Qing Mu

January 26, 2015 · 1 comment

in atlanta, dining out

Qing Mu Buckhead

Qing Mu, the latest “concept” from Aoki Group just opened in the new Buckhead development, next door to their sushi restaurant, Doraku, which has locations in Miami and Hawaii. The word doraku roughly translates to “trendy tourist spot”. But seriously (will be here all week) Doraku looks decent enough and I guess that’s what I’d say about Qing Mu.

The broth and sides lack depth and finesse, but trendiness and corporate-feel aside, they mostly make up for it with effort. People are friendly, ingredients are fresh – you can build your own bowl, picking out vegetables from the refrigerator in the dining room, though we opted for one of five preset combinations. My bowl of oxtail and tendon was hot and full of chewy noodles and tofu and difficult to eat oxtail. The universal broth is lacking texture, but will do the trick if you are there, and don’t mind paying $14.

Shrimp shumai are hidden in distracting, tough wonton wrapper; pan fried dumplings are the better option if you want something of that ilk.

There are surprisingly so few good ramen places to be found these days, this place may suffice for the area, but I wouldn’t make it a destination.

Qing Mu Buckhead

The fridge.

Qing Mu Buckhead

Oxtail noodles.

Qing Mu Buckhead

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So Kong Dong

Eating here and there. Jigae and pancake at So Kong Dong. My favorite for Korean stews.

So Kong Dong

My first visit to the new location of Cafe Agora. The mixed maza platter is the jam.


She-crab soup at Canoe for brunch. Murky and delicious.

Canoe shecrab soup

My brother nails a rib roast.

Roast by Thmas

Chicken laksa at Mamak. I’m no Malaysian food expert, but I enjoyed this rich yellow curry and coconut soup thoroughly. I have no idea how you are supposed to eat chopped chicken thighs on the bone with chopsticks. Lift to your mouth, nibble as possible, and put it back in the soup?

Mamak Laksa

I made a boat load of demiglace to have around for stews and braises. This is the final step, mixing the espagnole and the brown stock, after having roasted 15 pounds of beef and veal shanks, necks, knees, tendons, and feet.


Picked up wings at Jamal’s for the National Championship ass-whipping.

2015-01-12 20.19.24

Their wings are on the smaller side, but well fried and with great hot sauce. Lemon pepper a bit too tangy but acceptable. Still my favorite in town.


Shan city crawfish at Gu’s. Great.

Crawfish at Gu's

Brunch at Muss & Turner’s. I wanted, needed a burger, and theirs is still my favorite. Mid-rare, cooked over coals on a Big Green Egg, not too many toppings. It tastes like delicious beef.

Though, I do wish my beer ($10 Second Helping), burger, and fries with one dipping sauce wasn’t $35. That’s sort of silly.

muss & turner's

But look at that sexy thing.

muss & turner's

Finally, I needed dinner in a pinch so I dropped some frozen chicken thighs in simmering water while I cut up vegetables and simmered those in veg stock with some soy sauce, kombu (seaweed), garlic, star anise, vinegar, chiles, and soba noodles. Fifteen minutes later my chicken was done and I took it out to shred the meat, skimmed my new “stock” and combined it with the veg and had a really delicious Asian chicken noodle soup.

Paired with a ridiculously drinkable fizzy-lifting-drink Alsatian Riesling blend from Le Caveau. Eric does tons of leg work to find and obtain some of the coolest wines in the country. His selection is truly curated and I highly recommend letting him pick out some wines for you. I think this bottle was $17. Put down the Sonoma-Cutrer at Publix, and buy this wine.

Asian chicken soup and funky fresh Alsace...if you aren't buying wine at @lacaveau in Chamblee you are, as they say, not doing it right.


Fred's Meat & Bread

I visited Krog Street Market again last week, where if you don’t Instagram pictures of your food you are out of place. Dude and I decided to go early, right when Fred’s Meats and Bread and neighboring Yalla were opening at 11:30, to beat the Friday lunch rush. It was a critical move, and completely necessary if you need to get back to work in a reasonable amount of time.

The first time I went to the KSM food court, Fred’s was only open a week. Yalla was only serving dinner while Fred’s then closed – they share resources and this made it more manageable during the initial settling in period. This time, by 12:30 when we left, they were both slammed. The line at Yalla must have been thirty minutes long.

The problem has been documented a few times, including the recent AJC review by John Kessler, where I agree with some things, but also contend some points, but the fact remains – the lines can be long and the ordering process has a good bit to do with it.

But I’ll start with what I ordered first – the porchetta sandwich at Fred’s. They didn’t have it ready the first time I visited, I was keenly aware because it was the sandwich I most wanted to try. I greatly enjoy porchetta, in all forms, of which there are many. It’s a loose term for a pork roast, but varies greatly depending on the geography and circumstances, the cooking method, the parts of the pig, and the way it’s sliced. I’ve done all belly roasts, I’ve had the famous crunchy, juicy sandwich at Porchetta in NYC which is cut into more haphazard chunks. At Toscano & Sons, they serve a super thin and tender version more reminiscent of cured and pressed deli meat. The version at Fred’s is sliced as thin, but with a more varied texture and consistency, more like how one would slice their own turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving vs the turkey one finds at the deli counter.

Fred's Meat & Bread

All that’s to say – porchetta can be a lot of things, some versions I like better than other, and this sandwich is great. The pork is juicy (and greasy) and packed with flavor, held together with mayo and offset by a slightly bitter “salsa verde”. Unlike Kessler, I think the hefty ciabatta is perfect, and probably has the most staying power of any of the breads barely holding together Fred’s voluptuous sandwiches, meaning it’s likely the sandwich that would best retain its prowess if taking the sandwich to-go.

We also sampled the clarified butter and Old Bay fries, and they are a treat that I thankfully split with someone else.

We ordered from Yalla while waiting for the porchetta. A handful of others were mulling around, trying to figure out the menu. Most items can be ordered in a pita, a laffa (more like a burrito), or a bowl. The salatim is only ordered in a bowl, I think. One of the specials caught our eye too – the schawarma laffa packed with roast meat, fried eggplant, pickles and various condiments from the salatim selection.


For the salatim, they start with the moderate sized bowl and spread a layer of hummus and babaganoush around the edge, then it becomes a choose-your-own-adventure affair, not dissimilar from a burrito joint.


But this is where the problem lies. Old guys like this one below* stand there and inquire about twenty of the thirty available pickles, spreads, sauces, olives, and roasted and marinated vegetables. Assemblers are ever patient and definitely take their time to make it look pretty (imagine a painter with delicate strokes making the harrisa settle in just so vs the guy at Willy’s spoon slopping the guac at lighting speed and you have an idea of what’s going on.)

* that’s Dude


It is a beautiful spread, everything is as well prepared as you’d expect from this crew. I’d like a little more hummus to tie the room together, and I think with a well laid plan I could choose a more balanced assortment. We somehow got falafel we didn’t mean to get, but was glad, as it’s great. Toothsome, but not heavy.


The best option at Yalla to me is the special schawarma laffa. It’s a hefty wrap with everything you could want: meat + veg, crunchy, spicy, pickly, and creamy. Importantly, the decisions for what to include has been expertly made for you, reducing analysis paralysis and speeding up the line. Again I disagree with Kessler on the bread. We cut it in half to share and had no issue with the chewy, fresh bread falling apart as he did.

I’ve often felt that Starbucks should have two lines – one for people getting the latest holiday creation with five ingredients, and another for those who can place and receive their order in under fifteen seconds, “medium coffee” (Side note: I refuse to use Starbuck’s proprietery names for coffee sizes.)

I had the same thought about Yalla, but I don’t know they really have the space to accommodate two ordering methods, or if that idea would really play out successfully.

For now, I’d just go there early, and while it will be tough for me to choose anything over Fred’s (poor Grand Champion guys, it almost looks like people are in your line, but it’s just spillover from Yalla), the pre-made specials, especially this style of schawarma laffa, are the best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean ingredient based wraps I’ve ever tasted. When put that way, maybe lines make sense.



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