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Installation (Wordpress Part): Steakhead's Atlanta Eats Blog: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Technology is NOT Your Friend at Legal Sea Foods Atlanta

I have been working in the tech industry for the last 12 years and can easily be described as a technology optimist. But there are some times where simple, basic human interaction trumps technology every time. And when I am looking at a menu with prices easily in the $20+ range per entree, there is no substitute for good ole fashion, attentive customer service.

My guess is most people probably know about Legal Sea Foods. It’s a Boston-based seafood restaurant that has opened up shop in the Hilton Garden Inn near Centennial Park. (Actually, it’s right across the street from the Georgia Aquarium, prompting multiple queries as to where they were getting their fresh seafood from. If I see Whale Shark on the menu, we’ll have our answer.) The bottom of the restaurant is primarily a bar, with the main dining one floor above. The views of the Downtown Atlanta skyline from the 2nd floor are outstanding. Legal Sea Foods prides itself on its exceptionally fresh seafood and its “famous” clam chowder, which most of our group of 7 ordered. I found the prices a little high considering fried clams cost $19 and a lobster roll sandwich cost $23. But considering we are a landlocked city, and there is no such thing as a working lobster dock within a 3-hour flight of here, I guess you’ll have to take it.

But what made this meal stand out, was not the food, however, which was decent. It was the almost comically awkward service we received. Our waitress had some sort of handheld contraption to take our orders. However, either the user or the device was unable to take a person’s appetizer and their entrée order simultaneously. So after 3 people ordered, we were somewhat scolded to first provide all soup and appetizer orders so she could submit them, and then she could take our entrée orders.

Now you would think that with this modern technology, at least there wouldn’t be any mix up with the actual order taking. Wrong. One person didn’t get their chowder. Another didn’t get their entrée. Lady Steakhead tried twice to order a cranberry and soda, only to be given straight cranberry. I’ll give the manager some credit here, who realized things were running amok at our table and comped all the soups and appetizers. That was appreciated and almost made everything better. Almost. They were so close.

But the problem was the meal wasn’t over and we still needed to deal with our waitress to at least get the check. When that came, I said we were going to give several credit cards. At that point, the waitress placed the contraption on the table and told us we could do that ourselves. What? Are we in McDonald’s?? You have screwed up our order multiple times, and you won’t even run the credit cards? Maybe that was a good thing, because who knows what we would have been charged.

I think Legal could do well in Atlanta, especially in that location where there are not a ton of options (though this is changing). Service, though, will need to be improved significantly. The other thing they may want to consider is a cheaper lunch menu, as their prices could limit some of the daytime tourist traffic. There is no way I am paying $23 for a lobster roll for lunch.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a fun and safe Thanksgiving today. There are many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving including a wonderful family, great friends, and the opportunity to write this blog and enjoy the many meals that I do. And I am also thankful to learn that the Craft Atlanta Grand Opening is set for December 8th. If Steakhead gets a pre-opening invitation, he will be even more thankful!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Orleans Is Not Pharr at Harry Bissett's in Buckhead

Considering how close Atlanta is to the Crescent City, I am amazed at how few decent creole restaurants there are in this town. But now, with Harry Bissett's on the scene, that has changed. Even though Harry Bissett's is a descendant of the Athens scene, the menu screams New Orleans. Words like 'Lafayette', 'Bienville', and 'Thibodaux'. There are oysters done 5 ways, alligator and crawfish. There is even something described as a 'Carpetbagger', although I took offense to that.

I went with Lady Steakhead and a few friends last Saturday night, and business appeared to be brisk. The bar was crowded, all watching whatever SEC game happened to be on at the time, and the dinner crowd steadily escalated throughout the night. The service was attentive and friendly, although there were a couple of hiccups that can be expected from a new establishment.

The menu offers many of the cajun/creole favorites and we endulged in many of them. For appetizers, we ordered the barbecue shrimp, the grilled andouille sausage and the louisiana crab cake. Of these, the andouille, which had a decent kick to it, was my favorite. The barbecue shrimp was not swimming in butter and black pepper and not served with the heads on, so it was not quite what I was expecting.

For main courses, Lady Steakhead and I each ordered the Shrimp Creole which was served with a generous portion of shrimp. The order of the day came from STJ, however, who ordered the delicious Uptown Stuffed Filet- a medium-sized filet stuffed with blue cheese. We capped the night off with a traditional New Orleans bread pudding.

Harry Bissett's will earn a spot in the Steakhead rotation. The food is good, and for Buckhead, the prices are reasonable. Most entrees, except for the steaks, are under $20. Even the steaks are priced under $30. Speaking of which, next time Steakhead will stay true to his name and get the Uptown Stuffed Filet. Man was that good.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Smell of Fall at Woodfire Grill

The first thing you notice when walking into Woodfire Grill is the smell. As its name suggests, the wood-burning stove is a prominent feature in the restaurant, and you feel like you may have been teleported to a weekend away in the mountains. But in Blue Ridge you are not. Although it may have a cabin like feel to it, you are actually in the least rustic location in Atlanta...Cheshire Bridge Rd.

The concept of Woodfire Grill is "farm to table", where they partner with local and national organic farmers to produce a meal that was healthy for everyone involved, including the diner, the farmer, the cow and the soil. The menu changes daily based on what ingredients are available, although some staples seem to be available seasonally. There menu is divided into frist courses, second courses and entrees. There are also 3-course and 5-course tasting menus. Our waiter did a great job of promoting the tasting menus, including how they could pair the wine with the courses, so Lady Steakhead and I both went with that.

The first course was a fried pork terrine served with a poached egg and a mustard viniagrette. The fried pork terrine had the consistency of a sausage patty, and I couldn't help think "gourmet breakfast sandwich". It was delicious, don't get me wrong. The second dish was an heirloom fried green tomato with a salsa verde that was the missus favorite dish. In between the courses were several small tastes to complement the meal.

The main course was a small plate of quail (small being the operative word here). Now quail is a pretty small bird, and I don't believe this was the whole bird. So once you worked around the bones, you got what was maybe the equivalent of 3 chicken wings worth of bird. It was good, but not nearly enough. The owner told me the tasting menu plates are smaller than the normal entrees as the focus is on tasting. I understand that, but I was wondering if I was going to need a 2nd dinner at the Thrasher game later that night. Then dessert came.

I don't normally have a sweet tooth, but since it was part of the prix fixe (and I was still really hungry), I wasn't going to turn it down. I ordered the carrot cake and it may have been the best carrot cake I have ever had. And it was a big piece too, so by the time I wolfed it down, my hunger pangs had disappeared!

So my take on Woodfire Grill is a positive one. The setting is wonderful, the food is healthy and delicately prepared, and the service was outstanding. Next time, I'll pass on the tasting menu, and order some menu items that caught my eye - such as Grass-fed beef carpaccio appetizer and the wood-grilled sonoma duck breast. Definitely the carrot cake again. Heck, I'd go back for that smell alone!

PS- I received this email from the restaurant regarding 1/2 price wine on Thursdays during the months of November and December. They appear to take pride in their matching of wines to meals so if you go, you may want to take advantage of it.

"Woodfire Grill offers half priced wine on Thursdays during November and December. This new 50% discount will be taken off every wine, both by the glass and by the bottle, every Thursday. Woodfire Grill’s vast wine list is sourced from 13 distributors and features selections from 11 different countries. The diverse list changes weekly to stay current with the best new releases from all over the world as well as to complement Chef Kevin Gillespie’s ever changing menu. Woodfire Grill is open for dinner Monday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and is located at 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road; 404-347-9055."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Asian Street Food with a Twist…It’s Expensive

I think the new W in Midtown is a great example of the continued progress in making Atlanta more of an urban destination. With a signature restaurant and one of the hottest clubs in the city, the non-stop parade of well-dressed, beautiful people (yours truly not included) parking their German imports at the valet and entering the chic hotel seemed endless. Spice Market had been on my list for a while not only because of its Asian-inspired menu, but also due to the reputation of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s New York original, and my constant desire to go to the “in” places.

The Spice Market knows they are hot right now, and they let you know it by some standard “hip” restaurant annoyances. First, the mandatory wait at the bar, even though there seemed to be plenty of tables available and we had a reservation. Second, the “thump-thump-thump” of a hidden base speaker that seemed to be situated right over my head. The room they had us in was cool, however. A small, tucked-away nook down a flight of stairs that featured an Asian water feature in the middle of the room. Third, they find some bizarre, unique way to describe their concept. In the case of Spice Market, it’s “southeast Asian street cuisine”. Now I have not been to Southeast Asia, but my hunch is that street cuisine there doesn’t cost $50+ per person, so I had some immediate price/value concerns.

Since we were celebrating a profitable year for fanBunker, my business partner and I decided to splurge a little (also, I needed material for this blog, which has NOT been a profitable venture…but heck, I do it all as a labor of love). We ordered four appetizers for the four of us, which were quite hit and miss. A couple of the more exotic choices- such as the Lobster Roll with Dill and Sriracha and the Tuna Tartare were useless. The Lobster Roll was so over powered with dill, you could not taste the lobster at all. This may also have something to do with their lobster, which was rubbery and not flavorful to begin with. Same could be said for the tartare, which looked nice with small chunks of tuna over radish, avocado with a ginger vinaigrette dressing. But if you were to have told me the tuna was diced tomato, I would have been none the wiser. Other flavors just took over and the fact that it was tuna was lost on me. The lesser-expensive calamari and chicken samosas were much better choices (and probably more passable as “street food” than lobster).

Things did improve with the entrees, however. Lady Steakhead ordered the best here, selecting the Cod with Malaysian Chili sauce. My strip steak with garlic and sesame was tender and nicely seasoned. My friend ordered the short ribs, which was served in a bowl with egg noodles in a broth. He did have to inquire as to how to eat it, with which led to a ridiculous answer to take the meat out of the bowl and pour the noodles somewhere. I forget, but it seemed like a lot of work with no purpose. Speaking of service, I have had better. Our waitress was nice enough, but there were long stretches where we were totally ignored. It seemed like once we received our appetizers, she thought that was it for us.

The total bill for our group of four was $240 which definitely puts it in the pricey category if you are not on an expense report. We didn’t go nuts with the alcohol, and we didn’t order dessert, though we did go a little overboard with the appetizers so while you may be able to do it somewhat cheaper than us, probably not that much cheaper (staying away from the expensive appetizers will help). I’m on the fence as to whether I would give Spice Market a thumbs up or not. It was good, not great. And while there are plenty of places I would recommend over Spice Market in that price range, it is good to see a place that is trying to add to the Atlanta city vibe succeed.

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