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Installation (Wordpress Part): Steakhead's Atlanta Eats Blog: March 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Redfish- A Bayou Beauty in Cabbagetown

Friday night marked a return to my old Cabbagetown stomping grounds, as Lady Steakhead and I made our first visit to Redfish, a Creole Bistro. After my opening day tour of the restaurant three weeks ago, I had been eagerly anticipating this trip for some authentic Cajun cuisine, and specifically, some New Orleans BBQ shrimp, which was featured on their opening day menu!

With reservations in hand, we were promptly seated in the packed restaurant that seemed to bustle with activity. A quick peruse of the menu, though, and I was in crisis mode. Where were the barbecue shrimp? It turns out, some yahoos had been disappointed that New Orleans barbecued shrimp don’t come with barbecue sauce, and management decided to remove the dish from the menu! I was assured if I called in advance they would make it for me, and I will definitely take them up on that. But to save folks from future disappointment, and to protect one of the best dishes that the Cajun’s ever created from the endangered menu items list, if you see New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp on a menu, it does NOT come coated in barbecue sauce!

We started with two appetizers- the Bayou Crawfish Cakes and the Creole Ceviche. The crawfish cakes were outstanding. Big chunks of crawfish, seemingly baked in a rich Cajun roux (although I couldn’t confirm this), and served with a jalapeno tartar sauce. The shrimp and scallop ceviche was different than others I have had, as the marinade was a spicy, red juice. It was tasty, but it could have used more shellfish, as I was quickly left with just the marinade, onions and tomatoes.

For my main course, I went with the 3 Pepper Catfish. The breading on the catfish is to die for. Quite simply, this was the best catfish I have had in Atlanta, and possibly the best I've ever had! Lady Steakhead, a true Louisiana Cajun, opted for the Shrimp and Crab Etouffee. This dish was a winner as well. The roux was rich and there was plenty of seafood. But, as it usually goes when LS and I head out for a night on the town, I ordered better.

So, sans Barbecue Shrimp and all, we were very happy with our experience at Redfish. The menu has many of the Cajun classics as well as some interesting takes on some not-so-traditional creole dishes. Cost: $$. Grade: A-.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who the hell schedules a bachelor party the day after St. Patrick’s Day?

I was asking this question all morning on Saturday, while trying to live down the hangover of the decade. You see, ole Steakhead doesn’t quite understand that he is older, somewhat out of practice, and unable to hang with the single folks when it comes to all-day drinking events like March 17. Getting to Limerick Junction when it opens at noon, the breakfast beer at Osteria, and going Harp-for-Guinness with Wingman…all mistakes. I’m a rookie in a professional’s game these days when it comes to this. So even though I stumbled out of the cab and strolled home through my quiet Sandy Springs neighborhood at the ripe hour at 7:45pm (oh, and wearing a bright orange t-shirt, a cowboy hat and St. Patrick’s Day beads- I am Steakhead, your new neighbor), and even though I didn’t get out of bed until well after 1pm the next day, I still dreaded the thought of attending this bachelor party on Saturday night.

But this was a Steakhead kind of bachelor party, as the night started at Chops. As some of my readers know, I am a big Chops fan, having anointed it the best Steakhouse in Atlanta. We had a group of 14, that could pretty easily be divided into two distinct groups- those recovering from the night before (including myself and the bachelor) and the ones saving themselves for this night. The latter pounding Manhattans and Martinis from moment one.

Three of us split the steak tartare appetizer, which was outstanding. They prepare it tableside, and will make it as spicy as you like. It’s a dish that is perfect for sharing amongst 2 or 3, and with a cost of $12, it is one of the more financially-friendly starter dishes on the menu. Unfortunately, however, this was the highlight of the meal. Chops was not up to standard on this evening. Drink orders were late. Some orders were messed up. And my signature steak, the bone-in ribeye, was a complete disappointment. Almost 1/3 of the steak was fat. I think my problem was I had the best steak of my life there 4 years ago, and I have been trying to replicate that experience ever since. Maybe its time for me to go back to filets.

After dinner, it was time to board the Fur Bus, fully loaded with beer and Jaeger bombs, for the nights activities, which included stops at a couple of English bars (oh god, please no more Harp), and some of the more well known gentleman’s clubs in town. Now, this blog isn’t about reviewing those kinds of places, but I need to vent a little. We have one friend that loves these establishments (well, maybe several friends), and he organizes a special room for us at The Cheetah. He then pays 4 girls at a rate of $250/hour…each… to join us. One asks me if it’s okay to order food, which of course the answer is “Hell, no”. Next thing I know, some guy comes in with an order of lobster crepes. Now I know that no guy in his right mind would order this dish in front of other guys, so the question is, which girl ordered it? Sure enough, it was the same girl who asked! So, let me get this straight, we pay $250 for you to sit on the couch and eat for an hour??? Of course, we had that removed from the bill before we left.

I won’t go into the rest of the evening- the fight that almost broke out at The Spotted Dog, the Mardi Gras turning away the bus as soon as it arrived. But there are a few lessons learned from the evening.

1) No sense living in the past. Whether it’s the drinking days you once had, or the best steak you try to replicate. Cherish the past, but always look forward.

2) Save my trips to the nudie bar for Las Vegas. The Cheetah is a complete rip-off. I’m never going there again. If you must in Atlanta, the Oasis is the place. No pressure, less expensive and much less likely to get taken advantage of.

3) Never schedule a bachelor party the day after St. Patrick’s Day!

BTW, the answer to the title question is D West. Read his blog and you will know why he did not think this would be a problem.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Heading to Alpharetta 2- Something Fishy at Aqua Blue

So, I went to the well once to often. After a very pleasurable dinner at di Paolo a couple of weeks ago, I began to think, may be this Alpharetta place isn’t so bad? So after a trip to Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath & Beyond at Northpoint Mall last Thursday (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence), we decided to give Suburban Dining Life another try, this time to a sushi place called Aqua Blue on Holcomb Bridge Rd. I didn't know much about it, but Lady Steakhead had heard it wasn't bad.

Oh, my. For those that are familiar with Johnny’s Hideaway in Buckhead, this seems to be its equivalent on the Northside, at least on Thursdays. Things were amiss from the moment we walked in. The very first sight you experience upon arrival is a band that is reminiscent in sound and look to Adam Sandler’s band in The Wedding Singer. And they were loud- too loud for a restaurant that was supposed to have decent food. The next thing you notice is that the bar is completely packed. A quick peruse of the crowd, though, reveals a common theme amongst the patrons- there is not one soul under the age of 45 in the place. I even saw one 80 year-old dude dancing with a pair of 50-something women. Then it hit me, it must be divorcee night! Or is perhaps every night like this?

I asked to be seated far, far away from this madness, where maybe we could hear our own conversation. The waitress assured me the back of the restaurant would meet our needs, but unless you were completely hard of hearing (and it wouldn’t surprise me if 50% of the patrons were, by the looks of them), you couldn’t escape the music. Celebration. Electric Slide. Even a little Mark Anthony for the adventurous.

But since this blog is dedicated to food, I would be remiss if I didn’t review the actual eats. And expensive and average are probably the first two thoughts that come to mind. Many of the entrée’s are in the $20-$30 range, and the sushi was mediocre at best. The pieces were cut way too large for the delicate taste of the fish to come through.

So I learned my lesson- don’t drive any further north on 400 than my exit at Abernathy Rd. Given my age (younger for a change), happily-married status and my affinity for decent grub, this is not a place I am eager to return to. But man, were the non-eaters in the bar having a good time. $$$. Grade: C-.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Agave Owner Opens Creole Restaurant in Grant Park

Jack Sobel, the founder of Agave (one of Steakhead’s favorite restaurants in the city), has teamed with Gregg Herndon (founder of Tiburon Grill) in a new venture called Redfish, A Creole Bistro. The location is 687 Memorial Drive in the Cabbagetown/Grant Park area in a building that previously housed the shady Crazy Horse bar and, more recently, Showtime.

The restaurant opened Sunday, and Steakhead was lucky enough to get a walk-thru preview that afternoon. Don’t let the previous tenants scare you- Redfish features a completely redone interior and bar that features gorgeous masonry work. I am told that there may even be a water feature added to the back wall at some point.

As for the chow, the menu is absolutely 100% Cajun, filled with creoles, etouffees, and my all-time favorite New Orleans dish- BBQ shrimp, all in the $15-20 range. My mouth is salivating as I write this. Given my adoration for Agave, I can’t imagine it will be more than a week or so before my first “official” visit.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Skip The Appetizers at Hal's

Up until last week, I had never heard of Hal's. After a friend told me he had one of the best steaks in Atlanta at this tucked away Buckhead steakhouse, I knew I had to try it. But I was having trouble coming to grips with my total unfamiliarity with this place. If its so good, why hadn't I heard even a peep about it? Was it new? No, upon arriving I learned it has been around for 15 years. Was it a regular restaurant that just happened to have good steaks? Nope- this place is a true upscale chophouse. Was it hidden away in a strip mall like so many Atlanta eateries? No, Hal's operates in a stand-alone building. Was it the location? Well that's possible. It's located just off the intersection of Roswell Road and Piedmont, on a street called Old Ivy. This road is the entire length of about 300 feet, starting from the end of Habersham Rd. and dead-ends in front of Hal's. In fact, we got there by cutting through the parking lot of an adjacent strip mall, as we couldn't find the road.

The first thing you notice about Hal's when you walk in is that its Old School. The crowd is somewhat older than the newer, hipper steakhouses, and oak is the primary interior theme. The tables are arranged fairly tight together, and with a pregnant Lady Steakhead, this was somewhat of an inconvenience. A piano player situated in the corner of the bar played James Taylor songs much of the night- a very nice touch.

As we were seated, our hostess informed us that we were in store for the best steaks in the city. Great! She unfortunately forgot to mention that we were also in store for the worst lobster bisque in the city. And a warning to stay completely away from the shrimp cocktail would have been nice. The bisque was somewhat of an enigma. With large chunks of lobster, I couldn't figure out why the primary taste was coming from the small pieces of broccoli (at least that's what I think it was- it certainly was very "lobstery"). And the shrimp cocktail special with crabmeat was a rip-off. Many of the best steakhouses take pride in the size of shrimp they offer in the shrimp cocktail. These shrimp were medium at best, drizzled with crabmeat you could barely taste, and smothered with a tasty but overpowering remoulade sauce. At a price of $15, I would have expected much better.

But I once heard a saying not to judge a book by its cover, and Steakhead does not judge a steakhouse by its appetizers. At least, not completely. I went with my usual these days- the bone-in ribeye. Trying to emulate the Chops experience, I added a blue cheese topping to my steak, which unfortunately was overbearing. And to be honest, the steak didn't need the boost- the flavor was strong on its own. Lady Steakhead went with the filet, served au poivre, which was also commendable. Not sure if I would call it the best I've had, but it certainly wasn't the worst.

So how does this rank amongst the cities all-stars? I would place it below the ranks of Chops and NY Prime. But the atmosphere is fun and if you order your starters better than we did, you can have decent meal. Cost: $$$ (out of 4). Grade: B.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NEW- The Atlanta Eats Message Board is Live!

While drinking a margarita with some friends last week, someone asked why I don't have a section for readers to submit their restaurant experiences? Well, you ask and you shall receive. The Atlanta Eats Message Board is now live! It's a little rudimentary, but for starters, it should suffice. Please let me know, Atlanta. You have a place you think is da bomb? Let me know. You want to rant about a horrible experience? Feel free to vent. You want to tell me that I am full of crap? I guess you can say that too (although I work for a news organization and I am not beyond censorship). You can find the board in the links on the right-side.