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.)

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)

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.

******************************

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.

**************************

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.

 

MIA: Where I’ve Been

I feel like I’ve ignored the book/blogging world for several days too long now, but I had a busy weekend enjoying football and the holiday.  Here’s what I got up to (which will mainly involve food):

Friday night, Jimmy didn’t get home until 9:30 so our eating options were a bit limited.  We opted for a stand-by fav, Noche, which feels more like a bar than a restaurant when the sun goes down!  But the food is enjoyable and I’m a complete sucker for tapas.  Anywho, I had the exact dish below (the paella – all pictures courtesy of restaurant website):

I really like their paella for the slow burn effect.  I can’t eat spicy food that overwhelms me immediately, but this dish lets me get pretty far along before it catches up.  The mussels at Noche are always amazing.  And the sausage in this dish has excellent flavor.  We also had a bowl of mussels, fried calamari, and Jimmy had something else I don’t recall.

Saturday, we lounged around and watched the UGA v. Buffalo game.  UGA won!  When we finally got around to starving, we crawled out of the house and over to another Town Brookhaven establishment – Bua Thai+Sushi.  Neither one of us had ever eaten here, but it’s in the neighborhood and I was craving a really good patio for some fresh air.

(Source)

We had fried calamari to start (yes, again – we’re a bit obsessed).  We both opted for the Thai menu for dinner – Jimmy got some curry and chicken and I got the seafood noodles.  My seafood noodles were basically seafood pad thai.  Thrown into the basic pad thai mix were some lovely grilled shrimp, calamari (again! but not fried), and scallops.  I’m in a bit of a seafood kick, apparently.  We both agreed the food was pretty good, not amazing, but a bit too expensive to eat there regularly.

Sunday night, Jimmy had a hankering for hot dogs!  So we headed down to Poncey-Highland to try out Richard Blais’s ‘haute dog’ joint, HD1.

We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was.  A bit expensive for some hot dogs, but that’s to be expected at trendy places.  Anyway, we started with the boiled peanuts which were absolutely to die for.  They are flavored in ‘North African spices’ per the menu and were just amazing.  I’d go back for those babies alone.  As for the dogs, I ordered ‘The Whiz’ which is a hot dog on artisan bun plus cheese and fries – yes, fries on the hot dog.  The bun was yummy, the hot dog cooked perfectly, the fries delicious, and the cheese was a bit overwhelming.

Jimmy ordered the ‘Merguez’ – a house stuffed lamb sausage, currants, minted cucumber, and Labne yogurt.  Not my cup of tea, but he enjoyed it!  He also got an order of chili cheese fries and I stuck with the regular fries, both of the waffle variety.  Fries were ok, but a bit over salted in my opinion.

Monday involved lots of sleep and grilling out steaks and corn.  Tonight we’re headed over to The Wing Factory in Chamblee for some awesome wings and trivia!

This post might have bored any non-Atlantans to death, but Jimmy and I have decided to track our restaurant experiences so that we have a record of what we liked and what we didn’t like.  So be prepared for more food posts!  And if you’re ever in the area, you’ll have a handy food guide of sorts.

Hope everyone else had a fabulous weekend!

Restaurants mentioned:

Noche
Bua
HD1
The Wing Factory