Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oenophile at large: Restaurant Review of La Grotta Ravinia, Thai Tour of Decatur

This past week allowed me the opportunity to go to one of those dinners at a nice restaurant that someone else pays for, and all I have to do is listen to a talk. Am I a food slut? Maybe, but I really enjoyed my dinner at La Grotta Ravinia, which is at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Perimeter Mall. I'd been there once before when my in-laws were in town and found it to be consistently good across both visits.

Thursday evening started with appetizers including calamari, bruschetta, and a marinated portobello mushroom. Due to it being a somewhat corporate event, only two wines were poured, and I only got a peek at the label of the Pinot Grigio I had. I didn't get to write it down, but I think it was the 2004 Marco Felluga (Fruili) P.G. It had a hint of oak with lots of fruit and enough body that I think Hubby, who normally turns his nose up at Pinot Grigio ("wine-flavored water"), might have liked it, or at least drank it without fussing too much. The red option was the Ruffino Chianti, which is one of those good, food-friendly, go-to Italian wines.

For dinner, I had the Gamberetti al Grotta, which is "Shrimp Sautéed with Baby Artichokes, Shiitake Mushrooms, Yellow Peppers & Tomato Filets with Polenta." It came with a light lemony cream sauce and went very well with the wine. On our previous visit, I'd had the "Ravioli di Vitello con Salsa di Funghi Selvaggi: Homemade Veal Ravioli with Shiitake Mushrooms, Fresh Spinach & Wild Mushroom Sauce," which I also enjoyed. And yes, I had dessert: chocolate cake with creamy hazelnut icing. I also got a tiramisu to go for Hubby, who's not allowed to come to these things. Both were excellent.

Atmosphere: Very nice, dark, and romantic in the main dining room
Food: Excellent
Wine list: Good
Wait staff: Good
Desserts: Very good
Vegetarian friendly? Not really - no options beyond starters
Kid friendly? No
Would I go back? Yes

Lunch on Friday found me sitting outside with my friend the Chiropractor at Thai Me Up, which is on Ponce right next to Noodle. Again, this was my second time there, and I found it to be consistently good. We started with the summer rolls, which were served with peanut sauce. I found them to be good, but a little heavy on cilantro. I had Pad Thai with chicken, which is the typical recipe, but not too sweet like some places make it. My friend had the Num Ya, which he requested to be made "Thai Hot." He still had to add chili sauce to it but said it was good as well. The service was attentive without being intrusive, and we were served fast, which was good since I had to get back to work, and he had to run errands.

Atmosphere: Very good, outside seating good for people watching
Food: Very good
Wine list: Don't know -- I was good since I had to return to work
Wait staff: Very Good
Desserts: Unknown, but apparently they have shot desserts
Vegetarian friendly? Yes, most of the dishes have a tofu option
Kid friendly? Depends on whether your kids like Thai food, would stick with lunch or early evening if you try it
Would I go back? Yes

On Saturday, Hubby and I made grilled Mahi Mahi with parsleyed tomatoes, a Southern Living recipe. I've got to give Lynn Sawicki, the owner of Sawicki's Meat, Seafood, and More props for the outstanding quality of the fish. It was dubbed "local from North Carolina," and it had obviously never been frozen. Hubby is excited because it's another "fish Cecilia will eat," for the very short list of approved fish. I love shellfish, but I'm just not a big fan of fishy, meaty fish.

While making dinner, we got a call from friends we haven't seen in a while and who happened to be in town for the evening. We ended up going to drink wine while they ate dinner at Siam Thai Restaurant, and although we didn't partake since we'd already eaten -- we only drank wine -- we enjoyed smelling and seeing the dishes they ordered. I can't really rate the restaurant since I haven't eaten there in over a year, but everything looked and smelled really good. The diners agreed, although they also found the "Thai hot" level of spiciness to be somewhat wimpy.

After dinner, we went to Java Monkey (web site under construction) for coffee, tea, and dessert. Hubby got a fantastic Tempranillo that I have to mention: Campos Reales (La Mancha). I came away with the cork, but not the year. It was very fruity on the nose and didn't disappoint when tasted. It was a very smooth wine, and the perfect way to end a fun evening.

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