This week I had the opportunity to attend a blogger night at Tin Drum Asia Cafe’s new Roswell location. Once I got over the sheer horror of trying to get up that way during rush hour, I had a fantastic time that completely turned around my preconceptions about Tin Drum.Tin Drum was started in 2003 by Steven Chan, with its first location in Tech Square, on Georgia Tech campus. Steven and his wife each come from families of restaurateurs, based in Thailand and Hong Kong, respectively. Tin Drum is intended to be a fresh, modern asian fusion restaurant, bringing the cuisines (including street food) of Singapore, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Japan to the masses. As of this writing, there are 12 locations in Georgia, but I know this will change very soon. The business is growing fast and expanding into other southeastern states this year.
Adam went to Tin Drum on Tech Square early on (c. 2004), and was not very impressed. This has come up in conversation on more than one occasion, and has been the basis of my own longstanding disinterest in Tin Drum. It’s been too long to pin down any particular reasons for his displeasure, but nearly ten years on, it’s just water under the bridge.
Arriving at Tin Drum, after fighting traffic for an hour to get up there, the first thing I noticed – apart from the clean, modern interior design – was how cold it was in there! The big glass windows sported condensation, and before the meal was over, I actually caught my teeth trying to chatter!
Needless to say, I was thrilled to get a hot cup of thai coconut soup! It had more raw green onion than I am used to, but it was very tasty and comforting.
Next up, we had the excellent crab and cheese roll. This is basically like a crab rangoon in a more convenient shape. I enjoyed the contrasts of the of the hot rangoon with the cold sweet and sour sauce and the spicy sauce with the sweetly savory filling. Adam and I both enjoyed this quite a lot.
We also enjoyed the next dish, the shrimp taco with steamed rice, cilantro, cabbage slaw, scallions and cucumber wasabi sauce. My first bite of the very end left me thinking, “Why rice in a flour tortilla taco? Is that really necessary?” But I kept eating and with the next bite I got the full experience of the taco. It’s actually well-balanced. The rice tempers the heat of the wasabi sauce. This new item on the Tin Drum menu features fried shrimp, but somehow still feels like a light dish.
Of all the items on the vibrant pictorial menu in the entry area, the pad woon sen caught my eye the most. Unfortunately for me, it was probably the dish I enjoyed the least. Everything was good; the glass noodles weren’t overdone, and all the vegetables seemed quite fresh, the dish just didn’t seem to have any pop to me. Again the food managed to feel lighter than it seemed it ought to, which I think is a good thing.
The mango stir-fry was not a favorite with me either. The chunks of chicken and mango were HUGE. This is coming from someone who frequently enjoys chunky-cut dishes. Huge. It made it impossible to get the chicken taste and the mango taste in your mouth at the same time, since you could only fit one or the other in there. This didn’t make the dish feel very put-together and harmonious. The sauce might have been a little too sweet, too, but it’s hard to say, since I don’t feel like I experienced the meal the way it should have been experienced.
Next up was the Tin Drum curry, the restaurant’s signature dish. And you can tell! I liked it, though the chicken was once again in gigantic face-sized chunks, and it could have used more curry sauce overall. The curry has sweet coconut chili sauce, red curry, spinach, and peanuts. I thought there was a pleasant amount of heat to the dish, and though I could have taken a bit more myself, honestly it was probably just right. You can always ask for more heat if you want it. But overall, and beautiful and delightful curry.
Since we were discussing spice, the kitchen went ahead and sent out a mini-sampling of the tikka masala. It was definitely spicier, and Adam and I both approved. You could definitely taste the cinnamon, though I was okay with that. It may have had too many fresh tomatoes for me, but the perceived overage could have been due to the fact that I wasn’t eating a standard-sized portion.
Surprisingly, Tin Drum Asia Cafe emphasizes fresh produce, all-natural chicken and organic tofu. They work with local providers when possible, and still keep the prices below $8 per dish! You can also get most dishes in gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan form. Impressive.
Tin Drum has certainly improved over time, and this experience knocked our socks off. Their dishes are all well-priced and thoughtfully assembled. They are definitely mainstream, but there’s nothing wrong with that. For fast, tasty, fresh food in the asian fusion category, they do a fine job of it! 3.5 stars!
Tin Drum Asia Cafe
10800 Alpharetta Highway
Roswell, GA 30076