There’s Chinese on the wall and on the brown paper takeout bags at this Tin Drum Café; my mom translates and tells me that the characters don’t mean much to her.
Do the characters mean anything to the employees strolling around? I wonder. That was the first sign.
If that didn’t tip me off, the lack of Asians working and dining in this café should have alerted me of the Tin Drum’s inauthenticity.
But is that ever reason enough to run away? My belly grumbled, convincing me to stay and see what this Asian fusion café had to offer, and ultimately, I’m glad I did.
TL;DR: Tin Drum Café might not be traditional Asian, but it wins points for quickly serving relatively inexpensive and flavorful fusion food.
The website focuses on fresh, simple ingredients (a Fresh Casual dining standard), and this I did find in most of the dishes. The components were all very visible and tangible.
However, it also claims that the franchise was inspired by the legend of a tin man walking through the streets of Asia, which is emphasized in neither the menu nor the food.
I ordered the Thai Iced Tea. It’s notorious for being overpoweringly sweet, so I asked for it half-sweet. However, the Styrofoam cupful I received was still pretty overwhelming, revealing that either they didn’t actually make it half-sweet (fault of the service) or that even half-sweet, it was a sugar bomb (fault of the recipe). I quickly forced down a quarter cup and thinned out the rest with some water.
1 PM on a Saturday, and the restaurant is at about half capacity. I see all sorts of people, from all types of backgrounds and age groups, including a quartet of elderly Asian ladies (I smiled). There’s a nice outdoor patio very close to the road, with three or four servers walking around.
When someone walks up to the register, they never have to wait long before being approached by someone; however, it’s strange that customers have to order and pay prior to picking a table and sitting down; how am I supposed to tip? I don’t yet know how great my service is.
Speaking of service, our food arrived less than ten minutes after ordering. Imagine yourself, a busy young person, in a hurry to get from one destination to the next. Tin Drum accommodates that fast-paced lifestyle.
My mom’s Masaman curry came super sweet, with lots of liquid to be absorbed by the large bowl of brown rice that came on the side. Together, they became a porridge of sorts, embellished with large chunks of chicken. Massaman curry (note the spelling difference – another sign of inauthenticity) is a Thai dish that comes with a sauce made creamy with coconut milk, topped with crunchy cashews. The sweetness was rather intense, and the curry itself lacked spice. The dish was average.
I ordered the Pad Woon Sen Noodle, which is a noodle dish centered around stir-fried mung beans. This place calls itself a noodle bar, which I can understand; the noodles were cooked just enough and tossed with mung beans, cabbage, juicy chicken, and fluffy egg pieces. It was a warm salad, of sorts, with pleasant, diverse textures for the palate.
I also ordered the Teriyaki chicken taco, which featured bright yellow pieces of slightly dry chicken doused in a soy-sesame vinaigrette. Somewhere on the menu I was promised a spicy teriyaki sauce, but I didn’t find any spice, just hints of sweetness coating the chicken. The taco was not overpowering at all, complimented with cabbage, rice, green onions, and cilantro. In my opinion, the good outweighed the bad.
The meal for two ended up being roughly $25, with both my mom and I very satisfied at the end and with lots of leftovers. I think we were charged well!
From a previous visit, I would not recommend the coconut soup. It’s overly greasy, with blobs of oil coating the top, and a few slices of raw mushroom swimming around. It’s not worth the money at all.
The Tin Drum Café might not be traditional Asian, but it wins points for quickly serving relatively inexpensive and flavorful fusion food.
2561 Piedmont Road Northeast, Atlanta, GA