corn accompanying their grouper).

Cocktails are diverse and unique. The team at Lure let us know that they designed the drink menu to truly compliment the food rather than focusing on out hipping other local bars. Since it was just two of us, we didn't get to sample from their punch bowl menu, but I love the idea, and the pre-siesta's inclusion of horchata puts it at the top of my must-try list. To make the punch even more interesting, they collected unique punch bowls from around the world, so each is served in a unique receptacle, and they are displayed around the bar.
The Say What

The Mr. chose the Say What (bulleit rye, lazzaroni amaretto, lemon juice, simple syrup, chamomile bitters), which he says it was nicely balanced with an appealing amaretto taste without being too sweet. I normally don't like rye, but a quick sip proved this might be a rye drink I'd enjoy. A truly unusual element of their drinks menu is the bottle shop section, which are in-house bottled cocktails. I chose the  Micha Caliente (lemon-lime soda, jalapeno vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry, verdejo) which was bubbly and spicy without being overwhelming. I will definitely get this drink again!

For the food, we started with fried oyster sliders ($4.50 each) and the grilled octopus and pork lettuce wraps ($17).  The fried oysters are simple but full of flavor. The soft bun, the crisp but succulent oysters and the tang of remoulade went down easy. I could easily eat a whole meal of just those. The octopus and pork wraps are not cheap, but they came with ample meat to justify the expenditure. The Vietnamese sauce was redolent of fish sauce and made an ideal counterpoint to the smoky grilled meats.
Fried Oyster Sliders

Grilled Octopus and Pork Lettuce Wraps
For entrees we split the grilled North Carolina mahi mahi with summer salad and goat cheese ($28) and the sauteed red grouper with curried creamed corn, yogurt, and spicy lime pickle ($31). The dishes were incredibly different, but both far more delicious than I usually expect fish dishes to be. The mahi mahi was light but made interesting by the bright acidity of the summer salad, and the goat cheese added a layer of richness without weighing it down. The curried creamed corn brought a curry flavor to the entire grouper dish to great effect. It was a much heartier dish but still left us room for dessert.
Red Grouper with Curried Creamed Corn
North Carolina Mahi Mahi with Summer Salad and Goat Cheese
Their dessert list had so many epic sounding choices that we pigged out and got three - a funnel cake with figs, a blueberry cheesecake and a rice pudding. Funnel cake was fun and something I rarely get to have. Although I love figs and I love funnel cake, I did think the combo was a bit strange, but that didn't stop me from eating both. The cheesecake had a hint of lemon flavor, which I have a bizarre hatred of in desserts, so I left that to the Mr. And the unusual take on rice pudding reminded me of my beloved Rice to Riches in NY and might have been my favorite of all.

Funnel Cake with Figs

Blueberry Cheesecake

Rice Pudding
It's almost impossible not to compare Lure to Atlanta's other recent seafood entry, The Optimist.  They both can boast of high quality, modern takes on seafood and inventive drinks.  But the vibe is a bit different, with Lure feeling a bit darker and more intimate (though every bit as energetic) due to its smaller setting.  Whatever your preference, in a city that's been starved of good seafood options for years it's exciting to have a relative wealth of options all of a sudden!  And just in case you couldn't tell, I loved Lure. It strikes me like a fun date spot or a stylish option for dining with friends or family.  If my first sampling was any indication, this will be yet another Fifth Group spot in heavy rotation on our dining schedule.

1106 Crescent Ave NE  
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 817-3650

Lure on Urbanspoon

*Full disclosure: Although my meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion of the experience! 



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