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Thai and sushi at MaLi

Last night we went to one of my all-time favorite restaurants: Ma Li.  They serve some of the most delicious thai food around and offer some great sushi as well.

Also, I’d never noticed it before but they do have quite a few vegetarian selections.  I went with the Vegetable Massaman curry, more on that in a minute.

We got an appetizer of two inari and a Midtown Sunset roll, which included salmon, tuna, avocado, tobiko (flying fish roe), and daikon sprouts.  Delicious!

We had barely dug into our appetizer when the entrees arrived.  Here’s Jeff after just popping a piece of sushi in his mouth, when his yummy-smelling Red Curry was plopped in front of him.  He ordered his curry with pork but it came out with tofu.  It ended up being so good that he didn’t send it back!

And here’s my awesome bowl of Vegetable Massaman.  My favorite part was the broccoli, it gets soaked with all the sauce and makes for one very exciting bite!

We went from there to a bar called the Righteous Room, which is not only where Jeff and I met, but also where we got engaged one year later!  We did end up having about one too many drinks each, we were just having so much fun that we weren’t paying attention.

Glad I’m not hung-over this morning, I have a very busy day planned. Details to come!


Farm Burger with family

This may be a few days after the fact but it’s still worth talking about!

Last post I mentioned that Jeff and I were going out with the family for a quick dinner. His family lives in and around Chattanooga, TN so we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like.  His parents were in town this past weekend and asked us if we’d like to catch them for dinner before they made the 2 hour drive back home.  Of course we did!

We took them to a place near our apartment called Farm Burger. It’s a farm-to-table type burger joint that uses only 100% grass-fed beef and vegetables from local sources.  They offer a veggie burger too that you can customize and lots of other delicious things.

I had a veggie burger for lunch that day, and wasn’t all that hungry anyway, so I just got this salad.  It was very fresh tasting but the dressing was a little bland.

I got a side of onion rings that ended up being much bigger than I thought.  I only ate a few, but they were fantastic, especially with the smoked paprika mayo.

Jeff got a burger with caramelized onions and special sauce.  This was too much sauce for him, but he still thought it was good.

The parents had similar burgers.  All in all everyone liked their food and we had a great time getting to see them.

I appreciate what Farm Burger is trying to do, provide good food from local sources and burgers made from humanely-raised and healthy cows.  I only wish that the food they serve, that has come from such noble origins, could make it to the plate with the same level of nobility.  When I hear words like “farm-to-table,” “sustainable,” or “locally-sourced,” that communicates “freshness” to me.  A giant glop of sauce and a heavily buttered bun doesn’t equal “freshness” to me though, and it just serves to completely hide all that wonderful grass-fed beef they’re trying to feature.

I really do like Farm Burger.  The food is very tasty and there are a lot of very unique options to choose from there.  I only feel that it is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis.  I think the more they steer away from trying to be a typical “burger joint” that just happens to be sustainable to a purveyor of fresh local foods that just happens to serve burgers, the better.  At this moment though, I feel like they are attempting the later and succeeding in the former.

Oh well, still delicious.


A night at Nakato

Jeff and I have both been craving sushi for weeks now, so we thought we’d have a night out at one of Atlanta’s best: Nakato.

Nakato Restaurant Atlanta

We started by selecting a sake.  This one is called Kitaya, a dry sake that tasted very fruity and light.

Kitaya sake at Nakato


Jeff pouring for the lady first…

We decided to do an omakase dinner for 2.  Omakase means “I’m in your hands,” and it’s where the sushi chef will prepare for you whatever he feels is special or seasonal for that day.  It’s a great way to make sure you are getting the best the restaurant has to offer, and to learn a little about your chef’s style to see if you’d like to sit with him again in the future.

We started off with a whole aji (horse mackerel) for our sashimi (raw fish without rice).  The chef prepared it diced with scallion to be eaten with wasabi, and sliced for eating with ginger.

Aji sashimi


Then we had a sashimi plate of tai (snapper), another type of aji, and bonito (skipjack tuna) with shaved radish and a sticky soy-garlic sauce for dipping.

The bonito was awesome.  I use dried and shaved bonito all the time at home, but I’ve never had it fresh.  I had always just assumed that because it is more commonly dried, that it must just not be a particularly good fish to eat raw.  Wrong!  It was amazing.

Bonito sashimi plate at Nakato


Then we were given the fried skeleton of the aji that we were served in the beginning.

Fried aji skeleton


Yes, you eat it bones and all.  Tastes like a crispy fish cracker.

Then we were ready to start our sushi courses.  The chef makes one item at a time and you just keep going until either you tell him to stop….or he stops you.  I’ll tell you right now that we had to be stopped. :)

First up, fatty tuna torched on top and glazed in soy.  One of my favorites.

Fatty tuna


Pretty sure this next one is aji again.

I forgot to take a picture of this next one, snapper, but Jeff caught it just as it was shoved into my gaping maw.

Next up, ika (squid).  I hate raw squid.  I especially hate that it’s commonly served with a bit of shiso leaf under it, I think the combination tastes like soap.  That and it takes a long time to chew, so the offending flavor is in my mouth for twice as long as anything else.

It’s my own fault though.  I looked the chef straight in the eye and told him that we eat everything, to make sure he wouldn’t neglect to offer us something because he might have thought it was too “adventurous” for us.

Ika at Nakato


The chef watches your reactions to each item to try and figure out what you like.  After my conspicuous face-full-of-squid grimace, he offered to make us something soft and sweet.

Behold…ama-ebi with uni, or sweet shrimp with sea urchin roe.

Ama-ebi with Uni


Uni is Jeff’s favorite.  His eyes were rolling back in his head.

This is all that’s left of that sweet little shrimp…

While we were gushing about how good that uni was, the shrimp heads were being fried up behind the counter.

Fried shrimp head at Nakato


Again, just shove it in your mouth and bite down.  Tastes like soft-shell crab.

Mmmm…shrimp heads!  I am convinced that the picture behind Jeff here is some kind of calligraphy interpretation of two people gettin’ it on.

Next was salt-water eel, and my favorite of the night, but I neglected to get a picture of it because the delicious smell caused me to shove it in my mouth before I realized what I was doing.

And then ikura (salmon roe), not a fav of mine but one that Jeff really likes…

Ikura at Nakato


And you know the meal is over when you are served tamago (sweet egg omelet).  This one was sweet and soft enough to be considered a dessert!  Hard to explain what it tastes like, it’s not an exceptionally eggy flavor, more like a pancake soaked in syrup.

Tamago at Nakato


We ran out of sake just in time.

We were both so full that we didn’t really want to get up right then though, so we both ordered shochu to sip on for awhile.

Shochu is a liquor that can be made from lots of different things.  Mine was made from sweet potato, Jeff had one distilled from barley.  The taste is deceptively clean, you can’t tell just how strong this stuff is, but you can surely feel it!

Shochu at Nakato


We sipped and talked with the chef about our honeymoon in Japan.  He was telling us a story about how he had lost his wallet in a Tokyo subway with somewhere around $2000 US dollars in it and a bus pass loaded with a huge amount of yen on it that anyone who picked it up could use for themselves.  It was turned in to lost-and-found three days later with everything in it!

That completely lines up with our experiences in Japan.  Everyone was so polite and helpful and respectful.  You didn’t have to worry about someone stealing your stuff if you took your eyes off of it for a split second.  The streets were clean enough to eat off of, the subways were nearly spotless.  People throw their trash away and don’t spit gum on the ground and don’t go shopping in their pajamas even at a convenience store.

Not to mention the food was amazing!  While it’s hard to find a truly authentic experience of Japanese cuisine outside of Japan itself, Nakato does a pretty good job and deserves to be considered one of Atlanta’s best.

The head chef even gave us a few free passes to a Japanese festival for this weekend!  I think we’ll take my little niece and nephew and my sister and gorge ourselves on all that delicious food.  Sounds like a plan!