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The allure of a.lure

For restaurateur Daniel Berman, the opening of his new a.lure on Congress Street is somewhat a homecoming.

The former Bacchus location was once Bistro Savannah. That was Berman’s first restaurant GM gig, which paved the way for his Kasey’s Gourmet Grille on Waters Avenue. Kasey’s was a comfortable, neighborhood driven eatery, with an above average menu and exemplary service.

And, as it turns out, it was a proving ground for the concept behind a.lure — farm–to–fork produce,  natural meats and seafood that comes fresh from regional waters.

Barely two weeks old, a.lure offers a stunning rehab of the space. Bistro was too–close–for–comfort most nights and loud. A.lure still manages around 100 seats, but its layout offers a spacious feel and even a few intimate little nooks and crannies.

Our friends from South Dakota joined Ms. T.J. and I for dinner. We covered a substantial portion of the menu with our choices. Some not–to–be–missed highlights include:

Lamb carpaccio: Four items comprise the raw bites portion of the menu. We sampled all four but I could go on forever about the lamb. The nicely chilled, thinly sliced layers are drizzled with scallion oil, scattered with capers and fresh cracked pepper. The lamb is tender, mildly flavored and is augmented by a single, decadent condiment: A dollop of blue cheese ice cream that adds a beautiful tangy twist to this savory carpaccio.

Caesar salad “undone”: Sure, the near-legendary tomato bisque from Kasey’s is on the menu, but I chose this deconstructed Caesar. A crispy, fresh bundle of baby red Romaine lettuce is drizzled with lemon–anchovy vinaigrette dressing — and I loved the salty little rolls of anchovy filets. Panna cotta flavored with Parmesan adds a creamy component — and is perfect for dressing the couple of pieces of toasted ciabatta.

3 Little Piggies: We sampled barbecued black Grouper, bouillabaisse over pasta and steak and fries — but I was drawn to the trio of pork dishes on 3 Little Piggies. Apple–pepper jam lent sweet tanginess to a generous piece of cider–braised, crispy pork belly — meaty, fatty and delicious. Traditional Hoppin’ John was the foundation for a trio of grilled pork loin slices and the mouth–watering tenderness of pork osso bucco made this a triumphant triumvirate.

Plenty of sweets fill the dessert menu, but we did a four–way split of the frozen goat cheese souffle filled with passionfruit curd, a chilly and fresh set of flavors to end the night.

If Berman is the concept man, then his new chef, Charles Zeran, is the perfect guy to handle execution. His menu is imaginative without being over–produced and innovative while remaining accessible.

Impeccable service, small and well–stocked bar. The wine list is tightly constructed and offers good values. A.lure is elegant enough for a special night out yet comfortable enough for a round of drinks and appetizers with friends before a show. Nothing but cheers for this new addition to the City Market restaurant scene.

309 W. Congress St./233–2111