Sunday, November 14, 2010

Alison's Restaurant

Anyone visiting the Shops of Dunwoody will surely notice one business set apart from the others--Alison's Restaurant. In a shopping center littered with neon "Open" signs--even our local haberdasher has one--Alison's is notably absent. Why? Glad you asked.

Seems the "Smart People" on our "Smart City" Council have deemed neon signs offensive to their sensibilities and henceforth there shall be no new neon signs even though by the looks of it the previous policy must have required neon signs. And with their unwavering "fidelity to all things past" still intact, existing neon signs are "grandfathered" so only new businesses are at a competitive disadvantage.

If you're one of those who agree with their position regarding ticky-tacky neon you probably view this is an unfortunate consequence of an effort to upgrade the classiness of the area. Until you dig further.

As Ms. Alison herself observed in a recent encounter she could "stand out front in a chicken suit waving a placard" but she cannot have the same "Open" sign as her neighbors. Because that would be tacky. And should she embark on the chicken waving tactic she should be forewarned that she cannot use any balloons, as that is tres ta-KAY. Unless of course you happen to be her landlord, in which case you could stand outside the now closed Mudcatz in a clown outfit with balloons by the bunch. Because...that's not tacky?

Normally this is where a TOD post ends, with an entreaty to patronize Alison's as an act of courage, to join with other patriotic Dunwoodians in defiance of the draconian dictators running our oppressive government. And indeed you should, but as it happens that is not the only reason. It turns out Alison's is an excellent addition to our local dining options.

Obviously Alison's is new, not just to our community but inside as well. They have completely refurbished the interior retaining only the basic layout of the previous establishment. The cuisine is Mediterranean-Italian, the menu extensive, the prices on the moderate side and the food on the plate excellent. The atmosphere immediately impresses as upscale with linens, stainless and china. The fresh decor uses muted tones with faux stucco to subtly hint at the mediterranean cuisine, but not clumsily done as is all too common. The lighting and music are consistent with the romance of "An Affair to Remember"--sconces with a mid-century look and a playlist including Billie Holliday, Sinatra and straight ahead jazz. The main dining room is spacious, a good mix of booths and tables, and unlike another local option these booths are well suited to persons of, shall we say, a "certain gravitas". The main dining room is augmented by an outside patio to the front and opens to a narrow area at back with the bar on one side and seating against the opposite wall.

The bar is full service and the wine list offers a good selection, and while it is no challenge to D'Vine's, no restaurant should even attempt to be. The food, at least in one visit (consider this a critical amuse bouche rather than a multi-visit full-toque review), was well above average and a bargain for the price. The menu may not be as experimental or trendy as others, but few can match Alison's execution.

Their calamari is of the "onion ring" variety which would not be remarkable except that it was properly fried which based on other local offerings is not as easy as one would imagine. But what really takes this appetizer to the next level is the marinara sauce which is far better than offered anywhere else in Dunwoody. Then there is the crab cake: lump white meat, sweet and succulent and unburdened by any unnecessary ingredients. A generous portion is elegantly served surrounded by a butter sauce streaked with hot sauce, allowing the diner to dial in just right amount of heat to complement the buttery sweetness of the crab.

The Steak Alambre features marinated skirt steak that is flavorful, but not dominant. The onions are perfectly caramelized, and the bell pepper is cooked al dente, something that seems to elude even the most seasoned cooks. The Lobster Ravioli, a signature dish, was properly portioned and as with all other dishes excellently prepared. This dish boasts a vodka cream sauce and as good as the lobster is, this sauce was to die for. That in one meal, the kitchen can knock three sauces right out of the park, tells you that someone at Alison's really knows what they're doing.

The topper was an ample pair of sensuous Buttery Nipples that tantalize the tongue and sate the most ardent of cravings. There is truly no better way to round out the night.