Friday, April 22, 2011

Honey Pig



3473 Old Norcross Rd. Suite #304 Duluth, GA 30096 www.honeypigatl.com

OK foodies - after posting several reviews in a row of disappointing restaurants, I finally have a positive one for you. The restaurant is in Duluth. I think my last (and only?) post from Duluth was of Chaba Thai back in 2009. I may not visit Duluth frequently, but I've had good luck dining there. So here goes:

Last night Kyle, John, his grandmother and I went out to Honey Pig. It's located in a shopping center with a makeup store, a Japanese restaurant, and another restaurant named "Chicken and Beer." (I know - it was hard to resist the temptation of going to that place instead. But then again, the name Honey Pig also put a smile on my face.)

Eating at this restaurant was an interesting experience. You're seated at a table with a large round cast-iron lid in the center. Underneath is a gas burner, triggered by a small dial at one side of the table. You choose between pork, beef, seafood and vegetable dishes. There is a minimum of 2 orders per table - but you can choose any 2 items. First the server brings out some moderately spicy kim chi and very mild bean sprouts, placing them on two sides of the lid and turning on the gas burner. These items come with everything on the menu. Each person also get a cup of sweet soup that's mainly broth, a small bowl of sea salt, a tiny bowl of rice wraps, another tiny bowl of radish wraps, a dish containing bean sauce, chili sauce, a couple of jalapenos and onions (I think these last 2 were pickled). Your table will be completely full by now. Then you wait.

A few minutes later you'll start getting the meat or veggies you ordered. Seafood will come out first. The waiter will melt a little butter, spread it across the lid, then artfully arrange each piece of scallop or shrimp near the top center. When he comes back to cut them in half, that means they're ready. In the meantime, you can inhale the delicious aroma and imagine how good everything will taste.

And it will taste good. We had the scallops first, then the beef (boneless prime/Kobe style - $23.95), next the pork (Honey Pig sam-gyup-sal - $17.95), and finally the shrimp (jumbo - $24.95). The shrimp was my favorite - big juicy pieces basted in butter. The beef was good, although not quite as tender as I would have expected from something labeled Kobe. The pork was too fatty for me and Kyle, but John and his grandmother loved it. Kyle liked the kim chi - and he usually hates stuff like that, so that says something. I thought the bean sprouts were excellent. Something so simple shouldn't taste that good. They were best when they had cooked for a while and the bottom layer had gotten crispy - the same appeal as fried rice from the bottom of the pot. Our server also added a few different mushrooms - at least 3 varieties including portobello, shitake and enoki. The enoki will practically melt on the lid, a lovely sight.

There are no chicken options, probably because it's too easy to undercook chicken, which would of course lead to bad consequences.

So what do you do with all this stuff? You take either a rice or radish wrap (both are very thinly sliced, the radish being nearly transparent), grab a little bit of kim chi or bean sprouts, select a meat, dip the meat into one of the sauces, then add it to your wrap. You probably can guess the next step - roll it up into what amounts to a one or two bite wrap. It's an excellent combination (in fact, there are many different combinations possible, all of your own choosing), and really fun to eat.

The whole thing is sort of like hibachi - you get to pick a meat, watch the food cooking in front of you on a hot surface. You won't have the drama of the hibachi cooks, but you'll have the meat closer to you, and you'll get to determine when it's done enough to remove it to your own plate. For those of you who are picky about the temperature of your meat, this is a great bonus.

What I didn't like about it: the music was too loud. Some songs were overplayed R&B tunes, the others were Korean pop. The servers were all young Asian guys, and they weren't always attentive. They seemed to be hired more for their slim physiques and spiked hair than their skills at handling a table. The place is a little too trendy for me altogether.

It's not the cheapest meal in the world. Much like hibachi, you'll need to order one item off the menu per person, so you're looking at $20 each before ordering any drinks or additional selections.

Verdict: A cool experience, with plenty of good food.

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