Omnivore - Two scorching reviews of two favorites

I've received two unhappy emails about two long-time Atlanta favorites.

The first is about Saravanaa Bhavan:

Hi Cliff, I had a bad experience recently at Saravanaa Bhavan. I used to love this place, before new ownership. I live a fair distance, so I would make specials trips to dine there. Since the new ownership i have eaten there 3 or 4 times, mostly at lunch. I found the food not quite as good, but still ok.

Recently I drove there and arrived about 2:10 knowing they closed at 2:30. They had discontinued the buffet, which is their perogative, and ran a regular menu. I know you arent a fan of buffets, but in Indian restaurants, I find it is a good indication of the kitchen's skills.

Anyway, I received my food at 2:20 (a thali that was considerably more than the buffet cost). The food was average at best...At almost exactly 2:30 I was prented with my check while still only half finished. Still ok; I understand this as they were closing. After 5 minutes passed, a woman who seemed to be a manager came to my table and insisted I pay, and then stood there waiting for me!

I have restaurant experience and understand people want to take breaks. However. if you seat diners until your closing time, you must allow them to eat their meals unpressured, as they are still being charged full price. For me the choice was easy, I will no longer drive to this restaurant for mediocre food and rude treatment. My new fave Indian restaurant is Minerva in Alpharetta.

This one is about Frank Ma South:

I would like to offer a few comments on my recent visit Frank Ma South, a visit inspired both by your review and having eaten at past restaurants run by Frank Ma.

Normally, when I disagree with a dining review, I can understand where the disconnect is and appreciate the viewpoint of the reviewer. I usually read your reviews in the Atlanta Creative Loafing and will occasionally add a restaurant to my list to try based upon the comments that you provide. I often find them very helpful. This is one of the few times that I just do not get what you saw in the place.

I have eaten at a number of Chinese restaurants throughout the country

with locals and with a number of friends who are from a variety regions in hina. I am by no way an expert in Chinese food but I think that I can

usually tell when something is decent. I have also accepted a long time

ago that Chinese restaurants usually do not place a premium on service.

All part of the experience.

But imagine my surprise when I tried Frank Ma South based upon your review in the August 27th issue. Not only was the food so bad that we left halfway through the meal rather than make an attempt to finish it, the service was so poor that we had to wait 15 minutes to pay.

We showed up on Tuesday, Sept. 9. The place was less than a third

full. There seemed to be about an equal number of staff running around as there were customers. We started with the hot and sour soup then ordered an appetizer of onion pancake and, upon the server's recommendation, the smoked fish. For the meal we had a shrimp and pork dish.

To put it simply, with the exception of the soup, which was good but not

great, the rest of the meal was bad. Very bad. The pancake was about as

greasy as I have ever seen and had all the flavor of wet stale white

bread. It was only after we tried the one that showed up at our table that we looked around and noticed that every other person who ordered a pancake wasn't finishing theirs either. The smoked fish, ordered on the recommendation of the server, was an experience. The texture was unlike anything that I would consider food. And the taste, well, rancid pickled foam comes to mind.

After ordering the appetizers we asked about the BYOB policy. Once I

returned with a bottle of wine and asked for a corkscrew, we waited 30

minutes for them to provide, on the second try, clean wine glasses. The

appetizers had already showed up, been picked at and discarded by the time the glasses arrived. About this time our meals showed up. I will admit that the food looked good, the vegetables were bright and the presentation was very appetizing. Starving, we served ourselves and dug in.

Now we arrived at our greatest disappointment. The food just didn't taste good. A complete lack of flavor. Let me correct that, the shrimp dish might have had flavor but we couldn't tell because of the overpowering amount of salt. The spicy pork dish was anything but. The vegetables were well cooked but the pork was stringy and bland. It tasted as if it had been pre-cooked then mixed with what ever sauce was used with the dish. There were some peppers, but the heat and flavor were confined only to the peppers as if they had been thrown in as an after thought. We sat there for a while trying to make the best of the mea; then we just gave up. I asked for the check, and we waited. And waited. And waited.

Growing tired with picking at the white rice, which was about the best

part of the meal, I eventually went up and asked the lady behind the

register to please get us our check. When she asked if the meal was OK, I glanced over at the piles of food, and simply said that it was an


What were you thinking? I have been to places that were having a bad day. This wasn't it. This was across the board poor food and poor service.

This certainly was not my experience when I visited the restaurant. But keep in mind that my account was a "first look." Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to ruin a restaurant and it can happen overnight, with a change in chef and other staff. I wonder if sharing the space with Hot Wings and Chopstix has compromised quality.

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