Monday, June 27, 2011

Sip




4403 Northside Pkwy, Atlanta, GA www.siprestaurants.com

On Friday night Kyle and I had dinner at Sip's Riverside location, just off of where Cobb Pkwy turns into Northside Drive. Once on Northside, you'll see a clock tower and big signs for a Post apartment complex, along with a smaller sign for Sip. Follow the road up the hill and you'll find a quaint little live/play community with about a dozen shops and Sip. The restaurant occupies the old River Room space.

So what makes Sip different from other Atlanta tapas restaurants or wine bars? Like The Grape (located in Vinings), Sip offers their wine by the bottle, the glass and the half glass. They also go one step further, offering sips for sale. According to our server, a glass is 6 ozs, half glass is 3 ozs, and a sip is 1 oz. One ounce? How anyone can decide whether they like a wine or not after having only one ounce is beyond me, but if you're afraid of committing to even half a glass of wine, this is the place for you.

To make things more interesting, you can opt to get your glasses or sips yourself - from these things on the wall that look like slot machines, but are basically wine vending machines. Each bottle is displayed in its own spot, and there are buttons above them. Push one and you'll get your glass full, two will give you the half glass, and three will spit out your tiny sip.

How do they keep up with this? They give you a wine credit card, uniquely programmed to tally up your tables wine totals. It's ingenious, really, because who doesn't like the idea of hanging around a bunch of wine machines, trying as many of their 30ish selections as you can handle? If you've ever been on a cruise, you understand how a person can simply swipe the card with abandon, never bothering to total up exactly how much he/she is spending to taste and sample.

And you will spend a decent chunk of change, whether you use the wine card or simply order the wine through your server and have him deliver it. I think the cheapest sip was over $2. The half glasses averaged about $7, and the full glasses about $14.

But the wine isn't the only thing that's pricey - there's the tapas, too. Compared to Eclipse di Luna, Sip has a smaller tapas menu (including a much more limited selection of vegetarian tapas), and the prices are significantly higher.

Here's a quick rundown of the tapas we ordered:

The artisan cheese plate ($9) was very good. I got a slice of thick, earthy goat cheese, a just-runny-enough camembert, and a ho-hum blue, along with some french bread and a fig relish. The relish was like the inside of a Fig Newton, only a little chunkier, and was a great sweet touch alongside the cheeses.

Kyle ordered the smoked chicken stuffed poblano ($9), which came with smoked gouda and a roasted tomato cream sauce. Lots of gouda for those who love it, inside a large, mild pepper with plenty of chicken. I tasted it and couldn't discern the tomato in the sauce, but it was definitely creamy. This was probably the best value of anything we ordered off the menu - the portion was substantial, and the concept is interesting.

Kyle also ordered the Kobe beef sliders ($10). This came with a red onion marmalade and cheese, and was topped with a single Spanish olive speared in the center of each. Kyle and I have tried to avoid jumping into the sliders craze, because we seem to always be disappointed by what comes out - beef and bun and little else. More cheese would've helped in this case.

We also shared a meze platter, which in this case was toasted pita bread with 3 dips - eggplant "caviar", hummus and red pepper relish with artichoke ($6). This was very nice. All 3 dips were tasty, and differed enough from one another that we felt we were getting a nice selection.

The tuna tartare napoleon ($10) was the downfall of the evening. It was covered, absolutely smothered, in a wasabi aioli. I normally love tuna tartare. The glory of the dish is the delicious tuna, which should be accented, complemented, by a few other flavors such as a bright citrus or a fresh herb. In this case, the avocado and maybe a minute amount of diced red onion would've been fine companions. Instead, the tuna's distinctly wonderful flavor was completely masked by all these other ingredients, in large quantities. I'm not sure if this is because the quality of the restaurant's tuna is very poor (and they need to mask the flavor, assuming it has any), or if the chef just went nuts when creating this dish and threw too many things onto the plate.

Our service was less than memorable. When we had questions about the menu (both food and wine) we had to drag the answers out of him, and he kept showing up at our table at all the wrong times. Maybe this was an "off" night for him, or he's just the worst server they've got. The restaurant has only been open for about 7 months, so maybe they haven't built their core staff yet. Ambiance: lighting was a little too low (unfortunately typical of wine bars), and the music was a little too loud (live music - same as at Eclipse di Luna). The acoustics make it sound like everyone is yelling, when this isn't the case. If you like places that sound crowded and "happening" even when they aren't, go to Sip.

I liked most of the food here very much, and I think the wine menu is sufficient, but there's no way 2 people are going to get out of here for less than $60 (before tip/tax) - and that's with one glass of wine per person. If you want the equivalent of a bottle, you'll definitely drop over $100, and I just don't think the quality of the food is quite up to triple digit quality yet. We could have eaten as good or better offerings at Eclipse di Luna for 2/3rds of the price. If the cost isn't a factor for you, you should add this to your list of places to try in the near future.

Sip has another location (Crabapple) in Milton, GA.

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