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Archive for January, 2010

The Hil named at Top 10 Romantic Getaway

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

The Hil — chef Hilary White’s cozy restaurant in Serenbe — has been named a Top 10 new romantic getaway by the editors of Bon Appétit restaurant.

Restaurant editor (and Atlanta native) Andrew Knowlton looked for places “that have stellar food, a warm welcome, and a certain off-the-beaten-path appeal.”

That certainly describes the Hil, which features refined versions of such Southern classics as chicken pot pie and tomato sandwiches, and uses produce from the Serenbe garden.

You can read about all 10 (and plan your getaway before Friday’s snowfall) here.

Continue reading The Hil named at Top 10 Romantic Getaway »

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft’s Mieng Kum


Courtest of Melissa Libby

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft is a curious place. You enter through a small vestibule where you are greeted by an actual tuk tuk — a colorful auto rickshaw with headlights that glower at you like Darth Maul’s eyes. Then you take an elevator to the second floor where a vast, sleek, seductively lit dining room awakes. Only the witty displays of canned goods, dry crackers, colorful candies and even washing powder alert you this isn’t Thai as usual.

Tuk Tuk’s lovely young chef/owner, DeeDee Niyomkul, is the daughter of Charlie and Nan Niyomkul who have defined high-end Thai in this town at Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro and Nan Thai Fine Dining. This restaurant goes for something different. The menu lists a dozen or more small-plate versions of Thai street foods as well as a handful of Thai style salads and “Bangkok Street Noodles.”

Unique dishes include hoy tod, a crispy mussel pancake, and neau sawan, which are plugs of warm, sweet, appealingly chewy beef jerky …

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Aquaknox Restaurant Closes

Aquaknox (AJC Staff)

Aquaknox (AJC Staff)

The Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that Aquaknox — the 2nd-floor restaurant in Buckhead’s Terminus Building — has closed.

This sister establishment to a flashy Las Vegas restaurant got decent marks from local critics for its upscale seafood menu.

That said, I never went. Did you? As much as I love good seafood, there’s something about high-gloss seafood restaurants without any sense of place (there is some irony in it being a Las Vegas import) that doesn’t entice me.

Still, it’s sad to see any restaurant close.

The Terminus is batting .500. Of the original four restaurants, two have failed so far. Lola Bellini Bar has morphed into Cantina Taqueria, while MF Buckhead and Bricktops are still in business.

Continue reading Aquaknox Restaurant Closes »

“American Eats” filming today at Ria’s Bluebird

riajpegThe History Channel show “Good Eats” is filming today at Ria’s Bluebird for a segment on the best diners in the country.

The filming is probably over by now, but owner Ria Pell has been inviting her Twitter followers to swing by for their 15 minutes.

Continue reading “American Eats” filming today at Ria’s Bluebird »

Sunday Column: Brussels Sprouts Redux

400px-Brussels_sprout_closeupMy Sunday Column grew out of a post on this blog about a superlative brussels sprouts dish I tried in a Los Angeles restaurant.

Here’s my theory of brussels sprouts: People eat them on Thanksgiving as a kind of Puritan penance. At least, that’s what I think happened in our house.

Preparing the brussels sprouts required the kind of coordinated joint effort usually reserved for a pig killing. My father and all the able-bodied men performed the annual chestnut-peeling ordeal — an event that involved much swearing, arguing over technique and finger pricking until a scant handful of crumbly bits was produced.

Meanwhile, my mother would trim and carefully mark each brussels sprout heel with a talismanic X so they would “cook properly.” This meant boiling them for the entire duration of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade until they resembled not vegetables so much as eyeballs wrenched from the sockets of decomposing zombies.

The chestnut bits and slimy green scleras were then mixed in a …

Continue reading Sunday Column: Brussels Sprouts Redux »

Featherfest voting begins today

ffestjpegThe chicken people are back!

Yes, during this as every January, 20,000-some attendees of the biggest chicken-and-egg conference plan to roost in Atlanta for the week.

As a way of spreading out the welcome mat for this confab — officially the International Poultry Expo/International Feed Expo — the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau has devised something called FeatherFest 2010. About 50 area restaurants are currently serving dishes that use poultry meat or eggs. If you go to one of these participating restaurants, you can vote online through January 28 and rate the dishes.

Dishes range from steak and egg sushi at Geisha House to Rochelle’s egg custard pie at Max Lager’s.

Again, the Web site is here.

This does remind me of a dish I used to enjoy when I lived in Japan called oyako donburi that consisted of eggs and chicken simmered in an onion sauce and served over rice in a lidded bowl. The name literally means “parent and child in a bowl.”

Continue reading Featherfest voting begins today »

Crawfish Shack Seafood to expand

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Crawfish Shack Seafood –until now a tiny 15 seater — will expand into the space next door in its Buford Highway mini-mall.

I got this missive from owner Hieu Pham (edited for typos):

“This Coming Saturday the 30th the new dining room at Crawfish Shack Seafood will be open. It should be able to host about 70 guest. Yes! going from about 15 to 70 is a huge number! I do hope your be able to come and check out the new dining area. Alone with the new dining area I will be adding to the Menu “Beignets and Coffee” From the very Famous Cafe Du Monde.”

The menu is very simple, but it has that “just right” quality. This is one of the rare seafood restaurants that really deserves the word “impeccable.”

Though, if I could make a suggestion, I might skip the Cafe du Monde in favor of the fresh sugar cane juice that is so great with fried seafood.

Continue reading Crawfish Shack Seafood to expand »

Tasty rib tips with “Boss Sauce”

photo 2If you have any trouble finding Ms. Betty’s House of Ribs in Eastland Heights, just roll down your window when you’re getting close and let your nose guide you. That sweet smell of barbecue smoke perfumes the neighborhood.

This place is a true rib shack — a double-wide trailer set in a parking lot with one plastic table inside, a counter with a pass-through window to the kitchen and a sign warning customers not to fiddle with the air conditioner. The smokehouse is out back.

On a friend’s recommendation I ordered this rib tip dinner, which was a huge portion for $8. On the side: super cheesy-crusty mac and cheese and mildly seasoned but extremely tender collard greens.

photoI also ordered a rib dinner ($8.99, right) and a half chicken ($5.25).

The ribs and the rib tips had a great flavor — imbued with plenty of smoke and well seasoned. I also loved the house “boss sauce” that was an unconventional sweet soy glaze. (The other choice is a yellow mustard sauce.) I did think they both …

Continue reading Tasty rib tips with “Boss Sauce” »

Cereal your way


Courtesy Custom Choice Cereal

Close_StrawberriesAre you the kind of person who wishes your Honey Bunches of Oats contained pumpkin seeds and dried strawberries rather than almonds and raisins? I only ask because I am. In fact, I have a huge appetite for dried fruits and nuts. I eat them with yogurt in the morning, keep them in my desk drawer for snacking and toss them into salads at nights. My children suspect I am part squirrel.

That’s why I have become interested in the sudden proliferation of online custom cereal blenders. These companies, such as Moja Mix and Me and Goji allow you pick a base, such as granola or corn flakes, and then add the dried fruits and nuts that you like.

Close_HazelnutsClose_ApricotI am particularly interested in a company out of North Carolina called Custom Choice Cereal, which offers plenty of healthy options and mixed them all in a gluten-free facility. You can start with a base of corn flakes enriched with flax and quinoa, then add such diverse garnishes as goji berries, dried pears, …

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Another visit to Kusum Foods


Blackeyed pea curry

Over the weekend I had a meal from the tired Indian buffet at Bay Leaves restaurant on Lawrenceville Highway in Decatur. It was…depressing. I chewed on my rubbery tandoori chicken wings, pulled limp cucumbers from the salad and ate what I needed to fill my stomach. Some rice, chickpeas, chicken tikka masala, pappadums and chutney…enough.

There’s something about sad Indian food that is the saddest food of all. It is the food equivalent of a bad recording of an old Leadbelly ballad played on a scratchy 1970’s school phonograph for a roomful of children who aren’t listening. It sings a fiery song that has been tamed through apathy and neglect.

And so I needed good Indian food to take the flavor out of my mind. The other day I was picking up my car from the shop in Decatur’s Indian restaurant row when I drove by Kusum Foods and remembered enjoying it soon after it opened in October. I ordered a quick meal to go and was really happy with the Styrofoam …

Continue reading Another visit to Kusum Foods »