Sunday, May 29, 2011

Persistence pays off

Last time MissChris and I tried to go to Ria's Bluebird for brunch, we ended up going somewhere else because of the long wait. Well, we gave up that one time, but we were determined to go back and we did. This time we went on a non-holiday weekend at 10 am and had no problem in getting a table. It turns out that there are more tables around the corner of the main dining room. Those tables are set up on a covered patio that includes a little fountain!!! The patio itself is set with slated stone, so it's really pretty. By the way, the cover was really appreciated on that hot Atlanta day when the humidity was already oppressive at 10 am.

The menu of Ria's is not very extensive, but it offers a good variety" from Mexican breakfast classics like huevos to granola to pancakes. I ordered the daily special omelet with cremini mushrooms and Gruyere cheese. The omelet was nice and cheesy, but the cheese wasn't overpowering. I would usually like this, but in this case I was wishing I had more of the Gruyere  because I love it so much :) Overall, I can't say anything else negative about the omelet. On the flip side, I don't have outstanding praises for it either. The omelet came with a yummy toasted biscuit, ham, and a sweet potato cake. I have nothing to say about the ham except that it tasted like ham... The sweet potato cake, however, was pretty good. It had nutmeg in it, so I got a nice feeling of the Christmas season during the hot summer :)

A friend of mine who had been to Ria's before recommended the buttermilk pancakes with caramelized bananas. That's what MissChris ordered for her breakfast. I was really curious to try them, so I placed an order to go. They made for a great lunch later that day. They were light and fluffy. However, I wasn't that impressed with the bananas, so I wished I hadn't spent the money to have them as an add on.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Comfort food in the summer

When a hungry girl craves a hot soup, she will get a hot soup. No matter that it's 90 degrees outside... There's air conditioning in the restaurant, haha.

That's how Cashew and I felt a few weeks ago, when we decided to go to Quan Ba 9. I was really thankful that Cashew is Vietnamese because she had to explain all the things on the menu were. They do have pictures, but you can't always know if you'll like something if you don't know what the ingredients are. We started with goi xoai salad. It is made with green mangoes, papaya, and a lot of other really fresh goodies. This one came with dressing already in it, and extra fish sauce on the side if you felt like having the extra salt. I personally thought the salad was perfect without the side fish sauce. It was so good, we ate every single drop of it from the plate!

For the real meal, I ordered a traditional Pho because I had been craving it for a while. I got the one with beef and meatballs. I hadn't had the meatballs before, so I wanted to try them, but I doubt I ate more than a couple of them. There was something about them that made me not like them... I did enjoy the beef though. Cashew pointed out that the broth was very cinnamony, but I didn't notice the cinnamon taste.

Cashew ordered a porridge-like dish called chao vit, with duck meat and dipping sauce on the side. One of the ingredients was coagulated blood. I had to try it, but I didn't like it. I wonder how much of my dislike can be attributed to me knowing what I was eating... The porridge part was made from ground rice rather than wheat, so it was different. The duck and the dipping sauce were amazing.

We completed the night with a che thach, which resembles bubble tea and has jelly-like pieces made of agarose. The liquid part of the drink was quite sweet and tasty. It served as a great ending for our Vietnamese food night.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Need my brunch!

In case I haven't mentioned it already, breakfast food is my favorite type of food. However, I'm not a morning person, so for 90% of the time I settle for cereal and soymilk. Well, there's nothing wrong with that because I love cereal as well. My current favorite is the Kashi Go Lean Crisp cereal. Not too sweat and very tasty!

But enough with the tangents. I love brunch because I get to enjoy breakfast food at a later time in the day. I have tried so many brunch places around town already, but my favorite so far is Murphy's in the Highlands. Another place that is supposed to be very good is Ria's Bluebird in Decatur. So on Mother's Day weekend, MissCriss, a friend of mine who shares my passion for brunch, and I decided to try Ria's. We got there early, to beat the Mother's Day brunch crowd. Well, by the time we got there, there was a huge line and a long wait. By the way, the place inside is pretty small, so that must contribute to the long wait times. We didn't feel like standing out for an hour, so we decided to go somewhere else instead. The place of choice was The Parrish, a Cajun-style restaurant in Inman Park also known for its brunch. Unlike at Ria's, the space at The Parrish is amazing, and we were seated right away. It's very spacious, on two floors, with a market downstairs, and decorated in an old plantation house style. It's very rustic and elegant. They also have an nice patio with leather armchairs, but all table there were taken :(

Now back to the food... I ordered the Parish Benedict, which was really tasty. Interestingly, the best part of the dish for me was the spinach. The beef was very tender, but was a little plain. On the bright side, the hash browns were seasoned perfectly in terms of salt.

I think I need bring up Murphy's again because this is the place that's come closes so far to having the best brunch. While I like the space at The Parrish better, the food at Murphy's in undoubtedly superior. The brunch menu at The Parrish wasn't as exhaustive as the one at Murphy's, but they had most of the classics: granola, pancakes, eggs benedict, American-style breakfast. One thing missing was any type of fritatta. I also missed the little things that Murphy's does at The Parrish, for example the free pastries they give you before you get your order. Can't beat free stuff ;) However, I'm having lots of fun trying new places to see if I can find something better than Murphy's :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Almost great

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I love Scoutmob. This is a website/phone app that gives you deals at various vendors, including restaurants. I've chosen many of the places where I eat based on whether they have a Scoutmob discount or not... I also learn about new restaurants through the app. This was the case with Top Flr (no misspelling), a nice restaurant on Piedmont Rd., close to Georgia Tech.

Cashew and I made a run to Top Flr on a random week night just because we wanted to try it. It had some interesting items on the menu, but we came to an agreement about what we wanted pretty quickly. For appetizers, we had the Tuna tartar and the Purple and green cabbage salad. Both of those were AMAZING! The tuna tartar was served on top of flat bread, a presentation I hadn't seen before. It had aioli on top. If you remember, I vented once about how I don't like aioli. Well, the overall flavors and textures of the tuna tartar were so good that I didn't mind the aioli. My only slight complaint is that the taste of the tuna itself got lost in all the other ingredients. The salad, however, I have nothing negative to say about! It was sooo light and tasty. The dressing didn't overwhelm the dish, it had the perfect amount of Gorgonzola cheese, and the caramelized nuts and granola weren't too sweet. I could eat that salad every day. By the way, our waitress said the same thing.

After these two dishes, Cashew and I got really excited about the restaurant and even started comparing it to Pura Vida. So, we couldn't wait to try the entrees: duck breast and apple-orange tofu. I wouldn't usually order tofu in a restaurant, but this one was supposed to come with bok choy and eggplant (miso), two ingredients I love, so I was intrigued. We also ordered a side of quinoa with tomatoes and curried onions. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed with all three of these. The duck breast seemed so sad sitting only in some kind of jus. The tofu didn't have any flavor until you dipped it in the eggplant miso. The quinoa seemed underseasoned. The curried onions seemed very out of place in the quinoa dish because they represented a strong flavor in the middle of no flavor. That could have turned out ok if the curry flavor wasn't so overpowering by itself. Needless to say, the comparisons to Pura Vida didn't continue by the end of the night, and Pura Vida is still the best place in Atlanta!