EAT­ING MY WORDS

Four dis­tinc­tive food finds in ATL

GA Voice - - LGBT Atlanta - Cliff Bo­s­tock is a long­time din­ing critic and psy­chother­a­pist turned life coach. www.cliff­bo­stock.com. By CLIFF BO­S­TOCK

Hun­gry? Here are four restau­rants I vis­ited in the past week:

Ah-Ma’s Tai­wanese Kitchen (931 Monroe Drive, 404-549-9848):

This tiny jewel in Midtown Prom­e­nade be­came one of my fa­vorite restau­rants as soon as it opened al­most a year ago. “Ah-Ma” means “grand­mother” in Tai­wanese. Thus, the cook­ing is a homey blend of tra­di­tional dishes from Tai­wan’s mul­ti­cul­tural her­itage—mainly Chi­nese, but with plenty of notes from the era of Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, the Chi­nese them­selves did not ar­rive on the is­land un­til af­ter the Dutch and Span­ish set­tled it in the 17th Cen­tury (thus sayeth Wikipedia).

As a na­tion with one of the world’s dens­est pop­u­la­tions, Tai­wan is fa­mous for its huge night­time street mar­kets. So it’s no sur­prise that, be­sides home-style dishes, Ah-Ma’s re­flects our re­cent ob­ses­sion with world­wide street food. AhMa’s is cheap, it’s fill­ing, it’s not fiery-spiced. It hon­ors nat­u­ral, earthy fla­vors, but un­ex­pected in­gre­di­ents can take the palate by sur­prise.

I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of the bao—white, del­i­cate buns served slider-style. One night last week, I or­dered two. The first was stuffed with pork belly, pick­led mus­tard greens, cilantro, and crushed sweet peanuts. The other, called the Dirty Bird, fea­tured a fried chicken cut­let, house-made wasabi aioli, pick­led daikon radishes and car­rot strips. Both of these dishes stim­u­late all the senses. They’re beau­ti­ful, they have a light touch, and they tour the palate with slightly bit­ter, sweet and salty fla­vors. Juicy tex­tures col­lide with crunchy ones.

Bone Lick BBQ (1133 Huff Rd. NW, 404-343-6574, www.bonelick­bar­be­cue.com):

I love Bone Lick, mainly for its mus­tardy Carolina-style sauce, although its sweeter tomato-based sauces hit the spot too. The res­tau­rant had its start as a wildly pop­u­lar pop-up at P’cheen (R.I.P.) on Mon­day nights. Chef Mike LaSage then opened this full-ser­vice, rus­ti­cally dec­o­rated res­tau­rant.

I es­pe­cially like the Texas-style brisket. A warn­ing, though: it can be a bit dry, which some­times means the meat was not given suf­fi­cient rest time af­ter cook­ing. The fat doesn’t co­ag­u­late. How­ever, I re­cently took my leftover brisket home and found that a night in the re- frig­er­a­tor plus low heat­ing cre­ated a much juicier meat. Re­cently, I pigged out on the slightly spicy house-smoked sausage. You’ll also find per­fect ribs, chicken, and pulled pork.

Wa­hoo Grill (1042 W. Col­lege Ave., 404-373-3331, www.wa­hoogrillde­catur.com):

It’s been sev­eral years since I vis­ited this fish/ seafood-based res­tau­rant. Get a seat in the rear din­ing room and you’ll have a view of the rest­ful gar­dened pa­tio. You can eat out there if you can take the heat.

My most re­cent din­ner was a spe­cial of panseared grouper with fresh rata­touille stuffed into a hol­low yel­low tomato. It spilled onto the plate, cozy­ing up to some creamy white grits. I also tried the res­tau­rant’s in­ex­pen­sive and gen­er­ous starter plate of char­cu­terie and cheeses ($9). Some other dishes in­clude fried chicken, shrimp and grits, sesame-crusted ahi tuna, seared scal­lops, and a steak. All dishes are tagged with pos­si­ble al­ler­gens; vege­tar­i­ans can find plenty to eat.

Mez­cal­ito’s (304 Oak­land Ave., 678-705-7008, www.mez­cal­i­toscant­ina.com).

This Mex­i­can-style res­tau­rant and te­quila bar serves pretty av­er­age tacos and en­chi­ladas. I usu­ally skip those. My fa­vorite is the chunks of pork ten­der­loin cooked in a red mole. I’d like the mole to have deeper, fruity notes, but that’s a mi­nor com­plaint.

Wa­hoo Grill’s pan-seared grouper over white grits with rata­touille is a cus­tomer fa­vorite. (Photo by Cliff Bo­s­tock)

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