Mouth about town

Good Chinese, news on Blais, an extra shot of espresso and more

This week's column is a ramble. I depend on your feedback and gossip. Call me!

Roberto called to request the name of my favorite Chinese restaurant. I get this inquiry at least once a month. I do not have a favorite because it depends on my mood. If I want Korean-inflected Chinese, I still go to Pung Mie and order the hot-braised chicken. If I want dim sum, I go to Oriental Pearl. If I want Cantonese, I go to Canton House. If I want the city's best salt-and-pepper squid, I go to Hong Kong Harbor.

And if I want the hottest of Chinese cuisine, I go to Little Szechuan in Doraville. During my last meal there, we were given complimentary pot stickers — glossy, crispy little numbers full of minced pork — to go with a plate of fried anchovies, hot chilies and peanuts, one of my favorite dishes in the city. But the long beans with brisket, moo shu vegetables, steamed whole fish and jellyfish salad are also favorites.

OK, here's a first for our city. PR Goddess Anne Reeves informs me that Richard Blais' new restaurant, Blais, will feature five 42-inch video monitors in the dining room and bar. What will they be showing? Live video of Blais and his staff working in the kitchen.

Blais, you recall, was chef at fabulous Fishbone, which closed. His new restaurant cum video performance space will open at 268 E. Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead. An opening date, within the next few months, has not been finalized. ...

When people write for restaurant suggestions, I usually refer them to various Internet sites to get a variety of opinions. The best of the local sites these days is atlantacuisine.com, run by Tom Maicon. Besides reviews, he publishes in-depth interviews with chefs, including Blais in the past. This month's interview is with Mike Tuohy of Woodfire Grill. The site also carries a very spirited forum for foodies, including an 86-post discussion of local pizza. ...

The fish shack is all but dead in Atlanta. One of the classics is Stringer's Fish Camp (3384 Shallowford Road) in Chamblee, near Buford Highway, next to the mini-golf clubhouse turned into a Vietnamese restaurant. I've dined at Stringer's twice recently, for the first time in years. The hoagies featuring fried seafood have to be among the best in the city. But a white clam chowder should be avoided. For dinner, I ordered a plate of fried oysters and shrimp over fried onions and found the oysters far better than the shrimp, which are butterflied before being fried in a very light batter and end up a bit tough. A plate of whiting — all you can eat for about $10 — was flawless.

But the most interesting thing about Stringer's is that while it looks like a classic Southern fish camp, with red-checked plastic tablecloths and taxidermied fish on the walls, it's actually a multi-cultural happening. Hispanic servers, a Guatemalan cook and an Asian manager run the fish shack, y'all. The clientele is similarly diverse.

Does this affect the food? Not in the least. It probably improves it. For years, if you wanted decent seafood in Atlanta, you had to head to a Chinese restaurant. Mexico is similarly fanatical about seafood. ...

Christian Favali has sold Meritage, according to the rumor mill. I haven't found the name of the new owner yet. ... The James Joyce Pub in Avondale has hired a new chef and, according to Tom Durrett, the food has improved dramatically. The menu features three daily specials and Tom says his favorite so far is rosemary pork medallions with garlic mashed potatoes and crispy leeks.

More on espresso

I received a lot of e-mails and a few calls following my recent column on espresso. I most enjoyed the call from a Caribou fan informing me that I'm a dickhead who drinks battery acid. Most other people wanted to tell me where to find Lavazza around town. Liz wrote to say she has bought it at Market One on Ponce de Leon.

Jonathan Silver, president of Atlanta Coffee Supply Group, wrote to inform me that his company is a master distributor for Lavazza, which, he said, is used in several hundred restaurants in our area. You can buy the coffee retail through the company's website, lakehousecoffee.com.

Lavazza is also available brewed and by the bean at The Plump Peasants in Virginia-Highland. Maggie Jernigan, a barrista there, invites you to try her macchiato, which she promises is perfect.

Steve Devore of Atlanta Coffee Roasters at Toco Hills Shopping Center wrote to tell me I was remiss in not mentioning his shop. He's right. Atlanta Coffee Roasters has been around since 1983 and therefore pre-dates Aurora. The shop markets over 80 coffees, all roasted on the premises and pulls espresso shots from a classic manual LaCimbali double- head machine.

I also did not mention Mike Gallagher's Java Monkey in downtown Decatur. Gallagher, who shares my passion for the perfect macchiato, sells mainly organic coffee that is 100-percent fairly traded. Your social conscience will be as pleased as your palate. Gallagher also reminds me that I omitted San Francisco Coffee, which he calls "the only local roaster of significance."

I'm sure readers can see that my limited space made a fully comprehensive look at espresso in the city impossible. My editor assures me next time I undertake a survey column, I'll have more space.

Lunacy of the Year

Kentucky Fried Chicken has launched an advertising campaign to convince us that "fried chicken can be part of a healthy, balanced diet." What this means is that one KFC "Original Recipe" breast has less than half the fat of a Whopper from Burger King. A press release informs me that if I remove the skin from the breast, I will be eating even more healthily. I presume the breading is removed with the skin ... which means it's fried chicken only in name, doesn't it?

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

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