Gu's Bistro- Buford Hwy- amazing Szechuan!
This is a "run, don't walk" for those of you that love this kind of food. Forgive me, but this is LONG.
First a little background: Chef Gu was the head chef when Sichuan House opened in John's Creek. I was addicted to their Chengdu Wontons in Hot Oil, Cumin Lamb, Dan Dan Noodles, etc. That area is pretty inconvenient to me, so I've not been as often as I'd like. His daughter Yvonne is the manager at Gu's, and is charming host, and very helpful when navigating the menu.
Gu's Bistro is in the Value City shopping Center, back behind the Chick-Fil-A at 5750-A Buford Highway. It's the spot that was briefly Chong Qing Hot Pot (but not the same one as the Chinatown food court- I never fully understood that relationship, but no matter), and the Sign above the restaurant still says "Hot Pot".
But to the food.......
A week or so ago I went by for the Chengdu wontons (N4 under the "Noodles" section). Just as I recall from Sichuan House- maybe better. The filling meaty and flavorful, the homemade wrappers that extend the filling waving in the red broth. I knew I wanted to try more, so a dinner for 6 was arranged by the gent that sent me there in the first place.
We had these dishes last night, all from the "traditional menu". All spellings are as they occur on the menu.
N4: The Chengdu Wontons- just fabulous. Watching a table mate take the last one made me have a little panic, but I know I'll have these again, and again.
L1: Beef Fillet and Tripe (cold dish). Also commonly known as "Husband and Wife". What great texture and flavor. I love the contrast between the super-thin but still with a little chewiness (does that make sense?) meat and the delicate tripe. Would order again and again.
L17: Homemade Beef Jerky w. Chili Sauce (cold dish): Liked it, didn't love it. It was sweet and spicy, and while the flavor was there, was a bit too chewy, almost candied to me. Others might love it, but I've never been a jerky fan, so consider that.
L25: Diced Lotus Root with Carrot and Bell Pepper (cold dish): Loved the texture- reminded me of a refrigerator pickle- the kind you can make that only last a few days in the fridge, so the flavor was bright, and the texture crisp. I kept sneaking bites from that plate long after other items arrived.
R16: Cumin Lamb. Great cumin and szechuan peppercorn flavor, It must be both oiled and dusted in the stuff. Wonderful- another dish I snuck my chopsticks into for another morsel.
J9: Tea smoked Duck with Scallion and ginger. Our first non-spicy dish, and the smoke aroma and smell was a perfect contrast to the other tingly hot dishes. It takes a lot for a dish to hold up in the flavor dept. when there's so much heat around, and this was great- a julienne of smoked duck, scallion, ginger, highly recommend.
Y9: Spicy Fish Fillet in Hot Pot. I'm eating these leftovers right now, and if it's possible, it's better today. You may be used to a similar dish made with Homestyle Tofu- this is different- there are mung bean sprouts, tofu skin, some chucks of potato, this stuff is amazing.
X5 or X7: It's either the Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp with Dried Chili or the Szechuan Style Jumbo Shrimp... I can't recall, but try both, what the heck. Anyway- You know the dry-fried eggplant at Tasty China? it's like that, but with shrimp, and in the pile of chilis are peanuts, sliced ginger and sliced garlic. The shrimp was lightly dusted and fried, not a trace of oiliness. We almost didn't get it because one member of a party wanted only shrimp with heads and shells on, and these were beheaded and shelled. And awesome. I found my perfect after-dinner snack on the plate- a bite of garlic, ginger, pepper and peanut. The shrimp were fresh, firm and almost popped when you bit into them. Fabulous.
D10: Stuffed Tofu w. Seafood- a recommendation from the delightful Yvonne. Not a spicy dish, but the tofu was stuffed and fried. Then cut and served with a light brown savory sauce. Sometimes you'll find a brown sauce with a lot of sugar, which puts me off. This dish was a revelation, great mix of flavors and textures. Loved it.
SC8: String Bean in Chili Sauce. Also wonderful, with some meat in there (pork?), and sauteed onions, peanuts. Beans still had crunch, onions had a little caramel-sweetness, and the peanuts added more crunch. Very nice.
TY3: Osmanthus Flavor Stick Congee. Cold, Sweet, Dessert Congee with little balls that reminded us of tapioca. Nice cooling end to a great meal. We think it had wolfberries in the mix- we did not confirm this.
Summary- usually when we go to a new place and order a slew of different dishes, the dishes are bit and miss. I thought every dish was a hit. Of course I liked more that others, but I would re-order everything again, except maybe the jerky, but that's a personal problem....
The sell- please try this place- please ask Yvonne for help if you need it, or even if you don't. We arrived at 6 pm on a wednesday night, and were the only table for at least an hour. When we left, only 2 4-tops had arrived. This is exactly the kind of effort that needs to be supported- the food quality is superior, the service super friendly and helpful, and the flavors and textures are outstanding.
This review prompted us to try Gu's Bistro for the very first time. For the family, it was our best Szechuan experience yet. Thanks to Carviar_and-Chitlins post above, I ordered the Stuffed Tofu with Seafood. It was a surprise and was excellent. My son and I particularly enjoyed it. My son ordered the Cumin Lamb and was pleased with t - as was I. My wife had Kung Pao Chicken and was pleased with her choice. Our daughter ordered a beef dish with scallions and onions because it sounded as close to her favored Mongolian Beef as she was going to get. Not surprising - she only tasted her dish, but did well with it.
Our son, who recently moved to Chamblee from Norcross, is gradually exploring the many dining options of Buford Highway - but had not yet been to Gu's Bistro. He spoke of bringing some friends to Gu's in the near future.
Afterward, we stopped at Sweet Hut (which he described as a Vietnamese Starbucks) and ordered a variety of pastries. That was a beautiful way to end a pleasant evening.
Went back to Gu's for the second time today and was blown away yet again. We used to live in Berkeley where we loved the szechuan at China Village (michelin rated) and we recently ate at Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago (michelin bib list) and Gu's is just as good, if not better. All the food is bought from the farmer's market blocks away and the spice level is amazing. It's fresh and perfectly executed. The debate over best szechuan (and probably any Chinese) in Atlanta is over.
We went to Gu's Bistro and Tasty China, Franklin Rd, on successive days.
At Gu's Bistro we had the Tea Smoked Duck (bone in). The aroma of smoke (Souchong tea?) was powerful - so strong that it overwhelmed all other smells at the table, and I could still smell it on my hands 30 minutes after we left the restaurant. The duck was smoked to the texture of a Smithfield ham, and had similar flavor and saltiness.
At Tasty China we ordered the Deep Fried Smoked Duck, Sichuan Style, which the waitress assured us was Tea Smoked Duck. It was much more subtle, and tasted much more like duck.
Fuchsia Dunlop lists a recipe for Tea Smoked Duck in her Hunan cookbook, not her Sichuan cookbook. Perhaps this comment is merely a statement that we prefer the Sichuan version over the Hunan version.
585 Franklin Rd SE Ste 215, Marietta, GA 30067
CRF thanks for the post--i had no idea there were different ways of cooking Tea Smoked Duck---ive had it at Gu's and it was good for me-out of curousity i found a refernce http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhangcha... does the picture look like th duck you had--it looks like the one i had..wonder if its just a matter of taste, ie Hunan vis a vis Szuechuan--kind of like chicago vs NY pizza
Thanks for the writeup on Gu's. I went with my wife and a good friend the other night, and the food was amazing. We had the homemade beef jerky - not a sichuan dish I've had before, but really good, with a nice blend of the texture of the beef (sort of a dry fried style) and the hot oil. We also had the water boiled fish with the spicy oil, the traditional tendon dish, a tofu dish, and the Chengdu wontons. The wontons were good, but the least exciting. All other dishes were outstanding, and the waitstaff was really nice and helpful. This is *the* place! I've been to Tasty China a couple of times (when the were OFF, and when they were ON), and Gu's is as good or better than Tasty China at its best. The goal now is to run through everything on Gu's menu!
2750 Buford Hwy Ste 2D, Duluth, GA 30096
al i can say is WOW--went there last nigh with a few friends--there were 7 0ther 4 tops there.Had the shrimp both with dried chili and walnuts, fish soup,chngdu wontons and the "tapioca" desert,cant recall name.Thanks for the descripion in your note,it helped alot.Yvonne is back in China for a month.It was clearly the best Chinese meal Ive evry had--nice place, very clean and new, health rating of 100%--chef came out and we talked with him thru the waiter--he told us about the secert sauce he cooks the walnut shrimp in,of course it was in Chinese--but it had some special milk from China,mayo and cheeese--and the meoln with it and walnits made it my fav meal--thanks alot for the lead--i live 10 minutes from there so Ill be back soon.
re: Steve Drucker
re: uptown jimmy
Although Silk Road 'fusion' is just about the hottest thing in Beijing this year and last year, few chefs practiced in it other than Peter Chang have made their way to Atlanta, and the cost of the depth of trained kitchen staff necessary to pull it off remains prohibitive here.
For 'home style' Sichuan from a practiced Chengdu native, Gu's is my pick right now. As ever with Atlanta's Chinese restaurant soap opera scene, carpe diem.