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Archive for the ‘Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Distinctive Culinary Voices’ Category

Dinner at Gunshow

Chef Kevin Gillespie shows off some of his creations (credit: Becky Stein)

Chef Kevin Gillespie shows off some of his creations (credit: Becky Stein)

This week I visited Gunshow — the unusual new restaurant from chef Kevin Gillespie, where the chefs hand deliver their dishes like dim sum offerings.

You may recall I wrote about the ways that Gillespie and design firm ai3 managed to pull off a radical design on a tight budget.

Subscribers can read my account of my first visit to the restaurant here.

Everyone who’s planning to visit Gunshow might consider these 11 observations I had about the experience:

  1. There’s no bar, though you can sit and wait for your party in a cordoned-off area that makes you feel a bit like you’re waiting for the 8:20 train to Hoboken. Someone will offer you a glass of wine or a bottle of beer.
  2. The beverage program is pretty basic. Then again, you can get a perfectly nice, food-friendly drink for a decent price. If you’re a wine geek and want something special with this food, you might consider bringing a bottle from home. …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Distinctive Culinary Voices

Lobster Carpaccio from Tomo Japanese Restaurant represents chef Tomohiro Naito's handiwork (credit: Becky Stein)

Lobster Carpaccio from Tomo Japanese Restaurant represents chef Tomohiro Naito's handiwork (credit: Becky Stein)

A little history: Last summer I began reviewing restaurants again for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after more than five years away from the job. And so I began to eat. And eat. And — Hey, you gonna eat that? Because I really need to try everything and I’d hate to see that go to waste.

After about four months of concerted face-stuffing, it began to occur to me that I was in a very different dining town than the last one I power-chowed my way through. I loved the profusion of casual, affordable restaurants that had opened, and the newfound focus on Southern farms and flavors.

But I found so much of this food safe and predictable — even boring. I missed the motley crew of mad geniuses and crackpots who used to set the tone here. I missed the variety of ambitious culinary styles on the table, and the raw audacity that used to mark the opening of new …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Distinctive Culinary Voices »

Profile of Chic Dillard, Big Shanty Smokehouse

Chic Dillard (credit: Michael Jacoby)

Chic Dillard (credit: Michael Jacoby)

Note: This profile of Chic Dillard of Big Shanty Smokehouse ran in the print edition of the Fall 2011 Dining Guide in last Friday’s Go Guide. We didn’t want our online readers to miss it.

In the winter of 2007, after helping to open more than two dozen restaurants during his career as a consultant, Chic Dillard decided that it was time to open his own.

He just didn’t know what kind of restaurant it would be. While driving through Kennesaw one day, Dillard spotted his inspiration in the form of a tiny roadside house.

“I had no idea I was going to open a barbecue restaurant,” said Dillard, whose years in the industry have included positions ranging from chef to director of operations. “I was actually looking at other buildings when I drove by here, saw the ‘For Rent’ sign out front, and thought, ‘Hmm, that would make a great barbecue place.’ ”

And how right he was. Within 60 days of finding the space, Big Shanty Smokehouse opened for …

Continue reading Profile of Chic Dillard, Big Shanty Smokehouse »

Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Precise Execution — Tomohiro Naito, Tomo Japanese Restaurant

Chef Tomohiro Naito (credit: Becky Stein)

Chef Tomohiro Naito (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Please work on your execution: Set high standards, train your cooks well, and if you don’t yet trust them to execute the food as well as you do, don’t leave the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many good restaurants have served me limp salad greens, pan-fried fish without crisp skin, steaks without sear and seasoning that is all over the place.

Here’s why I think Naito exemplifies this quality:

Naito has taken the long, slow path to sushi supremacy in this town. Without ever alienating his bread-and-butter crowd who come to Tomo Japanese Restaurant for California rolls and lunch bentos, he began proposing more and more special appetizers and unusual kinds of fish flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. But what has been most intriguing is how the small things keep getting better — the sushi rice slightly warmer than the fish, seasoned with a gentle sweet/sour interplay of …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Dazzling Finesse — Gerry Klaskala, Aria

Gerry Klaskala (AJC Staff)

Gerry Klaskala (AJC Staff)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Dazzle us with your finesse: People go out to restaurants to eat the kinds of dishes they can’t make at home. We want to marvel at how you cut that amazingly tender braised short rib into such a perfect square or how you coaxed that infinitely velvety texture from a parsnip.

Here’s why I think Klaskala exemplifies this quality:

What a pleasure to revisit Aria after many years and find this Buckhead stalwart hasn’t, after a decade, turned into one of those maturing restaurants with an aging clientele and ossified menu. Sure, the greying folks at the next table all order the signature lobster cocktails with potato and broccoli purees and quietly wash them down with clinking cocktails. But then another party celebrating a 30th birthday has a grand time passing plates around the table and exclaiming over the food. Aria attracts such a diverse clientele for Gerry Klaskala’s menu, which he updates …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Dazzling Finesse — Gerry Klaskala, Aria »

Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Healthy Perspective — Stephanie Panek, Rise N Dine

Stephanie Panek

Stephanie Panek

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Think about our health: When I look to the stars, it appears the heavenly body that brought us this Age of Meat is in retrograde. People are starting — gingerly — to speak of vegetables and sensible eating again. But the “gluttony-is-good” ethos just won’t go away. Pork fat and bacon are delicious — even more so in moderation. I hate that feeling of going home clutching my stomach, even after leaving half the food on my plate.

Here’s why I think Panek exemplifies this quality:

There’s nothing wrong with those hangover gut-bomb breakfasts we all love — the biscuits with sausage cream gravy, the three-cheese omelets with bacon and hash browns. But there’s something incredibly right about the variety of breakfasts you can build at Rise N Dine in Emory Village. Order your eggs with roasted sweet potatoes and sliced tomatoes, or any kind of fruit you want from berries to melon, or even amazing sage-quinoa grits. …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Healthy Perspective — Stephanie Panek, Rise N Dine »

Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Real Specialist — Candice Reynolds, Red Queen Tarts

Candice Reynolds

Candice Reynolds

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Make one thing really well: This whole food truck mania is not about the pleasures of diesel fumes and plastic forks. It’s about young cooks who make brilliant pizza, or serious ice cream, or bizarrely original tacos. Every chef needs a signature dish that is all hers or his, a lure to the restaurant, a mouthful of nothing-else-like-it that diners dream of days later.

Here’s why I think Reynolds exemplifies this quality:

When she was growing up in Snellville, Reynolds was never allowed junk food, such ascommercial toaster pastries. “We were organic before organic was cool,” she jokes of her upbringing. Not that she minded: it didn’t take long to realize that the peanut butter cookies her mother made with freshly ground peanuts and honey from her backyard bees were far superior to Nutter Butters. Years later, she was working as a paralegal and part-time caterer when a friend gave her the idea for Red Queen …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Real Specialist — Candice Reynolds, Red Queen Tarts »

Fall 2011 Dining Guide: True Wit — Ryan Smith, Empire State South

Ryan Smith (Credit: Empire State South)

Ryan Smith (Credit: Empire State South)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Show some wit: Each dish should be a story well told, even if it’s one that has been told many times before. Maybe you are making a beet and goat cheese salad, or macaroni and cheese. Instead of cutting the beets into wedges, you might sliver them into carpaccio rounds. And with so many La Brea truffle oil pit versions of mac and cheese around town, wouldn’t it be fun to envision one that is surpassingly light and delicate?

Here’s whyI think Smith exemplifies this quality:

Southern food is big. Pork is big. Cured meat is big. Farm-to-table cooking is really, really big. We all need to give Ryan Smith, the executive chef at Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South, a hand for not only sidestepping the clichés of contemporary Southern cooking but for giving it a fresh, urbane perspective. Let other restaurants tout their country ham; Smith makes his own “city ham” — a house-cured cooked version …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: New Fusion — Guy Wong, Miso Izakaya

Guy Wong credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Guy Wong (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Work toward the new fusion: Atlanta is one of the country’s best cities for new immigrant cooking. Our mainstream restaurants need to better reflect the reality of today’s multiethnic South. Have you heard of the Indian vegetable called drumstick? It can be as delicious as artichokes. Have you tried mashing boniato sweet potatoes, which are as white as clouds? Have you ever tried a sprig of fresh fenugreek at the DeKalb Farmers Market? Might you consider trying local goat for a winter special? If you like to go to Korean joints on Buford Highway, do you ever think about how to incorporate those flavors (chile, garlic, sugar, fermented vegetables) to a smart, wine-friendly dining sensibility?

Here’s why I think Wong exemplifies this quality:

Wong’s attempt at an izakaya (basically a Japanese-style pub with a small-plates menu) got off to a rocky beginning. For starters, he couldn’t get …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: New Fusion — Guy Wong, Miso Izakaya »

Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Master of Surprise — Robert Phalen, One Eared Stag

Robert Phalen (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Robert Phalen (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Surprise us: I recently went to a restaurant I really like and have to say my heart sank a bit when the waitress said the soup special was butternut squash. What’s special about that? Everyone makes it. Is anyone trying a cream of turnip, or kohlrabi, or escarole, or carrot with cumin, or Sea Island red pea with country ham, or wild lamb’s quarters with black cardamom and ginger, or …

Here’s why I think Phalen exemplifies this quality:

The food that comes from the kitchen at One Eared Stag is not the most finessed or consistent. You can’t be guaranteed that a dish you loved on one visit will taste the same two weeks later. And those intriguing dares — hello, fried chicken necks — may best be appreciated as such. But this I promise: You will smile from ear to ear. Have a braised, then deep-fried, rabbit leg and delight in the way its succulent meat and keeeeee-runchy crust plays …

Continue reading Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Master of Surprise — Robert Phalen, One Eared Stag »