Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Tag: Decatur

Review: Eat light the rest of the day before going to Revival in Decatur

The only way to eat mindfully at Decatur’s Revival is to eat light the rest of the day. This is not a restaurant with a lot of light-and-healthy choices. It’s a splurge, and a really good one at that.

Revival is an interesting name for this restaurant situated in an old Decatur home just off the downtown area. It’s been the location of at least two failed restaurants. This effort seems likelier to be successful. It’s by Chef Kevin Gillespie, who also owns the new American dim sum restaurant Gunshow in Atlanta.

The inspiration here isn’t the unlucky building, though. The name comes from the Sunday suppers of Gillespie’s youth. It’s southern with all the trimmings.

Diners can order a la carte from the menu, or choose their own entries as part of the family style dinner for $42 a person. Family style includes entree, the sides and choice of dessert. We chose family style, and it was a lot of food.

The amuse bouche was a pork belly — I gave mine away — with pickled green tomatoes.

The salad, if eaten alone, would have been a pretty healthy choice. It was kale, lightly bruised in a dressing of cider vinegar and egg, with apple chunks, pickled onion and locally sourced Thomasville Tomme cheese. It came with exceptionally tender corn bread and honey butter. Of course I had one.

The salad at Revival was was kale with apples, picked onion, Thomasville Tomme cheese and a boiled dressing of apple cider vinegar and egg

Revival’s corn muffins with honey butter

Two of our number had a juicy pork chop; the third the duck and I had the fried chicken. I limited myself to the one small breast piece, and gave away or left the rest. As with any southern restaurant, the sides starred as much as the main courses. The beans in the beans-and-rice were firm; the flavor and texture had not been cooked out of them. The mac ‘n cheese was gooey good. The greens were smoky and rich.

For dessert, three of our group had the fried apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The pastry itself was buttery, flaky, wonderful. I had a ginger cake with cream cheese ice cream. The latter is a strange flavor by itself, but it worked well with the cake. I tasted both desserts, enjoyed them, and shared or left most of mine.

That’s the secret to eating here. Leave some to take home, share with companions or consign to the food recycling gods.

Revival’s ginger cake with cream cheese ice cream

 

 

Review: Harbour Bar & Fish House, Decatur, GA

Ahoy matey! It’s the Thai salad

On the website, the restaurant bills itself as “Decatur’s Finest Fish House.” This is an odd slogan. We are talking Decatur, Georgia, right? Next to Atlanta smack dab in the middle of the state? As land-locked as it gets? Where the only nearby body of water is man-made Lake Lanier?

With decor in weather-washed gray and nautical accents suggesting Maine, Harbour Bar & Fish House makes no locavore claims. Wonderful shrimp may be only hours away at the Georgia coast, but the shrimp could be sourced from anywhere as far as the marketing is concerned.
Its owners want to transport you to Maine, and we were. Sort of. The Restaurant Dieter and his spouse have discovered an excellent new dining option only blocks from the house. We’ll be back. It is Decatur’s finest fish house — and not only because it may be Decatur’s ONLY fish house.
There are abundant fish preparations, of both the low fat and high fat variety. The fried platters and chowders and bisques are balanced by peel-and-eat shrimp, main dish salads and boils based on shellfish, sausage, potatoes and corn. The Restaurant Dieter’s spouse ordered a shrimp boil. It came with hushpuppies, but the server was only too happy to substitute steamed vegetables.
The Restaurant Dieter started with a half-pound of steamed shrimp. They arrived in a stainless steel steamer basket on a bed of seaweed, with a pungent cocktail sauce. The shrimp were a little on the small side, probably in the 21-30 per pound category, but what do you want for 10 bucks? When one is dieting and trying to focus on protein, it’s hard to argue with 28 calories and 0 grams of fat per ounce.
The main-dish Thai salad wasn’t exactly geographically consistent with the theme, but it was a plate of fresh, crunchy vegetables with two skewers of small shrimp on top. The shrimp were grilled with little to no fat and had a pleasantly smoky flavor. 
It came with — at my request — the dressings on the side. The low fat soy glaze gave just enough flavor. The curry dressing — curry? — was cast aside.
One could go on about the incongruities at “Decatur’s Finest Fish House,” but that would be missing the point entirely. Blocks from the house, there’s finally a place to stop in for, or take out, a dinner that won’t wreck a diet. I’m perfectly willing to smile and put on my best “ahoy, matey” if it’ll keep this new port open for business.

Review: Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA

Dressing and feta on the side? Nope.

This is no restaurant for a dieter.

True to form, a recent meal at Cakes & Ale’s new home on Decatur’s town square reconfirmed this. On previous visits,  the kitchen always seemed to choose fat-laden preparations. There might be vegetables on the menu, but they were inevitably sauteed.

Different this time was the sheer obstinacy of this pro-fat position. It was an unpleasant departure from a recent meal at Michael Mina at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. There the kitchen was only too happy to modify dishes to accommodate the dieter.

At Cakes & Ale, the kitchen sent out a server, poorly equipped to do her job well. Though she tried.

The meal started with the usual question: “What is low-fat on this menu?” The server did her best, but she had little to work with. She pointed out the chicken entree (oiled and roasted with skin on), an appetizer of oysters (!) and three fish entrees, none of which used butter, she said. Olive oil, presumably, has ceased being a fat.

Feeling pretty confident about the starters at least, I asked for dressing and feta cheese on the side for a simple, Greek-style salad.

“The chef won’t do that,” she said.

“Then what exactly will the chef do where I can have the dressing on the side?” I asked, with an obvious edge.

Perhaps fearing an eruption, she hurried back to the kitchen to find out. She said that the dressing could be on-the-side for all except the baby eggplant, which were prepared in advance.

Leaving aside the dressing issue for a moment, what arrived was — for $9 — an embarrassment. (Regular readers know I almost never complain about the tab, unless the price-to-value ratio is way out of whack. It was. Somebody’s apparently got to pay for the new digs, and that somebody is us.)

The salad consisted of two or three halved cherry tomatoes, three leaves of leaf lettuce, about two inches from a medium cucumber, a couple small pickled eggplant and an ounce or so of feta cheese.

The lettuce leaves were admirably dry, and there was a portion cup of dressing on the side. But the cucumber and tomatoes had been dressed, and the feta cheese was mixed in as well.

What can we conclude? That nowhere in the kitchen was there a cucumber or tomato that had yet to be dressed? I guess so.

Fish: Not much fat, not much flavor

Trying hard to please, the server said she’d gotten the kitchen to go light on the oil for my entree, a swordfish steak roasted with peppers, onions, artichokes, tomatoes and field peas. The swordfish was nicely cooked, tender and juicy. The field peas were a nice touch, cooked al dente.

What the dish lacked was flavor — either from the fish itself or from any of the other ingredients. Fat lends flavor to food, but the best of chefs don’t use it as a crutch, as seems the case here. They compensate by using plentiful fresh herbs, unusual ingredients or preparations that concentrate the flavors of common ingredients.

These techniques take time and these ingredients are expensive, so one might argue that it’s unfair to compare a humble neighborhood bistro in Decatur, GA, with one of the nation’s top restaurants.

But this was a $27 entree, not a $15 menu item at Red Lobster.

Come to think of it, I’ve had a better fish entree at Red Lobster.

Review: The Yogurt Tap, Decatur, Ga.

When it’s time to go out for something cold in the summer, my spouse and I battle it out. He wants ice cream, and nothing but. It can be cheap soft-serve like Dairy Queen. It can be high-end gelatto.

What it can’t be is frozen yogurt of the kind found at national chains such as Pinkberry and Yoforia, or the local place near our home in Decatur, Ga., The Yogurt Tap. Unless it leaves that slimy feel of buttercream on the roof of his mouth, The Restaurant Dieter’s Spouse is not happy. That tang of yogurt makes him wince.

Sometimes, out of pure pity or love, I win. My spouse leaves the engine on, pulls up close and pushes me out at the curb. He waits while I run in for what I hope will be a healthy, cool, lowfat treat.

Yogurt Tap’s toppings bar

I say hope because that’s all it is. Whether self-serve, as my local place is, or counter-person-assisted, you can pile on the calories from a toppings bar that look like the Candy Land board. Sure, there are fresh blueberries, but just look at all those M&Ms, chocolate chips, granola and hacked up pieces of Snickers bars!

What differentiates The Yogurt Tap from some of the national chains is that there are no brakes. Call it the Old Country Buffet of the healthy yogurt world. You get an enormous bowl, fill it with yogurt yourself, pile on the toppings and pay by the ounce.

Leaving perhaps half the bowl unfilled, I wound up with 8 ounces of yogurt before I’d added a single topping. That’s not so bad, given that a 4 ounce serving is billed as 70 calories with 0 grams fat.

Not even I can leave it there. That yogurt tang does need something, and in this case, it was 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, for 80 calories and 4 grams of fat. And when I’m feeling really deserving, I top it off with just one piece of hacked-up Snickers bar.

Whaddaya want? A saint?