Atlanta’s “Lure” Restaurant Review – Elevating Seafood

 

If one described “Lure” as a seafood restaurant it would only be correct in the most literal sense. 

 

 

For most of us that moniker suggests a blackboard listing the fresh catch of the day and a menu giving you options of blackened or pan-fried or steamed.  

 

 

That might be your everyday seafood restaurant, but it is a far cry from the inventive menu created by Executive Chef Brent Banda and sommelier turned Fifth Group Restaurants’ Food and Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos at “Lure”.

 

 

“Lure” aims and succeeds in creating a menu where the fresh seafood at its center never has to compete with overpowering drinks, condiments or side dishes.  That said, you would be quite mistaken to think the food is plainly presented. 

 

 

There are herbs, spices, dressings and flavors galore but never brought to bear in a clumsy way.   A pinch of Americana, a dash of global—this is above all thoughtfully prepared food that especially appeals to those seeking healthier but nonetheless gourmet dining options.

 

For example, there are always daily changing oysters with thought given to having West Coast and East Coast options at all times.   The night we visited there were five oyster varieties on the menu, originating from: Chesapeake Bay, Virginia;  Prince Edward Island, Canada; Patuxent River, Maryland; and Cape Cod.

 

 

Instead of a traditional vinegar shallot mignonette accompaniment, you’ll find a first of many innovations with shochu, a Japanese soju-like 50 proof drink.  If you don’t sample the shochu in that sauce you may want to try one of the shochu cocktails on the menu, a liquor favorited by Stratigos because of its ability to remain the milder background taste to what is on your plate while it refreshes and cleanses your palate.   

 

 

 

Also sampled from the “Raw” section of the menu was the yellowfin tuna crudo made with smoked chili oil, grapefruit, a hint of mint and a strong and tasty toasted sesame seed sauce (gamasio).

 

 

“Smoked” is the menu section for in-house cured and smoked fish dishes such as trout pâté or the likes of hot smoked amberine (a mini amberjack) or pistachio and amaranth seed garnished smoked scallops.  You can pick one of these or try three, which is clearly the better option.

 

From the “Smoked” menu, we sampled a thick cut cold-smoked salmon that could be described as your best sashimi memory but also dancing in dill.  It was served with a pickled beet dish that our server was eager to replenish long before we asked for more.

 

The hot smoked salmon cake was actually made from rich salmon belly and given a very tangy complement with a mustard cream sauce.

 

The not-so-secret taste of hickory smoke is what made the amberine jump out as unique. 

 

One smoked dish not to be missed is the seared, smoked scallop.  This is served with beet and an inventive sprinkling of pistachio and amaranth seeds to give it an unexpected lilt and delightful texture.

 

Another favorite in the “Smoked” menu section was the trout pâté.  This is made from fish caught that very day and you taste this freshness.  Its texture is more like whipped cream cheese than a chewier pâté that is more typical.

 

 

The menu’s “Shared Plates” make a few mild nods to Americana cuisine with baked crab dip, steamed mussels, and broiled oysters, among others.  Had we not been sampling a tasting menu we may have been inclined to skip this menu section.  That however would have meant missing what may have been the favorite dish of the evening—broiled oysters in a mornay sauce with ever so subtle Andouille sausage flavors in the breadcrumb topping.   

 

 

The first taste sails you to its same refreshing lemon linger that remains after you swallow.  Saying that it is a play on Oysters Rockefeller might get your imagination in the right solar system, but really it’s a very different ball field.

 

You could surely enjoy a very delicious and filling meal choosing from the raw, smoked and shared plate options.  That said, you certainly could also skip all preludes and stick to “Mains” and “Sides”.    If you are staying in a nearby hotel know that you can certainly return to Lure on two consecutive nights and have two entirely different meals, equally satisfying.

 

 

You may think that seared salmon is seared salmon is seared salmon but “Lure” shows you that you need to re-think that.  The sear was very crunchy, not just a little, and the tang of the celery root puree accompanying it gives this dish an ability to simultaneously be filling and let leave you feeling light. 

 

 

As Stratigos pointed out,  “We all love our bread”—but truth to tell the toast accompaniment to the delicious fish stew was superfluous.  One bite and you remember that every fish stew you’ve had before was more fishy than fresh.  In “Lure’s” case you get fin fish, shrimp, mussels and a smoked pepper rouille that says FRESH.

 

 

The confit potatoes – potatoes first poached in olive oil with rosemary, garlic and bay leaf—had a nice rosemary taste with each bite and it seemed like an herb fest when we also tasted this with the tarragon and garlic infused crème fraiche.   These potatoes are also partially smashed to give you two contrasting potato tastes in one dish.

 

 

You almost smile when they bring out hushpuppies as such a dish seems almost at odds with the gourmet flare of everything else you’ve eaten.  But these are the lightest hushpuppies you have had.  The Vidalia onion sauce accompaniment gives this an interest level too that brings it way beyond those hushpuppies you’ve come to expect with BBQ takeout.

 

Though you may go to “Lure” for the seafood you may end up returning just for the beverage pairings. 

 

 

Great thought has been given to build a wine list that is more mineralic and restrained in fruits.  European wines predominate the list.  Every wine and shochu drink we tasted was delicious and all servers are schooled in how to get you the best selections to pair with your menu picks.

 

TIP:  Get the wine or cocktail your server suggests.  They know their menu and pairings and will steer you right.

 

In addition to its experiments with shochu there are two other drink innovations that will be on the top of our list when we return.  One is the “Punch Bowls” – communal cocktails that are served for small groups of 2-4 or larger groups of 5 – 8. 

 

 

How fitting that in the city of Coca-Cola the other drink innovation is the “bottle shop program”, a bottling of your cocktail such that you can pop it open yourself when it comes to your table. 

 

 

 

Although the desserts we sampled were superior (beignets in a hibiscus sauce with a coconut cream and a butterscotch budino with peanut butter crunch) our recommendation would be to eat as much as you can from the other menu sections – “Raw”, “Smoked”, “Small Plates”, “Mains” and “Sides”—and to absolutely get the drinks your server recommends even if it leaves you skipping dessert. 

 

 

It may not fit the stereotype that a landlocked city is where you’ll find the best seafood, but Atlanta’s “Lure” is a standout.

 

Lure

1106 Crescent Avenue NE

Atlanta, GA 30309

 

Dinner – 7 days a week

 

Lunch – Monday through Friday

 

Brunch – Saturday and Sunday

 

For reservations or info call 404 817 3650 or visit the “Lure” website.

 

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Photos:  Peter Kachergis, unless otherwise indicated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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