Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Buckhead: Atlanta Fish Market

Atlanta Fish Market on Pharr Road is hard to miss---just look for the three-story fish out front.  It's a big, bustling place that holds lots of people in an open, friendly environment.  The atmosphere is upscale casual, with relatively few people dressed up.  They do have a bar/sushi bar that offers lower lights and more atmosphere.

I started with a spicy tuna roll, which I enjoyed.  I am a salmon fanatic so I ordered blackened salmon.  The fish itself was of high quality.  However, it was blackened in name only.  You should get a strong taste of pepper and spice from a blackened piece of meat.  The blackening process here seems to have been toned down for the neophytes.

I received two service miscues: wrong salad dressing and wrong type of potatoes.  A restaurant like this that strives to project an upscale image should do a little better...

Atlanta Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Alpharetta: Pure Taqueria

Pure Taqueria has several locations; I tried the Alpharetta site.  The Virginia Highlands site is in an old  gas station. This one, I suspect, isn't but is still very cute.  It was hopping on Friday night.  The mood is upscale casual, starting with the valet parking.

I started with a little salsa.  It looked innocuous enough, sort of a rough puree.  So I swigged a shot and got a very hot surprise.  These people definitely know how to do hot---the salsa verde with my tacos was also very hot.  The afterburn was very pleasant.

I went for the grilled mahi mahi tacos.  The fish had a distinct but not overwhelming sense of the grill---just a touch of char without hiding the fish flavor---and was tender and juicy.  It also came with avocado, some grilled vegetables, and the aforementioned salsa verde.  The tortillas hadn't been made locally but they were pretty good.

Pure Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eclipse di Luna

Eclipse di Luna is at the end of Miami Circle in the Buckhead design district.  I'd been there once before for lunch.  Tonight's occasion was a tapas outing with a group of friends.  The atmosphere was very high-energy and, unfortunately, a little too loud for much conversation.

I tried three dishes.  This is the hummus, which is prepared to look and have the mouth feel of refried beans.  It wasn't overly flavorful, even when the green pepper and cheese were factored in.  

I also had a vegetarian empanada that was great.  The crust was perfect, the filling was tender, and the sauce was just enough to lend some zing without being overbearing or soggy.

My last dish was fried plantains with honey and black pepper.  They were very good and the portion was huge---I saved most of it for breakfast in the morning.  The honey was very high quality, actually tasting like flowers as honey should.  The zing of the pepper was a nice touch.

Eclipse di Luna (Buckhead) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Green Sprout

Green Sprout is on Piedmont across from Ansley Mall.  Hyesoon and I stumbled across it on my way to Top Spice and we decided to give it a try.  It's a vegetarian restaurant that specializes in faux meat dishes. They are generally vegetarian versions of Chinese-American classics but they did have a few surprises, such as a potato dish.

I ordered the twice-cooked pork and Hyesoon went for Hunan beef and shrimp.  In both cases, the dishes were labeled as spicy but they just had a little bit of a twang---this is not where you go to cauterize your esophagus.  But I decided that I would rather enjoy the flavors and too much heat would have detracted.  Both taste and texture are important in vegetarian food.  Both our dishes had satisfactorily savory taste and the texture of the faux meats was good.  They don't really have the mouth feel of meats but they are different and interesting, which is what counts.

Overall, I would put this below Harmony but still definitely a very reasonable place.  The service was a little spotty but the food was good and pretty reasonably priced.

Green Sprout on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Marco's Pita

I was on Ponce and in the mood for something a little different so I stopped into Marco's Pita.  It's generally a very casual place.  The service plate, however, was quite stylish as you can see from the pita beauty shot.

I enjoyed my falafel pita.  The pita was very good and they used several added stuffings that gave it just enough twang: pickle and something like pickled beet among other things.  I ordered the spicy version, which had just a little bite but something that most people should be able to handle.  The pita bread itself was nothing to write home about but in general this was a very satisfying lunch.

Marco's Pita on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alpharetta: 'Cue Barbecue

Category: Upscale BBQ
Verdict: Family-friendly and safe

I'm not sure why I started thinking about 'cue but I've wanted to try it for several weeks now.  I finally made it to the Alpharetta site.  It's part of the upscale BBQ movement: rustic decorations but waitress service, live music, and a more upscale menu.

As an example of their menu's appeal to the broad spectrum, they actually have salads.  The salad is a rarity in traditional BBQ; most denizens of such places insist that their greens be thoroughly cooked in pork fat.  I decided to try their garden salad with some brisket on top.  I started with the brisket.  It was tasty and tender, but although it had a prominent smoke ring (you can see it in the photo) I didn't get any smoke flavor.  Of course, the bark, that outer layer of the meat, had been removed, making the meat look more like a deli presentation.  As you can see, the table comes with versions of three of the basic BBQ sauces: vinegar, tomato, and mustard.  My favorite was the mustard, but all of them were relatively mild.

The salad itself had no shortage of protein, with plenty of cheese and chopped egg.  My vinaigrette dressing was great---tangy but not overwhelming.  I also got to try some sides.  The pickled vegetables were excellent; they had acidy brightness without the mouth-puckering.  The Brunswick stew was very savory.

Overall, I thought the food here was good but safe.  Pretty much anyone can be comfortable here; even a vegetarian can find something to eat.   The food was all well-prepared and tasty.  But I wouldn't call it exciting.  The lack of smoke taste in the meat is an example of that---good meat but with nothing that anyone might find off-putting, like that pesky smoke taste...

'Cue Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Grindhouse Killer Burgers

The latest edition of Grindhouse Killer Burgers is on Cheshire Bridge Road.  I ate at their original location in Sweet Auburn Market about a year ago.  My friend Bill Crawley decided to check out the Cheshire Bridge model.  I wanted to compare to Sweet Auburn and Bill could compare the burgers to his go-to spot, the Vortex.

You can either order one of their standard burger combinations or make a custom burger.  I decided to order a custom burger so that I could have it served in a lettuce wrap rather than a bun.  I think this is a great option for those who are watching what they eat but still want to enjoy themselves.  I had a beef burger (they also offer turkey and veggie) with cheese and a New Mexico green chile.  The chile isn't hot and is fairly subtle but has a wonderful texture.  The burger patty itself was flavorful and juicy.  The salad was fun and also delicate.

So what's my verdict?  Bill agrees that Grindhouse has a different feel from the Vortex, which is a more traditional, pre-recession place with big burgers to be enjoyed at night with friends and beer. This is also a less fussy burger place than some of the new burger emporiums that emphasize their all natural heritages.  The name alone should tell you that Grindhouse Killer Burgers enjoys its carnivorous heritage.   But don't let that fool you---they use all natural meat and very high quality ingredients everywhere.  They also don't emphasize megaburgers.  You can get a burger with either one patty or two, allowing you to choose between living large and smaller-scale enjoyment.  The physical settings of the two locations couldn't be more different.  Sweet Auburn is fun for anyone who cooks---you can walk around the vegetable stands and see what is fresh.  The Cheshire Bridge location has huge windows and is full of light, which makes for a very inviting summer evening.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Urbanspoon

Grindhouse Killer Burgers (Piedmont Rd)