Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

I ate like a boss this weekend and hope everyone had a nice 3-day weekend. This is how I topped out my night:
Cayenne Fried Chicken, Lemony Green Beans, and Mac & Cheese

By the way, the mac and cheese is actually Community Q's 1400 calorie per serving rendition.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 Reasons not to go to 5 Seasons Brewing - Westside

I had literally the worst meal in recent memory last night. Nope, it wasn't at a hot, new spot or crummy run-down dive. It was 5 Seasons Brewing - a pretty well established brewery chain with an equally popular reputation. So without further adieu, I give you 5 reasons not to go to 5 Seasons Brewery:

1. The Beer - This place is a brewery, right? There was no beer list on the menu or at the table. Our server (we'll get to him later) asked us if we wanted something to drink. We replied "Yes probably some beer." It took him two more trips inside to get us the house chalkboard with just the names (no descriptions) of their beers. We all ordered and the server disappeared again to retrieve our choices. It turns out that 2 out of the 3 we ordered were out, and our second choice was out as well. 5 Seasons Brewery. One of my friends went with the Golden. It honestly could have been from a golden shower. The beer was flat and flavorless. My other friend and I went with the Venus (as our server and the two of us couldn't think of any of other beers). It was essentially a beer flavored mimosa. The Venus, like the rest of 5 Seasons, didn't have any depth. The flavor was just that of light, orange syrup. My two friends didn't have the heart to even finish their beers and asked if the brewery carried any bottled beers. The waiter's response was, "No, we only carry our own, after all we are a brewery. We have $25 bottles of some stuff." Yes, a brewery that doesn't carry two out of three beers and delivers beers that taste like piss.

2. The Service - Honestly, it seemed like there wasn't a seasoned professional in the entire building. Seriously, Fisher Price my first waiter, waitress, host and manager. Our waiter couldn't answer a single questions we had. What's the Scotch Abbey Like? "Ummm... Ummm (as he checks his notes)... I don't know, it's like, in between the other two we have. I don't really know, I don't drink beer." I'd honestly rather be lied to than listen to this nitwit who works at a brewery tell us he doesn't like beer. We went through this with every single question. What does antelope taste like? What kind of peppers are on the sandwich? The dude made up a new species of peppers - Soblano. I honestly couldn't make this up. Additionally, he claimed bell peppers gave a kick to a sandwich.

3. The Food - Strangely enough, this 5 Seasons menu is not like their Sandy Springs location at all. The Prado location focuses on small, higher quality plates. This menu really reads like any bar menu with a few added items to make it seem cultured. There's an Antelope patty melt and Kari Kari (crab/cream cheese dumplings) but the menu consists primarily of sandwiches and pizzas.

One friend got the Antelope patty melt and said that the Antelope could have been any meat and tasted the same. This same friend ordered the Lobster Bisque as a side. He said it was just plain bad and even told the waiter. The waiter came back saying that they planned on taking it off the menu because a broth-based lobster bisque doesn't work. !?!??!?! Then why was it still being served?

I went for the organic beef burger. It truly was the worst burger I have ever had. Ordered at medium rare, the burger came out well done. The texture was that of sawdust. I've honestly had many better BUBBA Burgers. In fact, every single fast food burger is better than this one. Additionally, there was no seasoning or flavor - unless you count fish flavoring. Yes, my burger tasted of fish. The fries were passable, but unsalted and unseasoned also.

My other buddy ordered the curry grilled chicken sandwich, which he claimed was just OK.

4. The price - The bill, for our abysmal time spent there was roughly $60.

5. The atmosphere at this location is sterile and has no depth. Honestly the brewery felt like a place where middle aged happy-hour drinkers go to give up on youth and doing anything worthwhile and fun. Lastly, 5 Seasons is well known for their roof-top patio with a view of the Atlanta skyline, so we asked to be seated outside. We were sat on a street level side patio. The roof was closed... I'm guessing they only open it up when there is a lot of traffic inside but really, the view might have been 5 Seasons' only saving grace.

I can't seem to find a nice thing to say, but would like to warn diners from coming here when every other option in the area is better. Worst case scenario if you can't find anywhere good to go in this area - buy yourself a case of fine Belgian beer next door at Hop City and drown your sorrows. I guarantee the hangover the next day won't be nearly as mind-numbing as my experience at 5 Seasons Brewery.

5 Seasons Brewing Company Westside on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sounds like a Winner - The Sound Table

The Sound Table is Old 4th Ward's newest, regentrifying business of the Edgewood area. Located on the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, I think it's safe to say that this may become the most happening of Atlanta corners. Sound Table falls within eyesight of Danneman's, Corner Tavern, Cafe Circa and within earshot of Thumbs Up, Lotta Frutta, Miso Izakaya, Rathbun's/Krogbar and Lenny's. It comes as no surprise that the owners of Top Flr (Midtown's chic and successful restaurant/lounge) are in on this trendy endeavor. The feel is very similar to Top Flr but more laid back and urban. Upstairs is strictly restaurant dining with some light grooves playing and downstairs was all bar/lounge with full PA and DJ setup. I'm hoping the location will help filter out the douches who are still afraid to travel to this side of town.

The concept, from what I've read, is supposedly street food which is the biggest trend in the Atlanta scene since the exciting (sarcasm) hamburger. Fortunately, for Sound Table's sake, I didn't find the focus to be street food at all. The menu tends to lean in many directions. Each item was carefully thought out and crafted with unique takes on flavor and ingredients. Unfortunately, like it's sister restaurant, I found that most (3 out of our 4) of the dishes fell a little short on execution. Additionally, this is a small plate restaurant (like Top Flr), meaning that no main comes with a side, which also makes it a little pricier. But with a menu like this, I'll be back again to try more and perhaps retry some others.

Also of note, the cocktail and beer menu are more than impressive. The cocktail menu was a near three pages long and much like the food menu, featured singular and thoughtful combinations. I ended up ordering the Estate di Romeo - one of the more feminine (it came out pink and served in a martini glass) cocktails. Featuring housemade limoncello and a whole bunch of other ingredients that I can't speak intelligently about, it was highly enjoyable. Just please, serve it in a highball?

We started out with the Salade Frisee which was an absolute knockout. Every element complimented the next ingredient in this terrific salad resulting in an amalgamation of perfection. Tender and succulent duck confit adorned unique frisee greens tossed in a light, lemony dressing. Macerated raisins, preserved, tiny chunks of lemon and what we thought were crispy bits of duck skin topped off the tapered white bowl.

The Salade was followed by an order of the Belgian-Style Frites. This is an easy one to make and a lot of restaurants in town have it down. All the good renditions I've had started with a fresh cut potato. I think Sound Table skipped this step. The fries seemed frozen. In fact they were nearly identical to the ones I grew up eating at Brookwood Cafe long ago. Sadly, they weren't particularly crispy or golden brown. I think a double fry (starting lower and finishing higher) would really improve these guys. Additionally, the housemade mayonnaise could really benefit from some flavoring element. It was just plain mayo. Check out Leon's smoked tomato rendition for a real treat.

For our two larger courses, we went with the Morrocan Lamb's Bread and the Szechuan Fish Fry. The Lamb's Bread was essentially lamb pot pie. The cinnamon-spiced crust was really a thick and hearty delight. Unfortunately, the filling was a let down. There was hardly any gravy inside the filling and the lamb was tough. Curry was mentioned as a flavoring element on the menu but if it was there, it was entirely too subtle. A quick fix could catapult this dish into a favorite.

The Szechuan Fish Fry was also on the average side of the spectrum. A small fish filet, which is diced and quickly fried, was well prepared but didn't really excite me. The sauce was the star on this dish and was very reminiscent of the blood orange reduction I had at Top Flr.

It's imperative to keep in mind that while 3/4 dishes had some problems, this is the restaurants first week open, and I'm sure they have some kinks to work out in the kitchen. The food was still enjoyable because it was a nice face-lift to the junk food drab that the Atlanta dining scene has been dwelling on the last year. Pizza and burgers can only go so far. Innovative and inspired, I will be returning many times to retry sound table. Their smooth and romantic atmosphere alone was enough to draw me back and I think it's safe already (first week of opening) that this place will be a huge success. It really says something that I considered it a great meal, but only really enjoyed one dish.

The Sound Table on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 7, 2010

What is that place? - Tierra

I can't count the number of times I've driven past Tierra only to wonder what it was. An underground swingers club? A Hispanic dry-cleaning service? The location, neon signage and facade of the restaurant is just plain, odd and non-descript. After doing some research, I thought I was going to rediscover a gem here and that was the motivation for stopping in.

The husband and wife team of chefs focuses primarily on Latin American and Carribean flavors with a strong emphasis on seafood. They definitely want to come off as authentic and I can neither confirm or deny how true they are to the food's origins. One thing I loved was the glossary of terms used on the menu - truly helpful and educational. Since it was a Wednesday, we also took advantage of the half off wine bottles. That deal aside, the meal was not cheap for what it was.
I had a fillet of flounder served in a delicious red/citrussy broth with a cheesy flan soufflé. The flounder was on the dry side and under seasoned while the flan soufflé was really a nice touch. The dish, unfortunately, was still around $20 which very much on the steep side for flounder.

Kins opted for the mussels. The best thing about these suckers was the savory broth, but overall it wasn't a very exciting dish. Additionally a few of the mussels hadn't opened, thus meaning they were DOA.

The highlight of the meal is definitely the Tres Leches cake. It's the best I've had and you'd be hard pressed to fine one this good in Atlanta. Don't let it's mix-cake appearance fool you - it's good eats!

The atmosphere at Tierra parallels the well-hidden spots ambiance quite well. I think most of the regulars there were showing newcomers or clients their take on a hidden gem. The owner is very polite and regular with the regulars, of which there were many, and somewhat brash attitude towards newcomers (apparent on both of my visits). Additionally, the restaurant does not have a very youthful and happening vibe which I'm perfectly fine with (although young patrons are often associated with a restaurant's success).

The fact that Tierra was AJC's 2008 Restaurant of the Year shows just how far Atlanta has come culinarily in the last two years. Frankly, Tierra wouldn't be in my top 20. Even when this place was supposedly hot in 2008, I think it was still under the radar for most Atlantans. I believe that Tierra is surviving solely off of neighborhood (Ansley Park and Morningside) support.

Tierra on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pizza Wars - Down Goes Varasano's

After reading his blog long before Varasano's opened, I really had a hankering to try this self-promoting Pizza maven's product. But with so much hype (crowds) and a worthy competitor (Antico Pizza), I only first visited this past weekend. Walking in on a lazy Saturday afternoon was much easier than when Varasano's first opened, and I had to imagine that because it wasn't slammed and it has been operating for quite some time, the pizza was at it's pinnacle of quality control.
We were actually seated by Jeff Varasano himself who was at the front of the house the entire time. Service was slow, but tolerable and we went for two pies - the Nana's and the Salumi. The Nana's is your typical cheese pizza with mozzarella and tomato sauce. I spotted a few pieces of basil lying just beneath the cheese and a drizzle of fresh oil which was a nice touch. This one was the better of the two pies we ordered, but just above average. The Salumi featured some cured meats and spiced olives (layered under the meat). Both the meat and olives paired well together, but I have had far better "meat" pizzas elsewhere. The crust was just bland. It was like gourmet meets Fellini's (one of my least favorite crusts in Atlanta). It looked nothing like what Jeff went for on his blog.
Stacked up next to Antico (far superior) and Friti (slightly superior) I find Verasanos the defeated dough-slinger in the Atlanta Pizza Wars. Frankly, I even like Pizzeria Vesuvius better than Verasano's for now. Despite all the hype, I just can't help but go against the grain on this one.

Varasano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon