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

Monday, May 30, 2005

Pad Thai Disappoints

It wasn't too long ago when Pad Thai in the Highlands was regarded as one of the better Thai restaurants in town. Its combination of good food, intimate setting, trendy location and lack of other intown options made put it high on my list when considering a destination for Thai cuisine. It had been five years since my last visit to Pad Thai, and after a return on Friday night, it may be longer until my next visit.

The larb chicken appetizer we ordered had a weird consistency, and even tasted somewhat burned (although I could not see any evidence of burned food). For a main course, we went with the extra spicy green curry chicken, which was decent. The menu, though, seemed to lack some of the flair that newer intown establishments, such as Tamarind or Nan, have incorporated. I was also disappointed that on a Friday night, we were basically the only people in the place. I understand it was a holiday weekend, and that business may be a little slower, but that didn't affect the turnout at Fontaine's where we started the evening for Happy Hour.

The long and short of Pad Thai is that it has become ordinary. There is nothing that makes this place standout. In the Highlands, Surin has overtaken this place in terms of scenery and food. And if you venture outside the Highlands, there are definitely much better options, that may not have existed several years ago. Grade: C.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Rave for Agave

Even though I have been to Agave countless times (hey, I can walk there), I only do my reviews after a fresh visit. But, to be fair, I pretty much knew the grade I was going to give ahead of time before my visit last night. For those that don't know, Agave is located in the Cabbagetown neighborhood near Inman Park. Their specialties are margaritas and the best Southwestern cuisine in the city.

I have pretty much tried the entire menu by this time, and can recommend most of it. My favorites are the fried chicken, tuna, tequila shrimp and the lamb chops. Really though, you can't go wrong with any of it. For starters, the mussels in the spicy red tomato broth are outstanding. The sashimi martini is also aces. I give owner Jack Sobel tremendous credit for taking a chance on this intown location several years ago, and bringing the "foodies" of Atlanta to know our quaint neighborhood. The move has more than paid off, as evidenced by the nightly full parking lot. Great atmosphere, food, and service, and within walking distance- Grade: A.

Friday, May 20, 2005

'Sith' is Delicious

Okay, so this isn't a food review. But I just can't help myself. I secured my 'Revenge of the Sith' tickets two weeks ago, spent the better part of the week re-watching 'Menace' and 'Clones', so by the time the infamous words "A long time ago..."appeared on the screen last night, I was so excited, I nearly peed my pants.

The sixth (or third, depending on your frame of reference) and final Star Wars movie does not disappoint. Actually, it is very good. The movie does well with fine action sequences throughout, and more importantly reduces the elements that plagued the last two episodes to an absolute minimal (read- Jar Jar Binks and goofy love sequences). This movie is all about Anakin's fall to the Dark Side and the impending rise of Evil over Good. The movie also does a very good job of tying up the loose ends between Clones and the original (A New Hope). There are still some awkward dialogue that comes across as silly, but in general most of the laughter coming from the audience was intended.

I still have some questions which will require me to see this again (at least, that will be my excuse to see it again). But the world should have such problems. Grade: A.

Here is my ranking of the six movies.

1. Star Wars- A New Hope- It's just really hard to beat the original.
2. Empire- Many critics actually call this one the best, maybe because Lucas didn't direct it.
3. Sith- The best since 1980.
4. Clones- Hayden Christensen can't act, and the romance scene were just painful to watch (and hear). But at least there was much less Jar Jar Binks.
5. Menace- I liked this movie a little more after seeing it a second and third time, but only for clues and answers as the saga evolved. As a stand-alone movie, though, its pretty bad.
6. Jedi- Ewoks. Man, I just hated the Ewoks. The whole thing just seemed like it was written for a 5-year-old and to sell toys.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Irish Bar Coming to Cabbagetown

Milltown Arms, an Irish bar in one of the old Boys and Girls Club buildings on Carroll St in Cabbagetown, is getting closer to opening. While running through the neighborhood last night, I saw several guys who were busy paiting the logos on front of the building (and drinking some beers while admiring their handiwork). According to the owner, the opening is approx 3 weeks away. Next door, work continues on a pizza shop, though its opening appears to be later in the summer. Parking may be an issue here, but for Cabbageheads like myself (wait, can I be both Steakhead and a Cabbagehead?), more food and bevvie options that are in walking distance are a good thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Inaugural Top 5 List- Best Patios/Decks

Y'all remember the Friends episode of the "Top 5" list- the folks you can sleep with without it being considered cheating on your sig other. Well, on a less sinful track, I will periodically post my thoughts on Top 5 restaurants, bars, hangout spots every month. With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, we'll start with the Top 5 patios and decks. Places that are perfect for enjoying the great Atlanta weather, a cool beverage and maybe the company of hot date.

5- Steamhouse lounge (Buckhead)- While there are much better seafood places in town, this fun, casual watering hole in Buckhead scores on people watching. Best enjoyed on a weekend afternoon.

4- Front Page News (Midtown)- Good creole food and location on Crescent St in Midtown make this a great happy hour location, dinner spot and even late night destination.

3- The Treehouse (Peachtree Hills)- The patio is relatively small, but the food is good and always its crowded withBuckhead and Midtown yuppies and young urbanites.

2- $3 Cafe (Buckhead)- You know what you are getting at $3 Cafe in terms of food, but the deck is large, there are plenty of TVs and its a great meeting spot for large groups. On weekend afternoons, there is usually a band playing. Not necessarily a people watching destination, as its extremely casual, but almost always fun.

1- Neighbors (Virginia-Highlands)- The best deck in town, hands down. Great any evening, although sometimes you may have to wait for a table. The food is decent, and the scene is superb. Definitely a place I would take Lindsey Lohan when she comes to town ;)

You disagree with the above assessment? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Monday, May 16, 2005

New Rathbun Concept Coming to Inman Park

As I write this, I am already eagerly anticipating my return visit to Rathbun's Friday night. For those that don't know, Rathbun's is probably the hottest restaurant on the Atlanta scene at the moment, located in the renovated Stove Works warehouse complex on Krog St. in Inman Park. For those that do know it, this is big news. Kevin Rathbun will open a second restaurant next door in the late June timeframe. The new concept, called Krog Bar, will focus on wine and Mediterranean-style, cold "small plates". The press release is below. Look for a full write-up on Rathbun's this weekend.

Chef Kevin Rathbun to open “KROG BAR”- A Mediterranean “Small Plates” Bar
"Restaurateur Kevin Rathbun, owner of the award winning restaurant Rathbun’s, and wife Melissa Rathbun & partners Kirk Parks and Cliff Bramble, are opening a new exciting Mediterranean Wine Bar called “KROG BAR” in Inman Park. KROG BAR will be located in Inman Park at the same complex that Rathbun’s is located in called the Stove Works at 112 Krog Street. It will feature Mediterranean-inspired cold “small plates”, International wines as well as gelatos and coffee. KROG BAR will be open Monday through Saturday evenings.The Johnson Studio, who created Rathbun’s stunning dining room, is designing an old world look for KROG BAR. KROG BAR will have 40 seats, five tables, a walk-up bar and a patio with five tables overlooking KROG STREET in Inman Park.Rathbun says, "Krog Bar will offer locals the opportunity to get a small bite, have a great glass of wine and mingle with their friends in the neighborhood”. Surrounded by Inman Park, Decatur, Virginia Highland, Cabbage Town and the new growing Downtown area, Krog BAR is the perfect upscale bar setting for this changing warehouse area. KROG BAR will be open in July of 2005."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

When Harry Met Sushi

Friday night, Lady Steakhead and I met up with some good friends at the popular Harry & Sons in Virginia Highlands to hear about their 3 week trip to South Africa. As most folks are probably aware, "Harry" specializes in Thai dishes and sushi. When someone offers two totally different ethnic cuisines in the same restaurant, this usually raises a yellow flag for me. I have been to Harry & Sons on countless occasions, and being the sushi buff that I am, I almost always go for the sushi. But I think I need to change that behavior (especially after coming back from Nobu last weekend).

Last night, I started with the spicy beef salad, which was decent. Meat wasn't the tenderest I have ever had, but it was seasoned well, and you get an ample amount of it. Next, the wife and I began ordering a la cart sushi. We ALWAYS order too much. And after 2 pieces, she says "Honey, I'm full". So now I'm staring at 2 plates of assorted rolls, pieces, wasabi, that's enough to probably feed three. (So much for trying to stay low carb.)

The two areas where Harry scores well are for location in Va-Hi, and the sushi is cheap. $1.50 for most pieces, with some more expensive rolls. The sushi, though, I would say is pretty average. The spicy tuna and yellowtail rolls are absolutely nothing to write home about. There is decent variety for specialty rolls- we tried the Tropical Roll, but at $12, I'm not sure its something I am dying to try again.

What this place really comes down to is if you are looking for a fun place in the Highlands, and the fun and company mean more than the food, Harry's is a logical choice. You can easily go next door to Dark Horse, Limerick or Atkins afterwards and continue your night in the Highlands. If you are looking for decent food in the Highlands or are specifically looking for sushi, there are better choices. Grade: C+.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Steakhead in Las Vegas- Nobu

As part of the ‘Steakhead on the Road’ series, I turn my attention to my favorite city on Earth- Las Vegas!!! Seriously, Vegas has it all- gambling, great food, free drinks, and the occasional nudie bar. I usually get to Vegas about twice a year, between work conventions and trips with the boys. Last weekend, however, I took the wife. I figured this trip would incorporate more great meals and shows (correct), and less gambling, drinking and nudie bars (wrong).

The restaurant highlight was definitely Nobu, an upscale sushi experience (its way more than a sushi bar) in the Hard Rock. First things, first- this place is expensive. A former boss suggested the Omakase (chef’s selection dinner), which consists of 3 cold sashimi-inspired dishes, 2 hot dishes, miso soup, a platter of five pieces of sushi and dessert. What does a meal like this cost, you ask? There are two variations- $100/pp or $120/pp, with the more expensive plate consisting of a more exotic selection of fish. The Omakase differs each night (maybe for each meal), so giving you the exact run down will be somewhat useless. But I can say that the opening toro tartare (tuna belly) was amongst the most pleasurable experiences my palette has ever had. I don’t recall anything specific about the rest of the meal; could be the day of drinks, or simply because the first dish was so good, the rest didn’t matter. The service is deliberate, so you at least feel your dollar lasts a while (unlike a bad run at the blackjack table).

The questions here are: 1) Is the trip to Nobu worthwhile? The answer is absolutely yes. Is the Omakase worthwhile. That answer depends. I am really glad we did it, but I also had the luxury of some decent luck at the tables before we ate, so I didn’t really feel the price pinch. Overall, my advice is if you are a fan of sushi, you NEED to go to Nobu, and decide when you get there as to how to order. Another piece of advice, when with the wife, skip the trip to the Rhino (much more enjoyable when just with the boys). Grade: A.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where The Buffalo Roam

Looking for a first-rate burger in upscale environment, look no further than Ted’s Montana Grill. With locations on Peachtree Rd near Piedmont Hospital and downtown near Centennial Olympic Park, Ted’s claim to fame is its wide selection of burgers, cooked with either beef or bison meat. I have had both, and am not predisposed to either one. The burgers are a very healthy half-pound, and now include fries (or onion rings for a nominal extra charge). I particularly like the Green & Hot burger with jalapenos and guacamole. The bowl of sliced pickles you get as a snack is usually a great touch, though the waitress forgot to bring them today. As mentioned above, the setting is upscale. White table cloths and attentive waiters are all part of Ted’s charm. And the generous use of wood décor, the black and white checkered tile floor by the bar and the tin ceiling makes you feel like you are in the Old West. Mind you, this place isn’t cheap. For a burger with a side of rings and a lemonade, I spend $13, which for lunch is a bit expensive. And if I went for dinner and added a beer or two, we could easily double that. But the food and atmosphere are good and I haven’t regretted a meal yet. Grade: B+.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sundown Café- The Taqueria del Sol Alternative

A friend and I were in the mood for Taqueria del Sol for lunch yesterday, but knew we had missed the lunch window. The incredibly popular Howell Mill restaurant usually has lines out the door by 11:30. Thank goodness for Sundown Café. Located on Cheshire Bridge, Sundown Café sports the same menu as Taqueria del Sol, without the lines.

I always start with the Shrimp Corn Chowder, which is spicy and rich in taste. Their specialty is tacos, and they offer 5 standard ones- Fried Chicken, a Memphis (BBQ pork), the Carnita (pork), Fish, and Brisket. The Fried Chicken is my favorite with a sweet mayonnaise dressing. I can eat, and usually a soup and three tacos will do it for me (good thing because at $1.95 a piece, this could easily be a $10+ lunch). If you are going with a group, definitely get an order of the Salsa Trio - a salsa verde, a spicy tomato salsa and a mild chipotle. The atmosphere at Sundown is not anything worth mentioning, especially when compared to the hip charm of its sister restaurant. If I hadn’t been to either location yet, I would definitely go to del Sol first. But if you’re in the mood for good soft tacos and its after 11:30, the Sundown Café is a good alternative. Grade: B.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Steakhead in San Francisco- Crustacean

In a city thats reknowned for fantastic restaurants, its almost a sin to go to the same place repeatedly. But when that restaurant is the An Family's Crustacean, send me to the confessional. Friday night marked my third trip to Crustacean in the last year, and I have yet to leave disappointed. Located in the Nob Hill area of the city, Crustacean is a Vietnamese inspired seafood house. (Other locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas).

The specialty, as you can imagine, is shellfish and the dungeness crab specials are the way to go. Whole dungeness crab is prepared three ways- roasted with garlic, the "drunken crab" simmered with wine, black pepper and scallions, and the "tamarind crab" in a spicy tomato broth. I have had all three and they are all outstanding. They're big, messy and delicious, and when they offer you the bib, take me. If I had to choose a favorite, its probably the roasted crab. This isn't a place for bargain-hunters, but what good resturants in this city are?

I started with an order of the Yellow Corn Bisque, which you can skip. Although there is dungeness crab in the soup, you wouldn't know it by tasting it. However, you absolutely need an order of the garlic noodles as a side. You may need a pack of breath mints afterward, but its a small price to pay. Next time, I would like to try some other appetizers...and there will be a next time. This is a totally memorable dining experience. Grade: A-.