Friday, July 31, 2015

Casa Vieja on Shallowford Rd in Doraville

You can find Casa Vieja at 3652 Shallowford Rd NE, Doraville, GA 30340 in Doraville on one of those cut-through streets. It's in the middle of a small strip mall that looks like if fell off the face of the earth, with almost all ethnic shops and restaurants. Parking is fairly cramped so you may have to walk a bit but the food is worth it.

I hit Casa Vieja on a Friday when I didn't have much going on and was just looking for something different for lunch, preferably in an area I don't usually visit but not too far from the house (I had taken the day off). It popped up on Yelp as I was driving near Doraville so I decided to give it a try. The shopping center reminded me of being in a border town, very ethnic with an interestate bus pick-up going on nearby and tons of people with luggage. Don't let the shanty-like appearance fool you though as the food at Casa Vieja is very solid Colombian-style cuisine.

The interior is very bright and the place was packed. I was taken to the only open table and there were several groups, mostly of Latinos but I spotted an occasional American, probably from local businesses. The menu has 4 pages that was broken up into Entradas (Appetizers), Carnes (Meats), Comida de Mar (Seafood), Especiales (Daily Specials for both Saturday and Sunday), Botanas Mexicanas (a few Mexican items), Postres (Desserts) and Bebidas (Beverages.

The servers were very attentive and even with broken English were able to describe the contents of the various meals and the lunch specials - there were two, a fish that I didn't pay too much attention to and the Bandeja Paisa (lunch portion so smaller than the regular platter, plus it came with a juice drink - I chose the raspberry, all for $7.99). I really like the Paisa's that you usually find in Colombian restaurants - they have a variety of meats (carne asada and chicharones), a fried egg, rice, beans, maduros style plantains and an arepa in this example. I liked everything except the arepa (but in general I don't care for them much - in some Columbian restaurants you get tostones instead).

I found the food very good and the portion perfect for lunch. As with just about all of the Colombian restaurants I've visited, the food took a bit longer to make it to the table once ordered, but I'm guessing that this is typical - the flip side is that the food is worth waiting for and so far I haven't been disappointed.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Las Colinas Mexican Grill - Tucker GA on Main St

You can find Las Colinas Mexican Grill at 2327 Main St, Tucker GA 30084 in the heart of Tucker on Main St. It's nearly directly across from Local No. 7 and slightly down the street you'll find Matthew's Cafeteria across the railroad tracks.

When Rotagilla closed a few years ago I was hoping for something interesting to take its spot - Rotagilla was a cajun restaurant (Alligator spelled backwards, get it?) that featured live music on weekends - the food wasn't bad but for some reason it never garnered much of a following in Tucker. I may have been for the very excellent CAMP that was in the same spot previously and the Cafe at Main before that, a great breakfast spot (I still haven't found a replacement for the Tucker 8). In any case, when Las Colinas opened I thought "Gee, what we need, another swag-Mexican restaurant." Not that Las Colinas is horrible, but with Los Hermanos serving up such good food nearby I couldn't fathom how Las Colinas would survive - and somehow it's done just that.

The restaurant occupies a rather unusual structure that appears to have been at one time something of a retail space - there's a window that juts out that's crying for some visual merchandising, additional widows on either side and some interesting access points along either side (read that as entry doors) - this place was made to display your latest in clothing-dressed manikins or similar. The interior is just as chopped up, with several floor levels and odd nooks-and-crannies for tables and weird seating arrangements. When it was a cafe it was a bit more acceptable and provided some character - as a Mexican restaurant it's just weird and awkward.

The menu here is fairly extensive with most of your usual Tex-Mex, heavily Americanized dishes. I've tried a few items and nothing was really a standout, other than the Molcajete (more on that later). The salsa is fairly bland, the chips a little on the stale side and they have these giant margaritas for those so inclined - actually I think those are the best thing you'll find here. As for the Molcajete - this is basically a bucket of steak, chicken and shrimp with roasted peppers, tomatoes and a cactus leaf,covered in melted cheese. You fish about for the goodies that you spread on tortillas before stuffing your face - and indeed, that's what this dish will entice you to do. It's a bit greasy but you only live once, right?

The service here was a bit lackadaisical - the servers seemed to want to be anywhere but at your table. The prices are downright cheap. The food fairly mediocre - I'd normally give it 2/5 stars but I'll bump it up to 3 for the Molcajete.


-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
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Viceroy Royal Indian Dining - Perimeter on Ashford-Dunwoody

You can find Viceroy Royal Indian Dining at 719 Ashford Dunwoody Rd Ste 104, Dunwoody, GA 30338 in the Perimeter Center shopping center anchored by Walmart. Viceroy is along the back edge furthest from Ashford-Dunwoody near Hobby Lobby. Parking is extensive all along the front of this leg of the shopping center with overflow into the Walmart lot. There are also many other food possibilities nearby.

This is another restaurant I've frequented for many, many years as it's the closest Indian lunch buffet to my work (Northpark). The other choices near Perimeter, Sandy Springs or Dunwoody have mostly left me cold. I'd always thought of Viceroy as fairly mediocre at best, however about two years ago it came under new management (you no longer have the scowling Indian woman at the register) and I must say that the food and service have both vastly improved.

The restaurant has a rather nondescript exterior that opens into a short foyer with a giant brass elephant. The interior, while by no means lush, does feature a nice bar (wine and beer only) with small tables and cloth table cloths and napkins. There is no obnoxious TV which to me is a boon. There are interesting artifacts on the walls and photos of beautiful Indian women (you'll have to find those). This is a very clean restaurant, a bit on the small-to-medium size for seating so if you want to entertain a large group it's helpful to call ahead. I've come here dozens of times with various visitors from India who have all been very impressed by the quality of the food.

The actual buffet line is on the small size with two hot tables and one cold, but don't be fooled by the lack of variety as all the food is very well spiced (if a bit toned down for the typical American) - I find the flavors spot-on and very good. The tables are separated into veg and non-veg which you'll find is a common practice (wouldn't want the non-veg kooties getting on the veggies, right?) The line also has a closed-door oven to keep the tandoori chicken hot, which, if you've ever had tandoori from a foil-covered hotel pan, is a vast improvement. The cold line in particular has improved with fresher ingredients and more pickles.

The dishes are usually comprised by some of the more common favorites like tikkas, pakoras and paneers, however you'll occasionally find some gems like the chicken vindaloo or chili chicken. There's usually at least one goat dish and two to three chicken dishes plus the tandoori chicken. There's usually a rice keer, mango pudding or similar for dessert. It's all quite good and much better than under the old management - I'm not sure if there's a new chef but something has obviously improved. I haven't eaten here for dinner and ordered off the regular menu, however I have catered from Viceroy on a few occasions and they've been very accommodating.

Fresh bread (naan) is brought to your table so it's always hot and supple - not like those places where it's chopped up and left to die a slow death on the hot table. Service here is quite exceptional - I'm not sure how they keep on so much staff on hand.

Lunch buffet is $12 - quite a deal for all-you-can eat of this quality.


-- John

(shorter version of this review also posted to Yelp)
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bombay Grill - Savoy Dr in Chamblee - Redux

Since I wrote my original Bombay Grill Review I've eaten here a couple of more times and have had the same great food and service. If you come on Friday-Sunday the buffet is a couple of dollars more expensive, however you get an extra line added (so there's about 1/3rd more items to select), PLUS there's a chef setup to serve chaat - last Friday this was a veggie samosa covered in chic peas, herbs, sauces and deliciousness (look at my photos). Well worth trying and actually, I'm thinking about stopping by again today!


-- John

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cafe Intermezzo - Park Place at Perimeter Mall

You can find this location of Cafe Intermezzo at 4505 Ashford Dunwoody Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30346, the Park Place shopping center across from the Perimeter Mall. Other restaurants in the same mall include the very good tapas at Eclipse di Luna (across the courtyard), steaks at McKendrick's, Sage Woodfire Grill and of course Alon's Bakery.

The location on Peachtree was one of my favorite hangouts when I first came to Atlanta in the late 80's - it was always good for an after dinner nightcap, perhaps a dessert and/or a cup of espresso or cappuccino. I discovered this location while working as a chef at the now defunct Mi Spia which originally was a few doors down in Park Place. Intermezzo was always there to provide a different experience from the places where I worked, and since it was so close I would frequent the bar after work or stop in for coffee before.

Intermezzo is about as close to a real international cafe and bistro as you will find in Atlanta - the interior is lavish with wood and chandeliers, the dining area lush and the bar expansive. The place reeks of old-world-charm and is simply perfect for a late rendezvous or tête-à-tête.  The patio seating is large and well defined. This place also has a phenomenal adult drink list and expert bartenders and I still haven't gotten to the desserts.They also serve a good brunch and have an expansive lunch menu.

But really, you need to experience Cafe Intermezzo for the desserts. The assortment and styles of classic cakes, tarts, cheesecakes and pies is truly astounding. Combine any of these with the great coffee or fine cocktail and you have a winning combination. I don't have any favorites - actually I'm trying to cut down a bit - but I did order a double cappuccino the last time I visited. Service in general is very good - seating can be a bit of a bear, especially early evenings and if you want to enjoy the outdoors. Otherwise the service here is very good.

Oh, and did I mention they have a tardis out front? Whovians rejoice!

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
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