Cooks & Soldiers

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I recently took a short trip to Atlanta, first time, and wasn’t 100% sure what to expect in terms of the food scene. I mean, I’m quite familiar with Waffle House, but wanted to, you know, go beyond the land of late night waffles. I got a tip on a few places, and had to check them out. First, I was off to Cooks & Soldiers.

First off, the aesthetic here is wonderful. The space is open, a little industrial, but structured, with fantastic light fixtures. The menu is mainly driven by Spanish cuisine, with some other Mediterranean influence. Everything on the menu sounded incredible, and luckily, the focus is mainly on sharing plates, so, you get to try a number of things.

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First, I had the Hongos Y Setas (coal roasted mushrooms, goat cheese crème fraiche, black truffle). Are you there, God? It’s me, Sprung, and I would like to eat this everyday. Thanks. This was so incredibly delicious. The toast is crisp around the edges, and softened in the middle, soaking up the rich truffle flavor and smear of crème fraiche to cut a bit of that richness. The mushrooms are tender and flavorful, and all together perfection.

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Next, I had the Tortilla Espanola (classic Basque omelette, onion and potato, garlic allioli). Another total slam dunk here. The layers of potato are savory and tender, and the garlic allioli on top adds a creamy richness that compliments it so nicely. It was completely delicious.

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After that, I had the Ratatouille (Piperade, wood grilled squash and eggplant, one hour egg, guindilla). This was a very nice dish, but not my favorite of the bunch. The vegetables were absolutely fresh and delicious, but I would have preferred them to be a bit more stewed, since they were a little al dente to me. The flavors were really nice, but I’m also not a runny yolk type of person, so the egg kind of threw me off.

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Next, I had the Azalorea Erreta (charred cauliflower steak, cauliflower cous cous, capers, carrot chicharron). This was pretty fabulous. The cauliflower’s natural flavors maintained their integrity, and when paired with the creamy and rich sauce that they were laid on top of, it really balanced nicely. I loved the capers with this, adding a bit of saltiness to the more neutral flavor of the cauliflower, and the carrot chicharron was just brilliant.

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Finally, the winner of the evening might have to go to the Pulpo (grilled Mediterranean octopus, guanciale, roasted new potato, fennel, squid ink). To start, visually this was gorgeous. The squid ink here was in more of a substantial sort of puree than I’ve had before, and I loved it. It was savory and spicy and amazing. The charred fennel went really well with the spice of the squid ink, balancing out the bitterness. The octopus was perhaps the most tender octopus that I’ve had, completely melting in your mouth. On top was probably the most interesting element, not noted on the menu, I believe that I was told is might have been a paper-thin taro crisp? It was basically like rice paper, but salty and seemed to have the flavor of a taro root. It was fantastic. 

The Shorts:
Name: Cooks & Soldiers
Location: 691 14th Street NW, Atlanta, GA
The Long and Short: Would I go back? 100%. This menu is amazing, the service is phenomenal. I’m only bummed that I was too full to try their fantastic sounding desserts.
Would I recommend it? Definitely. Try as many items as you can, I’m sure you’ll be delighted by all of it.

Moscow 57

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I love trying new places, especially hidden gems that might not be on the same handful of food site’s pages (yes, it’s all PR, and, usually, if a restaurant is one one list, it’s on another’s and another’s). But I work for myself and seek out my own adventures and gems. What. So, I was off to Moscow 57 on the Lower East Side.

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Tucked almost right underneath the Williamsburg Bridge is a restaurant featuring a menu of multi-national cuisine made up of classic Russian, Georgian, Belarussian, Ukrainian dishes. The space is dimly lit and cozy, with vibrant lights by the bar and a red painted wall. They also offer live music every night, which was just great, a mix of Jazz and some R&B/Blues, when I was there. Not to mention, the entire staff there really makes you feel like you’re at home and truly welcome.

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They infuse their own vodkas in-house, so, I had to try one, and I went for Cucumber Vodka with soda. This was really great, it was refreshing and tasted exactly like a cool glass of cucumber water, but, you know, made out of vodka. Way better.

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All of their appetizers sounded great, so decided to get a couple of those to share. First, we started with the M57 Red Cabbage Salad (red cabbage, red pepper, cucumber, apple, celery leaves, onion, parsley and dill dressing with honey). I loved this salad, it was almost like a slaw, but with larger cut ingredients, making it a substantial, fresh, yet still light, salad. The flavors were really nice as well, a little zing and some added sweetness balanced out the salad. 

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Next, was the M57 Zakuski Troika (trio of Rose Petal and Mint Yogurt with Pomegranate, Silk Road Lima Bean Hummus, Eggplant Caviar). Now, this comes in two different sizes, a small and large size. We got the small size, but there was nothing small about it. For only $7 you get three generous portions of each dip with pita and pumpernickel bread on the side, perfect for a starter to share, or, even as a meal. All the dips were delicious too, it’s hard to pick a true favorite. The Rose Petal and Mint Yogurt with Pomegranate was really awesome, and I haven’t had something quite like it before. It was creamy, with a little tartness from the yogurt, but balanced with the freshness of mint and sweetness of the rose petal and pomegranate. The Lima Bean Hummus was delicious as well, really great texture and flavor, similar to a common chickpea hummus, but slightly different flavor. The Eggplant Caviar was excellent too, roasted eggplant, coarsely chopped with peppers, onions and tomato, made more with the consistency of a thick salsa versus an eggplant spread. 

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Now, I didn’t realize how generous these portions would be. I’m pretty conditioned to a lot of NYC’s portions, which, are much more delicate, for a much bigger price, so I was really pleasantly surprised here once dishes started coming out, including my entree, Pan Seared Salmon (with pistachio sauce, bulgur, roasted red peppers, spinach, almonds and pine nuts). This dish was so incredible, with a beautiful presentation, portion and flavor. The salmon was cooked perfectly, a nice medium/medium rare, tender and flavorful, topped with this delicious pistachio sauce, that, I’d love to have a little bottle of to put on everything. Almost everything. The fish is placed atop this fantastic bed of bulgur with vegetables, and then for added texture and flavor, you have the almonds and pine nuts. I love any dish with pine nuts, and between the salmon, pistachio sauce, bulgar and vegetables, this one just totally won me over.

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So, there was clearly no room for dessert, even though I am a firm believer that biologically, the stomach is engineered to have a special little pocket dedicated solely to desserts. However, with the delivery of your check in a little cup, you get some candies. Free candy? Hell yes. A little combination of hard candy and caramels was the best cap to the fantastic meal. 

The Shorts:
Name: Moscow 57
Location: 168 1/2 Delancey Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Absolutely. I plan on going back soon, the experience was flawless and you really feel like you’re in your Russian family’s eccentric living room where they also perform for you…if that exists. 
Would I recommend it? For sure. The service is fantastic, the food in incredible, and the music is just delightful. You won’t be disappointed.