Thursday, December 22, 2011

Takorea - Trend Latching Atlantans

Admittedly, I never really liked Hankook and since Takorea is essentially the same food, well I don't like it much either.

Takorea/Hankook's success exemplifies Atlanta's ability to latch on to a trend and perpetuate it into a mass success. In the end, the food doesn't matter so long as the concept is creative (I hesitate to call it that).

Korean/Mexican fusion is a wonderful idea and one that Hankook/Takorea obviously ganked from LA's Kogi BBQ. If you've ever had the opportunity to try Kogi, you'd know how good korexican could be. In the end, Tokorea exhibits little attention to detail. All of the ingredients are there, but the execution is poor.

The takos mainly hit one note. The ribeye needs caramelization aka better flavor development. The sauces need focus on subtle, popping, and complimentary flavors - not beat-you-over-the-head sweetness. The fried items (shrimp, calamari, japanese sweet potatoes) need a lighter, crispier batter. I would have rather eaten the japanese sweet potato naked than their limp, fried (they called it tempura) rendition. The sweet chili aioli dipping sauce was stupidly good.

Your best bet at Takook is the Alton Brown touted bibimbap. While not nearly as good as Woo Nam Jeong, it'll do the trick in a pinch.

The cooks need to try some Kogi to see where they're missing the mark. Again, the concept/menu is great, but they're completely flubbing on the food.

Takorea on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quickie - Octane at the Jane / Little Tart Bakeshop

For those few of you that haven't heard, Octane Coffee has opened their newest outpost in Grant Park - Octane at the Jane. This wouldn't concern me much, as I don't drink coffee, but the new lofty digs houses The Little Tart Bakeshop which makes this far more than a coffee shop. I first had the opportunity to try the Little Tart's offerings at an Atlanta Underground Market and I was floored by how good her pastries were. The apple/cheddar and pear/ginger turnovers were some of the best fruit filled pasty I've ever had.

Rather than wait for the next local Farmer's market, Little Tart's goods are now offered up around the clock at the new Octane. And the best part about that is, you can have items warm from the oven. The technical prowress that is exhibitied behind the display glass is astounding. Flakes are where they should be, moistness remains at the forefront, and unique flavor combinations are embodied in a variety of items. The aforementioned turnovers are not to be missed, nor should the pain au chocolat. However, the item that truly blew both kins and I away was the bacon/cheddar scone. More like a biscuit in texture (a fluffy center with layers of texture/flake surrounding), these scones are irresistible and have kept us coming back way more than we should have. Make sure you get their early to not only enjoy a warm scone, but to actually get one - they're made in small batches and run out frequently.

This is certainly my favorite option for morning pastries in Atlanta.
Octane at the Jane on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

HD1 - Haute Doggery Opening Night

I got a chance to stop in and try HD1 (Haute Doggery), Richard Blaise's latest endeavor last night. If you couldn't tell by the name, the concept is supposed to be a new take on hot dogs, much like his flagship operation, Flip Burger Boutique. Being a big proponent of Flip, I thought I'd walk away from HD1 a big fan.The experience was nice enough and while I can't point out any particular shortcomings, I left shrugging my shoulders. The atmosphere is a little more laid back than Flip and the servers and vibe are less pretentious/clubby feeling. Interestingly, orders are placed at the counter and a very swift team serves and removes your items from the communal dining area.

We started with a shrimp in fried grits appetizer which unsurprisingly, was nothing more than well, fried shrimp. The Haute dogs were good. I ordered a Classic (beef with mustard and kraut) and a Kenturkey that came with bacon, mornay, and tomato-pimento marmalade. The Classic was probably the better of the two. It had some nice snap and the kraut and the mustard were perfect classic compliments. The Kenturkey was well done but a little too sweet. The New England style hot dog buns are addictive with that sublime combination of buttery, sweet, soft and crispy. For a side we opted for the waffle fries and while covered with maple, they were particularly boring.
Waffled Fries

If you get a chance to study the menu, you'll notice that you can purchase most every one of the hot dog/sausage varieties somewhere in Atlanta. And let's face it, cooking a hot dog might be a culinary step below making a proper grilled cheese. However, the creativity and uniqueness of HD1 is in the toppings, rather the tubed meat and that is HD1's shorcomming. One of the things I love about Flip are the nontraditional patties. You can't get a shrimp burger, ossobucco burger, chorizo or tuna tartar anywhere in Atlanta. This is why I can't possibly hold Haute Doggery in the same regard as its older brother. HD1 is definitely a good place to stop for a quick bite, but not destination dining.
The Classic

Hd1 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Look - 5 Napkin Burger

I managed to stop in last night (grand opening) at Atlanta's latest and tardy entrant into the Burger Wars (eye roll) last night. If you don't follow my tweets. A hamburger is easily my favorite food item ever, but I'm so sick of burger joints sprouting up (and doing well) in Atlanta. Are Atlantans really that unadventurous that they need to have a specialty restaurant for sandwich that they can already order in every single other restaurant? What I hate most about the trend is that all of the new contenders sell a glorified diner burger. They're all cooked on a flattop, thin patties and none are cooked below medium well. I'm sorry, but essential and important flavor and juiciness is eliminated by cooking any burger above medium and I for one order mine medium-rare at a trustworthy establishment. This is exactly why, as contradictory as it seems, I was moderately excited about New York chain, 5 Napkins. I knew they used a 10-ounce patty and cooked to desired doneness which sounded very promising.

Situated in the former Nickimoto's spot at Piedmont and 10th, the location will get a ton of traffic. The inside comes off nicely, sort of like a Concentrics restaurant and it's certainly noisy like one too. The service was excellent for a first night and I have no complaints at all. I also have to say the food was good to excellent. I ordered the original which comes with gruyere, caramelized onions, and rosemary aioli. All the ingredients worked well together - the creamy tang of the gruyere complement the sweetness of the onions and the aioli had some nice garlic flavoring that hit the mark. The bun was also exceptional - perfectly buttered and griddled, it was soft, slightly sweet and not that dry spongy type of bun that I get too often with a burger. The only shortcoming on the burgers was that they were both overcooked. I ordered mine medium rare and definitely got an uneven medium well. Kins ordered hers medium and also received medium well.
Appologize for iPhone photo, forgot my camera

The fries that come with the burger were close to shoestring style and similar to In N' Out's rendition(I considered these to be better). We also both ordered shakes, which left a little something to be desired. They all sounded fantastic but the two we had came up short on execution. I believe that a milkshake should be a perfect combination of thick and smooth - not thick enough that you burst blood vessels sucking it down, but certainly not as simple as sipping a soda. The cookies and cream shake was fine but slightly runny. The peanut butter-chocolate one really fell short. I'm pretty sure they use chocolate syrup (as evidenced by the remnants in the mixing cup) which left a very sharp, chemical note to each mouthful. I little fine tuning on the shakes and they could be excellent.

All in all it was a very enjoyable meal for an opening night. The service was very pleasant and helpful, but did seem a little unrehearsed which is completely forgivable given that they just opened. I will say that the meal was pricey. Two burgers (came with fries) and two shakes ran us $44.00 before tip. I certainly like the burgers at 5 Napkins better than most of their competition (Grindhouse, Yeah!, and the likes), but the price will definitely won't keep me away from my regular jaunts.
Five Napkin Burger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Humble Pie - Pie Shop

With various songs and quotes featuring pie slathered across the wall, I didn't know what to make of Pie Shop. For one, what a strange location. Behind and under a little fenced-in commercial property with a pay-box lot, this diamond in the heart of all that I can't stand about Atlanta (primarily Buckhead) really is a refreshing slice of what this city needs. My first bite of that ganache pie sent me into a transcendental spin - was I really eating something this good, this simple in Atlanta? Coming down off my high, I just smirked and made sure I dabbed every bit of the crust flakes with my finger tip and returned them to where they belonged - my mouth.
Mims, the owner and baker extraordinaire, (wo)mans this newly-opened spot with 2 or 3 other ladies who are as equally passionate about (you guessed it) pie. Saying that Pie Shop serves up humble pie is an understatement. They did everything to make my compadre and me feel comfortable. They fielded all of our questions, provided us with generous samples and provided quality service for a place that's essentially grab-and-go.
The pies were a huge success. We first sampled the mojito/mint bite. The staff told us it was similar to key lime pie and they weren't kidding. Just really great flavors in this one - I swear I even tasted a hint of sharp cheese in my bite. The banana caramel was absolutely decadent. Talk about a just smooth, rich bite. Next we tried their savory fried pie which featured corn, chive and something else I can't remember. I was probably most excited by the sound of this one, but it didn't really hit the mark for me. The dough was a little too heavy for a fried pie and didn't really give way to the more delicate filling. This is a minor complaint - I still had no problem polishing it off.
Also sampled were the date, mint crostata with fresh whipped cream. As someone who doesn't particularly go nuts for dates, this was a hit. The flavors just hit the mark and well, I'd eat that whipped cream off of the asphalt outside. I can also attest to how well crafted the watermelon chiffon was. While I hate all things melon, the miniature pie was like eating perfectly flavored watermelon air - exactly what a chiffon should be.
The grand slam for me however, was their simply titled ganache pie. Sumamabitch. I'm constantly complaining how chocolate desserts in Atlanta just aren't chocolatey enough. I can complain no more. This is not that Hershey pie they serve in a box at your at BK. Oh no, this is far more enjoyable. Essentially it looks just like an icebox pie, but calling it that would be and insult. The intense chocolate filling is exactly what my insatiable chocolate hound self has been looking for. I ate this slice slow, and not because it was hard to stomach. So light, but so full of flavor. Wow.
I can't stress enough how Pie Shop is already one of Atlanta's best dessert spots (it's actually difficult to name many more). The boutique and artisinal pies are perfectly executed and the staff isn't pretentious in the slightest - which is often a by-product of such quality goods. They're cranking out new pies every week, so while it might be impossible to get the above examples, it doesn't matter. When you visit Pie Shop, you're in capable hands. Trust.

My gripes: My only criticism of pie shop was that the same type of crust was used on all pies except the mojito one. I think some additional variety of crusts that are more complimentary to the fillings would really be a bonus to the near-perfect pies. Secondly, I sure as hell hope that Pie Shop doesn't inspire a whole bunch of other pie shops. I realize that delicious pie is delicious pie, but like cupcakes and burgers (of which Atlanta was a late adopter of) pies have been the big "thing" in larger cities (especially New York) the last couple of years. What I do hope, is that Pie Shop inspires more varied concepts of different, well-done specialty joints across the city.

I leave you with this little diddy from the wall of pie:

Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Awesome New York Subway Car Supperclub

If you haven't seen this yet, give it a watch. Several supperclubs came together to serve unsuspecting MTA riders a multi-course meal. Awesome.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Medium Rathbun - Kevin Rathbun Steak

Admittedly, I don't often go to steakhouses for the simple fact that steaks aren't particularly difficult to cook. If I'm going to drop all that coin on some food, it had better be something I can't readily make. I realize that I can't really buy this quality of meat and/or age it and that certainly adds to the upscale steakhouse draw. Rathbun steak has a pretty gleaming reputation, so I made my once-every-two-years steakhouse plans here.

The bread and butter selection was terrific. I'd avoid the appetizers all together and polish off a basket of it.

We kicked off the meal with some lobster fritters. Our waiter really pitched them as a standout item but I can't say much more about them besides the fact that they were fried and lobster. They were satisfyingly salty bites and nothing else. For our main we ended up ordering the dry aged steak for two. It's a great option since each person has the opportunity to try essentially two cuts of steak in one. They'll prop it up table-side so the jus collects at the edge of the plate - which will then be spooned over your meat by a server. The steak was good, as expected, but not otherworldly. I was surprised how much fat there was on the tenderloin side of the porterhouse but it was just too delicious to avoid.

The sides at Rathbun Steak set it apart from other Atlanta steakhouses. They're just slightly less traditional, but well executed starchy goodness. The mac and cheese with truffle was excellent and the creamed corn blew our whole table away.

I read the reviews about KRS being too dark and too noisy but frankly, I didn't think either of these points had much merit. We had no problem seeing our menus or hearing our own party. The interior design is pretty striking and I found the environment to be a much appreciated departure from the normal, stuffy private-club like atmosphere of most steakhouses.

While the steaks will certainly hit the mark, the sides and atmosphere are truly where Rathbun Steak sets themselves apart.

As to the title - I realize that Kevin Rathbun is anything and everything but medium, but my creative ability to come up with anything more clever than that is lacking today.

Kevin Rathbun Steak on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fritti - It's not Antico, obviously.

It's not Antico. If you're going to compare the two, Antico is better. However, if Antico is a 10, Fritti is about a 7.5 or 8 which is certainly respectable. What I'm getting at is that your pizza is in capable hands and ovens at Fritti.
I've had a number of items here and the standouts to me are still the Margherita and the "Ananas e Gorgonzola."

The Margherita just works - perfect ratio of quality ingredients. The "Ananas e Gorgonzola" combines pineapple, gorgonzola, and aged balsamic. Of course, that combination already sounds appetizing, but when I consider how sublimely fresh that pineapple was, well gat-damn. The crust is light, airy and a nice amount of crisp but it just doesn't have that flavor and chew of the Antico. Then again, it doesn't get soupy either.

Honorable mention goes to the calamari - yes it's a tired and overplayed appetizer, but they do it right. Perfectly seasoned, satisfingly crunchy and plenty of the non-tube tentacle pieces. Simply and well-done.

Reasons in which Fritti is better than Antico-you can make a reservation and sit down comfortably and Buckhead isn't entirely overrunning the joint. They don't burn the shit out of their basil every, single time. Oh, and the staff is friendlier.

Fritti on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand

It's 70 degrees, sunny and you've got a sausage in one hand and a shake in the other. Can you think of a better way to spend you lunch break? I couldn't, and that's why I headed over to the newly opened Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand in East Atlanta today. I don't usually give a whole lot of background on each place I visit, but essentially Molly from the Porter is one of the owners and was working there today. I'm guessing she partnered up with Delia who mastered the chicken sausage. The space is quite small with only counter space inside and a total of 6 seats with tables outside. The stand has an inspired menu and a terrific concept and I'm hoping they inspire more cheap eats around town (especially in tubed meat form). The business is pretty smart in being open till 4AM and being within a stone's throw from every East Atlanta drinking establishment. Literally you have Graveyard Tavern, The Earl, Eastside Lounge and several others within a very short (2 blocks) walking distance. The sausages are made of Springer Mountain chickens and they try to keep everything as local as possible - spices from south Atlanta and bread from H&F Bakery.
I ordered the Hot Mess, some fries (they call them "wedgies" which just reminds me of Moe's Joey Bag of Nonsense) and a cake shake. They couldn't have named the Hot Mess any better cause that thing was an accident waiting to happen. And sure enough it did - on my first bite, the entire sausage, chilli, and cheese sauce fell right through the bottom of the roll! Luckily, I was leaning over the table and it landed back in the box - could have been a lot worse. I wondered to myself whether or not the bun was actually attached at the bottom but I'm pretty sure it just instantly became saturated and gave way. All in all, the sausage was enjoyable but I have just a few notes to improve upon. The sausage I had tasted more like a hotdog than a sausage. It was just lacking some general oomph I come to crave in a good sausage. I wish it had been a little thicker - go ahead get all your "tee-hee's" out of the way. You'll see, I took two pictures and even after I took a bite, you can't see the link because it lacked the girth (OK, you have my permision to laugh like a school girl at that one).
Ain't nothin' but a Hot Mess
The chili was great as was the H&F bun (which has come to be expected) but the cheese sauce blended a little too seamlessly into the chili and became lost. I think it could stand to be thickened up just a notch so it would stand out more.
I'm sort of a fry and shake nazi, so I'm often disappointed in these two items. The shake however, was surprisingly decent. As soon as I saw them drop the handle on the soft serve machine I cringed (shakes should be made with hard-scooped), but the damn thing actually tasted pretty good. Delia's just threw some chocolate flakes in the ice cream and added a perfect amount of milk so the shake remained thick. The weird thing (although it's not that weird if you consider the name) of the cake shake was that there is like an entire cupcake on the top of the shake.
Between the chocolate flakes and the cupcake, the shake was pretty much impossible to sip through the straw but I ate the thing like cake and ice cream and it really brought me back to the blissful ignorance of being a mindless snot-nosed kid at a friend's birthday party.
The wedgies were kind of just a throwaway side - they were similar to KFC's battered fries and just boring.

I thought Delia's was pretty good considering that it's brand new and they have a local/organic mission. I will definitely come back and try some of their other sausage offerings - the Italian Stallion is talking to me! The price is slightly more expensive than other lunch options, but only by a dollar or two and that's really worth the piece of mind of eating something made locally.

One more small note - They should really ask, "For here or to-go?" at the counter as they give everyone their orders in giant paper bags and boxes which just seems wasteful.

Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beer Me - The Porter Beer Bar

Pretty much like Brickstore but better. At off-peak hours, the place is charming. When the crowds come poring in (as they often do), it still ain't bad. It's a small place, but for whatever reason, I never feel cramped or annoyed despite the very small and often crowded bar.
Vindaloo Ravioli

The beer list is extensive, but if you're reading this review you already know that. The food is similarly as ambitious as their beer menu and almost all items are made in house. The problem with the Porter is that I've had equal hits and misses with the food. The goat cheese fritters with honey and black pepper is perfect. I don't care if Ecco did it first, Ecco isn't this chill. I once had a pork Vindaloo ravioli with those beautiful little watermelon radishes that was as splendid to taste as it was to look at. I'm also a big fan of the mac and cheese. However, pub staples have always suffered every time I've ordered them - particularly that burger.

Where to start on that damned burger? Let's work our way in. Starting with the delicious bun. It comes on an oversized, delicious asiago cheese bun. The bun is delicious on it's own, butit doesn't work with the burger. Not to mention you can't figure out how to hold (because of the cheesy top) or bite (because it's oversized) the thing. The pickles and pickled onions (I wish more places would throw this on a burger) are really quite good, however an entire clove of pickled garlic made its way onto my bun on my last visit. I think it was part of the pickling solution. The bacon has always been overcooked - like too crispy strips of bacon bits. Given the quality of much of their food, you'd think they could cook a hamburger patty to temp. NEVER. Every time I order medium rare, every time I get medium well. Really aggravating. Additionally, I think that they should really switch to hand-cut fries as these get boring after a few. They're advertised as Belgian fries, but they're just not there.

Outside of their burger and a couple of other small items, their food is pretty terrific and leagues above Brickstore Pub. The Porter is one of Atlanta's best offerings and I encourage anyone who likes beer, or just a different non-Atlanta vibe to stop in.
Goat Cheese Fritters
I apologize for the lack of pictures (and iPhone ones at that). It's been a long time since I last reviewed and hope to have more frequent posts in the near future.

The Porter on Urbanspoon