Friday, July 19, 2013

Exotic Ethiopian

There are four different Ethiopian restaurants within 3 miles of where I live - no exaggeration. Three of them are at the same intersection, too. And yet, I have been to an Ethiopian restaurant only once in the last 11 years in Atlanta. That was a long time ago, when I was a really picky eater. Not surprise that that I didn't like it then... But now, I love trying new things, so I decided to give Ethiopian one more chance, with Snooki as my partner in crime.

When it came to deciding where to go, our thought process went exactly like this: (1) Which places have Scoutmob? (2) Which of the two options has the better reviews on Yelp? The result was Meskerem, and that's where we went. I wish looking at the menu had been part of the thought process, though. Snooki and I were hoping to see some kind of sampler platter, but there weren't any :( The closest thing we saw was a mixed lamb/chicken dish with two vegetable sides - we chose the lentils and split peas. We also got the beef spare ribs because I (goren tibs) because I thought it might be like Korean-style spare ribs. And they both came with the traditional Ethiopian sponge bread.

My first impression of the goren tibs was really got. It was brought to the table in an iron skillet and sizzling, similar to fajita filling. But unlike fajitas, the beef then was poured over the sponge bread. I guess that was good. I didn't even get a chance to burn myself on the hot skillet ;) However, once I tried the beef, I was rather disappointed. It didn't have any of the flavor of Korean beef. It didn't have any Ethiopian spices either. Instead, the only seasoning it had appeared to be salt! The char on the beef was really nice, but that's the only good thing I can say about the beef.

Snooki, with her mixed meat platter, had many more options of what to eat. Both the lamb and chicken were covered in a tomato-based sauce. Somehow, though, they tasted completely different. The chicken was bland, but the lamb was so flavorful! I definitely wish I had ordered it. The same thing happened with the lentils and peas too. Peas: blahhhh. Lentils: spicy goodness :)

I don't know how the things in the platter could be so different. I wish there was a little more consistency in tastes. This is one place where "hit-or-miss" appears to be the best description. The things that were good were really good. But unfortunately, getting those is all about luck. Overall, not a good place to just try new things.

As a post-script, here are some random notes. The Ethiopian bread is definitely very different. It's very moist (almost soggy), with a slight acidic flavor. I kind of like it, though. And note 2: we weren't even offered regular silverware. We had to eat everything with the bread and our fingers. That was OK while we were eating, but became a problem later when we were trying to pack up the leftovers to go. It was a pretty messy ordeal. I'm all for having an authentic cultural experience, but some things are a little hard to pass over (for example, utensils) when you're used to them since birth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brunch on the patio

The beginning of summer is the time of the year when we all flock to pools, parks, and patios. [Ha, they all start with a "p"] It's not too hot yet, and we're sick of spending time indoors. Well, it's been a tricky summer here in Atlanta, raining pretty much every single day for as long as I can remember. But Snooki and I had a deal for brunch, so we chose a not-too-rainy Sunday to use it. And yes, we chose to sit on the patio :) What could be better to start a Sunday that fresh air, coffee and a nice breakfast at half the price :)

The aforementioned brunch deal was for Olmsted, a relatively new restaurant in Midtown. The deal included bread and a meat platter to begin, one mimosa or bloody Mary each, and an entree. Unfortunately, we didn't think ahead and went there early on Sunday morning when you can't buy alcohol. That's the South for you... Well, the server was nice enough to let us use our cocktail credit for coffee drinks. And well, that was one of the few things about the service. It took forever to order and get our food even though the restaurant was pretty much empty when we got there. Also, we never got silverware when we were seated. We had to ask for it after the food was brought to us. By the time we started eating, it was already getting cold.

So now to the main point, the food. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special either. I was very disappointed by the bread platter that we were supposed to share. I expected several types of breads/muffins/maybe cornbread/scones. Instead, we got four dainty pieces of zucchini bread. The meat platter was ok. It had sausage, ham and bacon. But it's really weird to eat greasy meat by itself. It would have been much much better with some bread.

For the entree, I got the Yet Another Shrimp and Grits, Snooki got the Eggs Savannah, and her boyfriend (BrayBoy) ordered the fried chicken. Yes, "Yet Another Shrimp and Grits" is the name of the item on the menu, and that's exactly what it was. I have definitely had much better shrimp and grits before, and I can make better ones myself. There wasn't any flavor on them. I was hoping that the name was just a joke, but unfortunately it wasn't. Snooki's  dish was good, at least. The crab and shrimp cakes weren't overflowing with flavor, either, but there was a good amount of crab meat in them. The hashed potatoes were crispy, as they should be. BrayBoy was happy with his dish, though. It was definitely a guy's portion, with a huge chunk of cornbread that was the size of half a loaf. On the bright side, he had leftovers.

I guess the best part of the meal was sitting outside. But once it started drizzling, we were ready to go and I don't think any of us would be going back.