Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ra Ra Ri, Kick em' in the Knee - Ri Ra Irish Pub

Ri Ra, while on my radar, wasn't exactly a point of interest. I associated it with Ra Sushi (same building) and thought it would be more about the crowd/image and less about the food. But thankfully, my mom had hit it up and let me know that their Fish and Chips offering was far superior than most other renditions that Atlanta bars and restaurants attempt. So Kins and I put it to the test and were pleasantly surprised.

Ri Ra is a chain (of only about 11) but really puts out some high quality bar fare. They restore old Irish bars and accouterments and ship them over here to be reassembled in their American locations. That part is pretty neat and it's pretty hard to tell the difference between what's new and old in the bar. Interestingly enough, they also have shipped over quite a few Irish workers/servers and on both of my visits, we had one. The crowd was more Buckheady, but tolerable. I would probably avoid it on a weekend night, however.
The fish and chips are really terrific. It's the perfect blend of salty and crunchy. On our first visit, one order came with two whopping Haddock (much prefer this to the more common Cod) fillets. The fish was served over a bed of their house chips, which are fresh cut and fried. Also included was a homemade roumelade. I liked every part of the meal and for the $14 ($2 up-charge for the house chips) price tag, it's a very generous serving. Most people could get two meals out of it. Unfortunately on our second visit, the order had been reduced to one fillet of Haddock. I believe they still will typically give two, but we will have to go back to make sure of this.

I also had the Ri Ra Burger and it was mediocre at best. It wasn't consistently cooked through, the peppercorn seasoning really didn't do much, and the bun was entirely too big and tough to chew through. Also on our first trip, we offered complementary soda bread with Guinness-infused butter. It was a nice touch. We weren't as luck on our second go-round and they completely forgot this little freebie.

From now on, when I hear or think of fish and chips, Ri Ra is my choice. Even if the price was slightly higher (take note $18 cod F&C from Shed at Glenwood), it would be worth it.

Ri Ra Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Patty Cake Patty Cake - Bakeshop

Atlanta is getting some serious bakeries and I'm beginning to value this trend much more than the burger epidemic that is running rampant in our fair city. The Concentrics Restaurant group has opened the Bakeshop in the former location of Goldstar Bakery in Midtown. This prime location is ideal for another bakery and Bakeshop (yes that is the name of it) is going to do quite well in this spot.
I stopped in this past weekend and picked up a couple of pastries and a breakfast item. The inside of the place reminds me of Parish's (another Concentrics endeavor) Marketplace, but with a more modern, less cozy feel. Like Parish, the communal tables are present and inviting newspapers are strewn about. There is a narrow spot to order your food, peruse the pastry case, and look at bread-lined shelves. I imagine it's going to be quite the clusterfuck when it gets crowded.
Bakeshop got one strike from me right away - there were no prices on the menu. I really don't get the point of this and I was afraid that I would be leaving with a much lighter billfold than when I entered. Fortunately, despite the yuppie digs, the bakeshop was moderately priced.
Croissants seem to be somewhat of a speciality at the Bakeshop and they offer three kinds (plain, chocolate, and almond) along with a ham & gruyere croissant sandwich. Kins likened the croissants to Alon's (I've never had one) and I certainly thought they looked the part.
The chocolate one that I devoured was light, flaky, and thankfully not as greasy as many I've encountered. The chocolate unfortunately was lying a little right of center. I can't say it slowed me down, but I definitely didn't get chocolate in every bite.

Additionally I ordered the Eggs al Forno and frankly, wasn't too pleased with them. Granted, I didn't exactly know what I was ordering, but the breakfast item consisted of a slice of sourdough smothered in cheese, onions, red peppers, parmesan, and two eggs (one poached and one hard boiled). While I didn't really know what I was getting into when I ordered them, the two types of eggs were the opposite of what I was expecting, and I became turned off by the open-faced sandwich. Additionally, the peppers and onions were very haphazardly clumped together on opposite ends of the sandwich respectively. While I was warned, this little egg concoction took 15 minutes to make. Why?! Thank goodness for the aforementioned newspapers.

So Bakeshop gets my praise for their pastries and thus far, my jeers on their breakfast. However, with items like apple stuffed french toast, fried egg with BBQ pork on ciabatta, and a milk chocolate (would prefer dark) hazelnut sponge cake, I'll surely be back. Cheers to Concentrics on their rapidly expanding empire.
By the way, for those of you without economy defying incomes, my total for all 3 items was 12 bucks. Not cheap, but certainly not terrible for one of Atlanta's better bakeries.

Bakeshop on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pizzeria Vesuvius Erupts into the Atlanta Pizza War

After getting word of a new pizza spot right around the corner from me, I immediately set out to try the joint tonight. Frankly the restaurant business is tough enough, but with a current pizza war (trailing only the burger war in growing restaurant numbers) going on in Atlanta, opening another pizza restaurant is a ballsy endeavor. Especially with pizza perfectionists, Antico Pizza, on the scene.

Vesuvius is located on Edgewood Avenue in the spot that formerly housed The Bureau. It's only been open for a week and isn't quite a well-oiled machine quite yet. In fact, they don’t even have a sign up. Right now, it's really just a long bar and about 8 or so 4-top tables. Additionally, they're only accepting cash for the time being. Vesuvius is still building some extra seating and while they are delivering (free), they are still setting up their radius.

I spoke with the pizzaiola for a bit while admiring their wood burning oven. He said that this oven is most similar to that of Sotto Sotto, and they run it at about 600 degrees normally and sometimes hit about 800 degrees for the larger pies. This blistering heat machine was made in Milan but was actually purchased from Shorty's when they updated their current one. The oven really creates a nice texture to the pie, both charred and roasted well. Additionally, it only took about 3 minutes for my pizzas to cook.

Pizzeria Vesuvias makes quite a bit of the less traditional, specialty pies so I opted for two of those. The Mauna Loa is their take on a Hawaiian – consisting of pineapple, applewood-smoked bacon, house-smoked ham, fresh tomato sauce, and mozzarella. This pizza is just OK. None of the ingredients’ flavor shows up distinctly and each bite leaves you longing for a stronger profile. Also, while the ham and bacon was plentiful, the pineapple was kept to a minimum only allowing for maybe one or two pieces per slice.The second pie was the Fuji. Consisting of roast pork, hoisin, cabbage, caramelized onion, chili flake, and scallion this pie was a winner. The pork was wonderfully tender and all of the other ingredients played off one another in a manner that doesn’t happen often on even the most creative of pizzas.

The crusts have a wonderful crispy, charred exterior but plenty of interior chew and pull to them. All of this I have to attribute to their beautiful oven. While the texture is perfect, the dough doesn’t have very much flavor. I feel like a little bit of salt could go a long way and really make their dough craveable.

Collectively, I really enjoyed the Vesuvias’s offerings and the price is right too. A medium pie runs around 10 or 11 bucks while a large will set you back 15 dollars - a very fair price for a very decent pizza. This is not Neapolitan pizza so there is no point in comparing it to Antico. OK I will, it’s not as good. But I’m glad it’s in the neighborhood as it gives me a very quick and tasty reason not to head back to Hemphill.

Pizzeria Vesuvius on Urbanspoon