Dining reviews


Review: Coalition in Alpharetta is solid addition to busy dining scene

The dining world is changing. What’s driving restaurant growth in every county in greater Atlanta is not big buck, fine dining. That’s taken a back seat to eateries of a more casual sort. These are joints with a more affordable price point that still strive to serve a menu from the mind of a chef and to offer some sort of “experience.” One of the latest examples is Coalition...
Review: Tiny Lou’s adds French style to the Hotel Clermont

Review: Tiny Lou’s adds French style to the Hotel Clermont

Fifteen years ago, the Clermont Hotel was not the sort of place you wanted to stay. A room in the rundown 1924 relic went for about $150 a week around that time, as long as you were willing to risk questionable sheets and sketchy neighbors. (Suffice it to say, a local newspaper sent a reporter to stay there, not as a travel piece, but for a gritty work of undercover, investigative journalism.
Review: Momonoki a peach of a place for Japanese diner food and sweets

Review: Momonoki a peach of a place for Japanese diner food and sweets

The other night at Momonoki in Midtown, I sat at the tiny bar, scarfed down a bowl of barbecue eel over rice and watched the kitchen at work. On the surface, it was just a bunch of cooks assembling bowls of ramen; cutlet sandwiches; artfully composed protein bowls and delicate pastries. And yet what I witnessed was more profound, a culinary love affair.
Review: Eat like a Mexican emperor on a dime at La Imperial in Norcross

Review: Eat like a Mexican emperor on a dime at La Imperial in Norcross

La Imperial Tortilleria y Rostiseria (you will also find it online as Tortilleria Avorrate Imperial) is a one-stop shop in Norcross for all things Mexican. It is a tortilla and tamale factory, bakery, hot food buffet, maker of agua fresca and mini grocery.
Review: Cousins Maine Lobster underwhelms at Lenox Square

Review: Cousins Maine Lobster underwhelms at Lenox Square

A few years ago, I ordered a steamed lobster at a little New England fish market and ate it outside on a pier, looking out at the same water the crustacean had been pulled from. It wasn’t a luxurious meal in any of the traditional ways.
Review: Mushi Ni stands out in East Atlanta

Review: Mushi Ni stands out in East Atlanta

It sometimes seems that every new restaurant in Atlanta is another million dollar expansion of a restaurant group in yet another multi-million-dollar development. That isn’t quite true. With the high rent and high cost of doing business, though, it can be quite hard for a young chef just starting out today.
Food Tour: Hard-to-find Chinese delicacies make Jusgo Food Court a star

Food Tour: Hard-to-find Chinese delicacies make Jusgo Food Court a star

When it comes to dining out, few sights are less appealing to me than food-court steam tables. From malls to airports, I’ve had my fill of geriatric green beans, crusty-topped mac and cheese, soggy fried chicken. I feel nothing but pity for people whose job is to mind the hot bar for approaching customers: They see you coming, then stir, stir, stir.
Review: Arnette’s brings steak to stunning space in Brookhaven

Review: Arnette’s brings steak to stunning space in Brookhaven

Arnette’s Chop Shop is a word-of-mouth kind of place. You’d have no reason to venture this far back on Apple Valley Road in Brookhaven unless you were planning to sup here. Well, you could be dropping off your pup at the doggie day care next door. Otherwise, it’s because you’re lost. But word-of-mouth about Arnette’s is spreading.
Review: New chef comes to learn at old-school Sam’s BBQ-1 in east Cobb

Review: New chef comes to learn at old-school Sam’s BBQ-1 in east Cobb

On the counter of Sam’s BBQ-1 in east Cobb, you’ll find a tray of fried pork rinds. Crinkly and reddish brown, they are a revelation, even to connoisseurs of pig skins high and low. A complimentary nosh for those who queue up to place an order at legendary pitmaster Sam Huff’s original joint, they are perfect just as they are: naked.
Review: The Alden reaches for great culinary heights

Review: The Alden reaches for great culinary heights

There is nothing better on the menu at the Alden than the rack of lamb. The other night, as I sat eating it in full view of the open kitchen, I had to close my eyes just to contain my feelings. To borrow a line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways.
Conveyor-belt format lets diners choose at I Luv Hot Pot in Duluth

Conveyor-belt format lets diners choose at I Luv Hot Pot in Duluth

You’ll know you’ve arrived at I Luv Hot Pot when you see the Eiffel Tower replica out front. Strung with Christmas lights and reaching skyward, the Parisian mini-monument dominates the parking lot of a Duluth strip mall that also boasts a 24-hour Vietnamese noodle parlor called I Luv Pho and a clutter of Asian shops and restaurants. A poor man’s Vegas, open until 2 a.m.
Review: Iberian Pig offers Spanish flavors to please the party crowd

Review: Iberian Pig offers Spanish flavors to please the party crowd

Coca con Seta arrived at the table. A blend of meaty, sauteed mushrooms, black truffle, pickled onion, melted Tetilla cow’s cheese from Galicia and a zigzag squizzle of aioli flavored with gently spiced guindilla, a chile pepper typical of Basque cookery, covered a round, cracker-thin flatbread. I’m unaccustomed to a pizza-sized, cracker-thin flatbread as a tapa.
Review: Blue India in Midtown offers meat from the tandoor

Review: Blue India in Midtown offers meat from the tandoor

When I stepped inside for a recent meal at Blue India, it seemed to be more or less like many other restaurants I’ve encountered at the ground floor of a condo tower in Midtown Atlanta. Near the entrance was a short bar with curved edges, big enough for a few friends to grab drinks but quiet enough for a working lunch.
Review: Madras Mantra serves masterful masala sans meat

Review: Madras Mantra serves masterful masala sans meat

For nearly the past two decades, one Indian restaurant or another has been located at 2179 Lawrenceville Highway in the North DeKalb Square shopping center. There have been different names and different owners. There have been good years and bad years. There has been lots and lots of curry.
Review: Mariscos El Sazon del Kora brings Mexico’s Nayarit to Doraville

Review: Mariscos El Sazon del Kora brings Mexico’s Nayarit to Doraville

A couple of months ago, after picking up some groceries at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, I got a hankering for an afternoon snack and decided to drive up the road until I saw something that I was in the mood for. A bowl of pho, some Korean chicken, or a bite of nigiri at Sushi Hayakawa? No, no, nothing sounded quite right.
Review: Mission and Market surprises at Alliance Center in Buckhead

Review: Mission and Market surprises at Alliance Center in Buckhead

On a recent Saturday night, the members of an exclusive, invitation-only group called the Elite Club convened for dinner at Mission and Market. As they arrived, the valet lined up their cars one by one in front of the glittering, 30-story Buckhead tower known as Three Alliance Center: candy-green Porsche, bright red Ferrari, silver-gray Bentley, and so on.
Review: Easy entertainment awaits at 2 new Battery Atlanta spots

Review: Easy entertainment awaits at 2 new Battery Atlanta spots

The entertainment district adjacent to the Braves stadium known as The Battery Atlanta debuted last year, but now that the bulk of restaurants, bars and shops are open, the place is in full swing. Among the spots to have opened this season are Garden & Gun Club and Punch Bowl Social.
Review: Won Won Seafood a worthwhile addition to city’s dim sum scene

Review: Won Won Seafood a worthwhile addition to city’s dim sum scene

To be a truly fine dim sum house, you must proffer a cacophony of carts and surprises at every turn. I want the crunch of deep-fried stuffed crab claws that I can pick up and chew like chicken wings. I want rice-noodle rolls with minced pork and shrimp tucked inside their glossy, silken sleeves.
Review: Warming to Ms. Icey’s Caribbean-Southern vibe isn’t always easy

Review: Warming to Ms. Icey’s Caribbean-Southern vibe isn’t always easy

On one side of the rectangular ceramic tray sits a mini cast-iron skillet filled with aromatic brown-stew chicken in voluptuous dark gravy; on the other, a bowl of perfect rice and peas. Where I’m from, rice and gravy like to get all touchy-feely on the same plate. So why in the devil does Ms.
Review: Kajun Crab offers Vietnamese with an Acadian twist

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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