Omnivore - Knife & Fork features Miso Izakaya

It's good but is it authentic? Does it matter?

Image The June issue of Christiane Lauterbach's Knife & Fork just arrived and the cover piece is a 2.5-star review of Miso Izakaya (619 Edgewood Ave., 678-701-0128).

Christiane appears to have had the same experience I did with the restaurant. Owner-chef Guy Wong's food seemed pretty uninspired when he opened the beautifully decorated place. Now, though, the food has become outstanding and creative. Like me, Christiane particularly enjoys the selection of buns filled with various ingredients. They're like elegant Asian sliders.

I noticed an interesting secondary aspect of Christiane's review. She brings up the issue of authenticity, remarking that she still prefers Shoya Izakaya over Miso Izakaya "because it is more forceful, convivial and authentic." I'm not sure about the "forceful" and the "convivial." But I know that what comprises authenticity has become quite controversial in our increasingly multi-cultural society. Do you have to be Japanese to cook Japanese food well? As she reports, Wong, who grew up in the U.S., replies, "At an Italian restaurant in Atlanta, you don't expect an Italian to cook your food."

I'm on Wong's side with this issue. As I remarked in a recent column, you can eat some very bad food in "authentic" ethnic restaurants. But, even more important, assimilation and globalization have become deconstructive forces in our culinary life. There is no pure authenticity by which to measure food inspired by another culture. There is the subjectivity of taste and there is history. Indeed, Christiane remarks in her review that "we meaning she no longer quibble with the restaurant's right to play the culinary field."

Christiane's review also reports something I didn't know — that Wong is the son of the owners of Sam's Gourmet Chinese on Roswell Road. That restaurant was one of my favorites years ago. It served the best seafood in town.

Also reviewed in the current issue of Knife & Fork is Tempo Doeloe, Farmstead 303, Westside Creamery and Artisan Foods Bakery & Cafe. (All earn 2 stars except Tempo Doeloe, an Indonesian spot that earns 2.5.) There's also a travel piece on Barcelona and a funny article about visiting restaurants that closed or lost their chef before she could write a review.

(Graphic courtesy of Spurgeon.org)