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

Food festival for the family

The 2013 Taste of Atlanta was not just for foodies. Although it was one of the largest food festivals in the South and showcased Atlanta’s best chefs, restaurants and spirits, the event was far more than a food tasting party. There were groups of friends and families who came out to Tech Square to enjoy the crisp Fall day, sampling delicious bites and engaging in hands-on activities.  This year’s Taste of Atlanta catered to festival lovers of all ages.

Kids enjoy fried chicken & waffles
Kids enjoy fried chicken & waffles

Keeping up with Atlanta’s growing number of top-class restaurant is no easy feat, especially if one has to arrange for babysitters, fight Atlanta traffic and call for advance reservations. The 90+ restaurants under the tents of Taste of Atlanta made it a little easier for Atlanta residents to check out the latest players in the culinary scene. Parents who enjoy discovering trends in food could actually learn a lot in only a matter of couple of hours of strolling around the festival. A general admission ticket also qualified attendees to register for cooking lessons and attend cooking demonstration. Where else could you learn to make Indian street food (by Chai Pani owner, Meherwan Irani) and deviled eggs (by Thaddeus Keefe at 1Kept and EJ Hodgkinson at JCT. Kitchen & Bar) all in one afternoon?

Indian street food
Indian street food

If you are thinking, “my kids would never eat any of the exotic dishes served at a culinary event,” think again. Adventurous eaters had a unique opportunity to grab bites of Oysters on the half shell (Lure), sea bass ceviche (Alma Cocina), duck confit sliders (Article 14), or Bocconcino (La Tagliatella), but picky eaters have lots of to choose from too! How about a jumbo pretzel (Der Biergarten), fish and chips or chicken and waffles (10th & Piedmont)? Top that off with a yummy (HighRoad Craft) praline sundae and they might spare you for dinner.

Giant Pretzel
Giant Pretzel

Bringing kids to the Taste of Atlanta was also a great way to introduce them to diverse flavors. We have many ethnic restaurants in Atlanta, but often times they don’t make the “first-cut” with diners who are unfamiliar with the menu. Exposure to India samosas (Bhojanic), chicken kebabs (Mediterranean Grill) and Ethiopian fish ribs (Desta) at Taste opens up families to trying new restaurants and cuisines.

The Family Food Zone at Taste of Atlanta offered educational demos and cooking lessons especially designed for kids.  Cooking with leftovers, assembling perfect sandwiches, and eating Georgia grown fruits and vegetables gave practical skills that all kids can use especially in light of healthy eating campaigns. There were also arts and crafts to engage inquisitive minds. The Iron Chef Kids Cooking Competition was particularly inspiring to watch, as confident elementary schoolers cooked in front of a keen crowd.

Kids cook off challenge
Kids cook off challenge

The younger crowd seemed to really enjoy popular beats and the crowd’s attention at Kiss 104.1 FM‘s booth. You definitely need to dance to burn off those calories.

Dancing it off with Kiss 104.1 FM
Dancing it off with Kiss 104.1 FM

Barnes and Nobles on 5th and Spring participated in the festival by featuring some of Georgia’s best food writers. You could select an autographed recipe book and make it a family-cooking night the next day.

Books by GA food writers
Books by GA food writers