Wednesday, April 18, 2012

IP Restaurant Week Part 2: Wisteria

During Inman Park restaurant week, I took my parents to Wisteria to show them what Southern food is really like. When done right, like at JCT Kitchen, it can be as sophisticated as any other cuisine. And Wisteria definitely does it right in terms of food. I can't say the same about the service we got, but more about this later.

The choice of appetizers was really good, but I couldn't wait to try the black eyed peas hummus. It just sounded so interesting! That's what I call innovative thinking: take a well-known item, but make it with an unexpected ingredient. Too bad the result wasn't as amazing as the idea, but kudos for the effort. The texture of the hummus was too coarse, and it seemed to lack flavor. Plus, the sweet potato chips it came with were too soggy and oily. They tasted like burned oil rather than potatoes. Still, I believe that this dish has great potential if executed properly. My parents' appetizers, the mixed greens salad, were perfect, though. The dressing wasn't overwhelming, the goat cheese was fresh and creamy, and they came with toasted bread.

I think I've mentioned several times that I don't like grits, but I somehow ended up ordering the shrimp and grits for my entree. Hey, what could be more Southern than that! To be honest, I was pretty nervous about the dish. However, just like at JCT kitchen, the grits actually tasted really good! They didn't have the gritty texture I usually hate about them. That bad texture is still there even if the grits are mixed with cheese. But the grits at Wisteria, and the ones at JCT kitchen, were smooth and sweet. I have to say, I'm a convert. I'm willing to try more grits now :) Oh, by the way, the shrimp and veggies on the dish were also great. The shrimp was tender and cooked for just the right amount of time.

My mother had the fried chicken for dinner. She liked the chicken, but wasn't a fan of the cornbread. According to her, the cornbread was too sweet. My father liked his almond-crusted trout. He said that it was very well seasoned too.

One of the best things about the dinner was the dessert. At other places, you have to choose just one item. But at Wisteria, we got a mini sampling platter of THREE different things. And they weren't itsy bitsy desserts either. Each one of them could almost be a full course on its own. Anyway, the platter included a carrot cake, a brownie with spicy ice cream, and a sweet potato cheesecake. I absolutely loved the sweet potato cheesecake and the brownie. I love spicy food, but the ice cream was a little too hot for a dessert. The carrot cake was just ok. It kind of reminded me of grocery store carrot cake, which is not a good thing. Thankfully, I had two other things to eat :)

I was overall satisfied with the food, but the service really disappointed me. I understand that the restaurant was busy, but that's no excuse to ignore our table. Our server went to the table next to ours several times, but didn't stop by at all. All of our water glasses went completely empty and stood that way for a while before we could ask anyone for a refill. Getting the bill also took a while. On the bright side, our server asked us is we wanted a second basket of the complimentary bread before we were served dinner. But if I want good Southern food again, I'll probably go to JCT Kitchen or Murphy's rather than Wisteria.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IP Restaurant Week Part 1: Sotto Sotto

Inman Park is one of my favorite areas, and the Restaurant Week they had recently gave me a perfect excuse to eat twice there in the course of 3 days. The first dinner was at Sotto Sotto, a restaurant I had been hoping to try for a long time.

The regular menu at Sotto Sotto offers an impressive options of authentic Italian dishes, and the Restaurant Week menu had a large number of these options. The restaurant had both a $25 menu and a $35 menu. It was hard enough to pick something from the $25 list, so I barely even glanced at the additional offerings. The fact that I'm not eating meat for Lent made my decision slightly harder, but I was happy with my final choice of Bietole e Ravanello, Tagliatelle ai Funghi, and Zuppa al Cioccolato.

The appetizer I selected, Bietole a Ravanello, was a refreshing salad of beets, radish and arugula. The slight citrus-y hints from the lemon balanced the processed (pickled) flavor from the beets well, and the hazelnuts added a nice crunch to the salad. Two of my friends ordered the Caesar salad and enjoyed it. Cashew had the Fave e Pecorino. It was delicious alright, but it looked really sad on her plate: a few fava beans and some cubes of cheese.

I was very satisfied with my main course as well, the mushroom tagliatelle. Let me tell you, there's a HUGE difference between fresh pasta and the dried pasta that we all buy in stores. The fresh past has a different texture and better absorbs the flavors of the sauce it's served with. In this case, every single bite had an earthy, mushroom taste even if there were no mushroom pieces in it. The sauce was cream-based, but the pasta wasn't drenched in it, so it was easy to eat. However, the portion was too large, but that turned out well for Cashew who was still hungry after her Tortelli di Michelangelo. Snooki's Tortelloni ai Carcio (tortelloni with artichokes and mascarpone) was also delicious. I wish I could have tasted the Strozzapreti alla Salsiccia and the sweet sausage ragu that it came with, but I was assured that it was great.

Finally, we all had the chocolate soup. I give the chef major props for creativity here, but I wish the soup was different in several different ways. First, it tasted like thick hot cocoa. I wish it looked more like melted chocolate than a drink. And second, the savory croutons were out of place and distracted from the sweetness of the dessert. A crouton made of some sweet bread would have been a better option. One ingredient that was perfect in the soup were the hazelnuts. You can't go wrong with chocolate and hazelnuts :)

Still, I was very happy with the meal overall, and I am starting to enjoy Italian cooking more and more.