Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ethiopian lunch at Ghion Cultural Hall

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 11:32 AM

It's been there for years, but I'd never visited Ghion Cultural Hall until last week. The Ethiopian restaurant on Cheshire Bridge is a collection of oddly rambling spaces that lead to the main dining room (above) where I lunched completely alone.

Well, I was alone if you don't count the blaring but spellbinding music videos that played incessantly.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Babylon Cafe brings Iraqi food to Atlanta

Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 11:20 AM

As far as I know, the three-month-old Babylon Cafe (2257 Lenox Road, 404-329-1007) is the first Iraqi restaurant to open in our city. It's located in the now bright blue-and-yellow building at Lenox Road's intersection with Cheshire Bridge. You know the building. It's been death to one restaurant after another during the last 20-plus years.

I had my second lunch there Wednesday and have been very impressed. I'll be featuring it in a Grazing column about cuisines, like Greek and Indian, that share Iraq's Sumerian heritage. Here are a few pics:


This is hard to make out, but it's an utterly delicious whole tilapia grilled with mysterious Iraq seasonings, among them pomegranate. It's called samak masquf and is one of Iraqis' favorite dishes.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Exciting dim sum at Best BBQ

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 8:16 AM

The counter at Best BBQ

It's weird that Atlanta offers such a mixed bag of dim sum restaurants considering the higher quality Chinese we have from regions such as Sichuan. A place will spike in popularity because a new recruit from somewhere in China with tons of training has come to work there, but then that guy leaves and the place is kind of average again. After a while, I stopped chasing the cart. But Best BBQ in Duluth (the sign just says "Cantonese Cuisine") has me very excited.

I'm not sure if it is the fact that my impatient self doesn't have to wait on carts or deal with any of that dreaded "dim sum cart stank" (you know, the weird metallic taste dumplings get from going round and round the dining room again). But this grocery store on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth holds the answer to my dumpling dreams: dim sum made fresh to order without waiting on carts.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Get in Ma Mouth: Dirty Farro Edition

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 9:00 AM

A few weeks back, in the middle of an excellent all-around meal with friends at One Eared Stag in Inman Park, one dish stood out for its intensity and bold flavor. It was called "dirty farro," a fairly straightforward play on dirty rice, the Cajun staple that typically earns its dirt through bits of chicken liver or giblets and plenty of spice. At One Eared Stag, chef Robert Phalen's version elevates this classic with chewy, nutty farro in place of the rice, a heavy helping of high quality pastured chicken liver, and a tangle of beet greens to provide a pleasant (and healthy) bitterness. To pretty it up, he tops it off with a sprinkle of - what else - pretty little edible flowers.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

UPDATE: O say can you BYOB?

Restaurants: Don't worry (*unless you do)

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 2:37 PM

In various tweets, Facebook statements, and formal comments made over the course of the past week, Mayor Kasim Reed made clear what he thought about the continuing Atlanta BYOB story first reported here last week, calling it out as: garbage, misleading, patently false, a waste of time, inaccurate, absolute nonsense, manufactured, with no basis in fact. He wanted the restaurants and diners of Atlanta to know that there had been "no recent policy change or directive to step up enforcement" of restaurant BYOB programs. Carlos Campos, the mayor's director of communications, reaffirmed that, "there is no crackdown on bottle house permits. As long as a restaurant has an on-premises consumption license, they will not be cited for BYOB violation."

Case closed? Well, not quite.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sweet Auburn Barbecue: Anarchy and good food

Posted By on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Tasty but tepid tacos

Sweet compensation
What's the appropriate response if you have bad service or poorly prepared food in a restaurant? Do you complain to the manager or just tip low? Do you send the food back to the kitchen or do you demand a reduction in your bill? Is a free dessert adequate to settle you down?

Some of those questions came up last week when I dined with friends at the two-month-old Sweet Auburn Barbecue in the Poncey-Highland space vacated by Pura Vida.

This is owner Howard Hsu's third venue. He's gotten great reviews for his booth at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market and his food truck. Hsu blends his Asian heritage with Southern 'cue classics in some dishes (like a rib sandwich with Korean ingredients), branching out to other cultures like Mexico (tacos) and Jamaica (jerk-seasoned collards), as well. Don't worry. There are plenty of Southern classics, like pulled pork and brisket.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

UPDATE: Two sides to the Atlanta BYOB story

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Yesterday I posted a story on an apparent crackdown by the city of Atlanta on restaurants allowing guests to bring in their own wine. Since then, there's been a general hubbub on Twitter, with two sides to the story emerging.

On one side is the Georgia Restaurant Association, which issued a warning to its members on April 22 citing "renewed enforcement of the long dormant Bottle House license requirement." On the other side is the city itself.

On Twitter, Mayor Kasim Reed called the story "garbage" and "manufactured," saying he would personally look into it.

Now, the mayor's office has issued the following statement, provided by Carlos Campos, Reed's interim communications director:

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

City of Atlanta cracks down on BYOB

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Last night, a friend of mine texted me in a minor state of shock. He was at La Tavola, one of his neighborhood haunts, and had been told that they no longer allow diners to bring in their own wine. At least for now. Apparently, the city is cracking down. Because, you know, preventing wine crime is a major public safety concern these days.

I hadn't heard about any formal crackdown, so I started digging. Sure enough, I soon discovered an ominous notice from the Georgia Restaurant Association (copied at the bottom of this post verbatim from a post on its website dated April 22).

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A bowl of belly at Big Sky Buckhead

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 9:01 AM

This is one of the entree bowls at the new Big Sky Buckhead, whose consulting chef is Hector Santiago. He owned the sorely-missed Pura Vida in Poncey-Highland for 12 years. The full time chef is Pedro Matos who worked at Pura Vida and its short-lived sister operation, Super Pan.

This bowl features cured pork belly slow-cooked in a habanero-tamarind sauce, served over black beans and rice with a hit of sambal and cilantro-cabbage slaw. Like most of the food at Big Sky, it's tasty but lacks the spicy kick you'd expect from habaneros and sambal.

Keep an eye out for my full write-up soon.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gazing out Grant Park Coffeehouse's window

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Coffee with a Confederate

Okay, it's a stretch to connect this photo to food. But I did glimpse the guy out the window of Grant Park Coffeehouse. He's been jogging around Grant Park, waving the Confederate flag, for years. I caught this shot of him last winter in front of the Cyclorama, the city's longtime kitschy monument to the Battle of Atlanta, next to the zoo.

At the time, I asked one of the multi-racial staff if he took offense at the guy. He said he didn't particularly, but that he had seen people at the bus stop across the street, many of them zoo employees, yell at him, even chase him angrily. "One of them came in the next day and said he'd actually talked to him. He said he was a nice guy, after all. So who knows?"

Oh wait. Here's a connection to food, from one of the verses of "Dixie":

Dar's buckwheat cakes an Injun batter,
Makes your fat a little fatter;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.

If only we could look away - way away.

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