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From Bangkok to Nice

Musings from the mail bag

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This week, I'm reporting and answering e-mail and voicemail. Your feedback is always welcome and, in fact, I depend on it for finding new restaurants to visit.

Several readers called to clue me in to some new dishes at Little Bangkok (404-315-1530). Too late. I'd already tried most of them. This hole in the wall remains my favorite for Thai food. Not only are the prices well below the average in town, the owners keep a cuisine that's become ubiquitous interesting with novel dishes.

Two recent new appetizers are especially yummy. Mussels cooked in a hot pot with lots of basil are served with a sauce so garlicky -- too garlicky, really -- that it could repel the entire population of Transylvania. But the steamed basil and the juicy mussels make it a don't-miss dish. There's also a starter of skewered shrimp, wrapped in bacon and basil, then batter-fried -- a great alternative to satay.

Two recent entree specials I've enjoyed include one of the best pad prik kings I've ever had, almost fiery hot and made with fresh green beans cooked al dente. The other was duck curry. Wayne usually orders fish here, like a recent special of flash-fried flounder with green mango sauce that I found way too sweet. In my own experience, the fish dishes can be risky, especially if ordered for takeout. They just don't hold up well and can't be effectively reheated.

The restaurant also offers many Chinese dishes, but, despite a friend's avid taste for the moo goo gai pan, I don't find them nearly as good as the Thai offerings. ...

A reader called to rave about The Wine Gallery and Market at 2625 Piedmont Road (at Sydney Marcus Avenue). The gourmet grocery and wine market rents climate-controlled lockers to collectors in an area furnished with comfortable seating and a wireless Internet connection. Click and glug. ...

Several readers responded to my recent column on South of France, assuring me that the restaurant has been open more than 25 years but was sold some time ago by its original owners. "They badly need to offer some new items," one regular said. ...

A man called and asked me to write a column for retirees and elderly people about restaurants that offer "early-bird" dining. Two favorites that come to mind are Prime and Brasserie le Coze at Lenox Square. If your restaurant offers a reduced-priced menu to early diners, drop me an e-mail. ...

One man, who did not leave his number, called me a "fuckwad" for not returning his earlier call. ... Actually, if you want a reply from me, e-mail is the better choice. It also helps if you leave your telephone number. ... Fat Louie's (404-815-6955) has opened at 810 Marietta St., next to the Somber Reptile in a converted gas station. It's been opened by the same folks who operate Pangaea, the city's quirkiest sandwich shop. Reader Chris Sabido filed this report:

"So far, I've had the Italian beef with hot giardiniera and sweet peppers, the angus burger, the pork chop sandwich, the eggplant parmesan and the portobello mushroom sandwich. Everything was good. They do fresh-cut fries, too. The Chicago-style hot dogs are good, too, and I'm not even a hot dog kinda guy."

I'll be checking it out soon. Chicago-style sandwich shops seem to be popping up all over town. ...

This is from Laura Akerman at Emory: "In the cheap but good eats category, if you ever do taquerias, you need to check out Taco Mexico, a hole in the wall at the corner of Brockett Road and Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker (in Brockett Square). They now have lunch and dinner buffets for about $6. (My sis tried it out and gobbled up two plates full of the meaty stuff, so I know it's good.) Their chile relleno tacos are a lot like El Taco Veloz's. Their black beans are flavored just right." ...

At this writing, The Automatic (404-588-9062) was scheduled to open Nov. 22 at 313 Boulevard in Grant Park. The novel drive-thru shop is another project of Todd Semrau, who is widely credited with beginning the gentrification of East Atlanta when he opened the Heaping Bowl and Brew.

The new shop will be open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily and, besides offering quick sandwiches, soups, baked goods and salads for pick-up, will be delivering to area residents. The best news: The Automatic will be serving coffee from Aurora. ...

Randy Adler writes to say that his Midtown cafe, Babs, is now serving beer and wine to accompany those healthful dishes James Camppopular with the area's gym bunnies and runners. You can enjoy a champagne brunch on Sundays now. ...

Brad Sprinkle writes to inquire if the chef/owner of the defunct and much missed Cafe de Nice is still on the restaurant scene in our city. If you know, drop me e-mail. ...

Salud!, a "cooking and lifestyle school," has opened at Harry's Farmers Market. I understand the cooking, but I have no idea what kind of "lifestyle" the market will be teaching. ...

Rathbun's is racking up awards everywhere. John Mariani named it one of 2004's top new restaurants in his annual Esquire roundup. Now Travel and Leisure has given it the same award. I am a bit mystified by T&L writer Anya Von Bremzen's compliment of chef Kevin Rathbun, cited in a news release: "One would be happy to eat his food in a mess hall." Um, yeah. I assume it's an out-of-context compliment.

Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.

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