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.

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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.

 

Consulate (Atlanta) – Some Really Good Options (Zambia)

When another couple asked for a recommendation for new spot to go for dinner, we thought The Consulate would be a great choice. On our other visit we really liked the vibe, the food was delicious, plus sharing tapas would give us lots to choose from. The special country that half the menu would focus on was Zambia. I have never been, so I had no idea about the cuisine and was excited to try. We were a little concerned about the spiciness of the Zambian cuisine, but there was zero to worry about, it was more about flavors than spiciness.

We ordered a few items from the Zambia side of the menu and some from the regular.

The Cucumber Mango Salad ($12) included red onion, cilantro, baby spinach, cherry tomato, cumin, cinnamon, peanuts, clove, sprinkled with lime juice. This refreshing dish boasted both tangy and flavorful components and would have been much better with riper and sweeter mangoes. Given the under-ripeness of the main ingredient I can only rate this a 7.

The Sauteed Chinese Eggplant ($10) was served with red pepper, basil, garlic in a ginger sauce. The eggplant was ultra-soft from the sautée, while the red pepper strips were firm and crisp. I really liked the combination with the ginger sauce. I rate this dish an 8.

The Piri Piri Roasted Cauliflower ($12) was a simple head of cauliflower sprinkled with smoke paprika, rosemary, garlic and oil. You take a knife and cut into sections and enjoy. This was our favorite of the appetizers with the crispiness of the stalks and the pungent toppings. I give this a 9

We moved to the larger plates and we ordered a few. Unfortunately, several were not in the same league as the smaller plates.

My favorite was the Korean Pulled Duck Confit ($17), which was served a la tartare in a cylindrical shaped mound with a few crostinis. It included slowly cooked pork with chunks of butternut squash, dried cranberries, garlic, scallions, encased in a Korean bbq sauce. The flavors were incredibly rich and I would order again. One person at the table thought the sauce was a little too sweet. I rate this dish a 9.

The dish from Zambia we ordered was Zambezi Chicken Cutlet ($14) served with crushed peanuts and topped with an African Groundnut sauce. This was a basic breaded cutlet with a little sauce on top. I was underwhelmed by the dish but the sauce was interesting for a 6.

The only two dishes were really not to my liking.

The Char Siu BBQ Pork ($12) was oven roasted, with five-spice powder and served with a dark honey glaze. This dish should not have left the kitchen. There was so much fat and sinew in our pieces, it was either a big seller and we received the left-overs or the kitchen did not notice the poor slices. The sauce was delicious though and I will give it a 3 for the sauce.

The other non-recommended dish is the Pan Fried Shrimp Dumplings ($11) stuffed with both Chinese Black Fungus Wood Ear and Shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, celery, ginger and served with a sauce. The highlight of the dish was the wrappers, which were excellent, but the stuffing was tasteless and was screaming for an identity. I also rate this a 3.

After reading other reviews we expected, found and accepted, and will confirm we experienced many during our visit.  We were 20 minutes late getting seated and the hostess was not transparent in her assessments. The service during the meal was incredibly slow, with long pauses before we started and at several intervals. Our server, though, was very good, she knew the menu inside-out, made recommendations and checked in often, as did the manager. We will definitely return to the Consulate, we loved the vibe and most of the food.

Thrive (Atlanta) – Good Option Pre-State Farm Event

We were heading to a concert at State Farm and this is our normal choice. When we arrived, we were asked if we wanted a “shared” table or one by ourselves. We decided on a solo table, it was a little strange and caught us by surprise but it appears the restaurant has many enjoy a community experience.

We were brought menus and the first thing we noticed were they were not the same. There were a couple of missing items and the one we were finally given had prices $2-3 more than the others. My gut tells me they have more expensive options when there is an event at State Farm.

With all of the recent complaints about slow service, I was a bit nervous about our 615 reservation and catching the beginning of the 8:00 concert at SF. We decided we would order all the dishes to be served simultaneously. Other than an initial miscommunication the server was excellent throughout the meal. Likewise, the food arrived in a reasonable amount of time, so we did not experience the angst others have mentioned.

We started with the “Springer Mtn Chicken Potstickers,” which included six packets of chicken with Ginger, and shiitake mushrooms, served with lemongrass Sambal, and Ponzu sauces. I would describe these as boring and tasteless. Thankfully they topped the dish with some pickled vegetables, which was the other positive. The Ponzu was not to my liking but at least the Sambal had some flavor. I would not recommend this dish.

I also ordered the “Rainbow Roll” with crab, cucumber, avocado, all topped with salmon, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, and a touch of Teriyaki Sauce, plus a “Pink A Boo Roll” with tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab, avocado, encased in a pink soy wrap, served with spicy plum sauce. This is not a sushi restaurant, but a restaurant that serves sushi, but it is a good light choice before an event at SF. It was OK, nothing special. Would I order again, maybe.

We actually had time for coffee and tea and the espresso was very good.

Overall, it is a reasonable place for a pre-event dinner, not a destination restaurant.