Canton Cooks is a restaurant found on the corner of Hammond Road and Roswell Road, in the same strip mall as Whole Foods, and is next door to Hearth Pizza Tavern. The outside is plain, looking like any other strip mall Chinese restaurant, and doesn’t really give a hint of its substantial following among Atlanta foodies. It has its share of ordinary patrons, but it’s not uncommon to come here and have people talking openly about chefs, the Food Network, food reviews, and the correct pronunciation of Tsingtao beer.

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Because Canton Cooks has been around for decades, it has captured the hearts of plenty of patrons and plenty of bloggers (see Chow Down Atlanta’s review here,  and Blissful Glutton’s review here). So I went, ate, liked it a great deal, and then was faced with a quandry. This restaurant has been covered pretty well in the previous reviews. So what could I do to provide a somewhat different point of view? Well, rather than eating just from the Chinese menu, I came here multiple times and I ate from all of them. I ate from the American menu, and I ate from the lunch special menu. After all that eating, I have to admit that Canton Cooks is quite a chameleon. It is trying to be all things to all people. But if you’re trying to get the best food from this place, then I can confirm that the traditional advice – to choose dishes from the Chinese menu – does apply.

I tried three dishes from the Chinese menu (the white sheet on the inside of the dinner menu), the wor sue duck, the chicken (bone in) with chinese curry, and the salt and pepper squid. The wor sue duck was, in a word, excellent, and reminded me of the reasons why I started liking Chinese food so many years ago. The outer skin is crisp and crunchy, the layer of fat adds adds in more flavor and a more liquid texture, and then the duck meat itself is almost melt-in-your-mouth soft, with a touch of spice and delicious.  Texture, in this case, richly complements the flavor of the food.

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In a word, excellent.

I had a hard time ordering the curry. My waitress kept saying they could get this for me without bones, and in all honesty, it’s a cheat if you avoid the bones. They add marrow and cartilage to the mix, and I just loved being able to tease out all the dark rich flavors from this curry. The broth was thick and the eggplant and tofu only complemented the mix of bone and meat.

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The salt and pepper squid was also very good, tender and tasty.

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From the American menu we had the Hong Kong style wonton soup, chicken and vegetables with black bean sauce, and chicken with curry. The first two were very good, the last was a bit of a disappointment. The curry was thin and flavorless compared to the Chinese menu product.

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The American menu curry was a bit disappointing.

The American menu curry was a bit disappointing.

Also to note, this is a place that’s generous with rice at dinner. It’s a little thing but something that my wife finds important, and that expectation has rubbed off onto me over time.

From the lunch special menu I ordered kung pao chicken and my partner ordered shrimp with lobster sauce. It came with a wonton soup, and also an egg roll and a chicken wing, along with the food. My partner liked his shrimp, but the kung pao chicken was very under spiced, lacking flavor and heat. I even asked for pepper sauce, but never got it. Multiple people arrived when I asked for the spice and all we received were napkins instead.

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The wonton soup at lunch is a shadow of what you can get at dinner. The wrapping of the wonton is thinner at dinner, the filling is more flavorful, and the dinner soup has bok choy as well as the wonton itself.  That said, the lunch wonton soup isn’t bad.

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Service at Canton Cooks is, for the most part,  good. Now that statement has to be qualified. They are excellent at getting people to their table, and getting people menus, food, and drink. Whether anyone has any decent service after that depends. If the load was light, waitstaff would come to my table quite a bit. If they had a lot of customers, I might see someone at my table once for the rest of the meal. Canton Cooks’ staff also will drop off a meal ticket quickly, long before you’re finished, a habit that has irritated some people on review sites.

Verdict: Canton Cooks has some excellent Chinese food. But you’ll be better off if you order from the Chinese menu. Highly Recommended.

5984 Roswell Road
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 250-0515

Canton Cooks on Urbanspoon