Grazing on a mezze of dips with homemade Persian sourdough flatbread barabari is a delicious way to start this culinary trek. The Dips Trio features a silky pea and pistachio spring hummus; the grilled eggplant dip mirza ghasemi, associated with Iranian and Persian cuisine; and taramasalada, a Greek fish roe spread, the star of the bunch. While cod roe would normally be the fish of choice for this savory and savory dip, Esposito opts for salmon roe, to perfect effect.
Arancini is another good starting option. Here, a pair of oversized fried risotto balls are cut in half to reveal a filling of English peas and an exquisite, meaty bolognese.
Iranian youth street food from Zarnegar is represented with Koobideh Kabab. Two skewers of grilled and well-seasoned ground lamb and beef come with thick cubes of herb-marinated feta (delicious) and a runny cucumber salad (not so delicious).
Pair any of these appetizers — or sides, such as oregano and feta fries or roasted pepper salad — with a glass of wine. Zarnegar has applied his passion for wine to curating a long list (31!) by the glass. You’ll find French, Italian and Spanish wines, but also a Lebanese Sauvignon Blanc, a Moroccan red and a fruity, juicy and simple white table wine from Israeli producer Golan Heights.
I’d skip the cocktail selection, which requires either a recipe overhaul or a measured pour, to correct the lopsided drinks, including a Manhattan so potent it burns and a bitter French 75 with no bubbles.
I would also skip the second class. After a first round of varied appetizers, the French onion soup, Caesar, Greek and bibb salads are unimaginative and disappointing, especially considering how much the Mediterranean region pays homage to fresh produce in salads. .
The third course is where we come to the main disappointment. During my visits, the service moved at such a snail’s pace, whatever the hour or day, that it took a good two hours before the mains arrived. While Esposito’s chewy gnocchi, draped in a sensational lamb stew, was worth the wait, the dry chicken Berber was not; an under-seasoned, sinewy three-tip steak or seared shrimp, which came over house-made no-sauce bucatini topped with red pepper flakes, pistachio crumbs and breadcrumbs that left me parched.
Also, I don’t understand why a burger is on this menu, or why vegetarians and vegans only have one entree option: risotto. My bowl lacked smoothness and depth of flavor. It was so one-dimensional it made me wonder if a stock was being used.
Things got sweeter at the end, with what you might call an Eastern Mediterranean parfait: layers of roasted quince, chocolate ‘earth’, mascarpone cream, amaretto biscuits crumbled and finely chopped pistachios.
Outside of her wine program, Kitty Dare feels scattered and unfocused. Its wide selection of food — there’s even a Little Kitty menu of American kids’ fare (grilled cheese, pasta, chicken fingers, and mac and cheese) — seems like a people-pleasing effort, rather than a careful examination of rich cuisines that come from the 16 nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
For Kitty Dare to be enjoyed as much as its predecessors in this storied space, it must determine its identity – and make that personality worthwhile.
A service: nice but slow
Best Dishes: eggplant, dips, kebab, arancini, gnocchi, and roasted quince parfait, chocolate potting soil, mascarpone cream, amaretto and pistachio cookie crumble
Vegetarian Selections: labneh, eggplant, dips, onion soup, cauliflower, some salads, risotto, all the trimmings
Alcohol: full bar
Price scale: $$$-$$$$
Credit card: all major cards accepted
Hours: Dinner: 5pm-10pm Sunday to Thursday, 5pm-11pm Friday to Saturday; brunch, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from Saturday to Sunday
Car park: free street parking
MARTA Station: Inman Park/Reynoldstown
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: sometimes above average
To go out: yes
Address, phone: 1029 Edgewood Avenue NE, Atlanta. 404-228-1566
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