Fung Mei has been relocating from Buford to the old Corky’s building, in a move impossible to miss if you commute down Pleasant Hill Road east of I-85. My wife drove by on a Saturday, noted the people, the sign saying “Grand Opening” and the crowd. She found it exciting, and we decided we would all go for lunch the next Sunday.
When I first arrived in the Atlanta area, roughly late 1996, Pung Mei, as it was known then, was a very hot restaurant. Found in a cramped building on Buford Highway, they were known for good food, large servings, and decent prices. Soon after, they moved into a larger, more ornate building and some of the charm of the eatery was lost in the process. I never liked the new digs of Pung Mei. I felt trapped in glass. The prices seemed a little higher. The service was less friendly, more remote. Now, with the transition to Duluth and the occupation of a new building, would things change?
Inside, the heavy brick of the original Corky’s combines well with the more ethnocentric touches the owners have provided. There are chandeliers, and aquariums with goldfish, but you don’t feel as if you’re trapped in a glass bowl anymore. The high industrial roof and track lighting helps leave people with a feeling of plenty of space. The restaurant was pretty full on this Sunday afternoon but not to capacity. Most of the clientèle were Asian. There was the young beauty trying hard not to be embarrassed by her more country aunts and uncles. There was the child, bored of his Game Boy, bending his head down to suck noodles out of his bowl of soup. And there were well dressed staff taking the orders of people coming and going.
We were seated quickly, but then the problems begin. This being a reopening, there were some issues. Staff were slow to take orders, and had problems getting back to customers. My wife, tired of the wait, started pointing out tables that were seated after ours was and then served before ours had been. People from at least one table stood up and left due to the inattention.
The menu is enormous, 421 items. There is no take out menu (they will be available next week, we were told). I can tell you where we ordered various dishes, but not always their precise names. Since the only way to know truly what is on the menu would be to have a Chinese reading companion, I’m going to do my best about this, and not sweat the details.
The green bean dish, Dry Fried Green Beans, was excellent, and as my wife said, it saved the meal. It’s found in the Sichuan section of the menu, on the very back, towards the bottom of the “Tofu and Vegetables” section. It is rich in toasted peppers, and those toasted peppers definitely include Sichuan pepper, the round red fruits easy enough to find in the dish. My daughter’s comment, toward the end was, “My mouth is numb.” This dish did not last.
Beijing beef was sweetish, spicy, decent fare. Under the nice pile of meat is a lot of cabbage as filler. My wife questioned whether my daughter could eat her dish but she did fine by it.
My dish was “Fish Filets and Tofu and Vegetables in Clay Pot“. I probably would have settled for a black bean sauce dish but my waiter told me this one had no sugars, and I was curious. It wasn’t spicy, and there was plenty of food floating in the pot, thick squares of tofu with decent sized chunks of fish and bok choy. I couldn’t finish it all and stick to my diet.
This dish though, completely divided the table. It’s the first entry in the Sichuan chicken section of the menu, on the back. Rich in spice, I loved it, when it was hot. My daughter described it as “awesome”. But my wife ordered it, and she was off put by the fact the chicken was fried. We could not get her to trade it either. Both my daughter and I tried to get her to swap food with us and she wouldn’t. Instead, we picked the chicken off her plate.
Verdict: Food is good, at times excellent. Service has some opening issues. Recommended.
1605 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth GA 30096-4619