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June/July 2006

Global Gastronomy
Dining Options from Around the World
by Lisa Strickland

A Joel skillet dish.
It's no secret Atlanta has gained much notoriety as a city that offers out-of-this-world dining experiences inspired by influences from all around the world. Atlanta's restaurants and chefs often turn the tables on ethnic fare with innovative takes on traditional cuisine.

French Fare
What could be more romantic than dining in a French restaurant? Prepare to be dazzled at Joel (3290 Northside Pkwy, 404-233-3500)--first by the dramatic interior and then by the French cuisine accented by Asian and Mediterranean influences crafted by Chef Joel Antunes. The $39, three-course weeknight dinner option is one of the best deals in the city!

With a more modern take on classical French cuisine, one of Atlanta's most revered chefs, Guenter Seeger continues to amaze patrons of his Buckhead restaurant, Seeger's (111 W. Paces Ferry Rd., 404-846-9779). Bold flavor pairings and artful presentations delight diners and bring Seeger countless accolades.

Italian Edibles
The vibe is electric at Fritti (309 N. Highland Ave., 404-880-9559), an Inman Park Italian favorite. Fritti's crispy gourmet pizzas, amazing wine list and cool, urban atmosphere guarantee a constant crowd. Bring your group and explore the extensive menu of personal pizza creations, perfect for sharing in large groups.

The grand columns inside Kyma.
For a quick and casual encounter, try Osteria del Figo Pasta (1210 Howell Mill Rd., 404-351-3700). Here, diners contemplate which homemade pasta choice to pair with sauces such as wild mushroom cream or spicy tomato. If you're not into making your own decisions, you can't go wrong ordering the zucca, a wonderfully rich butternut squash ravioli with mascarpone and radicchio sauce.

Great Greek
To get a party off to a rousing start, Taverna Plaka (2196 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404-636-2284) fits the bill. Before you can say "Opa!," the outgoing servers are singing, dancing (sometimes on the tables) or bringing you wonderful Greek delights such as saganaki, a gooey, decadent cheese appetizer that arrives at your table in flames.

If the 55,000-pound solid marble columns don't convince you of Kyma's (3085 Piedmont Rd., 404-262-0702) dedication to bold authenticity, maybe the finest feta cheese, olive oil and Mediterranean seafood will. Chef Pano I. Karatassos effortlessly replicates the best his native Greece has to offer, including his signature oktapodi, a tentacle of wood-grilled octopus marinated in red wine vinegar.

Spanish Star
Tapas-originating in Spain and traditionally meant to be eaten between main meals to allow the body to survive until lunch or dinnertime-just lend themselves to a party. This is part of the reason getting a table at Noche (1000 Virginia Ave., 404-815-9155) on the weekends without a reservation is virtually impossible. However, plan ahead for your night out in the Virginia-Highlands and you won't be disappointed. The extensive (and well-priced) tapas menu of Spanish, Southwestern and Mexican influences gives you plenty of options to peruse as you sip on of Noche's specialty margaritas.

Masterful Mexican
Driving around the industrial area behind Howell Mill Road, you may think you're in no-man's-land--that is, until you stumble upon a packed parking lot and dozens of people waiting with margaritas in hand outside Nuevo Laredo Cantina (1495 Chattahoochee Ave., 404-352-9009), one of the best spots for Mexican fare in the city. Its authentic Mexican dishes attract families, singles and couples willing to wait it out for a table in this eclectic space.

Impressive Asian
Marco Polo Chinese Restaurant is known for it's artistic presentation.
Roswell's Marco Polo Chinese Restaurant (1570 Holcomb Bridge Rd., 770-998-3263) is proving Chinese cuisine is better enjoyed on a table set with linen rather than out of a take-out box in front of your TV. This upscale, yet casual Chinese restaurant offers wine tastings to pair with your gourmet fare, artistic presentation and a family-friendly atmosphere.

For more of a "raw" atmosphere, the best sushi in town can be had at MF Sushibar (265 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-815-8844). "MF" stands for "magic fingers"--the nickname of Chris Kinjo, one half of the team behind the slick sushi bar where fare is artfully prepared in view of the diners. With fish overnighted directly from Japan, MF Sushibar has built its reputation on selections such as otoro, a fatty tuna with a smooth taste.

Melting Pot
Sometimes, just one ethnic influence isn't enough. If you're looking for the most inventive sandwiches in the city, try Pangaea (1082 Huff Rd., 404-350-8787) in West Midtown. Once you turn off Howell Mill Road onto Huff Road, keep going past the furnishing warehouses and you'll find this bright, urban melting pot of "global grub" inspired by Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors, from bahn mi sandwiches to kebabs and paninis.

Also, diners at sexy Midtowner Spice (793 Juniper St., 404-875-4242) revel in the international fusion cuisine concocted by Chef Drew Van Leuvan. The menu emphasizes fresh seafood and meats flown in daily, with plenty of organic vegetarian options as well.

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