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Installation (Wordpress Part): Steakhead's Atlanta Eats Blog: April 2005

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Real Deal on The Real Chow Baby

I had been anticipating the opening of The Real Chow Baby for several months before its Grand Opening in late March. Billed as Atlanta’s first “create your own stir-fry” concept, I was envisioning a Mongolian BBQ joint where the customer fills a bowl of dried meats, veggies, noodles and sauces and gives it to a chef who cooks the user-made concoction on a large flat and round grill top. When done right, Mongolian BBQ can be a fun and tasty experience. However, the only one I know of is up in Cobb County and it is not done right. The only question I had about The Real Chow Baby is that none of their promotional stories or early buzz actually mentioned the words “Mongolian BBQ”. That is because they have taken some liberties with the concept.

Lunch time was quite crowded on Tuesday with their small space in the hot Howell Mill Rd location. The deal is an all-you-can-eat lunch for the bargain price of $7.99. The deal for dinner is $11.99. Customers form a line and begin filling their bowls with rice, noodles and veggies. The sauces come next. Unlike traditional Mongolian BBQ, sauces are ready made, such as Hot Mustard, Kung Pao, Teriyaki and Thai BBQ. In traditional Mongolian BBQ, the user has more power to create their sauce with more base ingredients, such as sugar water and soy sauce. I found the ready made sauces took some of the fun out of it, as well as creating more room for error as some sauces definitely should not be mixed.
The next step in the process was the protein area. Choices include pork, beef, chicken, catfish and calamari. Unlike Mongolian BBQ, the meats were fresh, not dried. At that moment, you give your bowl to the chef. A stick with your table number and name identifies your bowl and a waiter delivers it to you when it is ready (a nice step up compared to waiting at the grill). The ingredients are fresh and the cuts of meat are high quality. If there is one thing about this place to knock, its that you may have the tendency to overeat. In my case, I could have stopped with one bowl, but I was eager to try a new concoction with a different sauce combination. But if you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, I think you are really going to like The Real Chow Baby. It will definitely be added to my lunch rotation. Grade: B+.

Struckout at Dantanna's

As stated in my profile, two of my passions are being an avid sports fan and good food. Steaks are amongst the top of my list (hence the name Steakhead), so I was really looking forward to heading to the upscale sports bar Dantanna’s near Lenox Mall last night for a Mets victory over the Braves and a first rate meal. Unfortunately, I would leave disappointed. Let’s start with the layout. The bar area is relatively small for a sports bar, utilizing long tables with one-directional seating. While this isn’t bad if you are by yourself or in a two-person party, it can be rather antisocial if you have a larger group. The bar is where the action was last night, and being full when I arrived, I settled on a table in the restaurant. The restaurant area has a limited number of TVs, which could be an issue if you are interested in watching multiple games. Not a problem in a slow sports night like last night, but a significant problem during football season, early NCAA coverage, or if you are a fan of some obscure team.

I ordered a gin and tonic to start with and it was practically undrinkable. Its absolutely amazing to me how many bartenders in Atlanta can’t make a decent gin and tonic. Either the tonic is too flat, or the bartenders think they are doing you a favor by filling the glass with gin and just splashing some tonic on top of it. Its supposed to be a refreshing drink, people!
For an appetizer, a friend and I shared a shrimp dish with an asian, ginger sauce with couscous. This was actually good, and the best part of the meal. I ordered the Ribeye steak for a main course, and asked for it medium rare. I specifically inquired if their definition of medium rare is the traditional NYC definition- warm red center- and was assured it was. The steak was unfortunately more medium to medium-well, which to me is a ruined opportunity. On a plus side, the meat was seasoned well, and seemed to be a good cut of meat. Service was prompt and attentive, so I give Dantanna’s some props there as well. But for a place that sells itself as upscale fare (and the prices reflect that), it misses the mark. Probably trying to be too many things, as I wouldn’t recommend it for either a steakhouse or a sports bar. From now on, I’ll rely on Chops for my steaks and Frankie’s for my sports bar. Oh, and the Mets lost. 0 for 2. Grade: C-.