Grazing: Mail Call

Reader feedback, plus first bites at Taste

I'm hitting the mailbag hard this week. But before we get to your reviews, allow me to pay one visit to a new restaurant.

Taste (3125 Piedmont Road, 404-781-0800) is the newest inhabitant of the building that was Bacchanalia's first home. The pleasant cottage underwent three months of remodeling and, although I'm not wild about the interior color scheme - mustardy yellow, lime green and red - the landscaped patio is unusually pleasant. And the staff is terrific.

Taste has been opened by the former owners of Fuse Pointe, which was up the road at Piedmont's intersection with Roswell Road. They closed it when Po' Boys Creole Cafe offered to buy them out. The menu here, as at the earlier restaurant, features a fusion of South Asian cuisines - Thai, Malaysian and Chinese - by chef Khuyam Lam Eu, who has 20 years of experience to his credit.

Our meal was a mixed success, with entrees far out-performing appetizers. A soft-shell crab, coated with panko, had a powerful fishy taste that couldn't be disguised by a sugary cilantro-orange chili sauce. Better was a Malaysian-style pancake, pan-fried and served with a red curry sauce for dipping. The addition of red chili sauce spared the dish a characterization as totally bland. Both starters were nice to look at, if a bit carnivalesque. The periphery of the crab's plate, for example, featured zigzaging lines of green kiwi and orange mango, which unfortunately didn't add a thing taste-wise except a cloying note of sweetness. Halved cherry tomatoes, looking a bit like clown noses, encircled the crab.

The best dish of the meal was a lava stone pot crowded with seafood in a tamarind and basil-spiked fish stock that had been turned almost fiery by a huge, mature jalapeno. The pot held mussels, shrimp, calamari, scallops, a lobster tail, white mushrooms and bok choy. The scallops alone were problematic - a bit overcooked. Exactly how to eat this dish was a little confusing. I was served a small bowl of rice, which I emptied onto my plate before spooning the lava pot's contents atop it. The problem is that you can't efficiently lap up the delicious broth.

Another entree, grilled tenderloin flavored with garlic and jalapenos, was served with asparagus, broccoli and red bell peppers. There's nothing to complain about, but nothing exciting about the dish, either. For dessert, we split "fire and ice" - a scoop of green tea ice cream with a big crepe wrapped around slimy fruit. Don't bother. Prices are midrange. Two of us spent $85 with no alcohol (there is a full bar), before tip.

Reader Reviews

Antonio writes this: "I read your pieces on Popeye's. Wow. Infuckingcredible. But I can top that. Check out the Captain D's on Buford Highway at North Druid Hills. All the clerks are seemingly made of butter, have amazingly shitty attitudes, actually have been known to pick their teeth and file their nails, in addition to sleeping stretched out on booths in the public dining area. It has to be seen to be believed."

Antonio continues: "Have you ever reviewed the food at Turner Field? I realize that would be quite an undertaking, and this new, highly trumpeted Skip Carey's BBQ would be a good place to start. I was at the games Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, I tried the pulled-pork plate, which consisted of about half a cup of pork slathered on a bleached enriched-flour bun, along with a thimble full of barbecue beans (tasted uncannily like Campbell's Pork & Beans, minus the little sliver of weenie) and some cole slaw that, honest-to-Gawd, tasted like rubber. That set me back 8 big ones.

Sunday I tried one of the pizza places. Last year $8.75 got you a whole 12-inch pizza. This year, the same company, same ingredients, charges $5 and you get one huge slice. Net result: They make more money; you get less pizza. Quality of the pizza? Well, I imagine there's worse, but I've yet to experience it, and I'm a pizza authority, of sorts."

Dr. Anthony Gal writes: "I was at a Memorial Day party and there was an array of marvelous Hungarian pastries made locally. Mary Nagy, the owner of this home-based business called Obuda, is a professional caterer who specializes in desserts. She has created a website which lists the delicacies available: www.obudabymaria.com."

Miguel Terc wants credit: "I was passing through Atlanta and read your article on Eclipse di Sol. Just to correct certain items, let me clarify that the idea for a tapas restaurant was exclusively mine and I talked Paul Luna and James Erlich into it, as I wanted to invest in the restaurant. That was about 1996. It was never Paul's idea. He later bought a tapas book and got some recipes after consulting me about the best dishes to offer."

Rich Jenkins files this: "I was glad to see your thumbs down on Figo. The one on College [Avenue] is near my house and very popular with Decatur and Kirkwood types. Sadly, it's just bland. Why is garlic missing from tomato sauce in Atlanta (as well as from Thai food)? There seems to be something about forgettable food and popular restaurants in Decatur. Figo has found its niche.

"On the other hand, I was surprised you didn't like Fatburger more. With your L.A. time, I would have guessed that you'd sampled Tommy's and In-n-Out Burger, not to mention neighborhood mainstays like Tops (easily my favorite). Fatburger is hardly the best in L.A., but it's the only place in Atlanta where a burger doesn't leave me with salt-based thirst and a sense of having consumed a grease slick. And the fries. Fatburger's reminded me that I haven't eaten really good fries anywhere in Atlanta. Why is it that french fries are so lousy here? Even in the D.C. area (not a great place for vernacular cuisine), you could get really superlative fries (O'Brien's BBQ, for example). You could do a column on fries and the absence of garlic!"

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

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