Friday, May 29, 2009

Highlight #180: Eat well late into the night - Restaurant: 88 Tofu house

Five years ago, when hubby was a consultant who only came back to nyc on the weekends, we partied every night that he was there and then went seeking for late night eats. More often than not, we'd end up in Koreantown near Penn Station at 3 or 4 in the morning. It's probably the only place at that hour to have streets full of open restaurants. Let me tell you, nothing beats a steamy pot of hot and spicy soft tofu after too many drinks and too much dancing.

We haven't done that sort of eating in a looong while until this past weekend when we found ourselves hungry after too many hours of Karaoking with friends. On a whim, we took another couple to the nearby 24 hour 88 Tofu House.

The place looked even more rundown than I remembered. Judging by the leftover plates and bowls scattered across a number of tables, we were late even for late night eating. A single waitress rushed in and out serving and busing tables. Under the numerous tofu permutations on the menu, I noticed an item that I love, but don't see often, gingseng chicken with glutinous rice and jujubes. I adore this dish for a number of reasons. One, it's said to cure a hangover and help to detox the liver, which is always a plus after drinking. Two, the dish is salt free and comes with sea salt on the side. This is fantastic because I tend to puff up like popcorn the morning after a late night meal heavy on salt.

The chicken came out in the whole. It's a small bird, but nonetheless sizable. It's amazing that the waitress carried this to the table with the soup still at a roaring boil. First, I riped off a small drumstick, my favorite dark meat. It was tender and sufficiently chickeny. Once I've cleared/eaten out a passage to the chicken cavity, I used a spoon to scoop out the glutinous rice and jujube stuffed inside. Very soft and mushy at this point, the gelatinous mess hit the sweet spot. After the soup cooled off a bit, I tried it first without any salt. What do you know, it was almost savory enough from just chicken essence. A small spoonful of salt and it was perfect for drinking.

88 Tofu House
5490 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 455-0004

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Highlight #179: Slider joy - Restaurant: The Shed

I visited the Shed for the first time last October, but failed to blog about it. This happens quite a lot and I've come to accept it. The job pays, blogging doesn't, so posts often have to wait and some are forgotten forever. I do, however, try to prioritize so the posts that do materialize are a little more special than "I ate this." By that logic, the Shed should have made it by any measure, because the food tasted great. So at the end of the day, I just failed. Period.

Determined not to let it happen again, I present to you slider night (Wednesday) at the Shed. We showed up late after wrapping up work at around 9pm and the room was still buzzing with energy. Maybe sliders are what it takes to keep the recession outside the door. Being so hungry, I barely looked at the menu before deciding on sliders of fried chicken liver and pork belly at $3 each. Despite the meager price, the portions were generous. Three largish pieces of fried liver almost overwhelmed the bun. Hot, crunchy, and livery, they were perfectly earthy with the caramelized onions. The pork belly slider had slightly less filling, but the pork was quite rich, so less was not a bad thing. I would have preferred it just a little less salty, but it was far from being way too much, especially when eaten with the right amount of bun.

I am ordering a lot of fries lately and the trend continued here. These were chubby ones and did the carb trick just fine. On the right bottom corner of this photo is the free popcorn that came before the meal. Free food with good cheap food, now that's generosity.

We really had no need for dessert on this weeknight, but J always asks to know what's on the dessert list for my benefit (good husband quality). When he heard Greek yogurt with honey, he wanted it. He is really a big honey fan. We both liked this light finish that balanced a mild tartness with sweet honey and dates.

Two sliders and a side for $10 will bring us back, that's for sure.

The Shed
75 Bill Kennedy Way
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 835-4363

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Highlight #178: A very solid meal from a young chef - Restaurant: Pacci

In many parts of the world, hotel dining sets the standard for a city's cuisine. This is not the case in Atlanta, although we do have a few notable exceptions. I am glad to see that the better hotel dining trend is finally getting rooted in our city with quite a few new additions this year, including Pacci in the brand new Palomar hotel.

The setting is beautiful and grand in a modern way. It sounds funny, but I really love the big shinny balls hanging from the ceiling. Actually, I was just telling the husband before we entered the restaurant that big hanging balls and other similar hanging art must be the decor of this decade as all the high ceiling venues have them. And sure enough, there they were.

For a new place, our waitress really knew the menu. I asked for some recommendations and she gave them in detail like a pro. Maybe we were hungry or maybe she was very convincing, she happened to recommend everything we wanted. So we started with the carpaccio that was apparently the restaurant's namesake. The meat was indeed of very high quality and melt in my mouth. I also like the thicker cut, which, to me, provides a more pillowy mouth feel if one can use such a word to describe the texture of meat. Perhaps I missed the capers, but I would have sprinkled on just a pinch more sea salt.

With our appetizer, we received a fantastic basket of house made breads. I say fantastic mostly because of the focaccia. For me, focaccia should be luscious, hearty, and well seasoned. And this was all that. I had no need for the tapenade, so really don't remember much about it.

With a good bready start, I had lots of faith going for the house-made pasta and that faith was not misplaced. My fettuccine was every bit the guilty pleasure that all the diet experts warn us against. I like my fettuccine a little less al dente than other types of pasta and this was exactly that. The slightly softer pasta texture allowed for a smooth transition from the silky sauce to the sticky yoke once the soft poached egg was broken. I almost forgot about the shrimp, which were as well executed as the rest. But really, I could have done without them and being just as happy. This pasta was dreamy.

J has a preference for pork chops. This one looks rather plain but was salted just right and my bites near the bone were exceptionally juicy.

We shared two desserts. When the tiramisu came out, we thought we had been mistakenly given the sampler. But no, this was one dessert in three forms. So if we are talking ban for the buck, it seems the top choice. But when it comes to desserts, I always prefer the more moist, so I would have been happier with a more classic rendition than these interpretations that are more cake-like. The chocolate slab on the other hand was everything I wanted. The icing layers were mouse light yet rich. the cake layers were moist with just a little crunch from the nuts on top. Really awesome stuff.

866 West Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30308

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Highlight #177: When sunny days are few and far between - Restaurant: Livingston

we must all seize the moment when those bright rays finally pierce through the clouds for a few minutes, especially when the weekend approaches loaded with work and there are seats such as these beckon not far from the office.

Around the corner from the Fox and behind elevated balcony-like railing, here is girlfriend J doing some prime time pre-weekend people watching. Doesn't that beer look superb in the light!

With drinks, there must be nibbles. These short rib ravioli intrigued us with their description on the menu. We imagined something rich and dark and were surprised to find them in a much lighter colored sweet sauce. I wished that there were more meaty goodness inside the little bites, but the portion would have worked well as a starter for one.

I was dying for fries and these off the menu ones came out piping hot and hit the spot very very nicely. Life would have been perfect if this kind of sitting, drinking, and snacking happens all the time. Then again, I do try whenever I can.

659 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Highlight #176: Transformation of eggs straight from the hens

Some weeks ago, I raved about the almost orange yokes of farm fresh eggs in China. C's lovely mom read the post and decided that I must try the excellent eggs from her own hens. So carefully carting of the eggs from her home in Louisiana to Atlanta and then via her son-in-law to the office resulted in one extraordinary quiche this weekend.

I understand that not everyone is visually taken with the sight of poop and feather clung to their breakfast, but there is no denying the message of these signs - these eggs are as close to the hen as they come.

Further indication of the eggs quality became apparent when the yokes were revealed. Check out that color! That's definitely quite a few shades darker than what I'd get at whole foods.

The deep yoke color translated very well into a gloriously golden quiche. Even J, who is not used to noticing specific flavors, noted the superbly intense egg taste of this quiche, once again proving that the quality of the ingredients elevate simple dishes to new heights.

Thanks to all for making this awesome brunch possible!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Highlight #175: Meaty ribs - Maddy's

I didn't grow up on bbq, but I do know a rack of good ribs when I taste it. And this rack at Maddy's was mighty tasty. As you can see, getting enough meat off the bones is not an issue here. This version leans towards soft and juicy rather than more charred and smokey. That's not to say that there is no good smoke flavor on the meat. It's just not the overriding note. There were smiles all around the table as we sat elbow deep in sauce and meat juice.

I first heard of Maddy's from a girl who is very opinionated about her bbq, especially the sides, which apparently is telling of a place's quality. She highly recommended the potato salad here, saying that the potatoes are in identifiable chunks rather than having been turned into something of a mush. It's hard to see the chunks in this photo, but there are indeed there and the mayo based dressing did taste fresh. I also enjoyed the beans, which also held their shape and had a great balance of sweet and tang.

We visited at lunch time some weekends ago and the dinning room was almost empty at noon. Although from the look of the stage set up, it's probably a pretty lively music venue in the evenings.

1479 Scott Blvd.
Decatur, GA 30030 - 1425

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Highlight #174: No brunch - Restaurant: Crawfish Shack

I hate fighting with the crowd on days when everyone goes out to eat. As such, J and I have never celebrated Valentine's day in a restaurant and I've never partaken in a mother's day brunch not cooked at home. This mother's day, I had an idea for some interactive fun.

A few weeks ago, I was hankering for some crawfish and did a little searching online that turned up a place called Crawfish Shack on Buford highway. Apparently a Vietnamese family immigrated to Louisiana some years ago and learned the trick of the crawfish and have now settled in our town. So on mother's day, J and I drove to the little place in a new row of shops perpendicular to Buford Highway (making them hard to spot from the main road) and packed home a big bag of the stuff. At $4.99 a pound, it's fairly reasonable for each person to get his or her fill. While I am the nibbler in all other aspects, when it comes to peel and eat things, I can put away more than my share. A 4-5 lb batch would be perfect for me.

These were seasoned very well Cajun style and lean towards the slightly spicy. It's not too salty, a problem I find with many boils. The crawfish were of fair quality, but definitely less plump than what I have gotten at my friends A and C's house when the crawfish come live from C's mother's own water in Louisiana. Of course, such a comparison is fundamentally unfair, so I'll just say that these were a satisfying bunch that squirted us with their juices, dirtied our hands with their spices, and provided for a very fun mother's day.

Crawfish Shack
4337 Buford Hwy, Suite 170
Atlanta, GA 30341
(404) 929-6789

Monday, May 11, 2009

Highlight #173: Matty Cakes revisited

The husband went off to drive 60 lapses on the go kart track this weekend. After finishing up some work at home, I decided to take a short drive of my own. Fifteen minutes into it, I wanted a snack, a sugary snack to be exact. At this point I was at the intersection of Piedmont and chestshire bridge, right next to Rhodes Bakery. But I didn't feel like petite fours. I wanted something a little more rich and sinful and that's when Matty Cakes came to mind. I had once gotten a very moist and dense slice of coconut cake that was off the chart rich, and a repeat seemed like a great idea.

Walking in I immediately spotted samples on the display case. It looked like cut up pieces of a dutch chocolate cake. One bite and my eyes went wide. This could have been the best cake bite I've had in a very very very long time! Incredibly moist cake and luxuriously silky frosting sang together in my mouth. I refused to give my sample container to the helpful counter lady until I scraped every little bit off of the sides.

With that kind of start, how could I resist getting more. I asked the lady for her recommendation and she pointed me to the above large dark chocolate cupcake with a white buttercream frosting. When I say large, I mean really large, as in a large man's fist large. It's a cupcake that would feed two comfortably. I couldn't help but dig in in the car. The chocolate flavor was much deeper and darker than the version I sampled earlier and the frosting was still cold from the display case. But I can tell that neither the moisture level nor the richness were inferior. I still prefer the one I sampled because of the softer flavor combination, but this was one heck of a good cupcake, that is if you like the very very rich and hefty kind of cupcakes.

Now I can't wait to get back to take home a full sized version of what I had sampled on the counter and maybe get a few more things.

Matty Cakes
1830 piedmont ave
atlanta ga 30324
404.917.cake (2253)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Highlight #172: pleasant and comfortable - Restaurant: Leon's full service

The restaurant business is tough. Almost everyday, I hear news about some place closing. But there is one formula that almost seems immune to the times and that's the formula of a down to earth pub, a place where people go either alone or with a group, whether to celebrate or to sulk. In Decatur, there has always been the Brickstore. If I don't tell my husband J where to go, he automatically drives in its direction. But now, just a few doors down, there is a fresher and sunnier option.
Continuing the meat and starch theme, we also asked for the currywurst. For some reason, J expected the curry to be in the wurst itself. :) Maybe we are really due that trip with our favorite friends to Germany so he can eat some proper wursts. No one serves the whites I like here.

Then there are the pub fries. They are a few shades darker than the usual, but are not burnt. The taste is pleasant and nice, just like all the other food here. It's not the best I've ever had, but it is nonetheless satisfying. Combining the pleasantness of the food with the comfort of an excellently airy place to drink, Leon's full service is nothing short of the winning formula.

Leon's Full Service
131 E Ponce de Leon Ave | Decatur, Georgia

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Highlight #171: One forgotten post on Beijng - restaurant: Duck King

I totally forgot about this post in the mist of work. But it would be wrong to let it go considering the caliber of meal it was. I don't have much time for words these days, so I'll just give you mostly images.

Here is a Chinese version of duck foie gras. It's not as fatty. Rather it's more paste-like in texture, but the flavor is intensely livery in a pleasant way.

Many were in love with this fish soup because of its super peppery broth. Little did they know they were eating crunchy fish bladder. :)

The requisite sea cucumber.

Here is a close up of the "details" on the cucumber surface. :) It's globs of slimy slippery goodness, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

The server prepared the duck roll for each person to make sure that there is the right ratio of everything.

Here is a close up of mine. Notice the super crunchy skin bits on top. This is really exceptional Peking duck from a less famous duck house. Actually these days the duck roasting men all came from the original roast house Quan Ju De, so the quality is not all that different and Duck King is a lot less crowded.

I just had to take a photo of these "fishes" next to the stir fried mushroom medley. So cute!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Highlight #170: the hype is not wrong - Restaurant: Flip

We have a lot of friends who love food. When one comes to town, we try to share what we really enjoy here. But once in awhile, our friends arrive already with destinations in mind. This time, M and U expressed in no uncertain terms that they'd like to brunch at Flip, a place I have yet to try due to my general dislike for waiting in line, something I have seen outside of flip the few times I passed by. Luckily, at 11am, getting seated was a breeze. And the food more than lived up to the hype.

Before the burgers, we comforted our sweet tooth with milkshakes. My foie gras shake didn't sound exactly delicious to our visitors, but they were happy to try it. The foie flavor was not all that intense. Only when one swallows does a slightly livery flavor lingers behind. I liked it just fine, but it was totally beat out by J's nutella shake.

For one, his shake was at least 15% thicker than mine and almost felt like eating a soft serve. The nutella flavor was super intense and I loved dipping the caramelized marshmallows into the creamy shake.

For the main attraction, I asked for the Philly, primarily because I wanted to check out the cheese whiz. I had forgotten that many had said that the size of the burger leans towards the small. when it first came out, I though "slider" then quickly realized that it's the perfect package for this nibbler. As for cheese whiz, I got PLENTY! In fact, it was piled so high on my burger, I made a huge mess trying to securely put on the top half of the bun.

As asked, this was a medium rare patty and super rich from the tremendous addition of cheese whiz. I liked the slight sweetness of the peppers and the bun's medium density.

On the side, I got what a friend recommended, fried okras. Just as she described, these were tender little okras encased in a very crunchy tempura batter. It was very impressive that the the outer shells stayed crunchy until the very end of the meal.

1587 Howell Mill Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 343-1609