Friday, October 15, 2010

Eclipse di Luna

4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Rd., Atlanta, GA

First off, I love tapas. I love the whole experience of ordering lots of small dishes to share with a fun group of friends, "fun" meaning people who are open to branching out and trying unfamiliar flavor combination. I've been to several tapas restaurants in the metro Atlanta area over the past decade, but Eclipse di Luna remains my favorite.

Why? For one thing, they have a long and varied menu. On one side of the page you'll find meat and seafood selections, and the reverse is vegetarian items. My problem at Eclipse isn't finding things I like, it's trying to decide how many dishes I can eat without exploding.

This isn't necessarily a problem at a lot of tapas places, either because the offerings are boring (calamari, bruschetta, and more calamari and bruschetta) or because each item is priced at about half the cost of a traditional entree, but in only 1/4th of the portion. The result of eating tapas shouldn't be that you spent twice as much (or more) on your dinner than you would normally, and it also shouldn't be that you leave the table broke but hungry.

You won't have either issue at Eclipse di Luna. The portion size is predictable (usually enough for about 3-4 people to have a few bites each) and the prices are fair, ranging from about $3.50 to $6.50).

You're probably reading this saying, "Alright, already! Tell me about the food!" OK, I've dined at Eclipse di Luna approximately 10 times, so I can't go into detail about each and every item, but here are some highlights.

The ceviche sangrita ($4.95) is one of my favorites. I love ceviche, not just because the citrus flavor pops, but because it's simple and super healthy. Eclipse does a good job with it, and gives you a decent sized bowl of shrimp, scallops and grouper for the price.

Another favorite is the Acun Crudo, Eclipse's version of tuna tartare. I'm pretty picky about tuna tartare, having first been exposed to it at the former legendary Soto sushi restaurant. Eclipse's tuna tartare isn't that good, although it's still a winner and costs about half as much ($5.25) as it used to at Soto's. The avocado gives it a creamy element, the sesame seeds give it depth, and the grape tomatoes keep it fresh and acidic. I could eat several servings of this dish and be perfectly happy.

The queso frito con meil ($4.75), fried goat cheese with caremelized onions and honey, is a good but a little overly sweet for my taste. About 1/2 teaspoon less honey ought to fix this problem.

Love the Aceitunas y Almendras ($3.95), a great assortment of both black and green Spanish olives in a tasty marinade. Often this is served with shiny, slightly oiled marcona almonds, a lovely treat.

In the past I've loved the very crispy fried green beans, but when I ate there most recently (last Saturday - an excellent choice for my bachelorette party) I found the beans to be limp and somewhat unappealing. I hope this was an isolated incident. The carne asada ($5.25) always has a good sauce, but it's also always tough. The hummus is average.

The service, if not especially warm, is very fast, even when the restaurant is packed.

Every time I've eaten here, the restaurant has been loud, sometimes so loud that I've had to shout at my companion throughout the meal. However, I've never yet eaten at a "quiet" tapas restaurant, especially during peak dinner hours, so this wasn't a surprise. The mere idea of tapas encourages lively interaction. Just don't look to Eclipse for a romantic dinner.

Verdict: A consistently good restaurant.
Eclipse di Luna also has a location (the original) on Miami Circle.

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