Wednesday, June 17, 2009
2341 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta http://www.cafelapin.com/
I work about half a mile from the Peachtree Battle shopping center in Buckhead, so I often take advantage of the restaurants there during my lunch break. I noticed the newest addition, Cafe Lapin, about six weeks ago, but didn't have a chance to drop in until today.
My friend Kevin accompanied me there at 12:40pm. There are three tables outside on the sidewalk, but it was too hot today for us to dine outside so we entered the dining room. It was completely packed, mainly with middle aged women. As we seated ourselves at the only available table, Kevin joked that the odds were definitely in his favor. Excluding the all male waitstaff, he was one of only three men in the room.
Once seated, I looked around determined from the decor that this is definitely a girly restaurant. A few white couches with frou-frou embroidered pillows lined the walls, which are painted a peachy melon. The tables and chairs are simply constructed, and the tables are topped with plain white paper.
One of the waiters brought us our menus, which consisted of several salads, two soups (white bean chicken chili and roasted butternut squash), a large variety of chicken, tuna and eggs salads and a list of approximately ten desserts. A separate menu featuring the daily specials included blueberry buckle and a several quiches, including the ubiquitous Quiche Lorraine and a mushroom with fennel. I briefly considered the quiche, then chose the Mandarin orange souffle instead. The souffle itself is only a component of the meal - it actually includes your choice of tuna/chicken/egg salad, a side item, a small mixed greens salad and the souffle. Upon the recommendation of the waiter, I opted for the jalapeno chicken salad with a side of corn medley. Kevin ordered the shrimp salad. Taking advantage of the dessert menu, I also ordered the pistachio shortbread.
Ten minutes later our food arrived. The selections all appeared fresh and colorful. The jalapeno chicken salad was good, the jalapeno giving it just a little kick. The shrimp salad included green apples and diced red onion, a fresh and pleasant combination. We were not given a choice of salad dressings. Little plastic condiment cups full of watery, dark colored vinaigrette sat on the plates. I sampled it and didn't care for it. The salad itself was nice, complete with spinach, radicchio, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. The Mandarin orange souffle was light and citrusy, possibly a little too like a creamy jello but tasty nonetheless. Nothing was absolutely stellar, but nothing was below average either.
The service during our visit was a little spotty. After we received our entrees, Kevin and I looked over them for a minute, trying to determine how much of each we were willing to share. Our waiter sauntered up to our table and rudely sneered, "Is something wrong with your food?" I reassured him that it was fine and he just walked off without another word. Two different waiters came over and asked to take our drink orders when we were seated, but after we received our entrees none of the waiters ever returned. I'm willing to consider that this may be because the restaurant was extremely busy and the three waiters that I saw might have just been overwhelmed. However, I was also disappointed that our waiter apparently forgot about my shortbread order and I had to re-order it.
The shortbread itself was great, although it consisted of only one thin, round cookie. It was a lovely light brown inflected with candied cherries (?) and bits of pistachio. It tasted appropriately buttery, and the cookie's edge was lined with coarse sugar. Our waiter recommended the chocolate pie, so we also ordered a piece of that to share. The whipped cream was thick and pure, and the chocolate was very rich. Upon inquiry I learned that they use Valrhona chocolate. I think this is a nice, unexpected luxury amidst some otherwise not particularly exciting food.
I liked Cafe Lapin, partly because I haven't found another inexpensive French cafe in this area. I think it fits a niche, and judging by the crowd gathered at lunch hour I'm not the only person of that opinion. Our total bill was less than $25, including desserts. The decor is cute without being overbearing. The menu was mainly predictable, but it did boast a few high points that are worth further sampling.
Verdict: Though the restaurant seems to be wrestling with some growing pains, especially with the service, it has potential. If the quality of the food remains consistent, it should be added to your list of lunch spots.