Atlanta Restaurant Review: Gekko Sushi

Friday, Victoria and I headed out to Gekko Sushi for a fun bestie’s lunch.  We decided on a little sushi joint down in Old Fourth Ward near City Hall East and the Ponce City Market.  Arriving at noon, we both scored super great parking spots adjacent to the building.  Many other reviewers have bemoaned the parking, but we didn’t have an issue.

The restaurant itself is a trendy little joint, well decorated, and definitely a comfy lunch place.  We were seated immediately and the service was pretty great.  Our waitress seemed on top of things for the most part – water was always filled, plates were cleared away quickly, and food arrived right on time.  Granted, they were the very opposite of busy so not sure what would have happened had the place been hoppin’!

On to the food!  A little disclaimer first:  Japanese cuisine is not something I normally eat in-town.  We live far too close to Buford Highway and other surrounding ethnic areas that generally (but not always) serve better quality food for way less money.  Also, having an Asian husband means he’s very picky about where we eat Asian food.  Just like I’m super picky about Southern food.  Not always fair, often biased, but it is what it is.  Second, I worry about a restaurant that always has some kind of half-off deal going on.  To me, that screams no confidence in their food and a problem with over-pricing.

Moving on – we shared a calamari salad.  The salad consisted of mixed greens, fried calamari, and a sweet chili sauce dressing.  This little guy could have been a big hit especially since the chili sauce had a great flavor to it and a lovely kick, but they DROWNED the salad in the sauce.  All you tasted was the sauce and the calamari became a dripping, soggy mess.  Fried calamari should always be crisp.  So I suggest ordering the sauce on the side.

(The beek teriyaki version of my meal – just with a spring roll in the gyoza’s place.  Pictures both courtesy of Gekko’s website and FB page)

For my main course, I went with the tonkatsu bento box lunch special.  The bento comes with tonkatsu, white rice, a veggie spring roll, 4 pc California roll, salad, and miso soup.  A very fair amount of food for $9.  I was a bit disappointed to see the spring roll instead of the advertised gyoza – why isn’t their menu correct or why don’t they inform you of the change?  But I quickly got over my issue because the spring roll was maybe the best part of the meal.  It was quite flavorful.  Sadly, everything else was sub-par.  The tonkatsu was over cooked, almost burnt.  The salad was drenched in ginger and suffered from the same soggy problems as the calamari salad.  The miso soup was so SALTY.  I had to drink it so slowly.  And the sushi tasted like Publix sushi.  The rice was utterly forgettable.

If the food had been half the price or if I had been able to use the half-off deal, I would have dealt with the problems much better.  But this is just another example of a trendy in-town restaurant with meh-food and prices that are too hard to swallow.  Not worth the drive with Buford Highway so much closer.

(Another note:  Victoria asked if she could substitute her California roll for a Veggie roll – fairly simple request.  The waitress suggested she just take the California roll without the crab meat.  Victoria agreed to this and asked for extra carrot.  Homegirl told her no, that everything was pre-made.  You know what that means?  Nothing is fresh.)

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 14 (SPOILERS)

Pages 735 – 802

To be honest, I finished the book prior to writing the remaining recaps.  We’ll see how much my memory serves or fails me.  Wish me luck!

Tyrion:

Okay – so Tyrion is being held captive in his chambers as the trial begins.  Obviously, he’s suspected by nearly the whole Realm of killing Joffrey.  His uncle comes to him and tells him to find some witnesses because Cersei has found many against him  Tyrion tries Bronn, but Cersei has wedded him off to Lady Lollys and given him a castle.  Tyrion knows he and Bronn are finished as BFFs.

At the trial, Tyrion is run through the mud with honest lies.  Everything said has just a hint of truth so that Tyrion really stands absolutely no chance.  He has no witnesses, but hopes that Sansa can be found on his behalf.

Prince Oberyn comes to Tyrion asking him to pursue a trial by combat with himself as Tyrion’s champion.  Cersei has already selected Gregor Clegane and we all know the Dornish man wants revenge against The Mountain.  He also has ideas of rewriting succession laws to allow inheritance for the oldest child – no matter gender.

Somewhere along the way Tywin, via his brother, also offers Tyrion his life if he confesses to the crime.  He’ll be forced to take the Black, but will be allowed to keep his head.  This same offer was accepted by Ned Stark….

Unless Oberyn really can defeat Clegane, I’m not sure there’s a way out for Tyrion at this point.

Jaime:

Jaime sits alone as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in his new chambers which seem quite comfy.  He’s feeling lonely and sad – abandoned by his family.  I imagine he’s beginning to understand Tyrion a whole lot more these days.  He flips through this large book where the Commander must update each individual profile for the Kingsguard members.  It’s the facebook of their day, I suppose.  Jaime’s own entry is lackluster and surprisingly short.  He’s not as accomplished as one might think.

The other members of the Kingsguard join him for a meeting and he pretty much pisses them all off one by one.  Finally, only Ser Loras remains and Jaime sees a punk kid filled with arrogance – mainly, himself.  Loras still wants Brienne’s head, but Jaime manages to cool his anger and persuade him that perhaps Brienne is telling the truth.  He beseeches Loras to visit her in her cell and talk to her rationally.  If he still thinks she did it, he’ll have her head.  Jaime as the voice of reason is freaking my shit out, but I like it.

Jaime respects Loras because of the loyalty and passion he’s shown and still shows towards Renly, Loras’s true king and lover.

I heart Jaime unconditionally these days.

Sansa:

The sea makes Sansa sick.  Littlefinger informs her they aren’t sailing for HER home, but rather HIS home.  Joy.  Sansa is super upset.  They arrive at the Fingers which is a dreary little place, but Littlefinger still reigns supreme here.

Littlefinger informs her he is waiting on Lady Lysa Arryn to arrive as they are to be wed.  Sansa is taken aback.  After the wedding, they are to move to the Eyrie.  Sansa hopes for the best.

Lady Lysa and her bag of loose screws arrives and demands to be wed to Littlefinger immediately.  Littlefinger wants to wait but Lysa is all hot and bothered for her Petyr – the man she’s waited on her whole life.  The man that essentially made her hate her sister – since we all know Petyr truly loves Catelyn.

Littlefinger and Sansa have come up with a secret identity for her – Alayne Stone – bastard child of Petyr, daughter to a foreign woman who died in childbirth.

After their quickie wedding, a terribly loud sex scene between Lysa and Petyr that we all could have done without.  Sansa/Alayne is almost raped by Lysa’s singer, Marillion.  The next morning Lady Lysa speaks with Sansa (she’s been told her true identity) and explains that Sansa will now be married off to her son, sickly little Robert, once Tyrion is beheaded.  Sansa begins to realize that she’ll never be allowed to marry for love.

Lady Lysa sickens me physically.

Jon:

The Wall is still under siege from Rayder’s attacks, but the Watch is holding their own.  Rayder’s men are building a ‘turtle’ which basically acts as a shield against the Watch’s arrows, rocks, and fires while they smash down the Wall’s gate.  Jon outsmarts them and has barrels filled with frozen water/ice ready for the turtle when it arrives.  The ice barrels destroy the turtle.  Jon is quite the leader.

With the Wall safe another night, Jon swallows some dreamwine and heads off to the land of nod.  He’s awoken by men who demand his audience.  Janos Slynt has arrived and accuses Jon of being a turncloak/oathbreaker.  He even has a lovely Wildling prisoner, none other than Rattleshirt, to help back up his story of killing Qhorin Halfhand.  Aemon can’t save Jon.  They lock him up in an ice cell.  NO, NOT JON!!!!

I am glad, however, that Castle Black is receiving reinforcements.

Tyrion:

An intense chapter.  First, Pod admits in a lack of words that even he thinks Tyrion’s guilty.  Next, Shae completely betrays Tyrion during the trial and my heart broke in two for him during this scene.  It was brutal.  Tyrion demands his trial by combat.

On the day of the fight, Tyrion wakes up happy – his heart filled with hope at Oberyn’s prospects.  Oberyn seems calm, cool, collected, and completely confidant of his victory.

The battle is epic and should be an amazing part of the HBO series.  Oberyn uses his wit and quickness to physically and psychologically tire the Mountain.  Eventually, Oberyn wounds Clegane severely and has him flat on his back – ready for the final kill blow.  Oberyn gets too cocky and too close.  They begin to wrestle on the ground where Clegane ultimately wins – throwing Oberyn’s words back in his face.  Tyrion empties his stomach and is dragged away to the black cells.  That doesn’t sound good.  Tyrion’s days appear numbered.

The part where Clegane kills the little town boy – horrible.  I hate this man.  He’s not even human in my opinion.

Atlanta Restaurant Review: Carbonara Trattoria

Carbonara Trattoria is a local Italian joint in the OTP area of Dunwoody.  Jimmy and I decided to have dinner there for the first time Friday night since they currently have a scout mob deal going on.  If your city doesn’t have scout mob, I feel for you because that’s mainly how we afford to eat out.

The restaurant itself is on the smaller side and decorated to look sort of Italian rustic country.  The lights are turned down low enough to give a nice ambiance but not so low as to add a creep factor.  We were seated immediately in an almost full dining room (the patio was completely booked) with what appeared to be locals and out-of-town business peeps.  Our server was super sweet and very attentive without being annoying.  She gets two thumbs up as do the other servers who also stopped by when they noticed our drinks running low or a dish that could be cleared.

Now for the food!  First, they have delicious bread.  Oh my goodness it was yummy and came out fresh – still smoking – in these little round loaves with butter.  I can make a meal out of bread so I was ecstatic.  We ordered the mussels to start (mussels are quickly becoming my go-to appetizer) in a white wine sauce.  They came out in this huge bowl and there were more mussels in that bowl that I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant.  We were so happy they didn’t scrimp us on our shellfish delight.  After removing the little guys from their shell, we proceeded to let them soak up the saucy goodness.  The white wine sauce was light and well seasoned making the mussels perfect and giving us the best bread dipping sauce EVER.  We went through three bread loaves – THREE.  At this point, we were in love.

Unfortunately, our entrees didn’t live up to the starters.  I ordered the spaghetti carbonara – their signature dish.  Now, I only had room for about five bites, but nothing about the dish impressed me.  The pasta was cooked al dente which was nice, but the cream they used in the dish was way too heavy.  Traditional carbonara doesn’t even use cream – just pasta water and egg.  The cream washed out any egg flavor and was made even heavier by the parmesan cheese loaded on top.  Jimmy had the fettuccine  with artichokes and mushrooms.  He didn’t have much to say about this dish and has yet to eat his leftovers, so that speaks volumes on its on.

Despite our disappointing entrees, I’ll definitely be back to this local Italian eatery if for no other reason than the bread and mussels!  Next time I’ll stay away from the pasta dishes and give the meat options a try.  Not a super cheap option, however, so expect to spend around $50 for a 2 person meal.  They have entrees ranging from $13 to $28.  If you’re ever in the Atlanta area, top side of the perimeter, and need a good Italian escape that’s not a chain – definitely give Carbonara Trattoria at try!

(Photo courtesy of Carbonara’s FB page)

I Finished a Book!

Seriously, that’s all I have today.  And I can’t even blog about the book until after my book club discussion.  Maybe I can try to finish another one this week!  Blogger FAIL!

Hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday!

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 13 (SPOILERS)

Pages 685 – 734

Sansa:

Sansa escapes the Red Keep unnoticed and heads to the godswood.  She’s happy Joff’s dead (obviously).  She changes into clothes she’s hidden – darker clothes since she’s being smuggled out of Kings Landing – and waits for Dontos.  He arrives and lets her know that Tyrion and her are being blamed for poisoning Joffrey.  Sansa realizes that her hairnet Dontos wanted her to wear so badly is missing a black amethyst – when she puts two and two together she realizes that Dontos has chocked Joffrey.

They leave the castle grounds and make their way safely to Blackwater Bay.  A little boat rows them out to a bigger ship where Sansa finds Littlefinger waiting for her.  He’s masterminded this entire plot down to the dwarf jousting routine.  Dontos wasn’t really on Sansa’s side, he just wanted ransom money.  Littlefinger quickly has Dontos killed as his payment.

Littlefinger killed Joff just to get Sansa!!  Do you think  he means to wed her?  Oh my goodness – he’s a creepy dude.  I want to know his motivations.  He’s a mastermind.  Watch out Sansa – you are most definitely NOT safe.

Jaime:

Jaime learns of Joff’s (his son’s) death and doesn’t seem too moved by it.  He arrives in Kings Landing where some recognize him and some don’t.  He wastes no time re-introducing himself.  Ser Loras wants Brienne’s head for supposedly killing Renly.  Jaime saves her, but agrees to have her locked up for the moment.

Of course, Jaime’s first stop is to Cersei who is in the Sept praying over her dead son’s body.  The have dirty, nasty, disgusting reunions.  Cersei wants Tyrion’s head served on a platter.  Jaime tells her he wants to marry her – she thinks he’s lost his mind.

Next, Jaime goes to see his father and it isn’t a happy homecoming.  Tywin is pissed that Jaime’s hand is gone and you can tell he pretty much sees Jaime only as a sword.  Tywin informs him that he is being removed from the Kingsguard to marry and become Casterly Rock’s true heir.  Cersei is to marry Oberyn Martell.  And that will be the end of that.  Jaime tells him no, that he’s a member of the Kingsguard forever, and that none of his father’s plans are worth shit.  Tywin denounces Jaime as his son.

Jaime is now the new Tyrion.  Tywin seems to have no problem ridding himself of sons these days.

Davos:

Davos has betrayed his king.  He’s secretly removed Edric Storm from Dragonstone on a pirate’s ship.  He spends a lot of time wondering what will happen as a result.  When he is next with Stannis and Melisandre he owns up to his betrayal and begs Stannis to do the right thing.  He offers his head as long as Stannis will hear him out one last time.  At the end of the chapter Davos begins to read from a parchment.  We know nothing more.

Poor Davos just wanted to be an onion smuggler.  Then he just wanted to serve Stannis faithfully, raise his sons, and die an old man.

Jon:

My lord husband of the North awakes to the sound of the horn.  Two calls – the Wildlings and Mance Rayder have arrived at the Wall.  Everyone rushes to their places atop the wall where they will be pretty safe.  No way to get up there but through the elevator.  A handful of men, including Donal Noye (acting commander), head down to the gate to protect it.  Noye leaves Jon in charge of the Wall – he is amazed, scared, and honored by this new duty.

The Wildlings attack and that includes trying to ram the gate open with Mammoths and Giants.  The Watch concentrates their forces on the gate.  It’s the dead of night so no one can see much.  Jon’s leg hurts something fierce.

Eventually, the Watch are able to push back Rayder’s army as the sun rises.  Jon and a few other men head down to check on the gate and the men left guarding it.  Jon leaves Grenn in charge of the Wall.

The men at the gate have all lost their lives and the other door has been successfully breached.  Jon decides they need to blockade the opening with whatever they can find and someone needs to be put in charge.  He lists several men he thinks would fit, but no one will listen to him.  They name him their new leader.

JON SNOW for the win!!!

OH…and he burned Ygritte’s body.  He says he’s done with kissing.  I hope not – what a waste.

Arya:

Arya is broken.  She still hopes in her heart that her mother is alive, but her wolf dream shows her otherwise.  She has a horse now, but lacks the spirit to escape.  The Hound isn’t even much guarding her anymore.  I feel Arya giving up on happiness and perhaps even life in general.  So sad for one so young.  I particularly thought it sad at how different she was than the one little girl her own age.  Wow.

The Hound wants to try to ransom her to Lady Lysa, but the way to the Eyrie is blocked.  So Clegane sets his sights on Riverrun instead.  Arya wants to go to the Wall and to Jon Snow.  Clegane doesn’t seem to care much for that idea.

Other points of interest – the Hound teaches Arya where a man’s heart is and how to poke it – plus how to plunder his body once he’s dead.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave and More Food!

My thoughts are all over the place today, but I wanted to get my Little Bee reactions posted before they are too far in the past to make any sense.  So I’m only going to do a quick mini-review which seems appropriate as I’m probably the last blogger to read Chris Cleave’s second novel.

I’m even cheating and giving you the brief Goodreads.com synopsis: Two women’s lives collide on a Nigerian beach. One must make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again and the story starts …

First half of the novel was intriguing and a great story – suspenseful, realistic, and heartbreaking.  Second half was a major letdown and filled with major plot holes and downright ridiculous scenarios.  What saves this novel at the end of the day is Little Bee herself, who I loved tremendously even through the rather far-fetched ending.  Cleave definitely has talent as a writer, but the story lacked a crispness – it’s almost like he ran out of steam at the middle and just wanted the damn thing to end.  For instance, what mother would take her four-year-old son to a volatile country where she previously had her finger cut off and continue to draw a ton of negative attention towards herself?  Bad mother of the year award for sure.  Perhaps Cleave just doesn’t have the insight to write from the female perspective or, more accurately, the mother perspective?  Either way, a clumsy novel that could have been great.

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And now time for more food!  I’m loving my foodie-ish ways these days.  Sunday Jimmy and I ventured out for a rather rare breakfast treat.  We decided to give J. Christopher’s in Dunwoody a try because the reviews are amazing despite this being a chain and having 6 million Atlanta locations.

We arrived around 9:00 am and the place was just beginning to fill up.  We were seated at a booth and our waitress was quick on her feet and super friendly.  I ordered the shrimp and grits while Jimmy ordered the huevos rancheros with fresh fruit and breakfast potatoes.  The shrimp and grits came in a skillet (see picture to the left provided by restaurant’s website) and looked amazing.  They tasted decent as well and the serving size was huge.  But….the grits were obviously of the instant variety and a tad too watery.  The gravy, tomatoes, and delicious shrimp helped make up for this, but was still pretty disappointed.  Jimmy’s potatoes were also obviously of the frozen variety – another let down.  Prices should have been much cheaper with the cheap ingredients.  Not to mention, Jimmy and I both spent the rest of the day feeling sick and having heartburn.  We’ll probably not be returning any time soon.

To soothe us over, we decided to have some ice cream for lunch!  We went to the Morelli’s location in Ormewood Park for some homemade goodness.  Jimmy had a banana split and I went for just one scoop of the chocolate.  We had a lovely time sitting outside in gorgeous weather and the ice cream was yummy!  So excited that my neck of the woods is opening a Morelli’s next week!

 

Monday night, Jimmy and I drove over to Duluth for some Korean-owned Japanese.  Strange combination.  The restaurant is Raku Tonkatsu and Ramen.  They specialize in, you guessed it, tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) and tonkotsu ramen (pork bone broth ramen).  DELICIOUS.  Tonkatsu is my fav Japanese food so I ordered the dish below:

And could not have been happier.  Tender and moist, truly scrumptious.  The sides of rice and miso soup were so-so, but that doesn’t matter when the main dish is to die for.  Jimmy’s tonkotsu ramen:

Was also completely amazing.   The broth was done to perfection and not overly salty.  The braised pork belly was some of the best I’ve ever had.  If you are ever in the area, please give this place a try!  You get to watch K-Pop too while you eat and the place is gorgeously designed in an upscale modern trendy way.  Plus, the prices are amazing.  For both our dinners and some lovely edamame our bill was only $22.  You can’t beat that. (Pictures provided by Raku’s facebook page)

Everything else we’ve had has been fairly generic.  I had baked potato soup from Newk’s Express Cafe which is a favorite of mine.  Yesterday I splurged and ate out twice – Guthrie’s for lunch and Hudson Grille for dinner, but only because we do trivia Wednesday nights.  Guthrie’s has great chicken fingers in the same vein as Zaxby’s.  Hudson is just an overpriced sports bar with good trivia.  I had a small bowl of blah chili and a side of blah fries.

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Okay, enough already with the food because I’m starting to get hungry!  Gonna have to go downstairs and pilfer my pantry.  I promise at some point to have normal book review posts again once I actually finish a freakin’ book.

 

TSS: A Not So Great Week

From time to time, shit weeks happen and this was one of them.  Just seemed like everything was either bad or blah.  Boredom was extreme, but no one wants to hear about this (including myself).  So…let’s move on.

UGA won their third game of the year tonight!  Football is the only time that I miss having cable.  Of course, I could have just gone to the game, but I’ve been feeling sick off and on all week so didn’t want to risk feeling crappy in the stadium.  Been there, done that – never doing it again.  I do hope to make it to Athens one of these weekends, though.

In keeping with my theme of blogging about the restaurants I eat at, let me give y’all a little update.  Ate at several mediocre chains since simplicity was the name of the game.  Last Friday, Jimmy and I used mobile waiters to have food delivered since we were having another poker party.  Not much to choose from so we just had Outback.  Then, with Jimmy out of town during the beginning of the week, I had another mobile waiters order from Maggiano’s.  The good thing about Maggiano’s is that they give you enough food for at least three meals.  Today I had Panera because I love Panera.

The only fun new restaurant I’ve tried recently was Stone Soup Kitchen.  I had a lunch date with the bestie, Victoria, and her little man, Finn.  It’s one of those sort of hole-in-the-wall places in a trendy up-and-coming neighborhood that the locals rave about.  SSK concentrates on breakfast and lunch items with a full scale bakery as well.  I adore breakfast food so love trying out new morning joints.  I had the grit bowl which combines just about everything I love about food and eating.  Basically, I’m super satisfied with throwing my favorite cheap foods into a bowl, mixing them all together, and eating like a poor college student again.  It’s why I love soup so much.  So the grit bowl was superb – grits, scrambled eggs, and incredibly fresh tasting tomatoes all mixed together – pretty much heaven.  The grits did require a little extra salt, but the creaminess could not be beat.  Plus, the dish cost less than $6. (Picture courtesy of SSK’s Facebook page)

But what about the reading, you scream!  Not much happening in that department.  I’m in a mini-funk.  I did finish Little Bee and I’m halfway through my reread of Their Eyes Were Watching God for book club.  But I haven’t read a word in over two days now.  WTF, right?  I’m determined to finish TEWWG in the next couple of days and to get the reading going strong again.  I’m sad that I’m too busy to read IT because so many of y’all seem to be loving it and the red nose pics are just too cute.