Maki Fresh, Atlanta GA

Every once in a while, you get so much conflicting information in one go that you seem certain to short-circuit. That’s what happened when our old friend David said that I needed to meet him for lunch at this quasi-Japanese fast casual place run by the team behind the Zo√ęs Kitchen chain that makes a startlingly good hamburger. David usually knows what he’s talking about, even if the information sometimes defies common sense, so a couple of Fridays ago, I drove over to the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center to see about this burger. Continue reading “Maki Fresh, Atlanta GA”


Umezono, Smyrna GA (CLOSED)

There’s a strip mall at the intersection of US-41 and Windy Hill in Smyrna that’s been there forever. It’s been home to many things over the years, including at least one strip club, a venerable country-western bar called The Buckboard, and the Lionel Play World which, one fine day in 1982, received a gigantic truckload of three year-old French-Canadian Mego superhero dolls and priced ’em for $1.89 apiece (happy days!). Continue reading “Umezono, Smyrna GA (CLOSED)”

R Rice Wok Grill Sushi, Sandy Springs GA

One should acknowledge compliments, even the backhanded ones. Even the good-natured teasing, really. So it was that, a couple of months ago, our little blog ended up on Tom Maicon’s radar. Now, I freely admit that I do not know the first thing about sushi. I have never objected to it, and I have often enjoyed it a great deal, but I just don’t know what makes it good, or what I have done wrong by admitting that I like Ru San’s, which, in the circles of sushi snobs, is acting like the hillbilly at the fancy table jittering and wobbling before impatiently bellowing “Would ye please pass th’ jelly?” after waiting too long for the Polaner All-Fruit. Well, I don’t know what the issue is, because I used to date this girl who watched more Japanese cartoons than every single one of you, combined, and she liked Ru San’s just fine. Because, as everybody knows, liking Japanese cartoons a lot instantly makes you an expert on every facet of that nation’s culture, and gives you leave to do things like end your questions by saying “ja ne,” of course. Continue reading “R Rice Wok Grill Sushi, Sandy Springs GA”

Sushi in the Suburbs

Several weeks ago, when Marie and I went to a little media event for Outback Steakhouse, we got to meet several area bloggers, including two writers from Exclusive Eats, and shared some favorite restaurants and meals. Asked about my favorite sushi, I found myself unable to come up with anything other than Ru San’s. I mean, I know that I’ve had sushi in some other places – I was taken to a surprisingly good place in Macon once – but, at least since we began the blog last year, we’ve only ever gone back to one of Ru San’s stores. Continue reading “Sushi in the Suburbs”

Miyako, Austell GA

My daughter had enjoyed her November trip to Happy Sumo in Norcross, one of our friend Matt’s favorite places, so darn much that she wanted to go to a Japanese steakhouse for her birthday. In doing so, she ensured that one particular establishment in Kennerietta got my undying hatred. Before I can tell you about my very good trip to Miyako, I have to mention that.

This is the first restaurant story that I’ve actually sat down to write since my father passed away earlier this month, which accounts for the short break in sharing stories last week. Well, we knew that it was coming, which is how I was able to pre-plan a break in the blog. For years, my parents have taken the family out for birthday suppers, and my daughter has usually announced hers about ten months in advance. She then spends the rest of the year changing her mind about where she wants to go, but this time, she finally settled on a Japanese teppanyaki steakhouse. Well, we knew that my dad’s deterioration was getting worse, and that this one mid-December evening was going to be my daughter’s last birthday with my father and so we hoped the evening would be pretty special. It was not. We ended up leaving this establishment (which shall remain nameless here, although I doubt anybody who wants to learn it will have much difficulty) after more than an hour’s wait at the table and constant lying assurances that a teppanyaki chef was right around the corner. I finally, roaring, bawled the owner or manager or whomever the incompetent fool was out in a manner few have ever seen me in, for ruining this most bittersweet and important of evenings for my family. You should have seen the guy. I had him bent over so far backwards that he looked like he was doing the limbo.

A few days before Christmas, my daughter got a kind of a consolation prize. She wasn’t able to enjoy the birthday supper with her granddaddy that she wanted, but my mother did take her and her brother to a different, obviously superior, steakhouse called Miyako. It’s on the East-West Connector between Smyrna and Austell. About a week and a half later, neither of us then aware of my kids’ visit, David rang me up and asked if he could give me a break from worrying about my dad’s failing health and take me to lunch here. He’d just found the place – it is not far from where he lives – and was raving about their lunch special.

Some days later, I asked my kids about their visit to Miyako, and they told me that it was really great and that they had a good time. My son says that he really enjoyed the shrimp, and quite liked pouring the “yummy yummy” sauce, which is what Miyako terms that yellow stuff, a strange mix of mayo and sugar and, sometimes, ketchup, that goes really well with seafood or vegetables, over his rice.

For my part, when David and I went by Miyako on a brisk afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I remembered what Matt always orders when he goes to his favorite steakhouse in Norcross, and asked for filet mignon and steamed rice. It works for him and it worked terrifically for me. But what really impressed me at Miyako, even more than the high quality of the entree, was just how well they do all the extras.

The salad had a nice ginger dressing, certainly, but it was a much milder, white, light cream rather than the thick and chunky orange-colored dressing that most Japanese restaurants serve. I mean, I don’t mind that thick orange stuff, but when you see the same dressing all over the place, you realize that it’s coming from Sysco’s “oriental restaurant” catalog. The light dressing that Miyako offers is much tastier. Even the miso soup tasted considerably different and with a sharper taste, with much more mushrooms and onions in the broth than any Japanese restaurant that I have ever visited.

I’m the sort of person who always looks for silver linings. The reason that I brought up those morons who ruined my daughter’s last birthday dinner with my dad is that if it were not for that incident, Mom wouldn’t have looked around for an alternate for them, and I, too, probably would have passed on David’s suggestion of a steakhouse lunch, in favor of something different. So we didn’t get that dinner, but my children and I did get to discover a very good restaurant in its place. Now the next trick is to get Matt out this way so that he can compare Miyako to the place in Norcross that he enjoys so much. I bet that he’ll really like it.

Happy Sumo, Norcross GA

One huge difficulty in doing anything around the sprawling mess of Atlanta is that the suburbs are so stupidly spread out and badly managed and maintained. Even something that looks, on a map, simple and straightforward like a twenty-mile shot east to the Gwinnett County suburb of Norcross is a forty-minute slog at the best of times, and better than an hour’s rumble in the evening traffic. I don’t mention this to object in any way to making a trip out that direction to a good meal; far from it, as there are plenty of good restaurants in Duluth, Norcross and points east and I’m glad to go visit them, but man, the traffic engineers who’ve been claiming to be at work on this job have been out to lunch for decades. At this point, there’s nothing wrong with the northern suburbs that two trolleys, twelve people movers, six newly-constructed bus lanes, sixty miles of north-south and east-west heavy-rail track and that big drilling Mole machine from Thunderbirds wouldn’t fix. You heard about that “Big Dig” under Boston? The northern ‘burbs need about seven of those.

At any rate, I’ve mentioned that we try to have some weekly get-together with some of our friends. We have to alternate days to accommodate different people that we know, and last week, between people being sick and people planning weddings and people having jobs, it was only Marie and the girlchild and I who were able to meet up with Matt. Almost all of us live in Cobb County on the northwest side of town; Matt and his wife live up in Gainesville, but he works thirty-odd miles south down around Johns Creek. His commute isn’t that unusual, either, which is why it’s so disagreeable that the city’s traffic planners have spent decades sleeping. Anyway, with the interstates, particularly the top end perimeter, a parking lot at 6 pm, we drove a wonderful back way that I know over to Roswell, and then spent a while crawling east along Holcomb Bridge Road to meet Matt at a place that he knows called Happy Sumo. Matt used to live just around the corner before marriage lured him to Gainesville, and this was one of his favorite places for dinner when he stayed here in Norcross.

Holcomb Bridge, it must be said, really is a depressing drive just for all the businesses that used to be along this stretch of road but have since closed. I counted two comic shops, one bookstore and one CD store that aren’t there anymore, along with two decent restaurants that I had enjoyed. To be honest, I’d rather not find the need to revisit Holcomb Bridge for this reason alone; it’s just too sad.

Happy Sumo is one of Atlanta’s many teppanyaki restaurants. These are often called hibachi steakhouses, but that’s not strictly accurate. At a teppanyaki restaurant, as popularized by chains like Benihana, the chef prepares the meal on a flat, iron surface heated by propane and uses soybean oil to cook the ingredients. We don’t often get out to Japanese steakhouses like this, although I don’t know that I’ve ever had a mediocre meal at one.

We got the requisite cutting up from our chef, who spun his utensils around and made an onion volcano and did goofy stunts involving Easter eggs and rubber chickens. It’s impossible not to be charmed by the silliness, and it put the girlchild in a pretty good mood.

Marie and I each ordered the teriyaki steak with fried rice – watch out for an additional $2 for having your rice fried rather than steamed – and my daughter had chicken. Matt had a nice combo meal of filet mignon and shrimp. It was a little pricy of a dinner, but everybody really enjoyed their food, and the tasty sauces. It was almost as good as Inoko in Athens, which is my standard bearer for hibachi/teppanyaki, and just the sort of evening out we needed.

The drive back, incidentally, was after the evening rush had ended and the interstates were accessible again. It didn’t take anywhere near as long to get home, but I still think International Rescue’s big drill could make it even quicker.