Thursday, July 4, 2013

Diamond - Plaza Midwood

Last Friday, BFTB and I had big plans to go check out the new Chuy’s in Southpark, but our plans got derailed when I ended up working a little later than anticipated and we lazily decided that we didn’t want to drive all the way to the mall area, especially since we’d most likely have to wait around a while for a table.  Instead, we decided to hop over to Diamond in Plaza Midwood (note: Until I looked this place up on Urbanspoon, I thought it was called "The Diamond." Who knew?!).  I’m a seasoned Diamond eater, but BFTB had only eaten their food one time and wasn’t impressed with his first round. However, he decided to chalk his previous experience up to poor ordering and went in with an open mind (and a very empty stomach).

It was pretty crowded when we walked in, but we were seated right away and I excitedly reminded BFTB that the restaurant was used to film a scene in the first season of Homeland.  I am pretty obsessed with that show (and I am convinced that Mandy Patinkin and I would be BFF in real life), so the fact that I was within spitting distance of a booth where Carrie Matheson once sat (pre-mental breakdown) made me even more excited about our decision to eat there.

Outstanding fried pickles!
While we looked through the menu, which was crammed with seven pages of eating and drinking options, we (unsurprisingly) placed an order for the Classic Fried Pickles.  Within a few minutes, our server brought us a reasonably-sized wax paper-lined basket piled high with steaming, golden, medium cut pickle chips and a sidecar of ranch. After waiting a minute or two for them to cool down, we dug in. Until recently, Diamond gave you the option to pick between either a full or a half order of pickles. But when we tried to order a hald, our server informed us that they’d changed the menu a little bit and there were no longer any size options. Upon inspection, the new one-size-fits-all option seemed to be about the same size as the old small portion, which is still too many to split with just one person. Regardless, we pounded those pickles and they were AWESOME. The chips were coated in a light, perfectly-seasoned batter and were fried to an exceptional golden brown. Up until I ate that first chip, my mental “best fried pickles in CLT” list was topped by the slightly-too-salty pickle chips at Joe Hooper’s.  While I still think those are a delicious option, they’ve been demoted to second place. My top areas of critique (seasoning and cooking technique) were flawlessly executed. If I had to think of one complaint (and I’m really digging here), I’d say that the only area in which Diamond could improve their fried pickles would be by serving them with a tastier dipping sauce. I didn’t have any super negative feelings about the ranch dressing at Diamond, but it tasted like it came from a jar and was nothing to brag about. However, my miniscule condiment issue was a moot point since the pickles were so delicious that we barely touched the ranch dressing.

Gyros Platter with pita pieces, tzatziki, fries, and a loaded Greek salad.
Shortly thereafter, our dinners arrived. BFTB had selected the Po’Greek Boy (a 1/3 lb. feta stuffed ground lamb burger with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, & tzatziki sauce served with French fries, a pickle spear, and vinegar slaw) and I went with the Gyros Platter (served with French fries, Greek salad, tzatziki sauce, and pita bread).  Both of us were extremely pleased with our choices. My Gyros were a delicately ground blend of meats, that was well-seasoned and cooked to a surprisingly (but delightfully) crispy texture. I feel like the mouthfeel of Gyros often remind me of Spam. Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of the canned meats, I like it when there’s a little bit of crispy, almost-burned “bark” on the edges. The Gyros slices at Diamond had that bark, but remained soft in the middle. The texture went well with the surprisingly loaded Greek salad. Rather than throwing a few red onions on a bag of lettuce and calling it a day, Diamond really seems to have thought out what they put in their Greek salad. On my plate, I had a nice array of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, feta, Salonika peppers, chopped beets, and dolmodes. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve ever eaten a beet before and I still don’t think I could identify a Salonika pepper or a dolmode (that almost sounds made up…), but the combo, particularly when drizzled with a little bit of the housemade Greek dressing, was great (I will note that I picked out the olives. Olives are disgusting. Don’t try to convince me otherwise). The dressing was neither too oily nor too vinegary, and was filled with a tasty blend of herbs. I could detect a fair amount of garlic and oregano, but I’m not sure what else was mixed in there. Regardless, it was very good and I liked using pieces of pita to sop up the extra dressing running around on my plate. Speaking of sauces, I liked that the tzatziki at Diamond actually tasted like a tangy yogurt rather than a mayonnaise or sour cream blend. It went well with both the Gyro meat and BFTB’s sandwich. The fries at Diamond are pretty good, but might be cut a bit thick for my taste. While I won’t head to Diamond whenever I need to get my French fry fix, they were a solid side option.

I'll pass on the cole slaw, but the Po'Greek Boy is a solid option.
BFTB’s Po’Greek Boy, which looked just like a normal hamburger from the outside, was equally tasty. Unlike our recent burger-eating experience at Cowbell, the seemingly-large amount of ingredients in the Po’Greek Boy avoided being seasoned to death and when combined together into one burger, didn’t result in a nauseating conglomeration of battling flavors.  In other words, the burger at Diamond was more of a nice mix than a messy hodgepodge, and simply tasted better than anything we tried at Cowbell. The feta was tangy and perfectly complimented the seasoned ground lamb. BFTB also enjoyed the tzatziki sauce that came on his Po’Boy, but he wasn’t as passionate about it as I was (I probably would have bathed in the stuff had I been given the option). We both felt like the coleslaw was somewhat disappointing. Compared to everything else, the little pile of thinly-shaved white cabbage swimming in vinegar seemed like an uninspired last minute addition.  

For a calorie-splurging dinner decision, there might not be anything (at least that I know of yet!) that tops Diamond. I am almost drooling just thinking about their fried pickles and I look forward to trying more of their dishes in the future. Diamond gets a strong 8.25 (almost 8.5) out of 10.

Diamond on Urbanspoon

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