SIMPLY BEING

Tag: Midtown (page 1 of 2)

Pita Mediterranean Street Food

Found myself in Midtown Atlanta earlier this week, and it was lunch time. A quick Google search revealed that Pita Mediterranean Street Food was around the corner. It was a warm day, and I had a heavy laptop bag to haul around, but I decided to take a chance and go sample some Mediterranean street food.

Got myself a Falafel Pita that included falafels, pickles, turnips and hummus, and a side of pita bread and baba ghanouj.

Falafel Pita Sandwich

Verdict? Strictly okay. The falafels were lacking in salt, and the sandwich tasted, plain unseasoned. The baba ghanouj was good, although I wish the pita bread itself was lightly toasted.

Best part of the afternoon? Chilling out at nearby Piedmont Park.

La Fonda Latina

A casual eatery that serves Latin American food (so casual that there is no ‘About Us’ section on the website), La Fonda is appealing in so many ways. It attracts a young crowd that includes Georgia Tech students, easily distinguished by their grey hoodies, slouchy jeans and sneakers. Aah, the young desi grad students, fresh faced and sincere and earnest!

We walked in late on a Thursday evening, close to 9pm. I was worried that the place may have closed but it was open and bustling. For transplanted suburbanites like us, this is a welcome surprise. Growing up in Bombay (where you can get a bite any time of the day/night), I can’t understand it when restaurants close doors by 9pm on weeknights. What if someone feels like a bite at 9:30pm on a Wednesday evening? Guess Pizza Hut is the only option. Not my favorite idea of a dining option but well, c’est la vie en suburbia.

Back to La Fonda… I had been here for lunch with work colleagues a couple of months ago. I liked the food enough to suggest to P that we come back for dinner some day. Now parking can be a challenge during busy hours (as we discovered that afternoon we went for lunch) but the night P and I went, it was not a problem as it was way past dinner time for most folks. As soon as we sat at our table, the server brought us salsa and chips. The salsa was deliciously juicy and most likely, not out of a jar… freshly made, I think. We ordered a plate of Tostones (fried plantain chips served with a garlic dipping sauce). It came fast but the dish left me unimpressed. The plantains were dry, hard and unripe. Had they been ripe and soft, the dish would have been a delight.

Salsa and Chips, Tostones

P ordered two vegetarian enchiladas (white corn tortillas filled with grilled squash, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, peppers, pimentos and fresh spinach, covered with chipotle and ancho chili pepper tomato sauce, topped with Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, queso blanco and cilantro) while I asked for a Bocadillo Vegetariano (Cuban sandwich with grilled vegetables, tomatoes, Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and Cuban dressing on Cuban bread).

Entrees, La Fonda

The Bocadillo Vegetariano was excellent. Who can resist a combination of grilled vegetables and rich, gooey cheese? I am not sure what the Cuban dressing comprised of or what distinguishes Cuban bread from any other kind… however, this is a great sandwich for folks who like big flavors, hearty and comforting. I skipped the beans almost entirely. It was late in the night and I didn’t fancy going to bed on a bursting stomach (the sandwich was filling enough). I sampled the yellow rice; it was perfectly cooked, each grain separate from the other, mildly spiced. P’s Vegetarian Enchiladas looked spectacular, tasted as good. I wish I could remember something significant about either dish but I cannot… 🙁 All in all, satisfying dishes. And it is always great to read this on the menu ‘Our yellow rice and black beans are vegetarian.’ Thank you, La Fonda.

Couldn’t have skipped dessert, could we? I asked for a plate of Churros served with chocolate dipping sauce. Lovely looking dish, I agree. But P wasn’t inclined to even take a bite and I couldn’t eat more than half a stick. Sigh.

Churros

Would I go back to La Fonda Latina? Oh, yes. I am already looking forward to the next visit with our friends J & J and their little munchkin, M. I think they’ll enjoy the vibrant flavors, casual vibe and the long list of vegetarian offerings as much as I did!

La Fonda Latina
1025 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta GA
404-249-2272

www.fellinisatlanta.com

Familiar Flavors at Cardamom Hill

Oh Cardamom Hill! So long since I have been meaning to walk in through your glass doors, make myself comfortable, order the Vegetarian Thali and tuck in… it finally happened last week.

Chef Asha Gomez’s latest offering, Cardamom Hill, situated in Atlanta, has been creating waves all around town and beyond. The fried chicken appears to be a hot favorite with locals, food critics and everyone else. The lunch menu changes daily and is updated on the restaurant’s Tumblr site. It generally features a couple of appetizers, a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali, dessert.

I walked in that afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to find a space so warm and elegant that one tends NOT to expect when it comes to Indian restaurants. Sorry to sound so judgmental but I strongly think that Indian restaurants lack a lot in terms of decor and service. Stringing together a bunch of colorful scarves, scattering maroon cushions all over, hanging Indian paintings on the wall – all these are but poor representations of Indian decor. It takes an artistic interior designer to truly understand the elements of Indian-themed decor and weave them into the restaurant’s ethos. Well, the rant above does not apply to Cardamom Hill. Take a look!

Interiors, Cardamom Hill

Dark coffee brown wooden tables, comfortable stuffed chairs, wooden floors, traditional (not overly so!) carvings serving as wall hangings… Very classy, understated and elegant. The decor says ‘Indian,’ nay almost whispers it into your ears unlike many other restaurants that shout ‘INDIAN!’ with their colorful pillows, Indian paintings serving as wall art, Bollywood music streaming through the speakers, etc.

I was determined to sample everything I could on the menu. So I asked for a plate of Bhajia, described as sweet potato and onion fritters served with tamarind sauce, priced at $7.

Bhajia – Sweet Potato and Onion Fritters

Very delicious. Spiced perfectly, not too garlicky or spicy, the texture was soft on the inside and crisp on the outside, fried to perfection… and it tasted so authentic! Alongside came a bowl of tamarind dipping sauce and this one didn’t come out of a bottle, I am sure. It tasted fresh and mild. A little salad of strawberries, paper-thin radish slices, cubed pineapple and herbs with a light cardamom-oil dressing was also served. A nice touch, I thought. The Bhajias came four a plate. I saved two to take home so P could sample them and give me his expert opinion.

Next up came the Vegetarian Thali. Priced at $13, it is a nice big plate of food that can easily suffice for two people, especially if you opt to share the Bhajias beforehand.

Vegetarian Thali at Cardamom Hill

The Thali contained,
Semolina upma with vegetables
Roasted Snake gourd and corn with cumin and chilli flakes
Red cabbage and persimmon slaw
Kootu (spinach and lentils simmered in Kerala spices)

Those are the listings from the restaurant’s Tumblr site. I wanted to avoid wheat, so I asked for rice instead of the upma. Alas, the server said that he had no rice that day. No rice at a Kerala cuisine restaurant? How odd. Well, so I had to get the upma. It was very well-cooked. Upma is a breeze to make, really. It is a common breakfast snack and each region in India probably has its own version of upma. Some people add turmeric while some others don’t, some folks will throw in loads of roasted peanuts and curry leaves while some others garnish with chopped cilantro. Tomato and shredded carrots may make an appearance. And so it goes. Semolina’s texture is not unlike that of couscous; it may very well be couscous by another name. The version at Cardamom Hill was mildly spiced, a good foil to the vegetables and kootu.

I have eaten snake gourd cooked with shredded coconut, mustard seeds, curry leaves. With corn? Never. It is a new twist on a familiar preparation. I can’t say that I liked it or disliked it. I wish the dish wasn’t bursting with corn, it felt a tad too much. The flavors were oh-so familiar, even if they were a shade milder than what a typical Kerala dish would feature.

Red cabbage and persimmon slaw is by no means a traditional Kerala dish! I doubt persimmon even grows in Kerala. That being said, it is a nice little side dish that added a tangy punch and freshness to the meal. The slaw was spiced with lemon juice, chopped cilantro and salt.

I always thought that kootu referred to a coconut gravy curry and so, the spinach kootu at Cardamom Hill threw me off. This version was essentially a lentil dish (chana dal, I think) with spinach leaves and a tempering of mustard, turmeric and curry leaves. Maybe this is how kootu is prepared in the Malabar region (that’s where the chef Asha Gomez hails from). It was lightly flavored, perfect in quantity. Chana dal can get rather heavy, so the little bowl was the perfect size.

Not a bad spread at all… as I said, the flavors were milder, the combinations were interesting and unique, the service was lovely, great interiors. And I skipped dessert this time, so a second visit with the husband is definitely in order!

Cardamom Hill
1700 Northside Dr
Atlanta GA 30318

www.cardamomhill.net
404-549-7012

Miller Union

Walk into Miller Union, and you will be struck by the abundant light, huge windows, wooden tables, glass cabinets and high ceilings, all contributing to a classy-rustic urban vibe. The assortment of Lodge cast iron pans adorning the wall is eye-catching. I caught sight of a tiny guitar-shaped cast iron pan – cute! The servers are dressed in blue shirts and jeans, classic and simple. Our friendly server (my boss loved her voice) mentioned that most of the ingredients used at the restaurant were locally sourced. As she went over the drinks menu, she told us that Miller Union stocks Mexican Coca-Cola that contains cane sugar.

Miller Union isn’t exactly known for its vegetarian options. You can see the sole vegetarian entree on the menu, the Seasonal Vegetable Plate. A couple of the starters are vegetarian too. Or so I think. I didn’t exactly find out (it was a farewell dinner for a colleague and I wasn’t keen on starting a long-drawn conversation with the server).

We got a couple of starters for everyone to share – the Feta Snack and the Butter Bean Hummus with Housemade Lavash. I don’t seem to have pictures of the Butter Bean Hummus and Lavash… hmmm. For the entree, I got the Seasonal Plate. Dessert was a selection of three kinds of ice-cream sandwiches – Chocolate Brownie, Basil, Almond Toffee. I guess I should have picked Basil, but I asked for Almond Toffee instead. My gluttonous gene trumps the experimental one most of the times, sigh.

The Feta Snack comprised a dip of feta cheese, sour cream and cracked pepper served with a selection of baby carrots, turnips, beets. Surprisingly, the dip wasn’t too sour (as most feta dishes tend to be). I wouldn’t call this dish remarkable but it was a good start to the meal. I wish I had a picture of the Hummus-Lavash plate… sigh. The hummus was delicious, not too sour or garlicky, just perfect. I wonder if it contained any chickpeas at all. The Lavash was flecked with sea salt. It was crisp and crunchy, almost like a cracker.

My entree was strictly so-so. I think the vegetables (green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, beets) were steamed and salted, that’s all. Plus there was the fried okra. Agreed it is a plate of seasonal vegetables, and I assume the intent is to celebrate the produce of the moment. Yet, it felt too small, too plain for an entree. Maybe an accompanying biscuit would have ramped it up? Or a light olive oil dressing with herbs, perhaps? Or maybe some fresh beans/peas would have made all the difference.

Dessert was substantial. The ice-cream came nestled between two Graham crackers that held up remarkably well, zero sogginess. The Almond Toffee ice-cream was fairly decent. It wasn’t overly sweet although I wished for a stronger almond flavor. Pretty big-sized for a dessert portion… bigger than my entree!

I wish Miller Union would expand its vegetarian offerings…

Miller Union
999 Brady Ave NW, Atlanta GA 30318
678-733-8550
http://www.millerunion.com/site/