Soooo I just got back from my trip to Atlanta, and still sinking back in to my home, now a chaotic mess of unclean dishes, homeless food processor lids, and pots and pans still waiting for its spa treatment (wtf happened while I was gone?). Flipping through my digi-cam and reliving the many meals I had there, I came to realize that I had a need to cook this whole week, to ponder all day about what to dish for dinner was really what kept me going. Cooking, for me, is a form of stress management.
Not to say that I didn’t enjoy Atlanta at all, cause I did. Made new friends, found out new things, relived the old… In fact, I loved it. Lots.
The humidity is something we don’t see in the meditteranean climate of the OC; leaves don’t make a crunch when stepped on, you literally smell the water in the air, and it spontaneously rains throughout out the day. It brings back childhood memories of summers spent Hiroshima, the days when I went out at night ot catch fireflies.
But let’s get down to business, shall we? Here’s some nommage I did:
Our first night, right after our plane arrived at Atlanta (right before the clock struck twelve), we went to Sun and Moon Cafe. It’s a Korean late-night eatery that’s nested next to a 24 hour Korean spa.
We sampled different dishes that aren’t very ‘main stream’: Budae Jjigae (soldier hot pot) – with spam, sausages, and ramen noodles… All cooked with kim chee to a spicy, porky, yet mildly junky heavenliness…
It was sooooo different from what I considered Korean food, the usual soon tofu and galbee ribs, the jap chae, the banchan – speaking of which, even the banchan here was different! Sweet and vinegary crunchy glass noodles that I couldn’t identify, wilted daikon leaves, no kim chee) found at Korean markets… Real Korean food introduced to me by a real Korean. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
It seemed as though our gastroadventures were on a good start, but then we hit a brick wall. My boss came to join us from headquarters, and he can only eat Japanese food. Japanese food that is good, authentic, and owned by a Japanese. And close to downtown Atlanta. Oh mai!
Our first try was a sushi joint in Midtown called Imari. Or so we thought. Imari actually moved to a town further away, and what was left was a super-roll atrocity called Sushi House. When we found out, it was too late; the taxi had already left us in the parking lot. So we went in.
Sushi House is an American sushi place, with tempura drop ladened super rolls and fancy martinis. It was okay, but I’ve had better…
Tuna tartar, which had no tuna in it at all. Just chopped cooked fish, imitation crab, and octopus in a mayo sauce (that they use in everything), topped with tricolor masago. Served with meager amounts of floppy cucmber sticks and three apple slices.
The super crunch roll… I presume. California roll with tempura bits, cream cheese, and go chu jang (Korean hot sauce). It’s oooookay, but so over the top.
But I do have to note that they have a good alcohol selection here and that the service is impeccable.
The next day, we went to Haru Ichiban, an izakaya in Doraville. This was a rec from our friend that took us to Sun and Moon Cafe, and my supervisor was so relieved to hear people yelling in Japanese from the kitchen as we were guided to a private room. This place is roomy, very family friendly (or so I thought), and the service was great too. The food is much standard, best out of the places we sampled and fairly priced.
We ate A LOT, so I’m only going to list ones that I liked.
Maitake tempura. This one is my favorite. Maitake is a type of mushroom that has rich, buttery flavor and is expensive here in Irvine. However, here they gave us a choke load for about 5 bucks. Very crispy, and it STAYS crispy (whoa!). We interrogated the waitress and found out that they use some special tempura powder and fry it all in peanut oil.
Oh, how I long for the day that I can cook on a gas burner.
Then we went to Hashiguchi Jr, a sushi joint that was much recommended by chowhounds. This is in Midtown too, right by the Lenox mall.
The food here is okay, but I think my experience here was marred by the incompetent, rude wait staff.
They talk down to you in Japanese, the sushi chef is unfriendly and makes you feel like your questions are stupid, and the busboy is too eager to take your plates away from you. Very unhelpful people, and they have a sorry excuse for a drink list (only 1 brand for shochu? Come on!).
However, it seemed like a local favorite because most of the clientele were Japanese. They also have a huge izakaya menu, and it took our boss a couple minutes to realize that we were in a sushi joint.
I don’t know what this was called, but it’s silken tofu with miso sauce. The miso sauce is good here, but they also use it on their katsu, which was not as enjoyable. Apparently this is a type of miso from Nagoya, whatever that means.
We ordered fried tako. Usually, fried tako consists of chopped adult legs prepared like calamari, but they use baby octopi here. So cute, so dreadful to look at, but rubbery goodness nonetheless, with an explosive bubble of innards.
Then boss went back to Japan and we were free to eat some Southern food (FINALLY!)
We only had one dinner and one lunch to experience the South gastronomically, so we chose Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a tourist attraction slash neighborhood family eatery. This place is sooooo cute and so Paula Dean, if you know what I mean.
Everything on the menu is what you’d imagine that southeners eat: cornbread, ribs, fried chiken… And the portions are HUGE. If you do go, order the sweet tea with extra ice.
If you tell your waiter/waitress that it’s your first time, they give you a sample of the Pot Likker soup for free. Collard greens in a porky, salty broth, and you crumble cornbread in it. It was a nice surprise.
Fried chicken tenders + creamed corn + sweet potato souffle. The chicken is very crunchy and not too dry.
The creamed corn is EXQUISITE. I could eat bowls of that.
I thought that the sweet potatoes would’ve done better as a dessert – strong cinnamon kick with notes giving away the presence of condensed milk somewhere.
Sirloin Steak + creamed corn + Broccoli Souffle (souffle of the day). Didn’t like the sirloin steak (just a bland hamburg steak), but the souffle was awesome. Much more like a gratin, but cheesy and gooood.
Ribs + Tomato n’ Okra + Mac n’ Cheese.
The ribs were good and not dry, but the sauce wasn’t as rich as I would like for it to be. Reminded me of a toned down version of the sauce they use at the Bengal Grill at Disneyland (next to the Jungle Cruise).
The Mac n’ Cheese uses American cheese AND Ricotta Cheese, and this was just plain awesome. Comes to a close second on my favorite mac n’ cheese list, still topped by Lucille’s. The tomato n’ okra is standard and simple, but in a good way.
Our last day, today, we went to our friend’s place for lunch. Another sushi joint, but this one is fast-food oriented and American friendly, called Totori Frsh Grill and Sushi. John and his partners are very ambitious and experiment with the menu here and there. They do hibachi grills and teppanyaki style dishes too, so please pay him a visit when you’re in town. Oh, and Korean dishes too. Plus he’s cute, and that’s some bonus points right there.
And because we HAD to go to Waffle House (there’s practically one on every corner and it’s just crazy not to go)…
I had a pecan waffle despite the fact that I was stuffed from John’s sushi lunch/early dinner.
2221 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA, 30309
3646 Satellite Blvd
Duluth, GA, 30096
Atlanta, GA, 31132
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Atlanta, GA, 30308
Totori Fresh Grill and Sushi
Lawrenceville, GA, 30044
On every corner.