Mission & Market (Buckhead) – Needs a Re-Boot

As much as I would like to continue to recommend M&M, our latest two visits were not up to the standards that made our initial visits so memorable. It does not appear I am alone, since the dining area on a beautiful Saturday evening had more empty tables than occupied, while other restaurants (in particular Little Alley next door) were booming.

If you are using Waze or GPS set your guidance for Little Alley Steak House, and drive past its valet and Mission and Market is just beyond it on the right. If you place Mission and Market in the GPS it will take you to the rear, delivery entrance.

Once you arrive, there are two dining areas, the bar in the front and the dining room in the rear, plus outdoor seating overlooking Lenox. Our server arrived immediately upon our being seated and started very strong with recommendations on food and wines.

I ordered the Grilled Spanish Octopus Hazelnut Romesco, with Shaved Vegetables. It was beautifully plated and while the Romesco sauce was delicious, the octopus was flavorless, with a spongy texture that was more aligned with it being boiled. Likewise, there was little seasoning on the dish. It was disappointing.

I also ordered the special entrée of the evening, which was described by the server as grouper over a risotto infused with white asparagus oil. I asked the server if it also contained white asparagus and she replied there were pieces of white asparagus as part of the accompaniments. The dish arrived and it was beautifully plated. The four, small fish pieces were inconsistently cooked. The biggest drawback was the complete and total lack of seasoning. There was little in the fish itself I could recommend. On the other hand, the risotto was delicious, great flavor.

For dessert we ordered the chocolate tart, which comes with Jeni’s coffee, cream and sugar ice cream. We asked if we could substitute the salty caramel ice cream from one of the other desserts and the server was agreeable. She approached a few minutes later and informed us they were out of the other, and offered plain vanilla. The dessert was the best part of the meal, fantastic flavors in the rich, dense chocolatey goodness.

I almost felt sorry for our server. She was performing her tasks plus, delivering some of the food and bussing the finished plates. While we very much enjoyed the room and the company, the food was extremely disappointing, for the second straight visit. Others at the table said the duck was extremely salty, while my wife enjoyed her salmon.

Mission and Market started strong last year, but it needs to refocus on the food if it expects me, and others to return.

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Kawi (NYC) -Some Great Dishes, But a Lot of Work Still Required

Foie Gras Bitmap 2Kawi is located on the fifth floor of the new Harbor Yards complex. To find it, look for Brooks Brothers, make a left and take the elevators to the fifth floor. When you enter the restaurant, there is a few banquettes to the left in the bar area, a medium sized bar along the left wall, tables and banquettes in the bar area and to the right is a main dining room, overlooking the kitchen. It is not an exceptionally large space, but relaxed in its décor, and comfortable in the seating.

The four of us were seated in a banquette in the main dining area and the server immediately brought menus, both food and beverage, plus offered water (tap, sparkling, flat). The emphasis of the menu is Korean, and it is advised that you ask a lot of questions to the server, the original server (more on that later) was friendly and quite knowledgeable. The four of us decided to try a few smaller plates, plus a rice noodle dish and a main course.

Ribs 1

We knew we wanted the Sweet and Sour Ribs ($15) and immediately placed that order, which include three; the server was quick to point out they could easily make that four ribs so each of us could enjoy. They were delicious, but the description should read sweet and spicy as the glaze offered a little kick as an after-note. The meat was fall off the bone tender and a perfect size to set the tone for the rest of the meal. This was a solid 9.

Brisket 2

The next dish to arrive was the overwhelming favorite of the table. The Pickled Brisket ($16) and Mustard was slightly cured, and served with a delicious sauce and mustard greens. The ultra-thin slices were melt in your mouth spectacular, take you time and enjoy every bite. This dish was a 10+.

Foie Gras Bitmap 1

The most unusual dish was the Foie Gras Kimbap ($36), which resembled Japanese maki, seaweed wrapped rice with a slightly cure foie gras terrine, pickled daikon and chives. A simple sauce accompanied the twelve slices of the bitmap. The luscious creaminess of the foie gras terrine was divine. It was a centerpiece of the dish and so rich and flavorful that the other components were slightly overwhelmed and none of the items complemented the others. I can only give this dish a 6.

Rice Noodle Dumplings

The next dish to arrive was the Rice Cake Dumplings ($38) with parmesan and summer truffles. The term, dumplings, is a complete misnomer; I would describe them more in the style of ricotta gnocchi. They arrived in a bowl covered with the Parmesan cheese sauce and the server sliced the white truffles on top. The truffle slices were delicious, the cheese sauce was rich and creamy, but the dumplings were extremely dense and gummy. The dish was so rich and the dumplings so dense that I do not think one, or even two, people could finish. Even with the four of us, there was still some left in the bowl. I would not order this dish again. Except for the truffles this dish only receives a 2.

Boiled Chicken

The last dish to arrive was the Boiled Whole Chicken for two people ($64). Again, a proper description is required. We were told the chicken is boiled for an hour and then the skinless breast is sliced and placed on a large serving platter alongside glass noodles, beech mushrooms, bok choy, spring onions, cabbage, pickled daikon and two sauces. The remainder of the chicken was cut into portions, seasoned and deep fried. This dish was a cacophony of flavors and textures, two completely different dishes in one. We loved the crispy, seasoned fried pieces. The breast meat and the accompaniments were also outstanding, and gave each diner a chance to experiment. Overall it was a great use of every part of the bird and lots of ways to enjoy, I give this an 8.

chicken-fried.jpg

Service needs more focus. The restaurant has only been open a few days and there are adjustments in the kitchen and on the floor that need addressing. When we ordered the chicken, we were told it was cooked when ordered and it takes an hour. We liked that idea and mentioned it to the server; it would give us time to slowly enjoy the rest of our dishes. We were very surprised when it arrived twenty minutes into the meal, while we were only halfway through our appetizers, even before the rice dumplings arrived. What was very disappointing was how it was handled. I told the server we were not ready for it, that she originally informed us it would take an hour to arrive, and we planned around that information. It took close to ten minutes for her to scurry around and get approval to remove the two chicken platters and all the accompaniments from our table. Meanwhile the table was overwhelmed with so many plates, we could not eat anything else. In addition, it would have been a nice gesture for one of the managers to, at a minimum, apologize. Another unusual event was two-thirds of the way through the meal, our server arrived and introduced us to her replacement. It was very disjointed with a new server now needing to understand the rhythm of our table and the rapport developed with server #1 who worked with us in creating the meal. Given the bad timing of the food from the kitchen, the lack of management oversight when there was an issue, the manager spending more time sipping wine than addressing an issue and the uncomfortable hand-off of servers two-thirds of the way through the meal I can only give the service a 2.

Overall, as much as I enjoyed most of the dishes, I expected a smoother evening from a David Chang restaurant. When you spend ~$100 per person, there is an expectation that the kinks have been resolved, this was not the case. Everyone in the restaurant welcomed us at the table when we arrived, but when we had an issue, they were invisible.

 

If you go, I would also suggest planning on sharing the dishes to gain a full appreciation for the flavors that Chang and team have developed. Some of the dishes are really good, the ribs, brisket and chicken, while others should be revamped or eliminated. Overall, Kawi was an experience, but it is not a place I would rush back to.

 

Your Pie (Buckhead) – Really Impressed

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_754Pleasantly surprised, pleasantly surprised.

I was looking for a quick bite in the ‘hood, pizza was a good option and my wife told me she heard good things about Your Pie. I decided to give it a try. With a pretty easy way on line interface, I chose The Lineage, with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and olives (I deleted the sliced red onions). I also requested cherry tomatoes as an add-on. The site gave me a time for pick-up.

A short walk to the restaurant and it was beginning to fill. The atmosphere was friendly, groups of patrons were beginning to settle in and have a good time and the pizza makers were in full swing. At first glance I was concerned I would need another course after the pizza (they are ~10-inches), and grabbed a slice. My normal procedure is to taste the crust first. It was very good, just this side of excellent. My hopes rose.

My first real bite included all of the ingredients. The sausage was very good, the pepperoni added a nice level of spiciness and the olives the required saltiness. But the star of the show were the mushrooms, not you canned squirmy button mushrooms, but a great variety of real, honest to goodness sliced mushrooms. And the amount and flavor of the marinara was there to complement, not overwhelm the other ingredients. Before I knew it, the entire pie was consumed.

My only disappointment was that I waited over a year to try Your Pie. For $10, this is one great pie.

Hal’s Restaurant (Buckhead) – NOLA meets a NY Steak House

Chilean Sea BassHal’s is a little bit of New Orleans trying to be a NY steak house. In the end it comes across as a businessman’s oasis, with a touch of interesting meetups. It is located, unobtrusively off the intersection of Habersham, Roswell, Old Ivy and Piedmont, on a quasi-dead end. With very limited parking, valet is offered and they have the process down to a science. You enter from the side into the bar area, a long highly-buffed wooden structure with about twenty stools, plus 4-5 high top tables. Cigar smoking is allowed in the bar and there were several patrons partaking. With no barrier to the dining area, there is a high likelihood that you will receive a dose, now and then, of the cigar smoke while you eat. In the front corner of the bar is an old-fashioned piano man, singing tunes from the last 50 years. You will never know which decade the next song originated from.

The walls are covered with memorabilia, the tables are all wood, wood seats, and the dining area probably seats about 100 patrons. When we sat, the server immediately offered the menus, wine lists and all of the water glasses were filled. He was a NY steak house clone with a southern accent, and he recited the specials flawlessly.

We had a large group so we ordered a lot of the appetizers to share. There were roasted and raw oysters, clams, calamari, shrimp, fried crawfish, and others. All of them were delicious. If the rest of the meal was on the same level it would be a great night. My favorites were the fried items.

When the appetizer plates were removed, our salads arrived. I ordered a Caesar and it was disappointing, not that it was bad, it was just the run of the mill Romaine thrown on a plate with some dressing and croutons. It was more a time filler than a course.

Service between the salads and the entrée was painfully slow. Other tables surrounding ours were served much quicker. When the entrees arrived, and I had my first taste, it was well worth the wait.

I ordered the special Chilean Sea Bass over spinach and covered with a lobster sauce. The size of the fish filet was enormous, the size of a good strip steak, and when I tasted the first bite I was extremely impressed. It was cooked to perfection. It had just a tinge of crust and the interior was moist, flavorful and worked really well with the spinach and sauce. It was a major hit. I tasted the strip steak from one of my colleagues and it was delicious, with great flavor and seared to a crispy exterior with lots of butter. It is rare that a fish dish at a steak house is this good.

For dessert, we ordered a bunch of them. The cheesecake was probably the best of the desserts, but I thought the addition of the turtle sauce was unnecessary, great cheesecake needs no toppings, and the sauce was over the top sweet. I would stay away from the crème brulée, it was watery and under-sweetened.

Overall, I really liked Hal’s. Would I take my family? Probably not; the portions were just too large and the atmosphere is not a family-oriented environment. Make sure you bring a good credit card as it is not inexpensive, it will run north of $70 per person without wine or liquor.

Brasserie at Bazati (O4W) – Some Spectacular Options

Our last two visits to Brasserie showcased some great options.

I loved the Moules Frites. The moules are some of the largest I have ever eaten and they were cooked to perfection. The dish now includes chorizo and pork belly and the use of brandy in the broth. Each of these modifications from the opening version. On the first visit two of us enjoyed as an appetizer and on the second I ordered it as my entrée. This is easily the best version I have ever eaten. And let’s not forget the frites, they were perfect. This dish was easily a 10+.

In my opinion the chef nailed the flavor with the Salmon En Papillote. While the first attempt was served raw, the kitchen did a great job in bringing the fish to the requested doneness without a fuss. The fish included a lot of vegetables and a fresh profile that I kept reaching across the table to “sample” different parts of the dish. I will also give this at least a 10+.

The Bronzino was large, seasoned properly and was absolutely delicious. The fish was succulent with a great seasoning and charged on the outside for just a touch of crunch from the skin. I give this dish a 10.

The Roasted Mushrooms were simple and allowed the earthiness of the mushroom shine. A nice selection of wild mushrooms was served in a dish and were quickly eaten by all. I would have liked just a touch of salt or thyme to add some complementary flavors. I give this a 9 and the others at the table a 10.

We also ordered the Eggplant Hummus, which was smooth and delivered a deep, earthy flavor. I really liked the dish and can give it an 8.

The Duck, which was served with roasted turnips, carrot puree and orange sauce was not to my liking. The duck was too gamey for my taste, a little tough to cut and chew and the turnips were not fully cooked. I did like the puree and orange sauce. I think this dish needs a little revamping. Likewise I was not a fan of the amount of pureed black garlic in the gazpacho, while I was told it has been a big seller.

The manager was incredibly professional and helpful through a few issues and they are still training the staff on the level of service quality the management wants.

Overall, we really liked Brasserie and it is definitely on the power rotation.

Chido & Padres (Buckhead) – Some Decent Tacos

dfCTsvvhTAy9wTc3Y9H3+w_thumb_73aChido and Padre is a great meeting place for friends and family. Parking is a bit of a challenge, and I decided to use the lot for the building next door, when all of the shops were closed. Not sure if this is OK, but it was the only option.

GUACAMOLE DE LA CASA with lime, onion, and cilantro.The guacamole was chunky but a little bland. There was a smidgen of onions (which I prefer) but it would have benefited from a little more lime. I give it a 6. The tortilla chips were great.

CHICKEN with smoked chicken tinga, guajilla salsa, onion, cilantro. The chicken taco was overflowing with filling. The flavors were very good and one of the better options. I give it a 7

CHIDO BAJA FISH includes battered fresh fish of the day, topped with veracruz aioli, red cabbage escabeche. The taco had great balance with the creaminess of the aioli and the pickled cabbage. I give this a 9.

PORK BELLY offers arbol chili glaze, cilantro, onion, queso fresco. The single slice had great texture and flavor and the onion added pungency plus a kick of heat from the arbol chili glaze. I give this an 8

SMOKED BEEF BRISKET brings rajas, avocado crema, and topped with crispy onion straws. Much too many things going on, I liked the texture of the brisket, but was overwhelmed with sweetness, and all of a sudden, a piece of bark. I give the brisket taco a 5.

Service was excellent. Our server was pleasant friendly and checked in often.

Overall, it is a good taco place in Buckhead. Is it in the caliber of some on Buford Highway? Not many are, but for a great place to meet and enjoy some pretty good food, C&P does the trick.

Bar Mercado (Inman Park) – Smaller is Better

Pisto Brusels & Burrata_0386This was my first time at Bar Mercado and I really liked the vibe, the energy and the overall setting. I am a big fan of Spanish tapas since they usually offer bright and complex flavors. With four people, this would give us a chance to sample a few of the dishes.

We ordered several of the smaller tapas.

There were two outstanding vegetable options. The ARTICHOKES ($6.5) were crispy artichokes, topped with lemon-garlic aioli. They were lightly salted, perfectly crisped and offered great flavor and textural contrast. I rate this dish a 10.

The second outstanding choice was the SETAS ($9) (oyster mushroom, sherry, herbs). The Spanish have perfected sherry complementing mushrooms and the variety at BM was fantastic. The addition of sprigs of thyme added more complexity to the dish I loved these two choices and give this dish a 10+.

Less to my liking was the PISTO ($11.5) (burrata, brussels, delicata squash, tomato and bell pepper, tomato bread). This is better described as a stew with chunks of a few vegetables in a rich tomato sauce. The sauce completely overwhelmed all the other components to the point, other than the Brussels sprouts, none were distinguishable. I can only give this dish a 4.

We also ordered, but I did not try, the ENSALADA ($8) (local greens, shaved brussels, pear, pomegranate, spiced pecan, manchego, tarragon vinaigrette). The others were enjoying this so much while I was eating the artichokes and mushrooms, I did not have a chance to sample. They all loved it.

We also ordered two of the larger seafood plates.

The LOBSTER PAELLA ($18) (Maine lobster, chicken, chorizo, bomba rice) was very good but contained very little lobster meat; I did notice one claw. The rice was cooked with some offering a little crunch on the outside (it is supposed to) and there was a good rich flavor. I would rate this an 8.

The bad news was the last dish and how the server handled the situation. The GAMBAS AL AJILLO ($11.5) head-on shrimp, garlic, sherry, ciabatta were inedible and the two of us who took a bit of the shrimp both stopped eating them. They were mushy and very fishy, I would venture they were borderline rancid. When the server came over I told her, “the shrimp are bad, they are mushy and fishy and you should tell the chef to check them since I think they may be rancid.” She thanked me.

Overall, we had a great time at Bar Mercado. We will definitely return, choose some of our favorites from this visit and try others. Most of the dishes were excellent, but the shrimp was a real downer.