Dining reviews


Review: Kajun Crab offers Vietnamese with an Acadian twist

Among the tenants of 5000 Buford Highway, a sprawling strip mall just north of Chamblee Tucker Road, there is a grocery store with notable selections of Southeast Asian produce and Latin American snacks. There is a homey Korean joint that makes a mean budae jjigae, the Spam- and hot dog-laden stew influenced by the tastes of American GIs stationed on the Korean Peninsula. There is a hit Malaysian...
Review: Public Kitchen & Bar delivers style over personality at Phipps

Review: Public Kitchen & Bar delivers style over personality at Phipps

On a recent Friday afternoon, I wandered past the perfumed glass counters of Saks Fifth Avenue and glanced at the platinum jewelry on display at Tiffany and Co. I watched for a moment as a man considered the purchase of a bright red leather Gucci handbag for his wife. The slick, cool concourse of Phipps Plaza then led me to Public Kitchen & Bar. It is a finely appointed room, a comfortable fit among...
Review: Next Door an excellent choice for Korean bossam and jokbal in Duluth

Review: Next Door an excellent choice for Korean bossam and jokbal in Duluth

It’s not very often that a staffer stops me as I enter a restaurant and asks me if I’m sure I want to be there. So I was a little taken aback by the man who confronted me as I strode into Next Door and quizzed me about what kind of food I wanted to eat. Who was this, the bouncer? Any momentary lapse of manners — on my part, I mean — was quickly assuaged when I realized my greeter...
The White Bull fills plate with fresh fare, but some dishes miss bull’s-eye

The White Bull fills plate with fresh fare, but some dishes miss bull’s-eye

Making something out of nothing is what creative types do. There is a thrill about starting from zero, but it can also be paralyzing. Hemingway understood that about the writing process, calling the challenge of the blank page “the white bull.” Pascarella is a 20-year veteran of kitchens, having worked most recently as executive chef at the Optimist before embarking on his own endeavor...
Review: Midtown’s Mulavi a mixed bag of Persian and American dishes

Review: Midtown’s Mulavi a mixed bag of Persian and American dishes

Mulavi sits on the ground floor of a towering Midtown apartment building in a quadrant of the city known for its hustle and bustle. With its sleek brown interior and bright-orange, statement lighting fixture, the West Peachtree restaurant might pass for one of the swanky nearby nightclubs or condo lobbies. Like its sister establishment, Sufi’s Kitchen, 2 miles north on Peachtree Street, Mulavi...
Review: Ok Yaki brings Osaka to Atlanta

Review: Ok Yaki brings Osaka to Atlanta

Okonomiyaki is the sort of food that inspires unreasonable, outlandish devotion. It is most commonly described as a Japanese pancake, a flat concoction of cabbage and batter cooked on a griddle and topped with various meats and a distinctive sweet and savory sauce. That is technically accurate, in the way it is technically accurate to describe pizza as some dough, sauce and cheese baked with some...
Review: Chai Yo brings Thai fine dining to posh Buckhead

Review: Chai Yo brings Thai fine dining to posh Buckhead

There’s no need to look around for Thai starter staples like a green papaya salad or satay when the Nam Prik Ong platter is an option. You dunk this spread of crispy lotus chips, curly cue pork cracklings and fresh cucumber slices into a chunky dip of chiles, ground pork and roasted tomatoes. Between bites, you sip on sparkling lychee sake, perhaps a Thai lager or even the nonalcoholic Lemongrass...
Review: Buford’s Wicked Sushi & Grill tries hard but is somewhat uneven

Review: Buford’s Wicked Sushi & Grill tries hard but is somewhat uneven

At Wicked Sushi & Grill, you can get your sushi rolls cold, deep-fried, baked and flambéed. Some have foreboding names (Black Widow, Rattlesnake, Heart Attack). Others riff on nearby landmarks (Mall of Georgia). These rolls with the mock-provocative names and alternative techniques are the handiwork of chef-owner Rex Jeong. The Atlanta newcomer was born in South Korea, moved to the States as...
Review: Grain bowls that break the rules at Recess

Review: Grain bowls that break the rules at Recess

The Casablanca bowl at Recess is a perfect little name for a perfect little dish. Not that it has much to do with Moroccan food. Outside of a few spices that season a bright orange smear of pureed carrot, the contents of this bowl would likely be hard to find in the Old Medina in Casablanca. Instead, the name seems to simply conjure up a far-out place where rice crispies mingle with beluga lentils...
Review: Uncommonly excellent fried chicken at Mary Hoopa’s

Review: Uncommonly excellent fried chicken at Mary Hoopa’s

On Friday night at Mary Hoopa’s House of Fried Chicken and Oysters, I could detect a certain kind of fear in the eyes of the man standing behind the host stand. The front of the restaurant was packed with customers: two couples with strollers in tow, a gaggle of teens hanging irritatingly in the way of the door, a three-top here, a four-top there. If one more customer walked in, there wouldn&rsquo...
Review: Ponko Chicken does tenders and sides with Amer-Asian twist

Review: Ponko Chicken does tenders and sides with Amer-Asian twist

Colonel Sanders had his original recipe. The peeps at Ponko Chicken have theirs. Twenty years ago, sisters Reiko Clark and Maggie Antoine opened a Stone Mountain restaurant called Food Ease, where they developed a following around Antoine’s panko-crusted, sweet-soy-sauce-drizzled “Amer-Asian chicken tenders.” Eventually they changed the name to Ponko Chicken, after their most famous...
Review: At Old Fourth Ward’s Taco Cantina, tortas surpass the tacos

Review: At Old Fourth Ward’s Taco Cantina, tortas surpass the tacos

Back in January, when I started exploring the plethora of new taco places turning up all over town, I felt that Taco Cantina in the Old Fourth Ward had considerable potential. Here was a chef from Zacatlan, Mexico, who had found success at his original location in Smyrna, raising the taco flag on Boulevard. And it was just down the street from my home in Grant Park, too. Que bueno. So I kept...
Review: Achie’s scores but doesn’t hit it out of the park

Review: Achie’s scores but doesn’t hit it out of the park

There are currently 16 restaurants at The Battery Atlanta adjacent to SunTrust Park. While the cuisine varies, each eatery is vying for dining dollars, especially when the entertainment district fills up on Braves game days. On a recent Saturday evening, despite the Braves being out of town, The Battery was hopping. Then again, just last week came news that Todd English Tavern had struck out...
Review: Miss Gogi does Korean barbecue without the gimmicks

Review: Miss Gogi does Korean barbecue without the gimmicks

Before driving to Miss Gogi in the Peachtree Pavilion strip mall in Doraville, I tried to do a little research. I knew, of course, to expect the salty sweet pleasures of tender bulgogi, the Korean barbecue dish referenced by the name, but I wanted to figure out what they were doing differently. You see, Korean barbecue restaurants are thriving in metro Atlanta these days. This Korean barbecue...
Review: Lao food in full focus at Snackboxe Bistro in Doraville

Review: Lao food in full focus at Snackboxe Bistro in Doraville

My dining companion and I had wandered in from a rainy weekend day to this modest strip mall joint in Doraville. It is a well-lit, very clean space full of long tables for sharing, but nothing to write home about in the interior decoration department. We’d each picked a few dishes off the flat-screen menu hanging above the register without paying much attention to what the other one ordered...
Review: Mourning Dove a lovely concept that hasn’t quite taken flight

Review: Mourning Dove a lovely concept that hasn’t quite taken flight

How do you take your coffee shops? Do you like dark lairs with sputtering espresso machines and spiky baristas? Or do you prefer bright, sunny rooms with marble counters, smart wine lists and chefs who aim to create thoughtful, handmade food? If you belong to the latter camp, Mourning Dove Cafe might give you reason to coo. Perched in a secluded northern branch of The Shops Buckhead Atlanta,...
Review: Mexico City specialties at Tortas Factory del D.F.

Review: Mexico City specialties at Tortas Factory del D.F.

The first time I sat down to lunch at Tortas Factory del D.F., I wondered if there had been a mistake. My little lunch table was covered with orange cafeteria trays, disposable plates piled high with each dish, and little, bright cups of salsa. I hadn’t even spent $20. Did I really order all of this food? How was I going to eat it all? As it turned out, the answers to those questions were &ldquo...
Review: Pinch of Spice brings the bright flavors of India to Kennesaw

Review: Pinch of Spice brings the bright flavors of India to Kennesaw

Few things are more satisfying than going out to eat and loving every single dish. (Well, duh.) Unfortunately, delivering a meal that’s impeccable from start to finish is a rarity, and about as easy as performing Beethoven’s Ninth. Pinch of Spice — an Indian restaurant in Kennesaw owned by Vikram Balasubramani and his wife, Archana Vikram, both from southern India — is not...
Review: Korean inflections give fresh flavor to Noona’s steakhouse fare

Review: Korean inflections give fresh flavor to Noona’s steakhouse fare

“My taste buds are going crazy!” said one of my dining partners as we stepped outside Noona and onto the sidewalk in the burgeoning Parsons Alley development in downtown Duluth. Indeed, a succession of dishes — kimchi fried rice, grilled octopus with the sweet heat of ssamjang (a Korean dipping sauce), a sizzling bone-in rib-eye with melting shiso butter, a side of collard greens...
Review: Mandolin Kitchen showcases earthy traditional Turkish cuisine

Review: Mandolin Kitchen showcases earthy traditional Turkish cuisine

We didn’t need the lamb shank. We had already eaten plenty. It would have been smarter to take a walk. Or spend the remainder of this sodden Sunday afternoon dozing off with a good book. But we had waited patiently for it — there had been a communication breakdown between server and kitchen — and there it was: a beautiful lollipop of a lamb shin, sitting in a delicate slick of tomato-and-olive-oil-kissed...
Review: Natsu covers the Japanese basics, and a few Korean ones, too

Review: Natsu covers the Japanese basics, and a few Korean ones, too

The next time you visit a Japanese restaurant, notice how many of the sushi rolls contain cream cheese. Or have names like “Beauty & the Beast,” “La Bamba” or “The Godfather.” Note the presence of California rolls, spicy tuna, and the super-crunch factor — ingredients fried with panko crumbs. Sometimes delicious and frequently over the top, this is what happens...
Review: Rose and Rye brings luxe style to the Castle

Review: Rose and Rye brings luxe style to the Castle

According to a history published by the city of Atlanta, Ferdinand Dallas McMillan made his fortune in agricultural machinery before retiring in 1910 to focus on building his dream home. He had lived a long life since being born in 1844 and wanted a home in Atlanta built “as high into the air as I could.” He named this place Fort Peace and spent his final years there. The building continues...
Review: Are you ready for Korean pig trotters and spicy sea snails?

Review: Are you ready for Korean pig trotters and spicy sea snails?

Some years ago, British novelist A.S. Byatt came to Atlanta to deliver the Richard Ellman Lectures in Modern Literature at Emory University. As an AJC arts writer, I was assigned to cover the event, which kicked off with an all-day pig roast at Lullwater House, the lovely 1926 residence of Emory’s president. The occasion, one would assume, was meant to introduce the Booker Prize-winning author...
Review: New Atlanta hotel restaurants look to Mediterranean for menus

Review: New Atlanta hotel restaurants look to Mediterranean for menus

Is there a better fish for a hotel restaurant than the branzino? This pale white fish is delicate without being too fussy for the cook and rich without having a reputation for being oily or fatty. It goes mostly by the Italian name, though the French call it loup de mer. You’re free, I suppose, to call it European sea bass if you wish to stick with English. In whatever language, it can be served...
Review: A hidden Buckhead destination for Jamaican fare

Review: A hidden Buckhead destination for Jamaican fare

Among the euphemisms that food writers throw around, “hidden gem” is one of the more common. We understand, of course, that the restaurant in question is not a polished and cut semiprecious stone. Nor do we really believe that it has been placed out of sight or concealed from view. We simply take it to mean that the joint is relatively unknown despite the quality of the fare. And, yet...
Review: Italian gone awry at Bar Americano in Buckhead

Review: Italian gone awry at Bar Americano in Buckhead

When I tasted the eggplant Parmesan at Bar Americano, I could not help but wonder where things had gone wrong for this restaurant. Here was an impressive looking dish, a big white porcelain boat loaded with three deep-fried slabs of eggplant covered in discs of mozzarella cheese and surrounded by deep red tomato sauce. It should have been a good entree, much like how this red-painted Italian joint...
Review: Experience the flavors of Ethiopia at Ghion Cultural Hall

Review: Experience the flavors of Ethiopia at Ghion Cultural Hall

Both times that I left Ghion Cultural Hall after dining there, I experienced the same feeling of satisfaction and for the exact same reasons. First, my mouth was coated with berbere and I wanted the warm flavors of that chile-heavy spice mix to linger all night. Second, on both occasions, my dining partners were sets of friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while. After a couple of hours catching...
Review: Bluetop offers Americana with unexpected style

Review: Bluetop offers Americana with unexpected style

Here, on a stretch of Peachtree Road that now backs up to the Chamblee MARTA station, old-fashioned taxi cabs were dispatched to and fro from this brick building more than 70 years ago. After some period of disrepair, owner Andy Lasky and a crew have breathed new life into it. A 45-foot trailer has been repurposed and attached to the side of the dining room, a ramshackle-seeming but impressively executed...
Review: Korean BBQ meets steakhouse style at Ari

Review: Korean BBQ meets steakhouse style at Ari

What makes a steakhouse? Is it the beef, the thick red slabs marbled with rich veins of white fat? Or is it the house, the tufted leather booths and luxurious touches that place a diner in the lap of comfort? Ari Korean Steakhouse, a rather large restaurant perched at the center of a shopping center on Medlock Bridge Road in Johns Creek, certainly has both. If you order a cut of Angus rib-eye or prime...
Review: Atlanta Breakfast Club brings taste of the South to downtown

Review: Atlanta Breakfast Club brings taste of the South to downtown

So you’re cooking at a Southern breakfast joint in downtown Atlanta, and you want to create a signature dish that speaks to your town. What to do? It’s not like this urban sprawl is a bastion of bacon or an epicenter of eggs. Take a spin around the ‘hood, and you may find some clues, even in the asphalt jungle. At Atlanta Breakfast Club, executive chef Anthony Sanders clearly had...
Review: Barbecue, bourbon — and grain bowls at Loyal Q

Review: Barbecue, bourbon — and grain bowls at Loyal Q

Let me describe a platter of barbecue for you. It all starts with an aluminum tray, rectangular and simple, with a piece of butcher paper cut to fit. Atop it, your eyes will no doubt be drawn to the thick slices of prime brisket cut from the deckle side, thick black bands of smoky bark wrapping around the meat, whose fatty marbling now drenches the paper below it. Aside that, a kind of culinary opposite...
Road trip dining: A-list restaurants in two Georgia film towns

Road trip dining: A-list restaurants in two Georgia film towns

It’s awards season. Whoop-de-do. While the rest of the country eats up the red carpet ruckus, I’m just eating. That’s because I can’t keep up with the stuff of Entertainment Weekly, and I’m not in a position to debate whether “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” should be an Oscar best picture nominee. However, Hollywood awards chatter did inspire me...
Review: Old Morro Castle chef comes back with disappointing Cuba Mia

Review: Old Morro Castle chef comes back with disappointing Cuba Mia

Reconnecting with an old acquaintance can be tricky. There are expectations, there are risks. What if you don’t like each other anymore? What if you do? Suppose you’ve changed so much you don’t recognize one another. Awkward! Such has been my experience with Cuba Mia, a casual Cuban walk-up counter in a nameless Buford Highway strip mall just north of Clairmont Avenue. Cuba Mia marks...
Review: Annie Mae’s Pantry hits sweet spot with updated Southern fare

Review: Annie Mae’s Pantry hits sweet spot with updated Southern fare

The first thing you notice when you walk into Annie Mae’s Pantry is an arresting, 10-foot-tall, black-and-white photograph. It depicts a petite African-American lady standing on her front porch with a nub of a broom. Wearing a tattered sweater and a kerchief around her head, she’s reminiscent of Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple.” But...
Review: Janet’s Kitchen brings taste of the Philippines to Decatur

Review: Janet’s Kitchen brings taste of the Philippines to Decatur

Despite my Filipino name, only a quarter of the blood that flows through my veins is Pinoy. It’s when I’m with my dad’s family, though, that I sometimes feel full-blooded. When I walk into my relatives’ homes in Chicago, there is a distinct smell, and it emanates from the kitchen. I think it’s primarily the rice pot, which claims counter space, much like a coffeepot does...
Review: A double order of eccentric Americana at Golden Eagle

Review: A double order of eccentric Americana at Golden Eagle

Maybe you have heard about the roadside diner’s club on Memorial Drive. It is the one hidden in the back half of the building, behind the sunny California-styled coffee joint called Muchacho. The one with the moose head hanging over the padded horseshoe bar, where bartenders are just as happy to stir up a rye cocktail as they are to pour a Czech Pilsner into a gold rimmed glass. The place...
Review: Bulla Gastrobar puts the boo-yah in tapas

Review: Bulla Gastrobar puts the boo-yah in tapas

The first thing to know about Bulla Gastrobar is that it is not pronounced “bull-ah.” The correct pronunciation is “boo-yah.” As owner Carlos Centurion told an interviewer at the original location of this Spanish-styled tapas restaurant in the Coral Gables neighborhood of Miami, bulla “literally means ‘noise’ but basically has connotations of fun, excitement...
Review: Anh’s Kitchen brings Vietnamese classics to Midtown

Review: Anh’s Kitchen brings Vietnamese classics to Midtown

In the early 2000s, I spent a few years living in a high-rise condominium near 10th and Peachtree. The view from the 18th floor was magnificent, but the dining options down below were still evolving. Had I been able to stop by a place like Anh’s Kitchen for crispy fried spring rolls and a dependable bowl of noodle soup, the world would have seemed a little brighter somehow. The latest venture...
Review: Osteria di Mare plays it safe with Italian seafood and steaks

Review: Osteria di Mare plays it safe with Italian seafood and steaks

What compels you to choose a restaurant? Are you more likely to go for that shining temple of gastronomy on a hill, or that neighborhood gem down the street? If you fall in the latter category, you may want to know about Osteria di Mare in Peachtree Corners. A little less than a mile north of Jay Swift’s posh Noble Fin (“Seafood Steaks Cocktails”) sits Andrew...
Review: New Italian eatery Donetto does pasta well but has some misses

Review: New Italian eatery Donetto does pasta well but has some misses

Much press has been given to Donetto, a fine-dining Italian spot, open since late September, in one of the historic buildings that form the Stockyards redevelopment project in West Midtown. The press is justifiable. Donetto is a new concept by 32-year-old chef Michael Perez, who partnered in this venture with Steve Palmer, managing partner of Charleston, S.C.-based Indigo Road hospitality group...
Review: Head to Duluth’s Thank U Chicken for real KFC (as in Korean)

Review: Head to Duluth’s Thank U Chicken for real KFC (as in Korean)

Chicken and waffles. Nashville hot chicken. Buffalo wings. Asha Gomez’s Kerala Fried Chicken. Popeyes. However you like your fried bird, and I dig all of the above, you won’t go lacking in Atlanta, where cooks from north, south, east and west are well schooled in matters of frying the comforting dish their way. Korean fried chicken, which some people winkingly call the original KFC, is...
Review: Busy Bee Cafe is where Atlanta never changes

Review: Busy Bee Cafe is where Atlanta never changes

Nothing stays the same in Atlanta for very long. That house you thought was in a quiet, affordable neighborhood last year? It’s probably a towering, traffic-packed mixed-use development today. Your favorite fine dining chef from a few years back? He owns a cheeseburger chain now. That scrappy company your friends started? It’s become a 700-person corporation. That quiet dude you knew from...
Review: The Farmhouse at Serenbe is still bucolic 10 years later

Review: The Farmhouse at Serenbe is still bucolic 10 years later

To get to the Farmhouse at Serenbe from the city of Atlanta, you’ll need to drive south on I-85, long past the airport. You’ll be more than halfway to the city of Newnan by the time you take the exit, after which you’ll need to navigate a number of lonely two-lane roads, rolling and curving by pastures and stands of trees. When you arrive at night, the lights of the Inn and the Farmhouse...
Review: Tea House Formosa, where millennials go for tea and snacks

Review: Tea House Formosa, where millennials go for tea and snacks

The first time I stopped by Tea House Formosa on Buford Highway, my friend and I found a quiet nook and ordered a pot of Rose of the Orient: green tea delicately scented with rose, marigold and cornflower. She poured from a lantern-shaped porcelain pot. We sipped from dainty white matching cups and filled our table with an assortment of snacks: tea eggs, tempura-fried green beans, hand-cut taro fries...
Review: Simon’s Restaurant, in spot Luda made famous, has bumpy start

Review: Simon’s Restaurant, in spot Luda made famous, has bumpy start

Some years ago, this much-renovated structure on a stretch of Juniper known for its stately homes was a place called Spice. Just recently, it was Time Restaurant & Lounge. In between and perhaps most notably, it was Straits Atlanta, a Singaporean-influenced restaurant where Grammy-winning rapper Ludacris and his team served kung pao lollipops and a $50 margarita. (Ludacris flew the coop to open ...
Review: C. Ellet’s goes in two directions at The Battery

Review: C. Ellet’s goes in two directions at The Battery

Behold the steak list. You will rarely see one as detailed as that on offer at C. Ellet’s. Depending on the night, the menu may offer a choice between an 18-ounce, 35-day dry-aged bone-in Kansas City strip cut from Angus cattle raised in Texas and distributed by Allen Brothers, a 7-ounce Coulotte from Tajima cattle raised in Washington state and distributed by Mishima, an 8-ounce Angus hanger...
Review: Kula Revolving Sushi brings bells, whistles to Japanese food

Review: Kula Revolving Sushi brings bells, whistles to Japanese food

A visit to Kula Revolving Sushi Bar in Doraville is a little bit like stepping inside a sushi-themed pinball machine. Domed dishes of edamame, nigiri and sushi rolls whir by on a conveyor belt, beckoning you to grab what you want. As you deposit empty plates in a tableside disposal chute, your “score” appears on a personalized video monitor. At five-plate intervals, the screen lights up...
Review: Sushi Hayakawa shines after renovation

Review: Sushi Hayakawa shines after renovation

When you eat at Sushi Hayakawa, you may notice how few people are there. It is not a lack of customers, but a lack of seats. Even on a fully booked Saturday night with every seat occupied or reserved, your eyes may scan the well-lit room and see only a handful of tables, the thick-hewn, wooden slab of sushi bar, and scarcely more than a couple of dozen diners. Behind the bar’s simple glass coolers...
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