Wednesday, September 29, 2010


When one thinks of Vietnamese dining in ATL, Buford Highway and any number of Pho and Noodle dives comes to mind. But, tucked away in the Midtown Promenade across from Piedmont Park there is a gem that has re-shaped this cuisine’s terrain. Created in 2003 by the Kinjo brothers, Alex and Chris (MF Sushi), Nam offers exhilarating tastes that will wow any palate. To bring the grace and elegance to the foods that this Southeast Asian culture demands, the brothers’ mother, Anh Hoang (78 years young), prepares amazing authentic dishes as the chef and matron of this eatery. The lively, fresh flavors of these foods reflect the distinctive Central region of Vietnam where Anh grew up as a child.

The charm of Nam extends beyond the sensuous décor, outstanding artwork, and dramatic lighting; here the service is absolutely exquisite. Our waitress, Crystal, dressed in a traditional floor length Áo Dài, carefully explains each dish as it is presented to the table, and suggests different ways to enjoy the pleasures cooked up in Anh Hoang’s kitchen. An integral part of the Vietnamese dining experience is the use of various condiments served with each dish. The sauces, spices, peppers, and herbs are carefully selected to allow the diner to create different textures and tastes throughout the meal.

Equally important as the condiments, rice plays a major roll in most dishes in one form or another, including the beer. Beer 333 also known as Ba Ba Ba in Vietnam is a smooth refreshing rice lager. Another option is the wine selection - well thought-out and reasonably priced. Try the Hugel Gewurztraminer, or Don Miguel Gascon Malbec as both compliment this cuisine’s flavors well.

Each dish is literally a work of art. The Rice Flour Tamales are rolled and steamed in banana leaves imparting a fresh fruit-like flavor onto the minced pork, shrimp, wood-ear mushrooms that with a sprinkle of chili sauce becomes strikingly sassy. I can guarantee that there is no spring roll in the city that will make you pause in between each bite like the Seafood Net Spring Roll. Making a lettuce wrap of this crispy blend of shrimp, crab, vermicelli, and mushroom with a splash of the coconut-lime sauce is a treat not to be missed. The French influence is apparent in the thinly sliced filet mignon - Beef Carpaccio. This delight teases the palate with these lime-cured morsels of melt-in-your-mouth meat that’s topped with pickled onion, and rice paddy leaves. Don’t hesitate dipping into the richly flavored ginger-lime fish sauce – simply divine.

The Green Mango or Green Papaya salads (the skins are still green on the fruit) are a blend of crispy fruit slivers, succulent grilled shrimp, mint leaves, and roasted peanuts that’s lightly rinsed with nuoc cham. This slightly sweet fish sauce has a salty, pungent character with tart citrus overtones that imparts contrasting flavors to the sweet fruit. The contrasting flavors are even more apparent in the Lemongrass Tofu- crispy fried cubes with loads of citrusy flavors. For folks who shy away from tofu, this could be a life altering experience. If you have a craving for Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, you are in for a treat. The noodle soup has comforting, rich flavored broth with either thinly sliced beef or chicken that can be enhanced by adding a little basil, mint, lime, sriracha or hoisin sauce that’s served with this tasty dish, your choice - enjoy playing.

Of the rice plates, there are two Chilean Sea Bass offerings- can’t go wrong with either, but they are so different in their flavor profiles and presentation. The Steamed Sea Bass served in a steaming basket with banana leaves, cellophane noodles, shitake mushrooms, and ginger is lush and buttery. Whereas, the lip-smacking Clay pot Sea Bass is caramelized pieces of fish served in a sweet and spicy sauce with onions and chiles. The dish that made me gasp for a breath is the “Shaking” Filet Mignon. The ultra-tender Niman Ranch filet is carefully cut into bite size delights and quickly tossed with a garlic sauce in a wok. It’s served with a simple seasoning blend of lime, salt, and pepper, and a lime dipping sauce - don’t miss it.

After having these picture-perfect foods you just might need a pick me up, try the strong flavored, Vietnamese Coffee. The brothers, who raised the bar with sushi in ATL, didn’t miss a beat in bringing Nam to us to enjoy. The sophistication, elegance and fresh flavors are a treat to experience, and beckon a return visit to explore other foods of this culinary treasure.

LGBT FRIENDLY ***** (Fantastic Staff/ Service)
FOOD ***** (Wed. Night Prix Fixe $24.95/ Great Lunch Menu)
PRICE **** (Foods That Make You Go Wow)
AMBIENCE ***** (Simply Elegant/ Patio Dining)
DRINKS **** (Wine and Beer Only- Both Go Well with Foods)


Nam on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Finding its roots in the Colonial South, barbeque has become the Americana food that defines easy livin’. There are two essential components of BBQ - a rich smoke and a flavorful rub or marinade. D.B.A. Barbecue has mastered both. Owner/ manager, Matt Coggin (La Tavola/ Rathbun’s Steak), working with his Mom, Lee, an Interior Designer, turned the space that once housed the upscale Vine into a “kick off your shoes” place with Mason jar lights and barn wood paneled walls creating the comforts of home, but with some New Orleans flair. Working his way through the food business, Matt learned the inner workings of the trade and the formula for success - good food at an affordable price, in a place where people can simply relax and have a good time.

The scent of smoked meats fills the air of the Morningside/ Highlands neighborhood and seems to magically pull you through the door. Once inside, the aromas intensify to the point that it’s fruitless to try not to drool. To create this sensation, a good BBQ joint needs a seasoned pit master who understands the art of barbequing- low, slow cooking. Matt snagged his friend, Drew Kirkland, from Rathbun’s along with his Lang smoker to cook up some outstanding BBQ. The D.B.A. Texas Margarita, with its semi-tart citrus flavors, helped to calm the savage carnivorous emotions. There are also some fun fruit inspired drinks, the Watermelon Caipirinha and the Peach Mojito that will make letting go of summer somewhat hard. These drinks are so refreshing and way too easy to enjoy. Besides these spins on Southern delights, there is a laundry list of outstanding beers. You can’t go wrong here; the smokiness of the meats pairs perfectly with the hop and malt flavors of a cold beer - besides isn’t beer good for the heart?

Erin, our bubbly server, started the picnic-like feast with the fluffiest Warm White Cheese Muffins that ever graced a table. The soulful treats quickly got better with the best ever Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs - perfect texture, flavors, and consistency - these are way better than any you find at some potluck dinner. The jumbo Georgia White shrimp wrapped in bacon, lightly fried, tossed in a spicy BBQ sauce, resting on a bed of outrageous slaw is way too good to be shared. But, the one that drove me absolutely crazy is the Fried Shell Bai Pickles from Hermann’s Pickle Farm in Ohio. Don’t miss this- the fried pickle spears are served with thick strips of batter-fried applewood smoked bacon. If this doesn’t flip your Wow switch, I don’t know what will.

The treats from the smoker are numerous. The super-sized “The D.B.A. Whole House” is a nice way to sample a bit of everything coming from Drew’s smoker. The pleasing aromas of oak and pecan woods impart a nice nutty smoky flavor on all of the meats. I feel that, with this type of richness and quality, why add any sauce? If you must, however, there are three to choose from. The smokehouse tour consists of perfectly seasoned Baby Back ribs that are meaty, pink colored, and so tender with a pleasant spicy finish. Forget the napkin, just lick your fingers, you know you want to. Even better, are the larger Memphis style Spare Ribs that have a nice smoky, crunchy bark on the outside, but an oh-so-juicy inside. If you aren’t finger licking by now, you need another beer.

The meat frenzy doesn’t stop here - there’s the pulled pork shoulder with a touch of crispness that has rich smoky, juicy flavors that are lip smacking good. The fork-tender Texas style beef brisket is cooked to absolute perfection, a brined then smoked turkey breast, and a moist pulled chicken are all mouth-watering delights. Then there’s the succulent smoked wings, which are flash fried for that extra crunch. Of the many tasty sides, I loved the baked beans that were slightly tangy with a nice sweet finish. A close second is the grilled Texas creamed corn with an aioli mayonnaise, lime and cayenne pepper whose flavors reminded me of corn I once had from a street vendor in Mexico.

The only serious faces at this BBQ joint are those looking at the pile of bones and contemplating what’s next. Don’t worry; D.B.A has some straightforward spectacular Southern desserts. The banana pudding with Nilla Wafers and touch of homemade whip cream is to die for. D.B.A. Barbecue is about comfort, relaxation, and some down home finger licking fun.

LGBT FRIENDLY ***** (Good Times For All)

FOOD ***** (Search Out Daily Specials)

PRICE ***** (Good Eats at a Good Price)

AMBIENCE ***** (Comforting/ Patio Dining)

DRINKS **** (Southern Inspired Cocktails/ Beer List)


D.B.A. Barbecue on Urbanspoon