Thanks to the many posts on this board, a floating group of 6-8 people ate rather well in our four dinners in Atlanta.
Our least favorite meal was at South City Kitchen. For example, the vaunted crab hash, was virtually tasteless (the crab itself was completely bland and the poached eggs overcooked). But even here there were many compensations, such as excellent rolls, tangy Brussels sprouts, greens, fine grits, and enthusiastic and winning service from our waitress.
Woodfire Grill was a wonderful experience (we had a lovely, semi-private room, and again, friendly and able service), but the execution of many of the dishes was disappointing. Just as one example, I ordered the olive oil cake with olive oil ice cream. The cake turned out to be a classic Tuscan cake -- absolutely delicious. I had thoughts of Meredith Kurtzman's olive oil gelato dancing in my head, but the result here was tasteless -- especially disappointing because a nice vanilla ice cream would have accompanied the cake so well. One standout dish was the morel appetizer.
Our favorite dinner was at Pura Vida. We liked it so much we went twice. We sampled at least 25 dishes, and the ratio of hits to misses was extraordinarily high for tapas, especially since relatively few the kind of staple, single-item plates found in a classic Spanish establishment. In general, we much preferred the seafood and vegetable plates to the meat ones. Some highlights include the mussels,the salmon and tilapia ceviches (among the three ceviches, only the tilapia resembles what would ordinarily called a ceviche), and the calabaza rings. The desserts, such as the chocolate ancho flan, were also excellent. The most exciting dessert to me, though, were the ice creams, which were outstanding. The weirder they sounded, the better they tasted. We loved a ginger-beet ice cream, as well as carrot and a sour cream ice cream. Even the vegetable varieties had a true ice cream texture but tasted of the ingredients. We had two different servers on our two nights, and both were excellent.
The only other meal we shared was at East Pearl, a Chinese seafood house in Duluth that Chowhound Steve Drucker recommended. The place was bustling, and the better items were excellent, and it might be my imagination, but I've never seen dimsum with more of a shrimp orientation anywhere than at East Pearl. And when in doubt, eat the shrimp there. Many of the fried shrimp items featured underdone shrimp -- I loved it this way, but one of our party decidedly did not. It took us a long time to be seated, but once we were, service was friendly and efficient.
Is the kind of high-quality service, especially the enthusiasm and friendliness of the servers, typical of Atlanta?
Thanks again, Chowhounds. I was given some dire predictions about my trip to Atlanta, but we ate pretty well. I'm only disappointed we had to go as high-end as we did -- but constraints prevailed.