Let’s start with the restaurant at hand. Eat at Thai 2 (225 Ponce de Leon #100, Decatur Tel: 404.963.0190) opened New Year’s Day in the bright slot formerly occupied by Thai Me Up, a cleverly named Thai restaurant whose sign over the door lured customers in—only to see the malevolent kitchen chase them off.
According to a very recent Thrilist.com email alert, Eat At Thai 2’s “whole damn menu, which retains only the prime dishes from the original’s, is locally sourced, drawing meat & produce from Decatur and fresh seafood from Lawrenceville.”
A bit skeptical, possibly because I’m sharp enough to know there isn’t an ocean in Lawrenceville, I asked our server, “So, the meat and produce is all locally sourced?”
“We buy every day,” he replied with a confused look on his face before quickly marching off towards the kitchen.
Needless to say, service is flighty.
Unfortunately, the food during our visit didn’t fare much better.
In fact, judging by the food we consumed, I believe the kitchen might be taking shortcuts in the sourcing department. Fish cakes, though thoughtfully arranged on a plate, were rubbery as if the flimsy prefab frozen stuff. Coconut soup was too watery and fried spring rolls arrived utterly characterless like the scary mass produced versions you find in the frozen section of your local grocery store.
A small bowl of Panang curry was overly sweet and oddly pasty—so many other Thai restaurants in this city over the past 5 years or so have advanced to the more skillfully house-prepared velvety curries and silky coconut soups.
Not a single ingredient—vegetable or meat—I ate possessed that distinct farm fresh taste.
I could keep going and get more in-depth, but I feel this restaurant is far too new to be totally raked over the coals, so let’s switch gears for a moment.
My main reason for visiting the restaurant was to experience farm-to-table Thai cuisine. But I didn’t exit the building feeling like that happened. In defense of Eat At Thai 2 and its owners, nowhere on the menu or in the restaurant, do they claim to serve “locally sourced” ingredients. Remember, I only saw the words “locally sourced” used in a Thrillist.com email announcing the restaurant’s arrival.
In an attempt to get to the bottom of things, I phoned the restaurant twice since my meal there, but was denied any answers due to language barriers.
I fear the owners of Eat At Thai 2 are confused by the definition of “locally sourced.” I don’t blame them. Nobody seems to have a concrete definition, even though the phrase has become widely used in restaurants here in Atlanta and around the country—and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the marketing claims.
Some chefs and their marketing teams are quick to deem themselves farm-to-table (or, locally sourced) because they locally source arugula for the lone sandwich on the menu, while others are better stewards of the cause—and put a healthy variety of locally raised ingredients to work on any given night.
With all these discrepancies, how are “we the eaters” supposed to make sense of it all?
Stumped, I called on expert Karen Adler, a longtime veteran of the green foods movement.
“There is no regulation around this, as there is with organic,” explains Adler. “It is buyer beware.”
As a rule, I habitually quiz my servers as to which farms certain meats and produce are being sourced and I must say, the staffs at most genuine “farm-to-table” restaurants around the city—are surprisingly well versed in regards to where the food they peddle nightly comes from.
Still, I won’t pretend to have a concrete definition myself as to what is—and isn’t—farm-to-table, or “locally sourced.”
On the bright side, rumors are swirling of some type of certification for all this to be put into play in the very near future.
Until then, I guess we just have to dig our way through the local manure on our own.