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Gene Lee: My top ten dishes of 2010

Another year gone already?

Since it is the end of the year I thought I would share my top ten eats of 2010 in metro Atlanta. Keep this in mind, not all of these are related to my international dining beat. Some things were just too memorable to exclude.

Bandeja Paisa - Arepas de Julia, Lilburn

Bandeja Paisa - Las Arepas de Julia, Lilburn

10. Bandeja Paisa from Las Arepas de Julia – Lilburn
I randomly chose to dine here a while ago and had no idea what I was getting into nor what to expect. I decided to go with the restaurant’s all-encompassing dish fit for a 6’8” cowboy called the bandeja paisa – a big platter of steak, eggs, rice, chorizo, plantains, beans, avocado, a white corn arepa, and a generous band of crackling chicharrón (fried skin-on pork). It is gluttony on a platter and I loved every bit of it. And no, I did not finish it in case you are wondering.

9. Soy sauce chicken from Hong Kong BBQ – Chamblee Chinatown
At number nine is a dish I ate fairly often in a former life as a yankee. (And I mean as a resident of New York and not an actual baseball player.)

Manhattan’s Chinatown is riddled with Chinese BBQ restaurants, and you could usually find me at one on weekend mornings pigging out on bowls of congee (rice gruel) and greasy soy sauce chicken. Hong Kong BBQ does this dish real well, if not better than some of the ones I frequented in New York.

8. Pho from Pho Xe Lua – Hong Kong Supermarket, Norcross
The pho at this Hong Kong Supermarket food stall is one of my favorites in town. It tastes fresh and the broth is well balanced compared to other versions in town. I like the crisp side of veggies, and the meat here is consistently good quality. Additionally, there are twenty pho options to choose from, which makes dining here fun.

Veggie combo

Veggie combo - Mena, Chamblee, GA

7. Vegetable combo w/ injera from Mena – Chamblee
Not only is this vegetable plate pretty, the selection of vegetables is fresh and well-seasoned in spices. I also like its injera (spongy fermented bread), which really scoops up all that saucy veggie goodness in its honeycomb-like texture.

6. Bone-in dry aged ribeye from Bones – Atlanta
Coming in at number six is a big chunk o’ meat. I don’t have steak often but I did enjoy my experience at Bone’s. After living here for many years, I finally tried Bone’s for the first time back in September. I went with the kitchen’s 20 oz bone-in ribeye liberally flavored with melted butter and salt. My meat craving set in and Bone’s delivered.

Flounder and succotash - Bocado, Atlanta

Flounder and succotash - Bocado, Atlanta

5. Flounder at Bocado – Atlanta
This next dish was something I had during the summer at Bocado on the Westside. I generally am disappointed by fish dishes in higher falutin’ places around town but Bocado generally gets it right. These days, Bocado is more known for its burger, but I almost always opt for whatever they’re doing with fish. This flounder over the summer was no exception — flaky, lightly seasoned and sitting on succotash in a hearty broth.

4. Media noche from Havana South – Buford
Buford’s Havana South make a mean media noche. Named after a popular late night snack in Latin club culture, this sandwich contains all of the savory ingredients of a regular Cuban but stuffed between sweeter bread. To me, this sandwich is better than a Cuban due to the contrasting sweetness of the bread against the salty pork, cheese and pickle stuffing.

3. Gujeolpan and banchan from Woo Nam Jeong – Doraville
These next items are not a singular thing but come from the same restaurant — so I doubled up. Gujeolpan is like a Korean taco dish where you take circular wheat wraps and stuff them with all of the surrounding eight ingredients. This dish is not really common in Korean restaurants due to it being labor intensive, but it is delicious. If you want to give this a try, I urge you to call it in a day before you plan on going to give “grandma” some time to prepare it.

Banchan - Woo Nam Jeong, Doraville

Banchan - Woo Nam Jeong, Doraville

The other great thing I had here was a medley of banchan that Kessler and I had during a 12 course meal that is offered. Woo Nam Jeong already has some of the best banchan I’ve had in metro Atlanta, and the sampling pictured to the right took it to a whole other level.

2. Chilli paneer from Mirch Masala – Decatur
You know, there are things that you try for the first time that make you go “meh,” “hmmm,” “mmmm,” or  “wow!”. Mirch Masala’s chilli paneer was easily a “wow!” for me.

You hear famous food celebrities harp about great dishes being all-taste encompassing (i.e. sweet, salty, umami), and to me this is a materialized version of what they are probably talking about. The dish is comprised of toasted paneer cubes (Indian mild cheese), and sautéed with onions and peppers in a sticky soy ginger sauce. I want to eat this every day.

Shigoku oysters - Tomo, Vinings

Shigoku oysters - Tomo, Vinings

1. Shigoku oysters on the half shell from Tomo – Vinings
My number one favorite food item in 2010 was not anything complicated nor overly engineered. In fact, most of the engineering with Shigoku oysters takes place at Taylor Shellfish in Washington State. By the time they reached my table at Tomo, they were plated on a formed puck of crushed ice and infused with Asian mignonette.

The oysters are suspension-grown in bags in Washington’s Willapa Bay, and are tumbled naturally by changing tidal currents. All that back-and-forth swishing causes the shells to smooth out their craggy edges and form deeper cups than most other types of oysters.

Years ago, I had some kusshis which were my favorite oysters until now.  Kusshis are produced in the same manner as Shigokus and are similarly cucumber flavored containing a soft, sweet finish.

Happy New Year folks and see you all in 2011!

Here is the full slideshow of my top ten eats in the same descending order of the list:

Gene-Lee-Tagline- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.

22 comments Add your comment


December 29th, 2010
9:47 am

Nice list! Thank you for not mentioning a burger or a pizza.

John Kessler

December 29th, 2010
10:14 am

Ha! Word. Great list.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GL, librarymary, Todd Ginsberg, Julie K and others. Julie K said: who wants to visit these with me? RT “@AJCFoodandMore: My top ten dishes of 2010” [...]


December 29th, 2010
10:36 am

I definitely need to check out some of those items you listed. Yum!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Todd Ginsberg and accessAtlanta. accessAtlanta said: Looking for something memorable to eat? Critic Gene Lee's top 10 dishes of 2010 might inspire you. [...]


December 29th, 2010
11:24 am

Enter your comments here
any recommendations for dim sum?


December 29th, 2010
12:32 pm

I have to agree, if it’s a choice between a cuban sandwich and a midnight, I always go for the midnight.


December 29th, 2010
1:29 pm

yum! bandeja paisa…one of my favorite colombian dishes


December 29th, 2010
1:30 pm

this is what AJC readers need – not the same arguments about BBQ and biscuits. Well done!

How dare you!

December 29th, 2010
1:58 pm

What??? Not the usual Sonny’s, or Mary Mac’s, or Mellow Mushroom, or the Varsity drivel usually touted on these pages ???


December 29th, 2010
2:05 pm

If you can eat this stuff, count your blessings! Eat, drink and be merry!

Happy New Year!


December 29th, 2010
2:18 pm

I want to try that number 10 “lumberjack platter”….that thing looks awesome! I think i could finish it too…

Brazen Unicorn

December 29th, 2010
3:16 pm

Love the list. Very interesting.


December 29th, 2010
3:20 pm

I am Colombian and I agree with you on the Bandeja Paisa it is a great Colombian dish you should definitely try everything else we have to offer including Ajiaco which is a soup… I am amaze to see you came across this restaurant it has great Colombian food… You should also try other Colombian restaurants here in Atlanta…. :)


December 29th, 2010
9:26 pm

Your top 10 list is looking like a to-do list to me. This one I can’t wait to start.


December 30th, 2010
3:47 am

Wow! I definitely need to get out more.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steven Josovitz, Atlanta Daily. Atlanta Daily said: top ten dishes of 2010 – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Steven Josovitz

December 31st, 2010
12:24 am

I did have Todd’s Flounder and Succotash and it was incredible. I loved when fish is really served hot but still moist….


January 1st, 2011
1:33 pm

Yes, you should try other colombian dishes. I’m going to Las Arepas de Julia Restaurant 4 or 5 times every week and each dish is so delicius!!! . Try Mondongo, Ajiaco, Sancocho, Tamales, Empanadas and more…… Very good!!!!

Best dish of 2010 | Best Of The Big A

January 3rd, 2011
12:48 pm

[...] Shigoku oysters on the half shell at Tomo The AJC dining team’s specialist in International Cuisine Gene Lee says, “My number one favorite food item in 2010 was not anything complicated nor overly engineered. In fact, most of the engineering with Shigoku oysters takes place at Taylor Shellfish in Washington State. By the time they reached my table at Tomo, they were plated on a formed puck of crushed ice and infused with an Asian mignonette.” For more, check out the Food and More blog post of  Gene Lee’s Top 10 dishes of 2010. [...]

Dr. Alonzo M. Borja

January 3rd, 2011
8:29 pm

As one of the owners of Havana South, I thank you Mr. Lee for giving our restaurant a try. We pride ourselves with the fact we are 100% Cuban food to the core. Our recipes come from our older family members that were born in Cuba. Everyone who visits us agree that it tastes like a home cooked meal. Therefore, in celebration and appreciation for being mentioned in the top 10 for 2010 we are offering a special for the month of Jan and Feb. Just print this comment and receive 15% off your total bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy New Year to all and God Bless you.

Super Frankie

January 5th, 2011
12:55 pm

I always thought Ashley Cole’s bird was a real dish!