Eleven, the restaurant in the new Loew's Atlanta in midtown, is a bit like the pretty girl you finally get up the nerve to approach, but then turns out to be nothing special; in fact, she turns out to be, well, all kinds of weird. Walking into the swank hotel lobby, everything seemed to be in order - doors were opened, greetings exchanged, and we were led quickly to a comfortable booth by the window. On a Thursday evening the dining room was mostly empty, but the bar was lively and filled with young hipster-types sipping pretty colored cocktails.
The first sign of trouble came when ordering drinks; our server was not of age, and had obviously never poured a glass of wine in her young life. Though apologetic, it took almost thirty full minutes to get our order. (And I counted no less than eight people manning the bar; couldn't one of them have stepped in and helped?) Even our appetizer of duck confit pizzetta made it to our table in less time. More weirdness--the pizzetta was unevenly cooked, and served at room temperature.
There were few highlights. The bread basket had decent cheese straws, a nod to their supposed Southern theme, and the sourdough bread was appropriately crispy and chewy. The meat entrees seem to work. An order of beef tenderloin was nicely cooked and flavorful. But a side order of wood-grilled asparagus was instead served steamed, and was covered with a heap of Parmesan cheese that looked - and tasted - as if it were poured straight from the green Kraft can. My husband enjoyed his beef short rib sandwich, and devoured the crispy ztf fries. ZTF? Zulu tango foxtrot? No, zero trans fat. Or as our server said, "Healthy fries!" But my local vegetable escabeche was a sorry mess, the only discernible flavor that of vinegar, which resulted in the baby carrots tasting exactly like the okra. The only way to tell these very different veggies apart was the texture. (The okra was a little mushier.) And the sourdough bread with house-made tapenade was over-salted and one-note.
I'm all for giving the kitchen a chance to work out its problems, but the first thing that needs improvement is the service. There are certain expectations of high-end luxury hotel chains, and Loew's needs to learn from the likes of the W and the Four Seasons. Perhaps if they do, I'll set foot in Eleven again.