Seen on Holcombe Bridge near the merge with Jimmy Carter, in the same spot where a Black Eyed Pea stood some 15 years ago, is a new Taiwanese eatery. It’s not quite open yet, but the bright yellow color scheme makes it stand out.

I know of one other Taiwanese eatery, and that’s the Bento Cafe, in the same strip mall as Kokai Thai, just east of Jimmy Carter and I-85 in Norcross. It will be interesting to compare the two when this thing opens. Bento was a place I’d eat at regularly three-four years ago, when I was working in Norcross. I now have a review of Bento Cafe.

I’ve also wanted for many days to capture the look of the Bakery Cafe Maum “Castle” on Buford Highway. Here are some photos of that eatery.

We picked up my mother-in-law and brother-in-law from the airport recently. My brother-in-law will be here briefly, and my mother-in-law is here for an extended stay. She was formerly from Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan, and met my father-in-law (now deceased) some time after the war. They married and stayed married until my father-in-law passed away.  As she then had to raise 4 kids by herself on a clerk’s salary, I admire and respect her toughness.

In any event, my in-laws told us days in advance that they wanted to go to Cho Wan Korean Buffet. I’ve said before this restaurant is a favorite with my family. Recently, Tasty Chomps reviewed the restaurant, an excellent review with a lot of good pictures.

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Though this restaurant has some sushi, and various side dishes, to a first approximation, this restaurants is about the meats.

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You can get chicken, pork, beef, bacon, octopus, and shrimp here. The meat is cooked on your table. Waitstaff does most of the cooking, even if you end up choosing your meats. You can get condiments of various kinds: things like jalapenos, sliced garlic, and lettuce leaves. The leaves are used to wrap meats, and if you want, you can add grilled onions, or cook some of your garlic until it is browned, and add it to the leaf.

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They have rice in the back, and a couple soups as well. The pickles, of various kinds, are quite good.

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The waitstaff were doting to my mother-in-law, making sure she had her share of meats, and fetched sauces for her, explaining their use. The lighter sauce in this picture is for bacon, they said, and the darker sauce is for beef.

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When we left, there was a Volkswagon Beetle in the lot with a pretty interesting pair of head rests. The restaurant was also filling up, and people were walking to the restaurant as the parking lot around the restaurant was completely filled.

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Cho Wan Korean Buffet
3635 Satellite Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 476-0458

Cho Won Korean Buffet on Urbanspoon

There are certain books that are useful (e.g. Chilton’s Total Care Care Manuals), certain books that are entertaining (e.g. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), certain books that are, at times, profound (Studs Terkel, in The Good War, interviewing Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi), and then there is the rare masterpiece that manages to be entertaining, informative, and profound.

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One such masterpiece is the cookbook Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art. This is a book I owned, loved, lost and recently purchased again. I love it for its matter of fact descriptions of how the Japanese eat, how they cook, how they prepare food, and in certain very fundamental ways, how they think. The first chapter sets the tone, 20 pages on the Japanese meal, and it just develops from there. No detail is too small to be covered. Shizuo Tsuji, the author, even shows you how to use chopsticks. Further, the book is chock full of small details, such as:

Nigiri-zushi is representative of Tokyo food. The reasons for this might relate to the fact that Tokyo – or Edo as the city was known before 1868 – is situated on a bay that was once rich in seafood of all kinds. No doubt influenced by the bountiful catch of their wide, placid bay, the people of Edo always knew the taste of truly fresh fish and craved it.

There are very few pictures but plenty of diagrams, and I love the functional simplicity of the line drawings in this book. Simply put, this would have to be on my short list of books to be left with on a desert island.

The Book “Quick & Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes“, was a choice I made in part because I wasn’t 100% sure that the previous book was the one I lost. I wanted to fill out my bookshelf on this subject and this book isn’t a bad addition. Tsukemono is central to the Japanese meal. As Ikuko Hisamatsu says in the preface:

For most of the Japanese nothing can replace enjoying plain, hot rice with tsukemono and dinner is not complete without it as the final course.

There are lots of pictures, visual step by step instructions on how to make various Japanese pickles, and if you’re at all acquainted with the topic, then you know that pickles aren’t just made with vinegar in Japan. I liked the book, whose focus is getting the reader to be able to make pickles.. utilitarian, in other words.

The final choice isn’t so much a cookbook as a history of food in Korea, and was an attempt to find something covering Korean cuisine that was as good as Shizuo Tsuji’s text.  Nonetheless, “Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History” by Michael J. Pettid also does have 23 pages of Korean recipes at the end. I like this book, though at times reading it feels a little overwhelming. I tend to think though, with the explosion of Korean food throughout Gwinnett County and the Buford Highway region of town, it was time to learn something.

Don’t let the outside of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market fool you. I have avoided this place for the longest time because it’s a little tricky to get into and the parking lot, on weekends, always looks like a crazy mess. The building is older and I was just shy of the place. But a coworker of mine, Veronica, told me she does all her meat shopping there, and that it was inexpensive. I had nothing to lose, so I stopped by there today.

It was surprisingly neat and clean. The classic farmer’s market in town is a little cramped, with produce fighting for space with other produce, with boxes stacked here and there. Not here. Except for the older floors, the cleanliness approached a suburban supermarket. Produce was cheap and cleanly labeled. Aisles were not cramped, they were spacious and wide.

In the produce section, I bought some garlic, some beautiful red cherry peppers (triangular shaped though), a couple peppers called a long hot pepper, some green onions, and some tomatillos, so perhaps we can try Innocent Primate’s salsa verde sometime.

Tomatillos, cheery peppers, long hot peppers and other produce from Buford Highway.

Tomatillos, cherry peppers, long hot peppers and other produce from Buford Highway.

In the back there was a bakery (with freshly wrapped stacks of tortillas) and a butcher shop. Prices were lower than the equivalent supermarket items. There were a lot more organ meats than you would find in a typical store – beef hearts and pork hearts, pigs feet and other organ meats. There were fish swimming in tanks, ready to be sold (or filleted). Fish already packaged was clearly labeled with the place it came from. But I wasn’t here for fish, for the most part. I was looking at legumes and grains.

This is an international market, and in this instance, the origin of the groceries was divided on an aisle by aisle basis and clearly labeled. I’ll note that you can get red lentils in the Hispanic aisle, along with various sizes of green lentils. In the American aisle, there were at least four different brands of beans. And unlike Publix, the N. K. Hurst products here (we have spoken of N. K. Hurst before) are competitively priced with all the other vendors.

Most interesting to me was the Indian foods aisle. This is the closest place I’ve found for bulk Indian dals and bulk Indian spices (most supplied by a Houston company, Spicy World of USA, Inc). In this section they have standard green lentils, brown lentils (masoor dal whole), and black lentils (urad or urid dals). Others dals include moong dals (mung bean based), chana dals (chick peas), kala chana (black chickpeas), and mahdi toor dals. They have garam masala in bulk, along with a variety of other spices. They have a version of sambar powder, which if I recall correctly was prized back in my school days for cooking vegetables.

Buford Highway Farmer's Market on Urbanspoon

After shopping here, I headed north up the street to a placed called the White Windmill Bakery and Cafe. I had been wanting to stop there because the place just looks fantastic from the outside. So I managed to pull over this time and took a peek inside. It’s a Korean bakery, by Koreans and largely for Koreans.  The store has a counter with sweets, rows of breads, and several tables to sit. In terms of foods, I saw fancy coffee and tea,  quality chocolates, exquisite tarts (but around $5.00 each), beautiful small cakes. My wife likes bean curd sweets, so I found a red bean curd bun for my wife and then got a cream bun for my daughter. I’ll have to tell you later what they thought of them.

White Windmill Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

I have a large, multiethnic family, with people of most races, creeds, colors. And when we are entertaining guests, we keep an eye to places that can both feed everyone and offer value.  More members than not like spicy foods, and like a lot of it.  And in that vein, back in the day when Bites was an active restaurant we would take my family there.  Understand, my wife generally does not like coconut milk or mint in her foods, and she would regularly request to go to Bites.

Bites is gone now, replaced by Thooms, and the food, while good, isn’t crafted the way the former Bites owner would do. Eric’s masaman beef dishes were a work of art.  But hopefully Tammy and Eric are enjoying their retirement. Toward the end you could see how weary the job would make Tammy.

In the strip malls on the south side of Pleasant Hill, just west of the Pleasant Hill I-85 intersection, are a number of restaurants I take seriously. To mention three,  there is Haru Ichiban, which I consider to be one of the best Japanese restaurants in town (my mother in law is Japanese. I have a little familiarity with the cuisine). There is Sydney’s, a buffet style restaurant that is sometimes really good and sometimes not. Third, a converted  Black Eyed Pea has become one of the more unusual Korean restaurants I’ve seen, Cho Wan BBQ of Duluth.

Korean BBQ has been in this town forever, but it was cooked for you. At Cho Wan the meat is all you can eat. You select the meats yourself, you cook the barbecue yourself, at your table. When it opened it was packed. Korean families in tens and twenties filled the restaurant and the average food bill (they had too many bills to hide them) were running about $300.00 – 500.00. I asked relatives in San Francisco, former coworkers in New York City, net-friends in Seattle whether they had heard of any other Korean restaurant using this arrangement. And at the time I heard of no one else doing this.

Cho Wan succeeds because it’s a “one of” in Atlanta, and the price is not exceptional if you’re prepared to eat a lot of BBQ. This restaurant is what my relatives from San Francisco ask to go to when they are in town. This is where my sister-in-law celebrated her birthday. This is where my wife celebrated her last birthday.  In the price/value equation, this restaurant hits a sweet spot with my family.

Cho Wan on Urbanspoon

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