Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kabobish - Near Gwinnett Place Mall - Duluth Atlanta Georgia

You can find Kabobish at 3555 Gwinnett Place Drive, Duluth, GA 30096 between Pleasant Hill Rd and the parking lot for Gwinnett Place Mall. It's kind of behind the Panda Express and Wendy's on the main drag and just short of the really fantastic Breakers Korean BBQ. Parking is in the lot out front and to the side - there's plenty.

I found out about this place by accident and took a special trip out to try it out one weekend afternoon. The exterior has a red-and-black striped awning and they occupy the corner of a row of buildings. The interior has a chain-restaurant, fast casual feel (I'm not sure what it was before but suspect a different restaurant) - there are exposed beams in the ceiling - I"m guessing something Latino? In any case, you walk in and get in line to order at the corner - in the front you'll see these really beautiful copper tandoor ovens but they weren't fired up while I was there. 

The menu was listed on monitors above the counter and exposed kitchen - lots of glass and stainless steel with simple furnishings - it has all the earmarks of a chain but I couldn't find out any information on it while I was seated waiting for my food. From the website (look for kabob-ish) this may be the first of a new concept with a focus on healthy foods (and yes I approve - it seemed to be an Indian take on Zoe's and included some Mediterranean and Caribbean options). It took about 10 minutes for the food to arrive. 

 I wanted to sample the most that I could so I opted for a combination of two kabobs, the Chicken Tikka and the Saffron Tikka (chicken). Both were really moist and delicious with the infused marinades and slightly crusty flame broiled flavors that I've come to love. Next time I'll try the shrimp and lamb.  I asked for both kinds of rice and while I did eat them, I thought they were pretty bland but maybe that's the point? They did offer a contrast to the very flavorful meats. You also get a bit of salsa fresca, some fresh sliced onion and a lime (similar to what you might find with tandoori chicken at an Indian or Pakistani restaurant). There are additional side sauces including some chili that I liked quite a bit.

The service was, well counter service so I can only say that the person behind the register was very knowledgeable and made some recommendations from my questions - very kind and I could tell she really liked the food (she recommended the jerk for something different but for my first visit I demurred). Overall a top-notch experience for a single diner on a sleepy afternoon.  I think this is a fine concept and I look forward to dining again.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Kabobish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spice Bistro - Buford Hwy - Brookhaven Altanta Georgia

You can find Spice Bistro at 2857 Buford Hwy, Brookhaven GA 30329 in the Suntan Shopping Center just North of Peachtree Creek and West Druid Hills Dr - the same shopping center that currently hosts Little Szechuan. Parking is on the tilted lot out front (bit of a hill) - it can get rather hectic so be prepared to wait for a space.

I had no expectations coming to Spice Bistro - this was to meet up with my regular Buford Hwy Restaurant Crawl group hosted by John F. I got there just before 8:00 PM with two others from the group already there - we finally ended up with a table of about 7-8 people, looked over the menu and ordered drinks. The menu has your typical Caribbean and occasional African options you would normally see in Atlanta Caribbean restaurants. The Chef/Owner? (not sure but he had a chef's coat and stood behind the bar - he also took our order on this sleepy Thursday evening).

The menu has a lot of options with the most common theme of spicy food - mostly Caribbean with some unusual items like Breakfast (Bagels, Croissants, Muffins, Eggs, Ackee and Salftfish, Yam and Egg Stew, etc.). There were also Sandwichs, a short Kids menu, Appetizers including Suya Kebab Sticks, Salads, Some interesting Islander Entrees (Oxtails!) with Jambalaya, Jerk Chicken and Pounded Yam (sounds interesting, no?). Seems they also cater.

The restaurant is on the smallish slide with banquets along the right and tables in the middle. There's a tiny bar at the very end with some liquor options and a cooler housing a few dozen beers of various types. There are TVs hung high along all walls blasting the same Islander music videos (well produced rap, Caribbean or African renditions of some English songs or original music, mostly in French or some patois). There were 4 or so people basically hanging around along the edges that would occasionally leave to answer a phone call to return after a few minutes. While we were there a group of well dressed men and one woman entered and hung around, presumably until we were finished and the real party began (we guessed that the restaurant turns into a night club after dinner hours and the clientele seemed to support that idea - fairly common along some of these ethnic restaurants on BufHwy).

We ordered our food and waited. And waited. And Waited. Around 9:30 PM we started receiving plates -  some hot, some not so hot. I ordered some extra spicy jerk chicken with rice and peas and slaw. The rice and peas I thought pretty bland, the jerk was tasty but hardly any meat on the bones and the slaw was something I'd rather not talk about  (except to say it was some of the worst I'd ever had). Others at the table ordered a variety of items from the menu but nothing too special. I think by the time we got the food it was so late we didn't bother to complain, just ate what we could and left.

The funny thing is that the guy with the chef jacket was actually pretty nice and accommodating. The food took so long I speculated that they called up another Caribbean restaurant then sent someone to go pick it up (probably not true but from the crummy sides that may have worked better for them). I think they really weren't expecting us to come and order food or something? Who knows but they were very ill prepared to service a table, especially one this late in the evening and as large as our party (not that it was that large - who knows?).

Normally this experience would have rated 1/5 stars but I'm rounding up as the guy who waited on use seem to genuinely care.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Spice Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill - Clarkston Decatur Atlanta Georgia

You can find Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill at 926 Montreal Rd, Clarkston, GA 30021 in small shopping center anchored by the Clarkston Thriftown, just south of where Montreal spits off and turns into N. Indian Creek. Parking is on the lot out front.

I found Kathmandu quite by accident while in the area - which is admittedly a bit sketchy with people standing around for no apparent reason in a bit of a rundown area of Clarkston (which seems to have a few areas like that - I used to live across I285 at Venetian Estates off of Ponce so am very familiar with the area). Clarkston is a rather interesting area with local politicians that have some very liberal views (not a bad thing) - it also has a great mix of ethnic refugees that makes it very diverse and international. With that comes cuisine that you won't find in very many areas.

Katmandu is a smallish restaurant with only a few tables. There's a bar at one end with beer and wine options and a stage near the entrance that I don't know much about - the appear to host live music, probably in the evenings or weekends. I thought the place quaint if a little dark - I came by late in the afternoon to check out the buffet. The buffet was small but had some great options.

Kathmandu is a fine example of Nepalese cuisine - sort of a cross between Indian, Chinese and Indonesian. Many of the flavors will seem very Indian but you'll also find dumpling (momos) and noodle options you don't typically see in Indian or Pakistani food. I find it most similar to Bangladeshi food (like Purnima, Panahar and Himalayan Spice) with naan breads that are a bit puffier/doughy around the edges. I tried pretty much everything on the buffet - I thought the flavors very distinctive and most excellent. My biggest objection to most Indian style buffets is that the food seems very weakly spiced, I guess to appeal to the masses. Her the food is very on-point. I think it's better than the buffet offered Himalayan Spice, Himalayas or Panahar. Overall I thought the food excellent.

There was only one person behind the counter and she was very nice. Next time I'll explore more of the menu - but if you're in the area and you want something different, Kathmandu is a great option.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Memphis Barbecue Company - Dunwoody Atlanta Georgia

You can find the Memphis Barbecue Company at 4764 Ashford Dunwoody Road, GA 30338 in the Ashford Place strip mall that' is also home to Wild Wing Cafe and Chili's Grill and Bar. Many of my friends will know it as the location of Harbor Freight - it used to host Macaroni Grill (where Wild Wing currently resides) and Smokey Bones (the first BBQ place that was in the current Memphis BBQ location). Parking is in the lot that stretches across the shopping center and it can get quite full at times. Also, this is a difficult location to access driving north - you have go go past the shopping center and either U-turn or drive through a connecting road from the turn.

Hopefully Memphis Barbecue Company will do better than the pub that used to be at this location (can't think of the name) and better than Smokey Bones - this latter I thought was OK for a BBQ joint, but not nearly enough smoke for me, surprising with a name like Smokey Bones - I did like the greasy bag of mini donuts though. This current incarnation somehow manages to remove most of the woody, hand-hewn beams from Smokey Bones and dress up the place making it a bit more modern/trendy. There's also a bar in the center that wasn't there previously - the kitchen is still a bit opened but the big serving line is obscured. This place is fairly large with a great patio - it was also fairly busy on the afternoon I visited.


Since I was by myself I just sat at the bar and studied the menu - I ordered a Diet Coke - something I rarely have these days, as I wanted some caffeine in something cold - ice tea never works as a pick-me-up for me. The menu has the obligatory BBQ items but also salads and burgers. I guess they're going for a larger audience. There also seemed to be quite a few drink options - I can see a group sitting here and watching a game while chewing on some smoked wings. The BBQ nachos also sounded interesting but I was already planning to sample as much as I could and that add-on would probably be too much. I was given a basket of pork rinds, complimentary - they were good but nothing special (I grew up at flea markets and fairs where the rinds were mind-blowing). The menu also has some other items I wouldn't have expected including: Fried Catfish Dinner, Orange-Chipotle Glazed Salmon, BBQ Spaghetti Dinner, Voodoo Pasta and a BBQ Meatloaf.

I ended up ordering the Pitmasters Sampler - this included: Half-slab of Spare Ribs; Pulled Pork, Sliced Brisket, Turnip Greens, Baked Beans and a wedge of corn bread. I liked the ribs - quite a bit of rind and plenty of smoky flavor. The brisket was surprisingly dry - I asked about it before ordering and was expecting thicker juicy slabs. The pulled-pork was passable if just a tad mushy which I wasn't expecting from a dry pull. I think this is a fairly accurate Memphis style BBQ but really it doesn't compare to being in Memphis chomping on bones. The sauces were a bit sweet for me but that's usually the way it goes - I like spicier and more vinegary but most people like the sweeter stuff. The ribs were the best part. The beans I would have passed on if there was a second green veggie option. The turnip greens tasted frozen (I asked if they were fresh and the response was that they were made daily). I'm not saying that they were frozen, but they had the aftertaste you get from frozen greens so I'm guessing they were.

Service was excellent by a bartender that had few customers and didn't mind me bothering her with questions. The food did take quite a long time to come out, but otherwise I thought it was above average. The problem with BBQ in the Atlanta area is that there are so many really great pits and variety that it's really hard to compete - the market is is definitely saturated. I think the price of this platter at $23.99 was a bit high but this is near Perimeter Mall so take that into account. Would I eat here again? Well, if I was at work (nearby) and wanting BBQ, I might come here as it's a bit nicer as a sit-down restaurant. The non-BBQ options really don't interest me much - and honestly it's not much of a drive to Heirloom - we generally pick up to go and eat at a park bench near the Hootch state park. For the money I can get all this and more for about $20 at Heirloom and their 'que is really spectacular.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Memphis BBQ Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato