“Never trust a chef who won’t show you the fish before he cooks it.” Chef Kameel Srouji has been famously showing his fish, and being open and inviting in every other way, for many years. His location at Peachtree Center in Downtown has been a long-time Atlanta favorite. Now, he has a new location in Midtown at the CODA building (part of the Georgia Tech expansion in the 5th and Spring/West Peachtree corridor).
Opening a new restaurant in the middle of a pandemic must seem daunting, but Chef Kameel is embracing the opportunity. The CODA food hall allows for a good amount of fresh air via the open façade facing the courtyard, and there is plenty of outdoor seating, so social distancing is easy. I was excited at the first of July, when I saw a notice about the opening. Since I live nearby, I logged on and placed a take-away order. As it happened, the CODA location had only been opened for a test dinner, so when I arrived everything was closed. I called the Peachtree Center location, and, sure enough, they had my food there. When I explained what happened, the manager on duty immediately said, “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” True to his word, Nas arrived with our dinner a short time later. I promised him I’d be back, so last Friday, I decided to try the weekend dinner series.
The full Lebanese dinner is amazing. We had a choice between three different fish varieties and lamb chops. My regular dining partner (aka, the spouse) chose the lamb chops. After a recommendation, I went with the Pompano fish. In addition to your main course, each dinner includes tapas style dishes, along with hummus, baba ghanoush, pita (white and wheat), falafels, grilled vegetables, rice, and salad. And, yes, the fish was voluntarily presented to me before Chef Kameel put in on the grill, and it was definitely fresh. Because the main courses are cooked to order, plan to wait about 10-15 minutes. While we waited, Chef Kameel insisted that we must try some of the soup (chicken for me, seafood for dining partner)—offering us generous servings. As the team was packing up our dinner, Chef Kameel also insisted on adding some mussels and shrimp. As promised, the fish was some of the very best I’ve had, and the lamb (which we ate the following day) was exceptional and still tender a day later. All of the sides were great complements for the main dishes.
If you don’t want so much food (the dinners we ordered fed us for two nights!), all the other options are available cafeteria-style—although I hesitate to use that description given the excellent quality of everything. The standard items include falafel, chicken shawarma, rosemary chicken, and salmon. Our previous take-away, delivered specially by Nas, was from the regular offerings. We had the falafel and shawarma, previously. Again, everything was fresh and delicious.
In addition to the weekend dinners, and the individual offerings, there are prepared meals for couples and family style (for four people) that include entrees, sides, hummus or baba, and some baklava to share. As take-away goes, I’ve rarely seen (or tasted) better. And, as I mentioned, there is plenty of seating on-site, if you want to eat there.
Chef Kameel and the entire staff are friendly and engaging. They make you feel at home immediately, and it is clear that they love their customers. This is an easy restaurant to support, even now, because the quality is so far above most take-away options.
For more information, visit avivabykameel.com.