October 2009


Update: for some reason Urban Spoon has decided this is a review of Sakegura. This article is no such thing. The review of Sakegura is here.

In the same strip mall as Sakegura, there is a Panera Bread being set up. It’s not quite ready for business, but puts a food franchise for sandwiches and bread closer to my house than the neighborhood Atlanta Bread Company. I remember the first Saint Louis Bread Company I saw (the precurser to Panera). It started up about a block from where I lived and on the walk to work. In those days it was just muffins, sweetbreads and quality breads. Seating included good newspapers. The place was always crowded, but warm baguettes for breakfast or an early dinner were a real treat.

The Eat Great for $8.00 promotion is still going on at Ted’s Montana Grill. Here is a picture of one of their mini burgers. You can get two of these as one of the $8.00 options. They also offer a bit of salmon for $8.00 as well, perhaps the best buy of the $8.00 meals.

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Last, Frontera. I’ve never considered Frontera Mex-Mex a fajita joint, but more a place to get a good crazy taco or burrito al carbon, but as I’m looking closer at fajitas, I thought I should try at least once. This is what we got recently at the Snellville Frontera.

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Nice plating, the onions a little underdone on the beef and more underdone on the chicken. The onions were transparent but not really caramelized. The meat was hot but not sizzling. Good amounts of rice and beans but really inadequate amounts of pico de gallo on first delivery. We asked for more and got a nicely sized plate of pico de gallo.  Fajitas were delivered with a lot of other plates of food and that prevented optimal technique; ideal on those hot plates would be to spritz the meat with a little lime juice to enhance the steam and sizzle. But you can’t do that if the person delivering the food has plates all over their arms.

The meat? Marinated and tender. What kind? Looks like a nice cut of steak. It was well-done meat, which is how it’s supposed to be, and could have been cooked a little longer. It was better when it was blackened a bit. The food was pretty cool by the time we were finishing so we took food home that day.

Fajita rating? Perhaps a “B”.

Arirang Korean Food and Sushi & Hibachi are two of the restaurants found in the Assi food court on Pleasant Hill, just east of I-85. As you face Assi Supermercado, the food court is to the left. Two of the restaurants in this location (China House and Fusion YoriJori Burger) have been reviewed on the blog Chow Down Atlanta, and this article will talk about two others. It’s not that we didn’t want to try the restaurants that have already been reviewed. But there is enough interesting food in this food court to keep reviewers busy for a long while.

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The front of Arirang Korean Food.

In part, my family was in shock when we arrived at the food court. There are three Korean restaurants, all with unique menus. There are two Mexican restaurants. There is a Thai restaurant, a pho place, a Chinese noodle shop that makes its own noodles, and in the corner, there is Sushi & Hibachi, oriented towards Japanese foods. After talking with my mother-in-law, she was in no mood to be experimental, so she tried the beef teriyaki box from Sushi & Hibachi. My daughter and I decided that bibimbaps looked good, and Arirang Korean Food had two good looking bibimbaps. My daughter got the regular size and I ordered the larger size, with the hot stone bowl.

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Regular bibimbap (#6)

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Hot stone bibimbap (#5)

The regular bibimbap came first, then the “bento” box. My order came last. Along with the food were a bowl of miso soup, spicy pickles, a serving of hot sauce. On my daughter’s dish the rice was in a separate bowl, whereas the rice was inside my stone. As my daughter began to pick at her food, my mother-in-law told her, “Supposed to mix.”

So mix we did. It’s a little juicier when mixed, the mixing adds some needed water to the vegetables and the egg. There are bits of seaweed, some tiny bits of meat, a lot of veegtables and of course rice in the bowl. The stone bowl merrily sizzled as I ate. My daughter had to spoon rice into her bowl to mix. As we ate, my mother-in-law finished the salad and tempura in her box and started feeding the two of us the beef teriyaki she had.

After downing a couple of the chunks, my daughter observed, “It’s better than I thought it would be. Pretty good, actually.” I found it to be nicely flavored and tender meat. I had (my mother-in-law insisted) a couple of the sushi as well.The sushi was decent, but hardly fancy.

In retrospect, I’d put Sushi & Hibachi in the same class as Totori Fresh Grill and Sushi, a place that emulates the hibachi houses but tries to provide a much less expensive product. As for Arirang, as I have no basis for comparison with anything else, I’ll just say it was inexpensive, good, and the quality of presentation of the food was pretty phenomenal for a food court shop.

Arirang Korean Food
Inside Assi Food Court
1630 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 638-3505

Sushi & Hibachi
Inside Assi Food Court
1630 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 638-1069

Arirang Korean Food on Urbanspoon

Sushi & Hibachi on Urbanspoon

When the sign for Assi Supermercado first appeared on Pleasant Hill, my daughter and I drove into the lot to check it out. Nothing was open at the time and my first impression was that it was going to be a large Hispanic store targeted to the Spanish audience. Fast forward to now, and Chloe Morris has reviewed both Assi and two of the restaurants in Assi’s substantial food court (here and here). Rather than being a specifically Spanish store, it’s a classic international market, in the mold of Super H and Buford Highway Farmer’s Market. By the time I read Chloe’s blog, my wife was running late through Atlanta and my mother-in-law needed groceries to cook. It was a no brainer, then, to take my mother-in-law to the newest international market in Atlanta.

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There are two bakeries within Assi, including this one.

It is large. It contains foods, a couple bakeries (Mozart being one of them), several restaurants in the food court, and not just restaurants, but interesting restaurants. The store itself is maybe half to 70% of the size of Super H Mart, so the items that can be found in Assi isn’t as exhaustive as BHFM, but there is enough produce to make it a very useful stop. My mother-in-law completed her shopping there, getting everything from produce to inari-zushi wrappers to nori for home made sushi.

We also ate there, but I’ll cover that in a separate post.

Verdict: If you have any soul at all, and you’re living in the area, you must check it out. Simply must.

Assi International Supermercado
1630 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096

Update: On the blog Mama Sophie’s Soul Kitchen, there is a detailed comparison of Assi and H-Mart.

With this being the seasons of colds and flu, we can’t always eat out. Recently, we ordered take out from Sushi Avenue in Snellville.

beef tataki

beef tataki

 

salmon teriyaki

salmon teriyaki

 

sio (salt) grilled salmon. This is a favorite of mine.

sio (salt) grilled salmon. This is a favorite of mine.

 

Assorted sushi.

Assorted sushi.

We’ve only been at the restaurant once, but it continues to be a place we go to routinely when we want good Japanese food.

This is a photo of my first red boonie pepper:

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Though inside and losing their lowest leaves, the boonie peppers are still flowering and the peppers still growing and ripening.

I dropped by the Royal Oak Pub and they have told me the Dunwoody Group will be opening a new restaurant in Cumming within the next two weeks.

And my father writes, and claims that the first grill he had was not a 55 gallon drum. Instead, he says

My first “Texas Hibachi”  wasn’t a 55 gallon drum.  It was (is, since I still have it) made from an old fashioned cast iron wash pot.  The top is one scrap disk from a disk plow with a pipe welded to it for a smoke stack.  A thin oil drum would have rusted or burned out years ago.

Now my memory and his disagree. I recall a 55 gallon drum grill he used early on, and that it burned out. By the time we’re in Louisiana, my father does have the grill described above. But memories are tricky things, especially those of young children. That might have been a neighbor’s grill I remember from my early days, not my father’s.

Aladdin’s Mediterranean Grill and Deli isn’t the easiest restaurant to find. Perhaps the most straightforward way would be to head onto Highway 400 and exit west on exit 6. Head to Roswell Road, and then head north. Pass the 3 Dollar Cafe and go perhaps 1-2 more blocks. On your right will be a mall area with a Publix supermarket. Turn in there. There are a series of disconnected strip mall pieces. On the far left of one of those pieces is Aladdin’s.

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Inside, it’s set up for speed and efficiency. You face a cash register and you order there. Behind the register are two skewers with thick chunks of meat as large around as a tree trunk. One appears to be beef, the other chicken. The skewers are a part of a shawarma rotisserie; beef and chicken shawarma are the meals of choice here. The beef and chicken can be found in inexpensive sandwiches and also in platters. Food delivery is fast. If you don’t have it by the time you order, you can sit and they’ll call out your order when ready.

The crowd is a mix of professionals, and people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. There are more than a few Blackberries being openly used here. People were coming and going throughout my stay. It’s obvious the “locals” have found this place.

I started with a lentil soup, which was colored with turmeric, had hints of curry spices and was really good.

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The soup was refreshing enough I almost didn’t hear them call out my order, a shawarma platter with two meats.

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While the chicken was good, the beef was better, rich in spices and delicious.  The hummus was good, the bread and rice soft and tasty. Aladdins isn’t expensive at all. It would be easy to get out with a drink and a sandwich and pay less than 10 dollars. But in this section of town, it would be hard to get this much flavor in this price range. For that reason, I consider Aladdins a bit of a ‘find’. There is really nothing like it in the local vicinity. For those in the area wanting a lot of flavor served reasonably fast, this place delivers.

Verdict: Inexpensive, flavorful meals. Very Highly Recommended.

Aladdin’s Mediterranean Grill and Deli
8725 Roswell Rd
Sandy Springs, GA 30350
(770) 518-9288

Aladdin's Mediterranean Grill & Deli on Urbanspoon

I’ve become, in very short order, a big fan of Robb Walsh, because of the depth of research this writer uses to develop his stories. In the comments to my Fire of Brazil review, I gave two “must read” Robb Walsh links, and also about that time, ordered three books of his.

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The first is The Tex Mex Cookbook. As Robb Walsh points out, nobody knew the difference between Tejano food and Mexican food until the publication of the landmark The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. Diana did something worthwhile, which is to treat the food of the poor in Mexico with the same respect as the food of the rich.  She did, however, reflect the dislike Mexicans felt towards border food in her writing. As a consequence, she created a huge critical distaste for Tex-Mex (or New Mexican border cuisine or Mexicali) in places like New York.

Red headed step child or no, Tex-Mex is popular in Paris, France, where a number of Tex-Mex restaurants can be found. As Robb Walsh details, the movie Betty Blue is in part responsible for this, with its tequila and chili scenes. It created a demand for Tex-Mex that could not be met by traditional Mexican foods, which Parisians regarded as old fashioned. The last chapter of this cookbook is full of the Tex-Mex recipes of Paris.

The second cookbook by Robb Walsh is The Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook. This was interesting to glance at, because I’ve heard the refrain, “Texas is about barbecuing beef over mesquite” for at least a decade now.  As Robb Walsh points out, it isn’t anywhere near that simple. Mr. Walsh identifies, by my count, at least 6 different styles of barbecue in Texas, from techniques dating to prehistory and the Caddo Indians to the pork barbecue, sans sauce, that evolved in northeast Texas after the Civil War. In between he talks about the barbecue of Texas’s German and Czech immigrants, the barbacoa of the Tejano, the evolution of the open pit barbecues that became national spectacle in the presidency of LBJ. In between he talks etymology of the word barbecue (in side panels), and throws out dozens of interesting recipes for meats and sauces. He showed me some terms I’d never seen before. Though my father’s first grill was a 55 gallon drum cut open and set up by his own father, I had never heard one of these grills referred to as a “Texas hibachi” until now.

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The third book, “Are You Really Going To Eat That?“, seems a kind of Travel Channel-esque tour through the food world. I’ve looked at it the least and have the least to say about. It reminds me a little of Eat Buford Highway’s subtitle, and I wonder if this book and his subtitle are somehow related.

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The final book to mention is “Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook“. I have spoken about this cookbook before. I could review it, but Zack Davisson’s review is excellent, a must read if you’re interested in this kind of cookbook. I will say it has a nice history of the izakaya, which rather than being a single kind or model of restaurant, is something of a chameleon.

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