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Sushi on a dime, pasta before its prime

Visits to Sweet Lime and Pasta Thyme

I was unhappy when Bang closed in Little Five Points. Before the arrival of quirky Teaspace, Bang was the only restaurant in the area attempting something besides predictable pub or pseudo-ethnic cuisine. Now, Bang's space has been taken over by Sweet Lime (1128 Euclid Ave., 404-589-9696), which bills its menu as Asian fusion.

The space, rather gloomy during its Bang days, has been lightened up considerably with — of course — lime walls and a montage of Warhol-esque prints of limes under Plexiglas. There is a lime on each table. There's a full bar. I ordered tonic water and it came with plenty of lime slices.

We visited on a Monday night, when the restaurant's tiny sushi bar — so tiny you can't eat at it — offers dollar sushi. Wayne, who still wears 15-year-old T-shirts and has a Quicken program with 10,000 entries in it, cannot resist dollar sushi. He ordered all 10 nigiri available, plus a tuna roll and another with eel and cucumber. The rolls cost 50 cents extra. Do yourself a favor: If you're in the mood for sushi, go to Soto or MF Sushibar and spend big bucks. The evening of our visit, the sushi rice had the glutinously chewy character of white bread compressed and rolled into a ball. It overwhelmed whatever it wrapped.

I ordered a starter from the specials menu: "crispy fish straws" with Siracha sauce. This was totally new to me. In fact, I was not convinced the fried filaments were really fish, but two servers insisted they were made from real fish on the premises. Imagine shoestring potatoes tied into loose knots. They were all crispy-chewy texture and no flavor, but they were fun to drag through the bottled Siracha.

I tried the most expensive of the nine entrees — a pair of soft-shell crabs atop soba noodles with carrots, onions and green pepper. The crabs were decently fried but, I'm sorry to say, a bit on the fishy side. What really turned me off was the unbelievably sweet tamarind sauce drenching the noodles. Well, at least the restaurant's name is accurate.

We ordered two desserts, both monstrously overpriced at $5.50 but not as sweet as my entree. Wayne got a big ball of fried green tea ice cream. I got fried bananas, arranged like a pinwheel around a center of green tea ice cream. Raspberry coulis tarted up the pinwheel.

What good do I have to say about the place? The service, by Asian women and a lone goth guy, was great. The prices are mainly low. It's a good concept for the neighborhood. Maybe it will get better.

In East Atlanta

East Atlanta, Little Five Points' funky sister, has a new Italian restaurant, Pasta Thyme (560 Gresham Ave., 404-624-3220). It's located in what I think used to be a dry cleaner's building. A primitively handwritten sign has been installed on the brick building whose interior space is oddly partitioned. It's all a bit disorienting. You'll want to eat on the small patio outside if you can find a table.

The concept echoes Figo's. You can mix and match pastas and sauces or select from three lasagnas. You stand in line to order. The guy taking your order is all business, but they need someone like a Wal-Mart greeter at the door to explain the different pastas before people get in line and begin playing a slow game of 20 Questions: "Now tell me ... what is this ... I can't pronounce it. How do you pronounce it? ... Orecchiette? ... What is it? ... No ... Now what's this other one?"

The food, alas, is not up to Figo's quality. An appetizer of olive tapenade with goat cheese and toast rounds features quantities you'd need to measure on a subatomic scale. (Then again, the price itself is subatomic at $3.50.) A Caesar salad's romaine lettuce was fresh but scattered with dehydrated grated Parmesan and served with a plastic cup of creamy dressing that begged to be poured back into a bottle.

There are nine mainly fresh pastas, five raviolis and five sauces. Why Wayne chose whole-wheat linguine, I don't know. I guess he was nostalgic for his tie-dye days. It was a sticky morass. I give the restaurant credit for a decent pesto and I'm betting they do a better job with the other pastas, but the whole-wheat linguine just screams, "Jerry Garcia ate here."

What about the lasagna? I ordered the seafood variety. At $8 it was the most expensive item on the menu, so I also give the restaurant credit for low prices. The lasagna was full of crab and scallops, the noodles were tender, but the poblano cream sauce was weirdly bland.

I really wanted to love Pasta Thyme. It's the kind of place Mickey and Judy would have opened if they hadn't decided to put on a show. Everyone's friendly and trying hard, but it just isn't quite there yet. That's not to say I won't return. I will. And of course, it bears mentioning that I gave Pasta da Pulcinella an indifferent review when it opened, and every other critic in town raved about it the next week.

Rant

My second office, the Ansley Mall Starbucks, has acquired too many tenants! I was there recently and I counted 11 other laptops. Depending on the status of people's batteries, everyone is competing for the two electrical outlets (a third is hidden and a fourth is in the ceiling out of reach). It won't be long before there is Iraq-style rioting over electricity. I carry an extension cord, electrical adapters and an aggressive attitude, but why can't America's biggest coffee shop chain install a few power strips like so many other WiFi venues?

And while the corporate bosses are out shopping for some power strips, how about stopping by the Bread Garden or Alon's and purchasing some pastries and breads that don't taste like they are from Maison Little Debbie Cake? And while your wallets are open to buy decent pastries, pay the damn baristas better! They have to put up with people like me all day.

Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.



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