Chinese


I’m going on vacation soon so this is a teaser. Hopefully I can put up a couple more shorts over the next week or so. I easily have enough information for a few days of posting, just no time recently. Hopefully things will be smoother and less frantic after the trip is over.

Mings BBQ, well known for inexpensive pork and duck dishes, also has a few that will challenge folks. This is one of them.

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I found it to be a good dish. Not as good as the pork intestines at the not-so-famous Tasty China on Peachtree Industrial (the Shaighainese place, not Sichuan), but still worth a try. Crispy outside, and gelatinous and delicate inside. My waitress tried to warn me away from the dish. I personally think it’s worth a try if you have a risk tasking personality.

For dim-sum, East Pearl is remarkably efficient, getting as much done in 2-3 carts as others get done in 6-7 carts. They’re fast. The carts arrive quickly. The upshot is you can start and finish a meal as fast here as any place in town I’ve encountered. The quality is nothing to sneeze at, either.

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tasty, fatty duck.

tasty, fatty duck.

It’s on a side road off Shackleford, a bit north of the Nam De Mun farmer’s market (the former Gwinnett International Farmer’s Market), across the street from the new Hibachi Buffet. The building is modest, and gives no hints of the quality of the dim-sum they serve.

fried tofu.

fried tofu.

Sweet bean paste inside. Delicious.

Sweet bean paste inside. Delicious.

I’ve been for dinner (never seen anyone else review their dinners), which focuses on seafood, and found it to be a hit or miss affair. The ones doing best with dinner are large Chinese families with an intimate understanding of the menu. I know that many Chinese like it for dinner. I’ve had glowing recommendations from Chinese staff at other restaurants for East Pearl. But unless you can read Chinese and navigate a complex menu, then I’d suggest trying dim-sum, and saving dinner for a time when you have a Chinese friend to assist.

East Pearl
1810 Liddell Lane
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 380-0899

East Pearl on Urbanspoon

It’s part of the Assi Supermarket food court, but not the part facing the chairs and seating. Rather, Sky is in that section that looks out into the market itself. So, to get there, weave your way through all the boxes, pass China House (the noodle shop), and go round the corner.

Sky BBQ, for my daughter and I, is about the duck. Chloe and Bliss got us hooked on Chinese duck, mostly by talking about how wonderful Canton Cooks is. The first ‘wor sue duck’ I had there was excellent, and it demonstrated the three virtues of a good duck: crispy skin, creamy liquid fats, and tender, chewy dark meat. This triple whammy is what I’m looking for when I cruise for duck. And yes, Sky BBQ delivers.

Duck. Crispy, fatty, chewy, oh so good.

There are no frills here. I got duck to go and my daughter and I ate when we got home. It’s good for a booth-style eatery in a supermarket. Yes, Ming’s BBQ is nearby and more full featured, but don’t forget the little duck spot in Assi if you have a hankering for the duck triple whammy. You can get plenty triple whammy at Sky BBQ.

Gwinnett Place/Duluth
1630 Pleasant Hill Rd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 807-7289

Sky BBQ on Urbanspoon

Saigon Flavors is something of a local favorite, offering a good bowl of pho as well as Thai and Chinese dishes to their customers. Service is attentive and good.

larb beef.

Saigon Flavors serves a good bowl of pho.

Besides pho, we had their larb beef, some bubble tea and a rice (Com Dia) dish. We didn’t have enough of their Thai or Chinese offerings to judge those, but based largely on their Vietnamese cuisine, I’d say this could easily become a routine stop on the way to the mall.

Saigon Flavors
3200 Woodward Crossing Blvd
Buford, GA 30519
(770) 932-7705

Saigon Flavors on Urbanspoon

I haven’t been eating out much recently, but a transformer explosion wrecked the evening meal a couple days ago, so we trekked down the road to Golden House. A former Danny Ting joint, his restaurants are noted for their excellent casseroles. So I tried one, finally. In English, the name of the dish is Eight Pleasures with Bean Curd.

Definitely the star of the meal, there were mushrooms and scallions, chinese cabbage, shrimp, pork, and octopus in the dish. Mine arrived at the table first and disappeared fast.

One pot dishes are found throughout Asian cooking. In Japan, it’s the nabemono dishes that people know well. I find it hard, for example, to pass up a good seafood yosenabe. And for those who have never had the full blown presentation of a Japanese one pot dish, there are few better places to go in this city than Nakato. But for Chinese, or Vietnamese, where to go? I’d say I’ve found a good one in Golden House.

One of the hardest things to do is write meaningful reviews of restaurants that are difficult to categorize. This comes into play in Chinese in a large way. A lot of Chinese eateries are American Chinese. They derive from a 19th century American fad, the dish chop suey. The development of this fad, and a very loving tribute to hyphenated Chinese cuisines in general, can be found in Jenny 8 Lee’s book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles“.

The old Cantonese style American Chinese restaurants therefore have had over 100 years to perfect the style, the pace, the ambience of their cuisine. They specialize in making nervous eaters relaxed about their food. Service is king, the food is more a queen. The dishes are not spicy, and focus on the freshness of the proteins and the texture of the vegetables. A good moo goo gai pan is a classic “old style” dish.

Newer authentic restaurants feature bold spicing, and a lot of new Chinese staff. Mainland China is hardly a service culture. The people themselves are outspoken by even American standards. No subject is taboo, except politics (and perhaps sex). As a result, the service is rough. Some of the things servers say to customers and to each other can be shocking. Even in better places, things happen. I was chased out of Peter Chang’s once by a waitress who was convinced I didn’t tip her. Turns out, her busboy had pocketed the bills I had left on the table.

Before the meal, to whet the appetite.

I enjoyed the flavors and the heat of this spicy lamb dish.

So what to make of a place with old fashioned quiet and service, Americanized menus, but bold spicy food? What is it? How would an American know? Thing is, that’s exactly what you get from Hunan Gourmet. It feels like a hybrid of flavor authenticity and the old style Cantonese super service.

I’m not sure why this combination makes this place almost uncommented upon, but it does. The whole 3 comments on Yelp about it immediately contrast it with the nearby Canton Cooks (not even the same cuisine, but famously authentic, with wait staff who noisily eat in front of everyone). On Urbanspoon, MA seems to “get it”, or at least MA agrees with me about Hunan Gourmet’s signature virtues:

Great, family-staffed place. Friendly service. Quiet inside dining – not your typical noisy, chaotic joint.

I think, in a nutshell, by working so hard to act like the mid 20th century ideal of a Chinese restaurant, it’s hard to know where authentic begins and American Chinese ends. But if what you want is nice quiet service, good spicy food, and time to think, there aren’t many places like it in the city.

Hunan Gourmet
6070 Sandy Springs Circle
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 303-8888

Hunan Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Before last week, I knew of two menus at Ming’s BBQ in Duluth, the take out menu, and the large picture menu, usually containing specials. But last Friday I saw a third menu, with what seems like specials on one side, and various family options (meal packages up to 129.00 or so) on the back.

The orange menu has a lot of specials and items not found on the take out menu.

They had some interesting specials that day, including this rack of lamb special

A Ming's special.

Both my daughter and I thought highly of Ming’s lamb.

Ming’s BBQ
2131 Pleasant Hill Rd.
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 623-9996

Ming's Bar B Q (Duluth) on Urbanspoon

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