Tiger In The Dragon’s Den

On October 7th, 2014 two of decatur’s restaurants joined forces to create a “Tiger in the Dragon’s Den” themed dinner experience. The powerful action packed night as promised by the poster of Amitabh Bachan and Bruce Lee, featured chefs George Yu of Makan and  Daniel Peach of Chai Pani. Both restaurants are located in downtown Decatur, GA, within a mile from each other. Chai Pani is a James Beard acclaimed Indian street food restaurant that has already won the hearts of local diners. Makan is a newbie on the block, featuring street Asian.

Makan-Chai-Pani-Flyer-4x6

The dinner event was held at Makan’s 2 months old location. High industrial black painted ceilings, and contemporary furniture gave the open space a modern look. The funny Asian posters on the walls and Bollywood music in the background, added more to the funkiness of this place.

I sat at the chef’s table so I could closely watch Peach & Yu dual in the kitchen with their Ind-China fusion menu. I’m quite familiar with this regional fare (see my article on Creative Loafing Atlanta on Indo-Chinese), but Chef Peach came around and whispered to me in Hindi, “this will be different.”

Different it was! My expectations of Hakka noodles, chili chicken, and paneer manchurian were blasted with a new, but still daring, kind of fusion. Here is what the pre-set 5 course menu included:

1st Course – chicken chop suey, pancake wrappers, selection of sauces

chicken chopseuy

The presentation was beautiful and reminded me of Moo Shu Pork, a northern Cantonese dish that includes stir fried pork and veggies, wrapped inside a thin pancake and served over rice. This one was a spicier version that was made with chicken, veggies and an interesting trip of sauces ranging from pungent to sweet.

2nd Course – grilled baby corn skewers, peppers, celery, paneer

grilled baby corn skewers

The hors d’oeuvres style dish presented 2 skewers of perfectly grilled baby corns and other veggies. My favorite part was the fresh grilled paneer, but there was only 1 piece of it per skewer. This would be a great dish to serve at a cocktail party.

3rd Course – wok fried whole black bass, jujubes, chutney, crispy shallots

whole fried black bass

This was my favorite course of the meal. The fish was exceptionally cooked – crispy on the outside and delicate on the inside. It was well seasoned and the coconut chutney added one more dimension to the already flavorful dish. I would definitely order this off the menu!

4th Course – slow roasted leg of lamb, wheat noodles

leg of lamb noodles

The leg of lamb was very well cooked and tender, but the it lacked the action that was proposed on the advertisement. Wheat noodles were served in a bland soy based sauce. If this was fusion, it was lacking India’s spice kicks. This was my least favorite course.

5th Course – duo of desserts. warm black sesame soup with rice balls and gulab jamun.

gulab jamun and rice cake

You can never go wrong with a fresh gulab jamun straight out of hot oil. The small round Indian sweet was very satisfying, although I wanted to ask for a second piece. The second part of the dessert was a rice ball, typical Korean sweet. The rice ball itself was sticky and flavorless, as it should be, but the black sesame soup it sat in hit a distasteful punch that I probably don’t want to feel again.

As far as cocktail offerings, Apertif for Destruction was pleasant and smooth tending to the ups and downs of flavors felt through the courses. It was designed with aperol, tulsi, Prosecco, and orange bitters – a great combination for easy destruction. There were other gin and bourbon based cocktails that I did not try. One that caught my attention was Tuk Tuk You In – hot masala spiced chai, with cognac and honey.

The 5 course dinner was offered at $45 per person. Cocktails $8 each or full drink pairing for $20. This was a one time dinner event, but you can try Chai Pani and Makan Asian Restaurant any time of the week and observe their authentic flavors in their own dens.

Chai Pani Decatur
406 W Ponce De Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 378-4030
Makan Atlanta
130 Clairemont Ave Suite 100, Decatur, GA 30030
(404) 996-6504

La Tagliatella Provides an Italian Option for Vegetarians

I recently attended a blogger dinner hosted by the Association of Food Bloggers in Druid Hills, GA. La Tagliatella is an Italian chain restaurant based out of Europe with locations in many different parts of the world, including Spain, France, Germany, China, and the United States. The Emory Point location has been around for couple of years, and features a nice outdoor area that provides a great atmosphere for cool summer evenings. The restaurant boasts that it’s food is an authentic representation of Italian cuisine, although I’m not sure if I agree with that assessment.

First, the restaurant served its version of a Caprese salad as a Buffalo, Mozzarella and Tomato Carpaccio, which consisted of grated fresh tomatoes dressed with black olive pate, and topped with buffalo mozzarella and anchovies. The main difference between a traditional Caprese salad and this dish is that the tomatoes were served grated instead of sliced, to the point that it was almost like eating fresh salsa. It sounds weird, but I actually loved it. I don’t normally enjoy eating tomatoes, but the way they combined with the buffalo mozzarella, made this a delightfully fresh dish, perfect for summertime.

caprese salad

Next was Tagliatella pizza, which consisted of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fried eggplant slices, drizzled with honey and balsamic glaze, and topped with freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The crust was rolled out very thin, into an almost cracker-like consistency, which I’ve been told is typical of authentic Napolitano pizza. This was by far one of the most unique pizzas I’ve ever had, mostly due to the honey, which added a sweet component to an otherwise savory dish. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad combination, it wasn’t something I would normally expect on a pizza. Overall I enjoyed this particular dish, but I don’t think it’s something I would order, unless my sweet tooth was having a serious craving.

tagliatella pizza

The main course consisted of three different pasta dishes. The Cuore Pasta in Pesto Rosso Panna, was stuffed with butternut squash, served in a light cream sauce with Sole di Puglia tomatoes, pine nuts, and Grana Padano cheese. The light cream sauce combined well with the butternut squash, was light and flavorful, and didn’t leave me feeling like I needed to run 10 miles after eating it. This was my favorite dish of the night by far.

Cuore Pasta in Pesto Rosso Panna

The second pasta dish, Tortellone pasta in Quattro Formaggi, consisted of round, green pasta stuffed with mozzarella, tomato, and basil, served in a cream sauce of Grana Padano, gorgonzola, gruyere, and emmental cheeses. The amount of cheeses in this alone was more than enough to get me excited. However, I found that the combination wasn’t as stellar as I had hoped. Triangle di gorgonzola pasta in pesto was the downer of the night. This pasta was triangle shaped, stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and pear, and served in an olive oil based sauce made of basil, pine nuts, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Maybe it was the pesto paired with the gorgonzola, or the fact that the pasta was undercooked, that left a bad taste in my mouth. Whatever it was, it definitely didn’t work and I would suggest skipping this dish.

pesto gorgonzola

A Bocconcino custard and cheesecake drizzled with salted caramel, with a wafer on the side was served for dessert. A shot of Limoncello di Capri paired well as an after dinner drink. This dessert proved to be the perfect ending to a refreshing meal. The bulk of the dish consisted of a light and airy lemon-flavored custard, with a slight cheesecake consistency. I couldn’t stop eating it. Normally after any sort of Italian meal, I’m so stuffed that the prospect of eating anything else is unappealing, but this dessert was light enough that I had no problems eating more than my fair share.

Bocconcino

About halfway through the evening, someone commented that the meal seemed to be heading down a strictly vegetarian route. To be honest, I hadn’t realized that all of our courses were vegetarian until someone mentioned it, which surprised me considering how much I love meat. I typically run from the word “vegetarian,” due to the picture of a vegetable garden, and the meals I used to make for my late rabbit, Snowball. However, I’m glad this meal turned out to be vegetarian, as it gave me a different view on what a vegetarian meal constitutes. For vegetarians, I think this restaurant offers some great options that would also please meat lovers like me.

~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.

11 courses at No. 246

From the owner of JCT Kitchen, comes a new restaurant in the heart of downtown Decatur, No. 246. In less than six weeks of it’s opening, Chef Drew Belline has worked his magic here, creating one of the most inspiring Italian menu’s in town!

While the restaurant boasts a casual elegance, yet cozy ambiance, the food itself is nothing less than 5 stars.  Each night, the restaurant takes reservations for four guests to dine at the Chef’s Counter. With informal bar stools overlooking the kitchen, the guests are in for a total surprise. They put themselves in the very capable hands of Belline, allowing him to prepare an impromptu multiple-course menu. He does note any dietary restrictions at the beginning of the dinner and checks in frequently for feedback.

This was my first time eating at No. 246 and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even so, I was very excited about the front row seating overlooking the kitchen, watching the crew as they sauteed, grilled and plated. It reminded me of watching one of those kitchen shows on TV, only the people on this show were very peaceful, cooperative and did not talk much (let alone yell at each other).

The food was a treat for the eyes, mouth and spirit. Each dish had an intricate blend of flavors so you never got bored after a few bites. Needless to say, there were multiple contrasting flavors in every dish to which words can’t do full justice.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect at No. 246 is the quality of it’s ingredients. Artisan Meat is bought from Pine Street Market, cheese sourced from small organic farms and the honey…well, the chef turned out to be a bee keeper as well. He brought out a live honey comb and scooped off fresh honey from it, which he poured over an aged Pawlet and topped off with toasted nuts. Yum!

The whole Branzino (a Mediterranean Seabass) served with shaved fennel and pesto was also an eye-catcher. The chef presented it in the pan and then processed it onto individual plates with perfection.

Brisket with smashed potatoes turned a not-a-meat lover (me) into one! A top cut cooked with pork fat simply melted into the mouth. The beef was well seasoned and I actually like the idea of keeping the potatoes whole and hearty, rather than whipping and mashing them with heavy cream.

Other highlights included an African squash soup with almond and sage, rabbit terrine with plum preserves (made fresh daily), and Guanciale pork scented carbonara tossed with corkscrew pasta.  Individual toasts served five different ways (house made lemony ricotta topped with preserved mild mushrooms being my favorite) are also reflective of Belline’s creative style where he blends sweet, pungent and salty flavors.

The grand finale to a heavenly meal was an olive oil-almond cake with plum extract and sweet cream. A dense home-made cake with the delicate moist richness coming from the olive oil. It did not look like much but was good enough for me to finish the entire plate as my 11th course!

No. 246

129 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur

Phone (678) 399-8246

www.no246.com