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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sandy Springs Tapas at Blue Grotto

There is a quaint little strip mall on Sandy Springs Circle that has the potential of being a great little restaurant row outside the perimeter. This small enclave of independent shops also houses the Brooklyn Cafe, a wine store and bar, Little Thai and today's focal point- Blue Grotto.

Blue Grotto is a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant that was bustling last Saturday night. The decor is very "intownish", cozy with an authentic feel to it. Unlike other popular tapas places like Loca Luna that caters to large groups, Blue Grotto's atmosphere seems more appropriate for groups of 2 or 4.

The waitstaff was very accomodating and gave excellent recommendations for our meal. We went with 5 plates that covered the gamut of food groups. We started with calamari and a plate of sauteed spinach (this was for the wife, though to be honest, I didn't hate it). For the next group, we had a beef tenderloin plate, pork rolls and grilled shrimp with tomato grits. The beef was by far the best- well seasoned and very tender. The pork rolls came with a spciy Asian sauce that was quite good as well. I would probably pass on the shrimp the next time, as the flavors really didn't stand up to the other two. And for dessert, we split a chocolate fondue that made my wife a very happy, pregnant woman (I helped her a little with this one- the dessert, I mean...well, actually, the pregnancy too).

We have been looking for a good neighborhood places and the Blue Grotto makes the list. The food was tasty, different and not too expensive. Grade: B+.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Taka Sushi Café- A Reason To Return to Buckhead

There isn’t much to bring me to Buckhead these days. My once a year trip to Chop’s. The occasional pint at Fado’s. That’s about it. So making my way to some of the mid-tier restaurants in the area has been few and far between. So when in the neighborhood last night, I was happy to finally give Taka Sushi Café a try.

Taka is located at 385 Pharr Rd (404-869-2802) and ranks as one of the better sushi places in town. The décor, like many sushi restaurants, is simple and the menu definitely skews toward the sushi lover. A friend and I sampled the maguro, hamachi, unagi and toro, all of which were wonderful cuts of fish. The toro (tuna belly) was priced at $8.50 for two pieces, which may seem high, but is actually reasonable for the best piece of nigiri you can get. I was surprised that it was a fixed price and not listed as “market”. In general, Taka pricing is about middle of the road for a decent sushi place- not as expensive as Soto of MF, but no RuSan’s either.

The entire back of the sushi menu is devoted to the many sushi rolls that Taka offers. This is one area where I wished I was a little more adventurous. We tried the NY Spicy Tuna Roll, which is basically a regular spicy tuna roll with daikon (Japanese radish). Not really sure why daikon drives the NY moniker but it was decent. The lobster roll tasted too much like mayo and not enough like lobster for my liking.

I will definitely return to Taka at some point- perhaps when Lady Steakhead can eat sushi again. If I can mirror the nigiri experience last night, with better ordering of rolls, it may become a mainstay for me. Grade: B.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Coming Soon- Steakhead's Best of Atlanta 2005

The end of the year always brings about numerous "best of" lists, and Atlanta Eats is no different. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be going through my notes and experiences and awarding my own awards for numerous categories, including Best Chinese, Sushi, Steakhouse, Deli, Buffalo Wings, Italian, Sports Bar, Hip Scene, Southwestern, New Restaurant, and of course, the much coveted Restaurant of the Year. While I have nominees for each category, the list isn't final and am always up for a suggestion or two from y'all.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Com Vietnamese Grill- A Buford Highway Gem

Immediately after finishing a fine meal at Com Vietnamese Grill on Bofrod Highway (just north of Skyland), I began thinking about this review. Undoubtedly, this has been the hardest review I have written to date. Not because of the food- all of it was wonderful. But, rather, in describing exactly what we ate.

Let's start of with the easiest part, Lady Steakhead, myself and another couple started off with an order of fried spring rolls and a large salad. The spring rolls were great, and the salad was very remiscent of a Thai Papaya Salad without the spice. There are even shavings of meat to accompany the salad.

As we moved the main the course, we sampled several different dishes. Our friends recommended an off-the-menu dish that was essentially create your own spring rolls. You dipped large shells in hot water to soften them and added the veggies and meat. For most dishes you choose from a wide selection of meats including beef, chicken, lamb, pork, flounder and others. For this dish, we had the pork tenderloin and it was great.

Other dishes we sampled included stuffed grape leaves and this dish with grilled meat over rice (I think we had beef with this one). The manager comped us a free dessert that can be best described as a cross of coconut pudding and lime jello. Very good.

I wish I could be more specific on this place, but I can tell you it was very good. My typical experience with Vietnamese has been with Pho and fried rice dishes. While good in their own right, I never found them to be overly filling. Not so with Com, which seems to specialize in meat dishes. The other thing that stands out with Com is that its not your typical Buford Highway joint. Its very nicely decorated in a modern theme. This place is not a a secret as it was packed, with a line waiting to be seated. They do take reservations so if you are going on a weekend, I would recommend making one. Thanks to E&S for the suggestion- this is a winner! Grade: A-.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Staley's Not-So-Amazing Grace

Staley's Grace is a new restaurant on Crescent St. in Midtown. I am having a very difficult time remembering what used to occupy the corner of Crescent and 12th St., but from a visual perspective, Staley's Grace yellow exterior, front porch and red awnings are a welcome addition. Unfortuntately, beyond the visual, there is not much else.

Staley's Grace bills itself as an "International Bistro" and "Art Emporium". The walls are decorated with works from local artists (including photographer Nick Carpentieri- a close friend) which can be purchased on the spot. That part works. The "International Bistro"...well that's a little pushing it. Some of the appetizers had a minor asian flair- the spring rolls were actually quite tasty- but the majority of the menu is pretty uninspiring. And not that good either.

We sampled the fried calamari which was basically a plate of bread crumbs. If you would have told me there was no actual calamari hidden there at all, I would not have been shocked. One of their specials was a shrimp bisque which was served luke warm and really didn't have any taste. I had the lobstrer ravioli for a main course which was similarly devoid of taste. The lobster meat was so ground up and overpowered by a thick tomato-based sauce, it could have just as well been ricotta cheese and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

On the plus side, the bartenders were very engaging and interested in my impressions of the food and I gave them a very honest response. Get focused, do fewer things, but do them well. The "International Bistro" theme is a bit too "jack of all trades, master of none". And in this town, and that location, this is not a winning strategy. Grade: C-.