Thursday, June 22, 2017

Joyful Japanese Dining at Nakato Atlanta



Last week I had the opportunity to attend a food blogger dinner at Nakato Japanese restaurant in Atlanta. While I had been to Nakato a few years ago, this was the first time I had the pleasure of dining in a "tatami" room {traditional tea room}. What a sweet and special experience. The food and service was stellar.
Our host was general manager Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara, who runs the restaurant that was founded in 1972 by her grandmother, Tetsuko Nakato. If you can believe this, Tetsuko took on this grand adventure in the restaurant business at the age of 65! That's pretty amazing for someone who had only recently come to America. What a role model!

Sachi with a portrait of her grandmother, Tetsuko


While many diners are familiar with the main dining room of Nakato and the sushi bar, the tatami rooms are a traditional Japanese dining experience known mostly to Japanese businessmen. Upon our arrival, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering our tatami room and make ourselves comfortable by sitting on floor pillows. I truly felt like I was shedding the weary layers of the world here. Ushered into this peaceful sanctuary, I could quickly let go of the busyness of my day.
Sachi started our evening by giving us a little history of the restaurant and the Executive Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo, who is from Okinawa. Nakato has been family-owned and operated for almost half a century and takes pride in preserving the cultural traditions of Japanese cuisine. They even offer tea ceremony classes and flower arranging classes.

Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara
 

Our Japanese "immersion" dinner started off with a bang, with this Shiso Shochu aperitif. I have tasted Shiso before in sushi rolls and I really enjoy the flavor of this Asian plant. Part of the mint family, it is juiced here and blended with bayberry and potato vodka for a really refreshing start.
Oh, and yes that's gold leaf. A touch of beauty.

Shiso Shochu

We also enjoyed a sample of traditional Sapporo beer and found out that in Japanese culture it's bad luck to pour alcoholic beverages for yourself {I guess unless you are drinking alone....LOL}.
Sachi did us the honor and poured for us in lovely blue glasses. Sapporo is the oldest brand beer in Japan.


Our dinner was a multi-course delight and I found myself getting excited every time a new course was presented. I tried a few things that I've never had before and was happy to be in the capable hands of Chef Kinjo for this amazing tasting menu.
Chef Kinjo crafts dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. How about this one? Our starter was a King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar. Simple and so refreshing with bursts of citrus.

King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar

Next up, was a unique "5 point" appetizer plate, with Miso Grilled Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, Slow Cooked "Tsubugai" Sea Whelk, Fried "Kawaebi" River Shrimp; and "Sora Mame" Broad Bean. Have you ever eaten a sea whelk? Nope, not me. You give it a little twist to coax it out of the shell. It tastes of the sea to me. Slightly chewy and mild. Really not a pretty little guy, but tasty!
It's good to try new things people, I promise!

Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, and Sea Whelk
Fried River Shrimp, Broad Bean

Moving on, the freshest fish literally jumped off the plate and into my mouth. Our sashimi plate consisted of "Madai" Japanese Snapper, "Toro" Marbled Tuna, and "Isaki" Grunt fish.
What a treat served in a beautiful presentation over ice! If Nakato has one thing down, it is the feeling you get that Chef Kinjo has spent time thoughtfully thinking about his diners and these dishes. 
I know I felt the his care and detailed attention with each course. 
Every consumer wants to feel this way.

Sashimi Plate

So, when I saw the next course listed on our menu, I had to smile to myself. I have had the traditional savory custard "Chawanmushi" a few times before. It is savory, pure comfort food, and umami in a bowl. This was probably my favorite highlight of the night. I love the silky texture and all the flavors and textures that whirl together here. Heaven.

Chawanmushi

Our family-style shared plates included assorted Tempura, Miso Glazed Eggplant, and "Yakitori" Chicken Skewers with Sea Salt and Teriyaki Glaze. All delicious and that eggplant was on point. If you aren't a huge eggplant fan {like my husband}, this dish might just change your opinion. The creamy eggplant and the miso together are a perfect marriage and so succulent.
P. S. - I don't know if you've noticed the lovely serving pieces, bowls, and plates here, but they only add to the charm of Nakato. Sachi travels to Japan yearly to bring back these treasures, designed to reflect the seasons.

Tempura with green tea salt

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Yakitori Skewers
What is a joyful Japanese dinner without some delicious sushi? Nakato did not let us down and continued to impress with some gorgeous and super fresh plattters of sushi rolls, along with a Short Neck Clam Miso Soup. Here's a fun fact....Sachi told us that sushi originated as a "gambling food", with the rice rolls wrapped in seaweed so your hands wouldn't get sticky.
If you head over for sushi, I would suggest the "Omakase" Sashimi platter, where you get the chef's choice of the day's freshest ingredients.


You know I love a good creamy dessert and our Green Tea Panna Cotta totally hit the spot at the end of our evening {does it have to end??? cue serious whining}. It was light and I loved the addition of the red bean paste. Although Sachi mentioned that not a lot of Americans have an affinity for the red bean, I beg to differ. One of my favs. Oh and that brown sugar syrup? The perfect touch.

Green Tea Panna Cotta with Red Bean and Brown Sugar Syrup
Ok, now you want to know how to get your own dining experience at Nakato, right? Here's the scoop. First off, if you live OTP {outside the perimeter in Atlanta} - GO INSIDE! You won't be sorry you made the trip and honestly you just won't find this type of place anywhere else. If you live ITP {inside the perimeter}....you are just a lucky dog and I'm jealous.
At Nakato, there are four unique dining options:

  • Washoku/Main Dining Room: European-style dining with customary Japanese cuisine.
  • Sushi Bar: You can watch the sushi chefs working their magic on fish flown straight in from Japan's Tsukiji Fish Market. "Omakase" is available here, where you leave it to the chef to surprise you. 

Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser
  • Teppanyaki/Hibachi: Private chef cooks on the iron griddle for small groups. Come be entertained!
Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser

  • Tatami Rooms: A rare find in the United States....enjoy an intimate, multi-course dinner or order from the Sushi or Washoku menus. $15 per person for seating {be sure to call ahead to reserve your private room}. Come bring your family, a group of friends or co-workers and let Chef Kinjo spoil you for the evening.

   
A big thank you to Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara and Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo for hosting our hungry group and giving us an experience of a lifetime. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!
Wow, what a memorable night at Nakato! 
I will be thinking about the ambiance and those incredible flavors for some time. And I can't wait to bring my husband back...he loves Japanese food too.
Thank you to Debbie Rosen of The Rosen Group Atlanta and Melissa Pelkey Hass of The Front Porch Gourmet for coordinating such a fun evening.

Nakato Japanese Restaurant
1776 Cheshire Bridge Road, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30324
p 404.873.6582 | f 404.874.7897


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Mon - Thurs, 5:30 - 10:00
Fri - Sat, 5:30 - 11:00
Sun, 5:00 - 10:00


Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer in Atlanta - Find a Food Truck!

Happy Belly Truck

It's summertime and the living is easy. Summer makes me think about warm, lazy days and hanging out at food truck parks in my neighborhood. Nibbling and noshing with friends.
Why are food trucks so darn cool?
  • They are like a portable restaurants on wheels.....a movable feast of sorts. They travel to all sorts of places and local events and serve up hot, deliciousness in minutes. No waiting for a table!
  • Food truckers are culinary innovators...creating novel, hand-held street foods that are way better than typical fast food. You can get your favorites or try new ethnic dishes. Hit up a food truck park and choose between a juicy, pimento cheese-slathered burger; fusion fish tacos; handmade gelato; flatbread pizza; Maine lobster rolls; ceviche; curry; or fancy grilled cheese! Pretend it's tapas night and share a bunch of items with friends. These days you can even find healthy options and paleo, vegetarian, and gluten-free choices. Food trucks make trying new things deliciously fun, easy, and inexpensive.
  •  These folks are passionate food-preneurs and put their heart and soul into what they do. I can only imagine how much love and energy goes into preparing the dishes, driving and getting to the venue, setting up, and serving up lines of hungry folks.   I like supporting the little guy....or lady.
 
So, have you been to a food truck night or food truck park lately? Many parts of Atlanta, inside and outside of the perimeter have specific nights where the food trucks congregate and serve up their specialties. Many of these outdoor settings are prime for bringing your own lawn chair and enjoying local musicians perform while you eat. Super family friendly and some great people-watching.

Alpharetta's Food Truck Alley

 

So, because I like making lists and helping out my fellow food adventure seekers.....I've put together two lists for your food truck pleasures this summer. First is a list of many local food truck nights, including neighborhood, day/time, address, and links to their Facebook pages where you can get the latest news. 
Second is a list of a local food trucks to explore! This list certainly doesn't include every food truck in the city, but it's a good start to explore the variety of cool trucks out there. Click on the links to find out more about the truck and their specific menus/specialties. You can also track down their schedules and go find them. Yeah, go chase them down, meet the chef, and get to know their story.




Sesame fries from Yumbii



Food Trucks Days in and around Atlanta




Hood:              Dunwoody

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              5P – til?

Address:         4770 N. Peachtree Rd. (Brook Run Park)

Deets:             April through October




Hood:              Downtown Atlanta

Day:                Fridays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         12 Broad St. NW (Broad St. Plaza at Five Points Marta Station)

Deets:             Live entertainment too!




Hood:              Midtown

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         12th St. and Peachtree St.

Deets:             Year round – typically features 10-14 vendors




Hood:              Suwanee       

Day:                Fridays

Time:              5:30 - 9P

Address:         350 Town Center Ave., Ste. 101

Deets:             Typically features 10 vendors and live music




Hood:              Duluth

Day:                Fridays

Time:              6P – til?

Address:         3142 Hill Street NW - downtown

Deets:             May through September – live music  https://www.facebook.com/Duluth-Food-Truck-Fridays-626389244060176/

 

Hood:             Lilburn          

Day:               Tuesdays

Time:              6 - 9P

Address:         76 Main St.


 

Hood:              Atlanta/Woodruff Arts Center

Day:                Fridays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         1280 Peachtree St. NE

Deets:             Go see some art and grab lunch!




Hood:              Midtown/Colony Square

Day:                Fridays          

Time:              11:30A -1:30P

Address:         1197 Peachtree St. NE

Deets:             May through October



Hood:             Brookhaven  

Day:               Wednesdays

Time:              5 - 8P

Address:         3493 Ashford Dunwoody Rd. NE

Deets:             Blackburn Park, April through October



Hood:              Alpharetta     

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              5 - 9P

Address:         37 Old Roswell St.

Deets:             Live music, bring your chairs and stay a while!



Hood:              Cumming                  

Day:                Mondays                               

Time:              5:30 - 8:30P

Address:         7745 Majors Rd.

Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center

Deets:             Live music, bouncy houses, picnic tables – April  through June



Hood:              Smyrna

Day:                Tuesdays

Time:              5 – 8:30P

Address:         3180 Atlanta Rd. (Taylor-Brawner Park)

Deets:             July through October




Hood:              Kennesaw

Day:                Mondays       

Time:              5 - 8P

Address:         2828 Cherokee St. (Depot Park – across from the    Southern Museum)

Deets:             “Dinner at the Depot” – May through October    



*Don’t miss the food trucks daily at Truck & Tap in Woodstock

Hood:             Woodstock                

Day:               Truck changes daily

Time:              Monday-Thursday: 11A -10P
       Friday:     11AM - 12AM
       Saturday: 11AM - 12AM
       Sunday:   11A - 10P

Address:         8640 Main St.

Deets:             Food trucks and local craft beers



*Don’t miss the Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market

Hood:              Atlanta                       

Day:                See below

Time:             Tuesday & Wednesday: 11A – 3P, 
                       Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 11A – 9P 
                       Sundays from 12P – 7P.  Closed Mondays

Address:         1850 Howell Mill Rd.

Deets:             Atlanta’s only food truck park! Free parking & pet-friendly   





Explore some awesome food trucks that call Atlanta home!






































Thursday, May 11, 2017

The After Party at Proof & Provision


Last weekend, I got to celebrate my friend Melissa's birthday at Proof & Provision at the Georgian Terrace Hotel. Derby Day and it's time for the after party! Birthday shenanigans, celebrating Melissa, hanging with other amazing food bloggers, and checking out tasty edibles and libations at a new place. A recipe for a good night!



Here we are! I'm so happy to know Melissa of the Front Porch Gourmet. She is the epitome of graciousness, Southern charm and kindness, and she sure knows her way around the kitchen. Jay and I have had the good fortune of being on receiving end of Melissa's cooking quite a few times.....ah-mazing. 
Oh, and she makes me mezcal cocktails, cause she knows that's my fav. {I heart you Melissa}. Happy birthday sweet friend.



Speaking of cocktails....here's a prime example of what I like. A flirty combo of Mezcal and chartreuse. And yep, there's a chili floating in there....mmmmm.
Proof & Provision is downstairs, in the "basement" of the Georgian Hotel. What a perfect spot for hanging with friends, letting your hair down, and enjoying some tasty treats and barrel-aged cocktails. P&P has that cozy, speakeasy vibe and we enjoyed getting to sample a number of appetizers off their menu.



I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a creamy deviled egg. Jay's eyes get really big when he sees them coming too. 
P&P's "next level" deviled eggs tonight were a play on buffalo chicken and they were a great start. 



Smoked Jerky anyone? Oh yes! 
Not pictured....but equally enjoyed was Black Eyed Pea Hummus and Hardwood smoked Almonds with Rosemary Salt.



Executive Chef Mark Breault {he's the chef at the hotel's Livingston Restaurant and at P&P} was kind enough to pay us a visit and hang out for a bit. What a down-to-earth and humble guy. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Mark has extensive hotel executive chef experience, and came to the Georgian Hotel from the Atlanta Hyatt Midtown in 2014. Here he's sharing a platter of creative "chicken and waffle" bites with arugula and sweet, maple bacon on top. Yep.

I didn't get to check out the hotel upstairs and I do hope to go back another time and explore. And I hear that Livingston's Restaurant is terrific too. I took a peak at their "Mother's Day Brunch" menu for this weekend and it looked so good! Items like "Appalachian Shakshuka, Brioche French Toast, Strawberry Trifle, Chicken and Dumplings, and Benedictine Tea Sandwiches"......seriously y'all? With a ton more menu items, you guys are spoiling the moms...and dads and kids!
 

Here are more bites from out night. Pretzel twists and some really good wings. I'm not really a wing person, but these were super flavorful and had me going back for seconds.






Roasted cauliflower. Crunchy, colorful, and perfect dippers for some roasted jalapeno queso goodness right next door. See mom, I'm eating my vegetables!!



Love it when the guys get all cleaned up and looking their best. Here's our handsome fellas. Thanks for hanging with all the ladies! 
We had a great time and it is always so nice to spend time with the lovely & talented lady-bloggers from the Atlanta Food Blogger Society. Great to see you Melissa, Linda, Teresa, Toby, & Rochelle {and welcome!}. Thank you Melissa for the thoughtful goodie bags...sparkly stuff and chocolate is always a win!

A big thank you to Proof & Provision and the Georgian Hotel for hosting our group and taking such good care of us.

Disclosure: This event at Proof & Provision was complimentary and included food, but the thoughts & opinions here are genuinely my own.

Check them out:

Georgian Terrace {Livingston Restaurant}
Proof & Provision
659 Peachtree Street NE Atlanta, GA 30308