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Dec 30, 2010 05:45 PM

Peter Chang's new restaurant

Has anyone tried the new restaurant on Powers Ferry yet? Any recommended dishes?

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  1. Yes, but I can't recommend it very highly. The hostess was very disorganized darting here and there. She took us to a table that was already occupied, then had us wait while she tried to clear and set up a recently vacated table. After receiving the menus, it took at least 15 minutes to have our order taken. Our steamed dumplings arrived fairly quickly, but were not very good. The ones at Little Szechuan, Yen Jing and Pung Mie are much better. Then the waiting began. After 30 minutes the bus boy tried to clear our plates; we explained we hadn't received our main dishes. Then our waitress tried to give us the check. Finally our chicken with three mushrooms arrived, it was very heavy with soy sauce, but the mushrooms were good. Fifteen minutes later our hot pot with mixed seafood, which was excellent, arrived. We had to request rice at least twice. It arrived after we had finished eating. At least we received the check promptly. We were lucky, the three tables around us, all seated before us, were still waiting for their food when we left.

    Little Szechuan
    5091 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30340

    1. Really wanted to get excited about the new Chang restaurant. Love the location, excited to try his spicy cuisine. A friend and I both went there separately for lunch 2 weeks ago and found out we both planned to give it a second chance for dinner, so we went last week. And we won't go back, sad to say. They have solved many of the service problems that were noted immediately after opening - we had mostly excellent, attentive, knowledgeable service. The only odd thing was that in the nearly empty restaurant, we were seated immediately next to the kitchen doors, which meant we got to listen to the lively kitchen conversation and the banging of the doors. This got entertaining later. There were three of us, and we ordered pan fried dumplings (tough but tasty) to share and soups all around. As at lunch, the standout of the meal was the soup. The wonton was a revelation: thin, dainty, al dente pasta wrapped around ginger-infused filling in a deep, rich broth. My friend waxed equally eloquent about the hot n sour. Then the disappoinment began. The crispy duck was so oily and overcooked, we sent it back, producing a certain amount of entertainment based on the screaming and dish-slinging that ensued in the kitchen. My very generous lamb chops (8 for $24) were, unfortunately, cooked to death, too, but we had to eat something. We felt the duck (at two chili peppers) and the lamb (at one) were actually equally spicy. I am a spice wuss, so I think most people will be happy with the spice level. Our friend had ordered pork chops, which were mild (per her request) and they were fine, with the exception that (like the duck) they had been cleavered with all bones and prepared in big bony chunks. I like meat on the bone as much as the next person, but some pieces were just plain bone. The first piece of duck I picked up was just part of a leg bone, no meat at all. As I've seen reported elsewhere, what's on the menu is not necessarily what you get. That's OK with me as the substitutions were reasonable (ex: bok choy instead of pea pods). Although we asked for the duck to be removed from the bill (having had only two tiny tastes, then rejecting it) we were haggled with and they finally agreed to charge us only half (WTF?). I guess we're dealing with some of Chang's notorious "soup nazi" tendencies. That's cool if it goes hand in hand with genius, but overall, we were not at all happy. One last nit: they are totally missing the boat on the cool location! I love that space, literally hanging out over the Chattahoochee with giant pane windows all across the back. But at night, there is no lighting on the river side, so you might as well be in a windowless room. I'm sad. I hope they work out the kinks.

      11 Replies
      1. re: martyparty

        How much Sichuan food have you eaten before? It sounds like you guys didn't order much of that menu... I'd recommend giving it one more shot before throwing in the towel. I visited ATL a couple weeks ago, saw it had just opened and Immediately decided I had to go.

        I went with a group of 6 who hadn't had Sichuan food before, so I stuck to the approachable classics.

        The first Sichuan dish to hit the table (besides the wonton soups my friends ordered) was hot and numbing dried beef. I couldn't tell whether the beef was dry-fried or actual jerky, but either way the sauce was addictive, and heavy on the Sichuan peppercorns.

        Smoked tofu with peanuts was a pleasing mix of textures in a fiery chili oil. Dan dan noodles were solid, but I have yet to find a restaurant recipe that compares to Fuschia Dunlop's recipe (I make this at home all the time).

        Bread puff with curry sauce was basically roti canai and the only non-Sichuan dish we ordered (even though it's apparently one of his specialties).

        Smoked chicken with mustard sauce gave me the first hint of Chang's talent. Probably my favorite dish of the night, with a strong mustard taste accented by a slight sweetness and heavy ma la flavor. I had asked the waitress to choose between the two cold smoked chicken dishes (the other was the more common version with sesame paste) and she picked a knockout.

        Shan City chicken was excellent-- essentially dry fried chicken with peppers and one of the better renditions I've tried. Likewise, we had two excellent versions of dry fried green beans and cumin lamb, both sufficiently crispy and crunchy.

        I loved the texture of the double cooked pork, much crispier than usual, which I prefer. It may have been slightly heavy on the soy sauce, but that's just a minor complaint about a fantastic dish.

        Really good meal & I'd love to go back and explore the menu, but living in NYC that unfortunately won't happen for the foreseeable future.

        Full post & pics:

        1. re: martyparty

          Marty, your reference to being a 'spice wuss,' and the items ordered, explain your disappointment. Chang is not for everyone. Folks, if you don't like mi lan [the Sichuan 'hot & numbing'], highly spiced food, this isn't the place for you, even if the kitchen can turn out a satisfactory wonton or hot/n/sour soup. One of the great benefits of chowhound is getting real reviews from folks with different palates, and learning from them. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Chang's work, and wish you the best in finding good Chinese around ATL that better fits your palate. and Thanks for your careful review - it might not be positive, but its certainly helpful to 'hounds who want to understand what Chang is all about. Others on this thread have posted good advice on the hot and numbing specialties that give Mr. Chang his well-deserved rep. Personally, I love it, though its way too spicy for my spouse.

            1. re: Roswellgirl

              You totally miss my point. I said that DESPITE being a spice wuss, I had NO problem with the spiciness. It was great! The problem was that our meats were cooked the fuck to death, to the point that we could barely chew them. If we ordered jerky, I'd expect the almost impossible chewiness, but I ordered lamb chops and was unable to bite pieces off. We sent the duck back for the exact same reason, but were expected to pay for it anyhow. As for taste, what I omitted mentioning earlier (because I didn't want to be piling on) was that other than the nice spices on the meat, teh accompaniment had NO seasoning. The broccoli with my lamb (which was supposed to be snow peas) had NO sauce or seasoning of any kind.

              It's sad that so many people are just blind sycophants to this guy. I REALLY wanted to like this restaurant, but it was a huge disappointment. As for not trying enough things, I think trying 6 entrees (over the course of 2 lunches and a dinner) is giving the guy a decent shot. Which he missed.

              1. re: martyparty

                I don't consider myself a sycophant at all, but it actually sounds like you totally missed our point. Being a "spice wuss" doesn't prevent you from ordering Sichuan dishes at a Sichuan restaurant. Your orders of lamb & pork chops and lamb w/ broccoli (or snow peas) show that you unfortunately ordered incorrectly.

                Moreover, meats like that are, for whatever reason, usually cooked to greater doneness in Chinese restaurants, and I wouldn't have ordered chops in the first place. What sold you on lamb w/ snow peas anyway? Can't speak for the duck though, hard to tell from your description.

                I'd say go back and try some of the Sichuan dishes recommended by myself and others, but it sounds like you won't be convinced (and I hope that other people interested in checking it out aren't deterred by your report alone).

                1. re: ChiefHDB

                  We aren't counting the pork chops, which my friend who did not want to try Sichuan ordered. The other items, however, were either on the sichuan page or the chef's specialties page, if I recall (I was specifically avoiding the "American" page). Bottom line: my friend and I have ordered 6 entrees there, all of which sucked. Doesn't matter which page they were on. If you go to an Italian restaurant and your dumb friend orders the chicken fingers, should they suck just because they're not Italian? Is the intent to drive away customers who may not be into the Sichuan? Driving away customers sounds like a poor business plan.

                  1. re: martyparty

                    They have all those dumb menu items because people like your friend will order them-- and their intent is to NOT drive away customers. They may very well be bad, but if it's clearly not the restaurant's specialty. I don't really fault a restaurant (especially a Chinese restaurant) for something like that, and had you done some research on the specialties, you may have had a better experience.

                    1. re: ChiefHDB

                      Haha chief, you are very amusing. I hope that you and Peter are very happy together. You make a great couple and I think he's very lucky to have you :)

                      1. re: martyparty

                        Yes, I would totally want to make out with him...

                        John Kessler's review in the AJC pretty much confirms (and combines) what we both think:

                        1. re: ChiefHDB

                          That's awesome! The review plus comments pretty much sum up what we're saying here (both of us) and on CL blog as well. I REALLY want to love this place. Has anybody told them to get some lights out by the river, b/c the view is great but it's wasted at night. I've seen ads in CL for "English speaking" servers for Cheng's, so I guess they're working on it, but what if the English speaking server can understand you and can't explain the food or communicate with the kitchen? I hope they work it out. I do feel ten bucks is excessive corkage if all they're doing is opening the bottle and they can't offer you an alternative anyhow.

                          Cheers, Chief!

                          1. re: martyparty

                            Glad we could find some common ground Marty.

        2. Highly recommended. Tonight was our first trip back since (pre) opening night... they've punched up the Ma La and spice level in general considerably since opening, back to Tasty China levels. Ordered a ton of dishes tonight among 8 people, all very good, not a miss (though some dishes were not as great as on previous visit).

          Sesame Bread - standard Tasty China
          Black Ear Fungus (?) - a new dish for me, very nice, some kind of mushroom (I hope)
          Fish and Cilantro rolls - always love these, light and crisp and clean
          Beef and Cilantro - good stuff
          Crispy Pork Belly - v good
          Dry-Fried Small Fish - this now has crazy strong Ma La, maybe a bit too much, preferred the simpler version they prepared at opening
          Sesame Smoked Tofu - not as good as opening for some reason, not sure why... still delicious though
          Beef Dan Dan Noodles - v good
          Cumin Lamb - v nice
          Sichuan Lamb Chops - v nice, still slightly more done that I would prefer
          Smoked Duck w Fried Onions - awesome, maybe favorite dish of the night
          Fish and Tofu in Chili Oil - always love this, Tasty China standby
          Pea Greens w Garlic - love it, so well done, so simple
          Bok Choy w Mushrooms - another simple, great dish, and necessary next to all that meat/duck
          Sesame Balls - a great rendition, these are fabulous and a must order

          Service had its ups and downs, but was fine overall. Took in a couple growlers of beer from Athens' The Beer Growler (Port IPA, Southern Tier 2xIPA) and 2 bottles o wine, was charged $20 total corkage for the wine, nothing for the beer. No alcohol available to buy - no license yet??

          Tasty China
          2750 Buford Hwy Ste 2D, Duluth, GA 30096

          1. have you tried Gu's on Buford Highway yet--opend in Dec--ive been 5 times,again yesterday--its just incredibly great food--saw a link to it here,and went right away--best Ive ever had

            1 Reply
            1. re: bobstripower

              Gu's ends the debate about best szechuan in Atlanta. Probably the entire southeast. Gu's is on par with Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago and China Village in the Bay Area/Berkeley (both Michelin guide rated).

            2. I am an old Tasty China fan both before Changs return and after. We went to Chang's last weekend with four other couples at my husband's and my recommendation. We are fortunate enough to be very comfortable with the menu, as the most of the Szechuan items are the same as Tasty China's menu. I also paid close attention to the reviewers favorite dishes and ordered those as well as our favorites. Here is what we ordered
              Dan Dan noodle
              Smoked crispy duck
              Bubble pancake
              Fish and sour cabbage soup ( by far a favorite)
              Spicy Shredded tofu skin (another favorite)
              Pan fried three ways
              Hot and numbing beef
              Dry-fried small fish
              Fish and coriander rolls
              Hot and numbing beef rolls
              Salt and pepper shrimp
              Shan city chicken
              Sesame/scallion pancake
              Dried fried eggplant
              Mushroom soup (not the correct name but most loved it)
              Cumin beef
              Soup dumplings
              Everything was outstanding. Our server was not experienced or versed in the cuisine. I was glad I had done my research and was able to point to the items on the menu that we wanted to order. The prices at Chang's, for the exact same menu items at Tasty China, are higher but it is a higher rent space and Chang is putting his name on it.
              My suggestion is order what you here is good (see above list and others). Stick with the cuisine he is famous for (Szechuan). If all else fails, as for the owner, Dahi, and have him order for you.

              Tasty China
              585 Franklin Rd SE Ste 215, Marietta, GA 30067