Surin – aahaan tai

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It was a chilly night out in ATL & we were ready for some heat & hot food so off to Surin of Thailand we went!

Located on Highland Avenue, the restaurant is right in the middle of the fun on a weekend.  Surrounded by other restaurants & pubs, parking can be a bear.

From the minute we walked in, we were hit with the warmth of the restaurant.  Being out in Atlanta on one of the coldest nights of the winter, the heat felt great! 

The restaurant is quite large with a good size bar area, the first thing you see, & walk right into when you enter.  They are in need of a hostess stand since you walk in & just wait and hope someone comes to seat you.  Since it was Saturday night, the restaurant was slammed so the only table to hold us all was near the back, close to the kitchen.  & apparently the back exit, that made it very cold.  Apparently, the door was opened a lot so the cold air just rushed in & the heat disappeared. 

Now I must say it’s been a while since I’ve had  Thai and I’ve been craving it for a while so welcomed the opportunity to try this new place with my crew.  Coconut soup was ordered to help us warm up again.  I haven’t tried this soup at Thai restaurants before so this was a first & not a good one!  While everyone loved the soup, I didn’t.  Too much coconut for me, in fact that’s all I tasted.    Couldn’t taste the mushrooms, scallions, or cilantro.  I had to pass.  But kudos to the way it was served…check out the picture.

We decided to order a few plates & just share:  Thai noodles with chicken, chicken fried rice, egg rolls, and cashew nut noodles with chicken.  Boy did we have lots of food…the portions are family style so be careful about ordering lots of plates. 

The egg rolls were crispy, as I like them & served with a tangy sauce, they weren’t bad.  The fried rice was delicious with veggies & chicken though not a lot of heat.  Thank goodness I asked for the extra hot sauce so I could add to everything.  Bland food doesn’t do it for me…something everyone knows 🙂 The noodles were cooked well & had a little heat.  I just added some more to kick it up a notch!  The chicken was bland so I ate around it.  I enjoyed that they served the peanuts on the side so you could add as you liked.  The veggies:  baby corn, carrots, zucchinis added to the flavor.  The cashew nut chicken again was not to my liking.  Too bland & the taste of cashews with the other flavors didn’t mix well.  The fried rice was definitely the dish of the night, everyone finished it quickly.  The other fav appeared to be the cashew peanut chicken.  And the soup was hit, almost all gone!

After eating so much, there was no space for dessert.  Thought I did want to try some mango ice cream, in warmer weather of course. 

Service was ok at best.  While the rest of the group has visited on many occasions with attentive waiters, we didn’t experience it that Saturday night.  Could it have been because they were busy, perhaps but they often are on weekends and that’s when the others had visited.  We constantly had to ask for everything, from refill of drinks, to silverware, to napkins.   And being seated by the cold doors was not a good idea on our hostess’s part. 

Not sure I’m a fan of this place but I’m willing to give it another try…on a warmer night.

 

 

The CowFish

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Recently I tried a new restaurant in the Southpark area, The CowFish.  Hidden near Crate & Barrel, you’d miss it unless you knew it was there.  The same for all the shops near the area & the parking is very limited…good luck!

Normally a sushi or burger joint is not my thing but I was open to trying something new so off we went.  Met up with a group prior to dinner time for a glass of wine so the restaurant was not busy. 

The bar and dining area is quite large though you wouldn’t think so from the outside.  Once you enter, your eye can’t help but look at the large aquarium.  Very nice!  The bar wraps around both dining rooms. 

We were seated immediately, as they weren’t busy.  And our first waiter quickly appeared to give us the full “Cow Fish Menu experience.”  He went over all the items on the menu, highlighting his favs, & the restaurant’s best dishes.  Our second waiter was happy to recommend wines & our third took our order.  Apparently, shift changes, sick staff caused us to have three waiters in less than 20 minutes…hmmmm  Our first two were very helpful & attentive, the third unfortunately not.

We started with a little appetizer with our wine & if you know me, it was carbs!  So truffle fries were ordered & delivered quickly.  A large platter of house fries with truffle, melted parmesan cheeses, & chives…yum!    We ordered dinner while we munched on the appetizer & dinner arrived quickly…we didn’t even finish our yummy fries.

The menu is eclectic from sushi burgers, sushi boxes, & burger salads.  I tried the The Screamin’ Korean Chicken burger.  Unique burger with flash fried chicken breast topped with kimchi & sriracha, ranch, & Asian slow.  It was served with the burger usual’s, lettuce, tomato, onions & pickles.   I added a little more sriracha to the sandwich, because everything is better with heat 🙂  and it wasn’t bad.   While the burger was $11, you certainly get a large portion for your money & that goes for all the dishes.  The other dishes were the same too.  Another entrée that looked good ordered was the Cowfish Bento Box.  Literally served in an Asian box, you get a lot for your $12:  sliders, sweet fries, edamame, sushi rolls, & Thai cucumbers.   While I didn’t try any of it, my friend certainly enjoyed.  And the shrimp dish was proportionally large  & apparently good as everyone shared, minus me of course. 

 The proportions were large, so no room for dessert this time.  Not to mention the restaurant did get very busy & loud.  By 6, there was a line outside the door to get in. 

 Décor is interesting from large comically pictures all around the restaurant to the leather chairs, booths, Asian foods artwork.  Take a look at http://www.thecowfish.com/gallery/?loc=1

 For a unique experience & great ambience, definitely give it a try. 

Surin of Thailand on Urbanspoon

Oh…spicy…bring it on!

Chicken 65 Yum!

Chicken 65 Yum!

wpid-IMG_20131023_204152_072.jpgwpid-IMG_20131023_204255_997.jpgwpid-IMG_20131023_204406_169.jpgAfter a long day, I headed over for some food therapy! & Spice South Indian Cuisine was the spot for just that! Often I think I should’ve been born a South Indian since that’s my taste in food. (Though I’m very happy being a Sindhi)

Since I was craving a dosa…I knew exactly what to order. Though the restaurant carries everything from traditional vegetarian, non-veg, dishes and desserts.
Since I was super hungry, I wanted an appetizer to boot 😉

Spice South is hidden in a nice area on Ardery Kell Road, at Fountains Shopping center. Now don’t go in expecting some grand place… it’s not. A small but quant restaurant with minimal artwork & decor. Even the staff is minimal…only 1 person manning the floor. That was a little hard to understand because trying to handle just a few tables can be challenging. And such was the case on this weeknight. Many tables tried to get the waiter’s attention + the phone was ringing off the hook. Since one person was seating guests, taking orders, delivering the order, answering phone, helping To Go customers, clearing tables, etc he must have been tired.

I ordered Chicken 65 with extra spice. This equates to Chili Chicken at other restaurants. Chicken 65 is boneless chicken (the only way I will eat any meat) deep fried & served with an orange sauce with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, yogurt, curry leaves, The chicken was cooked so well…nice & tender. Oh & the smell of it was just heaven….in fact, you smelled the dish even before you saw it! As it was very spicy & a large serving, I couldn’t finish it all…not eve 1/2. Leftovers are awesome ;). I would’ve liked it to be served as a true appetizer though..it was served minutes before my meal.

My entree was Pondicherry spicy Dosa. Dosas are a southern specialty…A thin rice crepe cooked with no fat! This one was cooked with red spices & stuffed with a potato filling served with sambar (curry) & coconut chutney. Again, a large plate but sooo good.

And what drink to enjoy all this spicy food with…a beer of course! The restaurant serves beer & wine and the selection of Indian beers is nice. I tried Maharaja…my first time. Good light beer that went well with my meal.

And the restaurant is not expensive like perhaps Blue Taj. Now I love Blue Taj but inexpensive it’s not. Prices here are reasonable. Dosas are $7-$9 while the entrees are $14-$20. And it’s definitely family style portions.

Go & try it out soon! & tell me what you think about it.

Spice South on Urbanspoon

Let’s go to India

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In a lurch recently when I found this place Passage to India. I had no intention of eating there but considering it was lunch time & the group wanted Indian only, it became the go to place. After all, it was almost 2 & 4 hungry women can be dangerous 😉

Located in a small strip mall, you’d miss the place if you didn’t know about it. After an odd entrance, you are immediately seated. But don’t be too surprised, this place is very small & is often packed with students (UNCC is around the corner).

Lunch, as in most Indian restaurants, means buffet time. Though I did call ahead to see if ordering from the menu was allowed (sometimes it’s not). Yes was the response esp. for my fav Dosas. Imagine my surprise when we showed up & I tried to do just that but was told no 😦 except for 1-2 dishes). The staff really should know what is allowed.
We did order one dish from the menu that mom & I enjoy lots, idly sambar. Served with coconut chutney & sambar it’s a hit! The spice was just right in the sambar (lentils curry). The coconut chutney, which I normally like, had a tang that didn’t go well with the coconut. Ick!
The buffet was quite nice & large, from several desserts to veg & non veg dishes. Since it was a meat less day, I tried my go to anywhere, paneer. The dish is diced homemade cottage cheese cooked with tomato & almond cream sauce. It was OK with rice & nan. Nan is a staple at every Indian restaurant. The chana lentils weren’t that great…very bland with no seasoning and very runny. Definitely pass! The pakoras (fried critters with potatoes, peas, and peppers) was not the best. But my little niece, who loves any pakoras, ate em right up. Wish I could tell you all about the meat dishes , perhaps next time. However, looking around @ the other tables, must have been good. The others were devouring the meat dishes like it was on sale wait clearance haha The restaurant offers Indo Chinese…very nice! I’ll have to try the next time back. Dishes like GOBI MANCHURIAN[WITH , VEGETABLE CHOWMEIN, & CHICKEN FRIED RICE sound yummy!

I ended the meal with Gulab Jamun dessert. (fried cheese balls soaked in flavored sugar syrup). What a sugar rush & nice, warm.

Prices are good. Buffet is $6.99 during wkdays & 9.99 on wknds.

Defiantly worth a try!

9510 University City Blvd Charlotte, NC 28213(704) 549-1886

The Ultimate Dining Experience – The Blue Taj

DecorSpecial SeatingBubble Bar

Having visited The Blue Taj in the past, I know of its reputation, food, & ambiance so I was happy to revisit.  While it was not the restaurant we intended to dine at, it is where we ended up & I’m so glad.

Hidden in the back, behind Terrace Café, the restaurant is clearly in a great local…Ballantyne Village.  It has a large indoor and outdoor seating area that gets filled quickly, especially the night we dined.

They say the sign of a really good Indian restaurant is to see non Indian diners & that’s exactly the case when we ate there recently. 

With no reservations, we popped in right before the rush hour traffic that starts at 6:30 & were quickly seated.  While we wanted to start with drinks on the patio & then venture in, our host was quick to tell us that the restaurant fills up quickly so in we stayed.

From the minute you walk up to the entrance, you can tell this place has a great vibe & that the decorator painstaking was involved in selecting every detail of the place.  From the entrance door, to the floor to ceiling wine cellar, to the lights, & curtains….you feel you have arrived in India, chic India that is.  From the colorful etchings on the walls that break up the restaurant into two, to the tin looking ceiling and chandeliers…you know that everything was handpicked & certainly not cheap! 

And this carries over to the table ware &  chairs…though I must admit the chairs were a little heavy to moveJ  From red or blue appetizer plates to the colorful chairs, there is an explosion of color…red or mehndi color as we say everywhere.  In addition, certain areas have been adorned with subtle blue lighting peeping in the corners making it look almost clubesqe.

The menu is large but includes everything you may want to feast on…from vegetarian to all types of proteins.   

 We started off with drinks of course 😉  The drink menu has certainly changed since the last time I dined in.  Gone were the regular old plain jane drinks replaced with authentic Indian spiced drinks like Spice Village Chai, Merry Berry, Dizzy Mumbai, Kolkata relapse…just to name a few.  All made with some great smelling & tasting spices.  We sampled the Merry Berry (light & sweet), Dizzy Mumbai (strong whiskey & great tasting cumin), Spice Village Chai (vanilla vodka with all the spices & chai taste), and Mumbai Margarita (little sweet for me but so different than regular margarita).  The rest will have to be sampled at another time….epically the Kolkata relapse…only one of those and you’re done for the night!

The list of appetizers made it hard to pick just one so we went for the platter.  Moments later a hot dish arrived with 8 items to choose from….paneer/chutney fried pakoras, samosas, onion pakoras, raga petis, all served with a sweet tamarind chutney.  Yum…it was fully devoured!

And we had trouble determining entrees too….as there were 3 pages to choose from:  Vegetarian, Seafood/Chicken/Lamb classics, & Tawa/Roasted/Tandoori selections.  But this is where a great host/waiter becomes very important.  True restaurant workers sample the drinks and foods & are very well versed in the ingredients of a dish.  A Great restaurant worker can ask you what types of dishes you like & recommend something based on that & sometimes a dish completely off the menu!  And that’s exactly what happened with us….I wanted chicken but not the usual chicken tikka masala but I do like its gravy.  And a recommendation is made, chicken with a smooth sauce in methi & hot spices…sold!  And what’s your hot level I’m asked from scale of 1 to 5…..4 please!  And keep that water coming:)  My friend liked lamb & coconut….so the recommendation was finely cut lamb in a coconut gravy.    We also learned that our waiter helped create the drinks that ultimately made it onto the menu…bonus!

The food arrived quickly & was just magnificent!  The chicken dish was marvelous….and hot!  I was sweating into my third bite…just the way I like it 😉  The jasmine & cardamom rice were fluffy & tasteful…the aroma itself was delish.  And of course, you can’t eat Indian food without a basket full of Nan.  The proteins were both very tender & prepared carefully and the sauces were a flavorful explosion!  Not one dish was seen going back to the kitchen!   Oh…back to my food.  I really liked my hot chicken sauce a little better than the lamb sauce just because it was so spicy.  In fact, yogurt was needed to put out the fire in my mouth.  And authentic homemade yogurt it was….ahhh!

During the entire time at the restaurant, we had waiters check on us constantly, filling our water glass as soon as it was ½ empty or sooner.  And everything was brought out quickly…even when the restaurant was totally full. 

While we wanted dessert, there was just no space left in us….on the next visit we shall try!  On the way out, we dropped in to visit the Bubble Bar….a nicely displayed bar with its special Bubble Bar seat (see the pic).

Cost is a concern as it can be pricey but if you want everything perfect, it will cost you.  This is not your average Indian place….their food is truly a work of Art!

I can’t say enough good things about this place….wonderful service, great ambience/décor, phenomenal food, & truly a great dining experience worth having!

 Definitely check them out & make reservations if visiting on the weekends!

Address:        14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Charlotte, NC 28277

Phone:           (704) 369-5777

Hours:           Friday hours 11:30 am–2:30 pm, 5:00 pm–10:30 pm

Cafe Nirvana! Under new management – Grand Opening May 3

ImageCafé Nirvana – 521 Lancaster Hwy Pineville, NC

I remember when this “Indian Fusion” restaurant opened up close to Ballantyne.  In fact, it prompted many new Indian restaurants in the area but they were the first.

Always a good atmosphere, good service, & good food.  Unfortunately, as the economy tanked, so did this place.  Revolving door with staff & the food/service suffered.  Bar…what bar…all they had available near the end was beer/wine…if you were lucky enough to go there when they had any.  And then vacant for months.

It’s been ages since I’ve been back but just couldn’t resist when I drove by recently & saw the Open sign.  I was surprised to see it empty but it was a little early for dinner, close to 6.    But the service was great as I remember it.  And the food was just the way I like it, Hot Hot Hot!    Paneer 65 was definitely a good dish, with just enough sauce and heat to set your tongue on fire.  And gone are the days when you looked at your plate & went “where’s the food?”  This dish was more than enough for two to share.  Dosa is my weakness…and Mysore dosas are the best so of course I got that.  Nicely served to a crisp brown color, stuff with spicy masala.  More than enough to feed me.  The samabar a little different than my usual taste but flavorful.  Just needs a little thinning out. 

Clearly, the new management has made the difference in this place.  It helps that the new owner already has a successful restaurant at Myrtle Beach & the new manager is ready to bring the “spice” back in the place…in food and fun.  While Café Nirvana is going through lots of changes, they are all good.  The bar is gonna be back up soon and the “fusion” in the name restaurant will be reflected in a new menu.  And a few fun activities will draw the crowds in.  The Grand Opening is May 3 so make sure to stop by and try it out.  You will not be disappointed!