Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
South Beach might not be the only place invaded by New York restaurants, stores and spas — Atlanta may soon end up experiencing a little wave of its own.
Although there’s no Bliss or Nobu on the horizon just yet, the opening of a branch of New York’s Commune restaurant here this month should start the ball rolling.
The idea resulted from a chance meeting between celebrated New York chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney, who owns Manhattan’s Commune in addition to the city’s Canteen and Matthew’s, and Atlanta businessman and Georgia Tech grad Govantez Lowndes, a longtime fan of Kenney’s restaurants. He decided that Commune, which serves slicked-up versions of classic American dishes, would be an ideal Atlanta transplant.
Designed by New York’s Richard Lewis Architects (whose New York restaurant credits include Pastis and Balthazar) and David Schefer Design Group (whose Manhattan projects include nightspots Moomba and Veruka) the bilevel restaurant and lounge mixes cozy and slick, stylized elements like onyx walls, red resin tables and chocolate wood. New York transients will feel at home with live deejays, videos of New York street scenes, a central communal table and even laptop hookups.
They’ll be able to find their fix food-wise, too, from basics like steak frites, tuna tartare and truffled macaroni and cheese to signature dishes like spaghettini with veal meatballs. Commune keeps New York hours, too — closing time’s around 2 a.m.
“This is a great opportunity for Atlanta to come together,” said Lowndes. “We needed an anchor spot for dialog and diversity.” 1198 Howell Mill Road; (404) 609-5000.
Portraits of the Artist in Atlanta
Edgar Degas is known for being the only French impressionist to have visited America, spending a year’s sojourn in that most Francophilic of American cities, New Orleans, in 1872.
Now, a century and a quarter later, he returns once again to the Southeast in the form of a retrospective exhibit, “Degas & America: The Early Collectors,” on display at the High Museum of Art from March 3 through May 27.
The exhibit is the Southeast’s first devoted solely to the artist, as well as the first exploring the early response of American critics and collectors to his work.
Fellow painter and friend Mary Cassatt played a key role in America’s adoration for Degas. She often brought socialites like sugar millionaire Louisine Havemeyer to his studio and urged them to acquire his work. Havemeyer herself went on to become one of Degas’s major collectors. One of her holdings, “A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers,” kicks off the exhibit.
Unlike previous Impressionist retrospectives in the U.S., which sometimes grow overwhelming and exhausting, the 80 works make for a much more manageable exhibit. Still, it provides viewers with a good range of subjects (running the gamut from ballet dancers to horse jockeys, prostitutes to laundresses) and mediums (oil, pastel, drawings, prints and sculpture).
One standout: the bronze sculpture “The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years.” Degas’s use of real gauze for her tutu, along with a silk ribbon tying her hair, created quite a stir among critics, shocked by its realism.
These days, of course, it takes a lot more than a perfectly poised ballerina to rock the art world. What’s eye-opening is the sheer richness of this exhibition. 1280 Peachtree Street, NE.; Web site: high.org. Tickets are available through the Woodruff Arts Center box office at (404) 733-5000.
Fashion and decor have always walked hand in hand, but Atlanta’s Cherry restaurant takes the juxtaposition to a whole new level. Resembling the fall collections interpreted through plaster, paint and upholstery fabrics, Midtown’s latest eatery and bar mirrors the runway, as if local interior designer Patti Krohngold and Michael Kors were swapping notes.
Colors are rich reds, chocolate brown, camel and gold. Plastered walls gleam like a pair of leather pants. Banquettes are swathed in Parisian-style red velvet while two-toned, leather armchairs wide enough to be loveseats would look at home at the Mad Hatter’s table.
It would take several visits to wear out its novelty since each of the many rooms in this tri-level Twenties house has its own unique concept.
Some rooms are festooned with preppy stripes, from those on rugby shirts to Kate Spade bags, and metallic accents, in gold leaf, floral and geometric prints. But perhaps the most fashion-forward touch is the imitation ostrich leather wall, painted camel and red and sprinkled with polished stones.
Though Krohngold, whose former projects include Atlanta’s Fusebox, Mumbo Jumbo, Terra di Siena and Tongue & Groove, should be in line for some awards, her greatest achievement in Cherry’s design might be in keeping the attention of even the most easily-bored fashionista.
Cherry’s cuisine is equally stylish. Described as “globally influenced comfort food” by partner Tom Nahas, selections primarily feature Asian and South American ingredients and spices. Entrees include hoisen-barbecued duck, chipotle-glazed pork chops and destined-to-be a-signature “Wok” lobster: a one-pound, wok-roasted lobster served over shiitake mushroom and scallion rice cakes with carrots, leeks, asparagus, bok choy, and a honey and red chile sauce. For lighter appetites, there’s a sizable sushi selection, the crab and shrimp burger or the blackened salmon. Top off the meal with — what else? — a cherries jubilee. 1051 West Peachtree Street; (404) 872-2020.