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Museum-quality cuisine

A High adventure to Table 1280, plus noshing about town

It seems altogether fitting that Shaun Doty has come to roost at a restaurant in the Woodruff Arts Center. The 36-year-old chef, not infrequently seen about town decked out in Prada, has already made a rep for himself as one of the city's artiest chefs.

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His two earlier venues — MidCity Cuisine and Mumbo Jumbo — were stylistically unique venues that added vibrant color and edgy design to the relative minimalism that characterizes the ambiance favored by his earlier employer, Guenter Seeger. Similarly, his cuisine features beautiful plating and intense flavors like Seeger's, but with softer edges and a bit of romance.

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At Table 1280 Restaurant and Tapas Lounge (1280 Peachtree St., 404-897-1280), Doty has gone to work for New York-based Restaurant Associates, which operates dining rooms at similar venues such as the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Table 1280 is a gorgeous departure from the overwrought dining rooms of most well-heeled restaurants in town. Its minimalism reminds me somewhat of the Globe, but it goes further, if only because its scale is so much larger. The restaurant is divided into a lounge where tapas are served and two dining rooms on either side of an open kitchen. Big glass wine cases also divide the space. The white, high-soaring walls are undecorated except for a large light installation in one room and a grouping of mirrored discs in the other.

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If you want to sample tapas, you are only allowed to do so in the lounge, for reasons I do not understand. Our server made an exception and let us try the grilled octopus. This dish is showing up at more and more restaurants in town (at wildly varying prices) and Doty's is one of the best I've sampled (at $9), served with shaved fennel, cucumbers and black chickpeas in olive oil and red wine vinegar.

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Wayne and I also sampled two dishes from the starter menu. A hunk of seared foie gras with orange cumin sauce was paired with a crepe enfolding fresh figs. Similar play with textures was featured in a bowl of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes topped with escargot and a poached egg. I'd happily eat the two together for an entire meal.

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The menu only features eight entrees, half of which are fish. Wayne ordered poached halibut, redolent of olive oil, served over white beans with pancetta, cockles and piquillo peppers. I selected yellowfin tuna cooked "a la plancha" and served with fingerling potatoes, braised spinach and a pesto-like salsa verde. My only complaint: The potatoes were inedibly dry.

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Desserts were the least interesting part of the meal. An apple galette with caramel-crème fraiche ice cream was a complete snoozer. A cluster of warm doughnuts with various dipping sauces was better, but neither displayed the kind of creativity the rest of the meal showed.

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The restaurant is on the pricey side — our bill without wine or tip was $117 — but it also serves a $28 prix-fixe dinner for theater-goers. Lunch will not be served at Table 1280 until November.

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Here, there and feedback

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Speaking of grilled octopus, maybe the best for the money ($4.50) is at Eclipse di Luna, where I lunched last week with Brad Lapin and Michael Saunders. It's served Greek style here with boiled potatoes and peppers. We also sampled lamb meatballs, calamari, the shredded beef sandwich and pan Catalan. I wish the restaurant would put some new items on its menu, but Eclipse remains one of the best tapas venues in town. ...

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I'm not much on grocery store takeout, but I concocted a good $7 meal at Whole Foods on Ponce de Leon last week. Thai-coconut chicken, Indian-style lentils and spicy collard greens were all surprisingly good. Harried counter workers do tend to assemble uneven portions. My order was for two plates and one of them had easily half the chicken of the other. ...

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My favorite for inexpensive Thai food, Little Bangkok, is now making my favorite pad Thai. The restaurant tosses the rice noodles in a curry I'm unfamiliar with and it creates more depth of flavor than the usual version around town. ...

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I ate three lunches last week at the revamped Sundown Cafe. The restaurant was featuring chile rellenos — a pair of seasonal New Mexico peppers stuffed with white cheese and deep-fried in a panko coating, served with salsa frita and white rice. The addictive dish will be on the regular menu soon, I'm told. ...

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Foodie Bill Gilmore filed this report last week: "We went to Floataway Cafe and had a great time. The menu has changed and we enjoyed so many things, but it was my first time to have the rack of pork with the eggplant caponata. It is a serious win.

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"Went back to Taurus and something was going on in the kitchen. The staff did a great job not revealing the issue, but food came out really slow. The oysters were the best I have had in Atlanta, with an onion mignonette on top. Really hit the spot. ... Went to Spice last night. The skewered Thai beef was wonderful."

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Bill obviously doesn't eat on a Creative Loafing budget. ...

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The latest restaurant to announce plans to open in Atlantic Station is Rosa Mexicana, a New York outfit that also has restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Miami. It will feature the contemporary Mexican cuisine of Roberto Santibañez and a decor by David Rockwell, inspired by legendary architect Luis Barragan, master of the international style. The restaurant's press materials promise this rather disconcerting set piece: "A dramatic 18-foot-high water wall will be the eye-catching centerpiece of the 200-seat restaurant with miniature white Acapulco divers seemingly springing out of the water flowing down the blue glass tiled wall behind them." Hey, it beats a robotic mariachi band. ...

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Canoe has been celebrating its 10-year anniversary with special meals cooked by guest chefs. Only one remains. Michael Kramer of McCrady's in Charleston will be cooking Thurs., Oct. 6.

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Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010.



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