Thursday, July 7, 2011

Isabella's Cafe



910 West College Ave., Decatur, GA www.isabellascafe.com

Last Thursday night Sabrina, my grandmother and I had dinner at Isabella's Cafe near Agnes Scott College. It's in a shopping center with a craft beer store (which I'll definitely visit later), among other establishments. The menu can be described as global, with a heavy emphasis on African dishes (South African, Kenyan, etc.)

We started with an order of the samosas ($7.95). There are 3 to an order, and you can choose between vegetarian, ground turkey or tilapia fillings. We got all veggie, and they were very good. The peas and potatoes were soft, the breading was crisp, and the dipping sauce was tasty.

My grandmother ordered the Cajun Alfredo Shrimp with Andouille Sausage on toasted ciabatta ($9.95). This seemed like a hearty mouthful of good flavors. She selected a side of sweet potato tater tots. We all rather liked these. A nice change from regular white tater tots, and not greasy like you might expect.

I chose the Swahili shrimp curry with mango served over basmati rice ($13.95). The curry itself was very slightly spicy, and the flavor was average, maybe a little better. There were about 8 shrimp total - a moderate number. According to the menu, this is their "signature dish." Really? There was more rice to this than anything.

Which brings me to my sister's entree, the chipotle-maple black beans served over basmati rice ($10.95). This tasted . . . strange. I think including the maple was an attempt at a sweet/spicy effect, but it really just didn't work. Just chipotle might have been a better idea. Again, there was far, far more rice than beans, etc. Come on, chef - beans are cheap! Toss another cup of them into the pot next time.

Our service wasn't all that great, either. When I mentioned to our male server that I'd noticed lots of South African options on both the dinner and wine menus, and said that I hadn't seen anything about the owner's potential connection to South Africa on the restaurant's website, he sort of sneered at me that it was on there, I must have just missed it. Well, excuse me Mr. Nasty. How about just filling me in a little bit yourself, since I'm clearly an interested customer who you'd supposedly like to return. When I asked him for a wine pairing with my entree, he recommended something that, upon tasting it, I felt didn't go with my curry at all. He looked young - maybe a college kid? - and he needs to get rid of the attitude if he wants to earn a living off of tips.

I chose the Swahili shrimp curry with mango served over basmati rice ($13.95). The curry itself was very slightly spicy, and the flavor was average, maybe a little better. There were about 8 shrimp total - a moderate number. There was more rice to this than anything.

Which brings me to my sister's entree, the chipotle-maple black beans served over basmati rice ($10.95). This tasted . . . strange. I think including the maple was an attempt at a sweet/spicy effect, but it really just didn't work. Just chipotle might have been a better idea. Again, there was far, far more rice than beans, etc. Come on, chef - beans are cheap! Toss another cup of them into the pot next time.

Our service wasn't all that great, either. When I mentioned to our male server that I'd noticed lots of South African options on both the dinner and wine menus, and said that I hadn't seen anything about the owner's potential connection to South Africa on the restaurant's website, he sort of sneered at me that it was on there, I must have just missed it. Well, excuse me Mr. Nasty. How about just filling me in a little bit yourself, since I'm clearly an interested customer who you'd supposedly like to return. When I asked him for a wine pairing with my entree, he recommended something that, upon tasting it, I felt didn't go with my curry at all. He looked young - maybe a college kid? - and he needs to get rid of the attitude if he wants to earn a living off of tips.

Verdict: Has potential, but needs improvement.

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