Food Adventures in the ATL
By Deena Attia

The Japanese have a saying that for every new food we try, we gain seven days of life.

I may be immortal by now.

— Firoozeh Dumas

Who loves a fun food adventure? You are in the right city if you love it like I do. According to the Georgia Restaurant Association, there are approximately 12,000 restaurants in the metro Atlanta area. Atlanta is known for being a city for foodies. Initially, when one thinks of the south and Atlanta’s most popular foods, collard greens, cornbread, fried chicken, and mac and cheese come to mind. Still, the options are almost endless for ethnic restaurants. Since Atlanta is a diverse city, I couldn’t help but highlight a few restaurants that take you to lands much further than the deep south. You may need to remember you are in Atlanta and not in Iran, China, and Mexico when you taste the food from the restaurants on this list. Read on, and I hope you can get a sense of the delicious dishes and venture out too!

Rumi’s Kitchen-the essence of Persian hospitality on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, was first recommended to me by my friend Nisreen. My first time eating there was in November with her, and I was lucky to have her suggestions on what to order. Everything we ate was delicious, and the portions were plentiful. Her advice on ordering the Shirin rice as a side with my meal still has me thinking about the orange zest, barberry, pistachios, and almonds.

I had that meal on my mind for the last few months and knew I had to include Rumi’s Kitchen on this list. When dining at fine restaurants and trying new foods, having the right companion to enjoy it with me is paramount. I invited my favorite foodie friend, Javier, and hoped he would love it like me.

One Sunday in early March, just as the weather was warming up, we had a reservation to dine. We were seated on the outside patio with a view of Roswell Road, and although busy, it was still a nice spot to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. The server greeted us promptly, explained the menu, and answered questions. I gravitated toward a refreshing cocktail.

I ordered the Tehran Mule, saffron-infused vodka, ginger beer, and lime. It was the perfect patio drink. Javier ordered a glass of red wine, which he enjoyed. We were first served warm, soft flatbread and a plate with fresh herbs, feta cheese, olives, radishes, and walnuts. The cheese and herbs are meant to be sandwiched in the bread. It was explained to us that it cleans the palate. We ordered the hummus with salmon, a smooth blend of roasted red pepper, and eggplant with pine nuts and parsley for the appetizer. Chunks of flaky salmon sat on the bed of creamy hummus. I had never imagined the combination of salmon and hummus. The smoky salmon with the flavors of red pepper and eggplant blended perfectly.

Next, the entrees; Javier ordered the Barg Kabob, beef tenderloin with saffron basmati rice. The meat was marinated and tender and cooked to perfection. I ordered Lamb Koobideh Kabob with Shirin rice. The first time I tasted it, I was in love with the orange zest and barberry flavors that reminded me of cranberries or pomegranates. The nuts add a nice subtle crunch. So good. The portions were generous. We took home enough food for another couple of meals from the leftovers.

We finished the meal with Persian tea and dessert, a Persian ice cream sandwich, vanilla-based ice cream with saffron, rose water, and pistachios sandwiched between two crisp wafers. This was a flavor and texture combination I had never had before. The rose water lightly flavored the ice cream, while the saffron provided a light honey flavor and vibrant yellow tint to the ice cream. The presentation was striking, and the flavors and texture were different, satisfying my sweet tooth. The Persian tea was strong but easily diluted by adding more hot water. The experience and ambiance were excellent. The food and drinks were stellar. We will definitely go back for special occasions. For all the food we ordered, a glass of wine, and a cocktail, the bill was over $100 and well worth it.

Dim Sum Heaven– My curiosity about dim sum led me to drive to Buford Highway with my friend Yolanda. Dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal comprising small plates of dumplings and other snack dishes, like tapas style. Hot tea is traditionally served with it. Often dim sum is a brunch food. Dim Sum Heaven is in a giant shopping center. We were greeted and taken to a table in the back when we walked in. It was before 6pm on a Saturday night, and several tables were already seated for dinner. The waiter, a Chinese man, greeted us to take our order. I explained that we had never had dim sum and asked him for recommendations. The menu includes two pages of dim sum options with pictures and captions in English, among all the other dishes they serve. Upon his suggestions, we ordered a few things at a time and were able to share the portions. In the end, we tried seven dishes. Soup dumplings, steamed buns with pork and red bean paste, pork dumplings, shumai, and two dessert dishes.

We only knew some dishes as they came out because communication was a little tricky. The steamed buns had a consistency that was a little spongy and subtly sweet. We really liked the steamed buns. Each dish that was served had its own distinct flavor. We could have ordered more but felt very satisfied with the portions, and the hot tea we drank with it was very satisfying.

The desserts were a coconut cake with hot custard, and tapioca balls served warm, slightly sticky with a very mild flavor. I enjoyed them because of the texture of the tapioca. Yolanda was not a fan of tapioca. We both enjoyed the coconut cake. I have been craving to return to this place and try different items on the menu. The bill for our meal was over $50.00 for the seven dishes and hot tea for two. It was well worth the experience of trying many different dishes, and the service was satisfactory. It’s a place to bring a friend or group so you can try more dishes.

Casi Cielo– The final stop in my Atlanta food adventure. This is a Mexican restaurant inspired by the state of Oaxaca. Casi Cielo is a beautiful spot in Sandy Springs, on Roswell Road, across the street from Rumi’s Kitchen. Oaxacan cuisine is inspired by its location on the coastline. Corn, moles, beans, and the popular liquor Mezcal are items the area is known for.

This was my second time having dinner at the restaurant. This time I brought Javier. He is from Mexico and loves to cook all the time. He knows good food and especially Mexican cuisine. I was excited to share a meal with him here, and since I raved about it, I wanted to see if he felt the same. After passing three accidents on the way to the restaurant and finally arriving an hour and a half later, I had an appetite for a cocktail and a three-course meal. Free parking is in a nearby parking deck with a quick walk to the restaurant. Once we arrived, the manager greeted us and brought us to a table near the window. Our server came shortly after we were seated, and we were ready to order. Drinks were first on the list. There was a slight chill in the air that evening, and I felt an appropriate cocktail would be the Smokey Old Fashioned. The presentation of the drink was impressive. A smoke-filled dome was placed over the glass, and the server slowly lifted it once she put it on the table. I could taste the smokiness and the warmth of the liquor. Javier ordered the Paloma Negra. Both had Mezcal, but each was very different. His drink was refreshing and light, better suited for a warm evening.

We chose Pulpo Al Carbon for the appetizer. Grilled octopus served over lightly roasted potatoes and drizzled with a creamy sauce, the perfect finishing sauce on the tender octopus, and perfectly cooked potatoes. Javier ordered Tuetano, lamb served on long bones with marrow. The lamb was shredded and tender. Warm tortillas came with his meal to make tacos. My entree was Mixteco Poblano, a poblano pepper filled with shredded duck, prawns, and cheese with a small cup of white rice on the side. I had never considered the combination of duck and prawns. Each meal was beautifully presented, and the flavors were so in sync that I was blown away. I knew I had to pace myself and keep a good portion to take home to save room for dessert.

For dessert, I ordered a coffee drink which was served on ice. I thought it was going to be a hot drink.

I ordered the molten chocolate cake for us to share. This little dish was straight out of the oven and served with a scoop of ice cream. The chocolate was rich and had just the right level of sweetness along with the ice cream. After this meal, we had forgotten the traffic stress and felt it was worth the long drive. The bill was well over $100. The service, food, and drinks were top-notch and worth it. Javier’s verdict on the restaurant… he liked it but was a little critical of the Oaxacan inspiration. As an American who hasn’t traveled there yet to know the difference, I give it a thumbs up.

Dining out is fun, and trying new foods opens our minds and palates to different worlds beyond our everyday routine. If you want variety, Atlanta is a great place to start, with over 12,000 restaurants available. There are still so many more places on my list that I want to explore.