January 2010

I didn’t get photographs of the breads the one time I reviewed Seasons 52, so here is a photo of them now: flatbreads from Seasons 52:

Their trout and their stuffed mushrooms were also looking good.

One of the nice things about Seasons 52 is that no matter what the entrée, it’s under 475 calories. It makes it an ideal place for an upscaled “Subway” diet.

In a word, Bishoku is graceful. It’s graceful by the standards of the Japanese restaurants in Atlanta, which is a fairly competitive and high standard. It has all the apparently effortless grace I’ve seen in the work of my Japanese professors and coworkers, postdoctoral colleagues and research scientists, who would work so brutally, amazingly hard to achieve this apparently effortless grace. It’s an aesthetic, not quite yûgen but aspiring to be, and perhaps at its best, it is.

It took four tries over two months to actually make it to Bishoku, twice arriving too late, once arriving on time, but on a Monday. There being only one of me I sat at the sushi bar, which centers the restaurant, a square that all the rest of the seating is built around. Service here is exceptional. My impression is that this is a perceptive and smart staff. They can be flattering too, as when they complimented me on how I handled chopsticks. And yes, I can shovel rice with the best of them, but I have an unorthodox grip.

Still, if you let the staff do what they are supposed to do, and relax a little, then you can appreciate the little details that make a meal here memorable, as well as the craft that goes into the food they create here. For one, I seldom run into a bowl for miso that is made of wood, complimented by an equally wooden spoon. Usually both are porcelain.

The chirashi sushi I had was topped by a nice collection of fish, visually appealing and tasty, with interesting flavor and texture contrasts. But more so, with off white pickled ginger on one side,and shavings of daikon in the middle, under the fish there were two semicircles of pickled daikon on the other side, just to help cleanse the palate. It was a nice touch.

I ate one before I took the photo. Sorry!

I also ordered gyoza, which were nicely done. To finish, there was an apple tart. Thin sliced apple covered just a bit of cinnamon and sugar. The overall effect was heavenly, one of the best things I ate that day.

Verdict: Graceful restaurant with very good food and superb staff. Very Highly Recommended.

5920 Roswell Road Suite B-111
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(404) 252-7998

Bishoku on Urbanspoon

Notes: There is a fine must read review by Blissful Glutton of this restaurant. The tart was a freebie, but my opinion of this restaurant was made long before the tart arrived.

I’ve spoken of Tastees before, a small one man Jamaican restaurant on Centerville Highway, next to Flames, and the last time I went I thought they were pretty good. But I never did get back to them to try their jerk chicken. I was too fascinated by one of the curries Tastees offered. So I came back, on a day many restaurants were closed, to see what Tastees serves as a jerk chicken.

It’s a wet jerk, and it’s been over the grill a while. Tastees appears to have a newer grill than it did the last time I came. It is still out front, and the sound system inside has also been improved.  The picture is of a large jerk chicken plate, which at Tastees costs $9.00. The smaller plate is $7.50.  I thought the jerk chicken was good, the veggies were good, the plantains good, the peas and rice  were good.

Alongside the jerk chicken is a bottle of DG’s spicy Jamaican ginger beer. It’s in the same category as Stewart’s Ginger Beer or Blenheims, which we have spoken about before. DG’s has a clean spicy bite to it, noticeable but not overpowering.

In the same mall area as Red Robin and Urban Flats, there is a Honeybaked Ham. It’s a bit “around the corner” from Urban Flats, and roughly opposite the Doc Greens in the area. They serve both meats and sandwiches, though there really is no place to sit inside. I bought a half pound of ham, and thought the lady behind the counter was both helpful and sweet. This store was new to me, though my wife tells me it’s been here a while.

In the building where On the Border used to be, a stone’s throw from Honeybaked Ham, a new restaurant is being put together. It’s called Kampai, and the focus will be steaks and sushi and tapas. The last has me curious. While there are hibachi style restaurants in Snellville, there is no izakaya.  An izakaya would come in handy in this neck of the woods.

Tastee’s Jamaican Cuisine
2671 Centerville Hwy
Snellville, GA 30078
(678) 344-7004

The Honeybaked Ham Company
1250 Scenic Highway
Lawrenceville GA 30045
(678) 344-4673

The Viceroy is a restaurant completely under critical radar, yet at the same time it’s achieving impressive credentials on Urban Spoon. It’s one of these places that the media and bloggers have missed, but still has a reasonable following. It’s a bit too far for me to frequent at night, but approachable during lunch hour. That’s a shame, as Viceroy is largely a buffet place during the day. They have interesting options during the night, including a 4 step scale for heat in their foods.

It’s not easy to drive by the Viceroy. You have to enter the same shopping center in which J Alexanders is found, the Perimeter Village Shopping Center, and drive towards the back. Pass the Wall-Mart and eventually you’ll see the Viceroy. The entrance is neat, but otherwise a classic strip mall store front.

Once inside the restaurant is good looking. The waiters are neat and precise, dressed in white, and along one wall there are buffet choices. The buffet covers a lot of ground, in terms of eating, and can roughly be divided into 4 sections. The first section contains sauces. There are things like chutneys, chilis, mint sauces, raita, and hot sauce for those who need it. Next to the sauces are desserts. This section contained things like fruit firni when I was there. The third section has vegetable dishes. Pakoras, dal makhani, chana saag, and a vegetable biryani were items I recall in the vegetarian section. The final section began with a small oven containing tandoori chicken. It continued with a goat curry, a chicken makhani, and a vindaloo, as I recall.

left: curry; bottom: chicken makhani; right: vindaloo; top: tandoori chicken

left: curry - middle: basmati rice - right: vindaloo - bottom: chicken makhani - top: tandoori chicken

If you order food, a nice basket of naan will appear on your table.

Viceroy has a good naan.

Viceroy has a good naan.

I liked what I ate here. The tandoori chicken was the best of the foods that I tried. It was rich in flavor, and I was surprised they could manage that, given the buffet setup. The fruit firni was delightful, and the rest of the dishes I’d rate as good. The vindaloo was very underpowered, but if you read the self description in Urban Spoon, they’re aiming for Atlanta style heat, not Indian style heat. If you want hotter dishes, come at night and order something “hot” or “Indian hot”.

As I came during lunch, I can’t tell you how good this place will be during dinner. But the lunch was good enough, and the service good enough, that if I lived in the area I would have certainly been back for dinner.

Verdict: Neat, flexible eatery with good service and good food. Recommended.

Viceroy Royal Indian Cuisine
4719 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338
(770) 353-3000

The Viceroy Royal Indian Dining on Urbanspoon

In what used to be Il Forno Pizza, near Five Forks and Oak Road, the sign has changed.

If you go inside, the staff is still wearing black Il Forno T-shirts, so I don’t know what has prompted the sign change.

My brother-in-law lives perhaps four blocks from Japantown so we have a tendency to eat there, and eat there a lot. It’s a huge concentration of Japanese eating in a very small area, enough so that Blissful Glutton, in a moment of demographic incompatibility, declared that metro Atlanta had more Japanese eateries than San Francisco did. To note, that’s a comparison of a city of about 750,000 to a greater metropolitan area of around 5.4 million. The two regions are difficult to compare, because they’re not scaled the same at all. But that someone would attempt to compare Japantown, largely, to metro Atlanta speaks to the sheer depth of eating choices there, and the hard core immersion of the experience.

The area of San Francisco’s Japantown is tiny compared to the expanse of Chinatown. A substantial amount of it is within three connected buildings.

The Kinokuniya building is centered around the Kinokuniya bookstore, which surprise surprise surprise, does more than sell manga.

Notable about the Japanese eateries in the Bay area are the outdoor display cases, and the relatively inexpensive lunches. Even Benihana gets in on the act.

Inside the buildings, there are a bewildering array of stores, dealing in everything from fine art to pop culture.

Outside, surrounding the three buildings, are eateries of various kinds. There are Japanese restaurants, to be sure, but also Korean, Chinese, and Hawaiian eateries with a strong Japanese influence.

New Orleans Seafood is charming, in its own way. I’m delighted that Chow Down Atlanta found this restaurant, as there really is nothing like it anywhere near Snellville.  This is a small seafood store that also prepares food, and the owners are ethnically Vietnamese.  As I entered, I couldn’t help but think about all the Vietnamese around Kemah, Texas in the 1980s, who were the most reliable and inexpensive source of seafood for anyone near Houston at the time.   So to some extent, going to New Orleans Seafood feels as if I’m stepping back in time.

The chef that makes the food go comes from the Mobile, Alabama area. Mobile was a center of Vietnamese immigration, as access to the sea gave these immigrants a way to make a living. That same access to the Gulf also meant an exposure to Cajun customs and cooking, as Acadians range all over the Gulf.

In the middle of all the excitement, I managed to order hush puppies, a boudin ball, a shrimp po boy and about a pound of boiled crawfish.

The big sphere is the boudin ball.

After I entered and ordered, the lady of the eatery came out and ask how I had found the place. I told her I had seen this place on the Internet and she became so excited. Eventually I showed her Chloe’s web site and she started telling me about Chloe’s visit, how Chloe wanted to take pictures and all. It left me in a bit of a quandry, as I wanted to take pictures as well. But the food was ‘to go’ so I ended up leaving and taking pictures when I could stop.

The hush puppies were good. The boudin roll was very good, with a decent amount of spice. The po boy was decent, fresh shrimp combining with a good roll to make a very edible sandwich. But the best of them all were the boiled crawfish. They were the best I’ve had in Atlanta in years, very spicy and delicious. My daughter helped me eat these, and was saying afterwards, “It was so worth it!”

If I haven’t said, this eatery and store is in the same strip mall as “What the Pho?”

Verdict: Cajun seafood and dishes with a Vietnamese flair. Highly Recommended.

New Orleans Seafood
2442 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite 8
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 474-0064

New Orleans Seafood on Urbanspoon

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