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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Atlanta's Best Taco: Hankook's Taqueria's Pork

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who feel taco's are purely a Mexican food item or Panel Judge Dan Martinez

So let it be written, so let it be done, Hankook's Pork Taco is the Chosen One.   We have reviewed Hankook in the past as well. 

We instituted a unique approach to the Final Four.  We took our panel of judges and we barnstormed the taco establishments left in the competition.

From Left to Right:  Bobby D, Paulie C, The Blogger, El Capitan, MB and BMac 
We started out at Bone Garden Cantina whose Barbacoa went up vs Nuevo Laredo's Mole Pollo.

Judge Paul's take, "In my opinion, based on what I think a taco is … I think Bone Garden wins vs Nuevo’s mole pollo taco.  But by the slimmest of margins.  Primarily because Nuevo’s taco was missing a crunch and freshness factor.  Don’t get me wrong, their mole is out of this world.  And the mole pollo plate is one of my all-time favorite go-to’s there.
But they (Nuevo) needs to add finely diced Spanish onion + cilantro to bring some freshness to what is a very heavy/rich dish.  Simply putting a large (unshredded/chopped) chicken breast in a tortilla is not a taco to me.  Was the chicken tender?  Absolutely.  But a taco, to me, needs accouterments to round out the perfect bite."

Nuevo Laredo's Chicken Mole

Judge Robert's take, "Barbacoa Bone Garden (lacked sufficient filling, but tortilla was the best out of all)
and Nuevo's Mole Pollo (presentation was lacking.. too heavy on the mole.. needed the chicken to be shredded and tossed in the mole)"

BGC's Barbacoa, "Where's the beef?"
Judge Marybeth's take, "Mole Pollo- full of flavor… not too bitter and not too sweet.  The portion size was enormous but I felt like it was missing something.  Onions?  Cilantro?
BGC's Barbacoa- the meat really didn’t have a flavor in my opinion.  If it wasn’t for the verde salsa and raw onion to give it flavor, this taco would have been really bland.  However, the overall texture of this taco was my favorite.  You had the moist meat and the crunch from the cabbage and onion.  The corn tortilla was also soft but didn’t get soggy."

Judge Brian's take, "I agree with her"

So basically, it was a tie.  I would break the tie by saying Bone Garden's Barbacoa was the slight edge.  If Nuevo shredded the chicken and added a little onion for texture, it would win.  I love the mole, but it's basically a chicken breast on a tortilla.  But they do make the best Mole in Atlanta.

Taqueria Del Sol did not put the Philly out as their special, they are automatically disqualified.  Sly will not be happy.

"Yo, youz guyz put the Philly as the special!"
But UNANIMOUSLY Hankooks Pork “dae ji gogi” was everyone's Top Taco!

The Champion
Judge Marybeth's take, "Hankook's pork taco- meat was moist and was full of flavor.  It had a kick at the end but didn’t leave an aftertaste.  Meat ratio really made it worth it .  You get the bang for your buck."

Judge Brian's take, "I agree with her."

Judge Robert's take, "Hankook Pork (Great flavor, the pork was a little too crock pot wet, but still edged out the competition overall)"

Judge Paul's take, "With that said, it then comes down to Bone Garden (beef barbacoa) vs. Hankook (pork).

And for all the things I said above with accouterments … the juiciness of the meat (although I wish they would strain out some of the added “crock pot” juices … and the overall amount of meat/price ratio … the levelness of the heat … and the overall balls to do something different … Hankook is my winner.

I really wanted to go with Bone Garden because they had some of the freshest ingredients (accouterments) and that tortilla!!!  But the meat, which is the star of any taco, was a little flat (and scarce)."

So there you have it, Hankook produces Atlanta's Best Taco with their Pork “dae ji gogi”offering!  Next up Hankook vs Dan's Shrimp Taco's!

The reality of the situation is I had to bring in a panel, because I knew from the beginning that Hankook's Pork was the best.

Congrats to Hankook!

At least Sly's sidekick, the Pork won...

Friday, June 13, 2014

McKinnon's Louisiane Restaurant- a Buckhead Institution

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and people that don't appreciate "Formica"

Mckinnon's Louisiane opened in 1972 and I'm not sure much has been done to it since.  Thank god. This is a true institution in Atlanta.  I really can't believe I have lived here since 1996 and have never stepped foot into here.  Plus they address the severe lack of Cajun Creole Cuisine in the ATL.

Just remember, Ron Burgandy is not walking through that door, though it looks like he might.

You feel like this could happen at McKinnon's
When telling friends the Dry Rub 4 was going to MiKinnon's, almost everyone said "I've always meant to go there, I'm dying to know how it is."  or "I haven't been there in at least 15 years."

In fact the female contingent of the DR4 tried to do a "bait and switch" the day of the dinner for Lusca!  Jeff and I were determined to stay on course and enjoy the restaurant for what it is, a true Atlanta gem.  The concern is McKinnon's doesn't fit the mold of what is "hot" in Atlanta.  Thankfully, we did not give in.

McKinnon's is a a true throwback to a time when men were men and................(okay I won't alienate most of my audience).

So throw on the Aqua Velva and make a night out of it!

Before Sex Panther, there was.......
And in true Creole fashion, we went all seafood.

The apps were pretty good.  The waiter claimed they had the best calamari in Atlanta.  I generally don't eat fried calamari, but theirs was pretty good.  The breading was light, which is good, but I wouldn't say it's the best.  Bocca Lupo may have something to say about this.

The Crab Claws Piquante tossed in a hot spicy cream sauce were better and also happens to be their signature app.  As you can see, they did not skimp on the portions.  Not pictured, were the Oysters Rockefeller we ordered, one of my all time favorites and theirs didn't disappoint.

Their signature Grouper Louisiane is a boneless filet sautéed with jumbo lump crabmeat, toasted almonds, and hollandaise.  It was the MVP of the night.  We almost didn't order it, but Jeff and I talked ourselves into it (okay it wasn't that tough).  And thank go we didn't!  If you go, this is the "must order" on the menu.

Well this picture is atrocious
The Amberjack blackened with corn relish and green onion aioli also came with hot peppered shrimp was pretty good as well and much better than the horrid pic came out.

Yep, the photography from tonight leaves alot to be desired
The Seabass was my 2nd favorite dish and was their special of the night.  It was perfectly cooked and maintained the flakiness seabass should have.

The Tuna because my pictures suck
Leslie has shellfish allergies, so we also ordered the Tuna in a soy sauced based glaze.  It was surprisingly delicious.  I found myself eating the hell out of it, though there was nothing cajun about it.  Nor did it look like Bill Parcells.

The bathroom was a little scary

I envisioned Michael Corleone in there looking for his gun to kill Sollozzo.  The restaurant was born in 1972 and obviously, the decor hasn't changed.  I'm sure the formica was of the highest quality, but they could do a couple of upgrades.  Or maybe that's the charm of the joint.  It's all subjective.

Charles Bronson would have been a tree in the forest here
Overall this was a wonderful meal.  The ambiance gave it a great throwback feel and our server Ebi was absolutely top notch.  I would put Ebi up against any waiter in the city.  He was energetic, knowledgeable and on top of our service without being on top of us.

And of course the food made it even more memorable.  We made sure both Leslie and Beth apologized to us multiple times for their skepticism.  With all the "farm to table" and the Ford Fry's throwing up restaurants with "trendy ambiance" at break neck pace, it's always good to take a step back and remember there are some wonderful establishments that have withstood the test of time.  And also take note that there is a reason they have been around 32 years.  They make a great product and they do a great job in delivering that product to the diner.  Some of these places should take note and look a little longer down the road.  Let's just hope they don't hire away Ebi.

Today's Footnote:  I was reading about the luminaries who have been through the restaurant and accidentally mistook Paul Coverdell for David Coverdale.  I couldn't have been more dissapointed.  But here I go again on my own.  Going down the only road I've ever known.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lusca: A First Look in Buckhead

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate to children under the age of 13 and those who haven't had a late night dessert at Cafe Intermezzo on Peachtree

Lusca is a new restaurant in Buckhead that just opened 5 weeks a go.  I had lunch there today, but not enough of a meal to make a comprehensive entry.

I will say this.  The food was delicious, the staff was knowledgeable and you could tell they were conscientious in their efforts into making each meal memorable.

We had the Beet Tartar and a dozen oysters to start.

Beet Street Breakdown
The egg made this dish a great combination.

Patt had the Lobster Roll.  The description made it sound like The Optimists poor excuse for a lobster roll, which is really lobster salad, but this game with very generous chunks of lobster meat.

My new-ish foodie partner Terry and I ordered the same thing, which is not surprising after dining with him multiple times.  We had the Veal Tagliatelle.  

The sauteed onions and mushrooms were a nice touch.
The location is in South Buckhead, a couple of doors down where Cafe Intermezzo was in Buckheads heyday.

I look forward to having dinner here and doing a full write up.  This location isn't the best around, but I really hope these guys make it.  You can feel a genuine love for the product and experience that rivals Miller Union.

Today's Footnote:  We have two more entries coming up.  The Final Four of the Taco Tournament will end with a Barnstorming of the remaining taco joints.  There will also be a stop at Buckhead Institution McKinnon's Louisiane Restaurant.

So from an earlier reference.  A little Beat Street for BMac