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I spy something green

97 Estoria's sexy Bond look eclipses its callow kitchen


An initial glance inside 97 Estoria, the new spot that previously housed Cabbagetown Grill, reveals that the stylish exposed brick-and-blond wood bar remains thankfully intact. A closer inspection, however, reveals a healthy dose of new, complementary mod accents, including curvaceous tables and chairs that look like they're straight from Midtown's Lignet Roset storefront, and a geometric wood partition to separate the smoking area. All the pale wood and dramatic shapes evoke a ski lodge 007 might've frequented in the Sean Connery years.

The world is not enough: Wholesale changes have been made to the menu to streamline and update twists on traditional bar fare. Appetizers are enjoyable, and obviously designed to go with friends and a pitcher of beer. Brought to your table in a bowl of massive proportions, the blue cheese chips ($6) are crispy slivers of homemade potato chips topped with pungent blue cheese crumbles and sweet chunks of fresh tomato. Other appetizers are an amalgamation of world beat starters: chicken satay ($5.25) comes with both traditional peanut and Cajun sauces, the pork quesadilla ($5) features a sweet barbecue filling, and the lamb quesadilla (also $5) boasts a creamy cusabi sauce that blends a punch of wasabi into cool cucumber dressing.

Missing in action: Upon receiving your order, it's clear that creative pairings are not the kitchen's forte. Roasted lamb sandwich, which the menu advertises as dressed with caramelized onions, brie and sun-dried tomato pesto, is chewy and utterly lacking in the promised pesto. Wasabi-mashed sweet potatoes ($3; included in the price of a sandwich) lack pungent spiciness. Although well marinated in what tasted of balsamic vinegar, the juicy portobello sandwich was also missing its basil aioli, which would've provided the sharp marinade with a softness the sandwich needed. Those who do not enjoy mayo ought to be wary of the cusabi sauce on both the lamb quesadilla and the falafel sandwich ($6.75).

Never say never again: Traditional flavors are where 97 Estoria excels. The burger ($6.75) comes out prepared to order with all the right trappings and accompanying fries stand out with a crispy, ever so lightly spiced batter. A pulled pork BBQ sandwich ($6.75) satisfies with tender chunks of pork drenched in a sweeter, rather than spicier, sauce. It's matched by a side of corn pudding that preserves the corn's complementary sweetness but adds a touch of spice that creeps up, giving it an interesting, almost licorice-like bite. Portions are large and prices are cheap -- a combination that couples with the sizable bar to make for a great neighborhood hangout. It certainly could be made better, though, by more closely aligning the expectations of the menu with the delivery in the kitchen.

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