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.

 

 

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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

Ahla w sahla! (Welcome) to Al Amir – Columbia, SC

Sorry it's just a regular wood fried pizza...nothing Middle Eastern about it but it was good

Sorry it’s just a regular wood fried pizza…nothing Middle Eastern about it but it was good

ImageOne thing I enjoy is trying international food.  Now, nothing too off the beaten path like Chinese cat or other animal J

I was turned on to al Amir by a friend who had the same taste in food I do.  Breads, spice, and curries are my thing…and thankfully hers too! 

Al Amir is a Middle Eastern restaurant hidden on Main Street in a small little strip of other food places. 

Now I’ll warn you, parking sucks!  And be careful when driving around cause you’ll have college kids coming out from everywhere.  Guess that’s why they picked that location, definitely gets a lot of traction. 

The décor is totally Middle Eastern at the entrance only.  Would be nice if they carried it throughout the restaurant.  From the hookahs to the gold framed doors to the pictures and other nick nacks…it is nice.  Apparently the owner actually brought these pieces from overseas so they are authentic.

The cooks are authentic and it surely tells in the food.  The hummus is delish and has just enough heat for me.  Ask them to make it even spicer & they are happy to accommodate.  The Damascus bread is the best…and a large portion so be ready to share.  You could have the hummus and bread as your entrée.  The falafel is ok but I’ve had better.  Unfortunately, the falafel I had looked & tasted like it was over done.  And no pita pockets…..just on pita bread.  The cucumber & yogurt sauce could use some heat too.  The pizzas are nice.  I had the Al Amir cheese wood fried pizza.  A little surprised to see pizza on the menu though.  Thinking this Al Amir pizza would have some spices or sauces from the Middle East is a mistake.  It’s just a regular pizza.  If you want Middle Eastern pizza, order the Lebanese one.

Good non alcoholic beverages though I wish they had the mango drink that was featured on their menu board for the day. 

Good atmosphere and definitely a Gamecock hangout.  The place is full of students and professors of all ethnicities.  Staff is friendly and quick.

Not a bad place to try!