Friday, July 20, 2018

La Mei Zi Asian Bistro - Doraville - Atlanta Georgia

You can find La Mei Zi Asian Bistro at 5150 Buford Hwy, Ste C-310, Doraville, GA 30340 in the Asian Square shopping center, towards the back left when facing the anchor, Asian Supermarket from Buford Highway. My next several reviews will focus on all the restaurants currently in this square as my Buford Highway Clawr group hits each. For the uninitiated, the square is home of the Doraville location of Sweet Hut which most will recognize. There's generally plenty of parking out front of each business and overflow contained in the main market's parking, the exception is Sweet Hut which gets very crowded.

From my limited experience, I consider La Mei Zi one of the best Taiwanese restaurants in Atlanta - this is garnered from several visits and considering many menu items. The menu transitions to the spicy side of Chinese cooking (most would call it Sichuan). I've had many of the appetizers and for the uninitiated would recommend trying the Pork Belly Buns (Bao) or the Sichuan Beef Rolls. But I digress - on this particular night I attended with a small group from my regular Buford Highway Clawr group hosted by my friend John F. The restaurant is on the smallish side (as are most in Asian Square) with glass windows along the front and tables extending towards the back. It's rather utilitarian but very clean. There's also a rather large carving of what I assume is a napa cabbage to great visitors (not sure why it's there but it's very striking).

Once inside you're greeted by some awesome servers who are used to answering questions from dumb Americans - I consider this a boon as some of the restaurants along Buford Highway will run you ragged due to a lack of communication. The staff here is phenomenal even exchanging some jokes with the table and keeping things light and rolling along. 

We started with the following:

* Steamed Pork Dumpling - I would call these good but nothing special, still a nice way to ease into anything after and provide a bit of rest when you're hitting very spicy food.

* Braised Beef and Scallion with Hoisin Sauce in Roll - I loved these - think of a sliced beef burrito but with more of a chapati or roti texture. This is actually more subtle in flavor than it sounds.

* Oyster Omelet - I think we ordered this more because it was unusual than anything else - I'm not sure if it would be considered breakfast food or what but it was surprisingly good and unusual. 

For our main dishes:

* Pork Belly Sichuan Style - the pork belly is thin sliced and swimming in red gravy with just enough heat from the sichuan pepper. I expected something crispier in the pork belly which is cooked soft and more delicately so be aware of that texture.
* Salt and Pepper Calamari - this was really fantastic and my favorite of what we tired. It's lightly breaded and served dry (not saucy) with a pile of woked, shaved garlic and sweet peppers, onions; served on a bed of chopped cabbage. Delicious and unusual - the texture and combination put great emphasis on the squid and practically melts-in-your-mouth.
* Stir-Fried String Beans - man I love these. Plenty of salty soy mixed with a bit of pork, ginger and garlic. The texture is so good.

Overall we had great food and a great time with everyone really enjoying this place. The service was excellent, some of the best I've encountered on Buford Highway with dishes coming to the table piping hot and water glasses continuously refilled. As an aside, I believe "La Mei Zi" means "Spicy Girl" in Chinese but specific to food and cooking (I'm not sure if it's a reference to the cook/owner or to the items cooked if gendered).

(also posted to Yelp)
La Mei Zi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mings BBQ - Asian Square - Doraville - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Ming's BBQ at 5150 Buford Hwy NE, Ste 300, Doraville, GA 30340 in the Asian Square shopping center anchored by the Asian Supermarket. The restaurant is along the left facing the market (South side) towards the back. My next several reviews will focus on all the restaurants currently in this square as my Buford Highway Clawr group hits each. For the uninitiated, the square is home of the Doraville location of Sweet Hut which most will recognize. There's plenty of parking out front of each business and overflow contained in the main market's parking.

I've eaten at Ming's BBQ a handful of times - this is a favorite of locals and Chinese in particular - I believe the style is notably Cantonese so you'll see very recognizable dishes. They are known for their soups and the congee in particular during cold months, but the reason to come here is for the duck. On this night the Clawr group went for the whole Peking Duck, a Honey Roasted BBQ Pork dish and the Snow Pea Tips.


Peking Duck - this is your classic Peking Duck served with bao-style folded buns, some sauce and a bit of green onion. I thought this was very good, perhaps the best I've had in Atlanta (I've experienced slightly better where the duck comes directly from the brick-oven, is sliced into thin pieces to be served by special cutters, but I haven't seen that in this town). The skin is crisp and the duck delicious - I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Honey Roasted BBQ Pork - in a word, delicious. This is a well smoked dish of sweetened pork with plenty of rind - harder to do than it looks as the flesh is still very moist. Served with a side of sauteed sprouts. Very filling and a good sharable portion.

Snow Pea Tips - I love these - full of flavor and a bit of garlic - in fact I think I order these whenever they're offered. Ming's does an excellent job, keeping the stems slightly crispy and the leaves firm - I think the trick is to blanch the stems first before adding them to the wok.

This tends to be a very busy restaurant and it suffers a bit because of that. It also closes at 9:00 PM so if you're thinking of coming, arrive early if you can. The servers here (and really at any restaurant) get awfully cranky when you show up 10 minutes before closing (unless you're ordering take-out). The shifts are long so please be considerate. Other than that I've found the servers here very good and efficient with good answers to questions. As with most of the more authentic Chinese restaurants, you need to be a bit more persistent than you're used to in getting good service - try not to be obnoxious but the more persistent you are the better the service. One other thing - bring cash.

(also posted to Yelp)
Ming's B.B.Q. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 9, 2018

Spicy Ga Ga Duck - Doraville - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Spicy Ga Ga Duck at 5090 Buford Hwy, Ste 109, Doraville, GA 30340 in the Intown Plaza shopping center. This plaza is also home to the very good Temp Doeloe (check that review) and China Hot Pot (aka Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot). The parking for this plaza is pretty tight but depending on your arrival time you should be able to find a space - might be a good idea to carpool just in case. 

I attended a meeting here of my regular Buford Highway Restaurant Clawr group - actually we had tried to come here once before but the guy was about to close, so this time we came earlier, only to find that you had to call ahead to get the whole duck (which is what we were the most interested in). This sparse, brightly painted place is more of a butcher than a restaurant - where fans can buy various animal bits like Duck head, neck, feet, wing, tounge or gizzard (similar for chicken), also cuts of beef tripe, stomach and tendon or pork ear, feet and leg. They also have several seafood items like crawfish, river snails and mussels. 


It's my understanding that this is a particular style of traditional Chinese cooking where the focus is on all the bits that are often discarded in the US. It's for a discerning palate and stuff you might find from street-food vendors in large Chinese cities. For Atlanta this is a way to get flavors you wouldn't otherwise find, perhaps to deal with a longing for home. Thus the clientele is made up mostly of Chinese nationalists.

We opted for two very similar dishes (we weren't aware how similar until we got them) - one was a soup with clear noodles and the other basically the same thing without the broth. I thought the broth fairly decent and the bits fairly fresh if very rich. I don't mind tripe, beef stomach, blood sausage and the like but I try to only get it in occasional bites - getting a huge bowl was a bit overwhelming. I think if you're looking for something interesting this might be the place to start - I'm not too sure if I'd have this as a destination.

The guy behind the counter was not very engaged, seeming to spend all his time on his phone, basically oblivious to us - I don't think we fit into his typical demographic.

(also posted to Yelp)
Spicy GaGa Duck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Mozart Bakery - Doraville - Atlanta Georgia

You can find this location of Cafe Mozart Bakery at 5938 Buford Hwy NE Ste 109, Doraville, GA 30340 - this is a plaza-style shopping center just north of Oakcliff Rd on Buford Highway outside the perimeter. Treat your Feet and Manilla Mart are also in this same plaza. There's limited parking out front but a lot to one side.

I've been going to the "other" "Cafe" Mozart Bakery for many years, the one inside the perimeter next to Hello Chicken and Sinaloense Pollo Asados. It seemed strange to me that there would be two so close together but apparently one is privately owned and this one further north is part of a franchise - from the website there appears to be several locations around Atlanta and in Dallas.

I first entered this newer location shortly after opening so the photos reflect the new space. On the night I visited with my wife there were few customers (granted it was close to their closing time and they hadn't yet had their grand opening). My first impression of the space was "beautiful" - it has a loft/industrial feel with painted concrete floors, rich finishes and some fantastic slab-walnut tables. The bakery is extremely stylish with clean lines and well thought out spaces. It's well list and well stocked with plenty of Asian-inspired pastries and breads, both savory and/or sweet in beautiful packaging - much like you would find in the nearby White Windmill and former Maum Bakeries.

I love Asian bakeries - maybe because I'm Asian?  Well, actually it's because they tend to have less sugar which works better for my taste preferences. While there's much to be said for sugar and there are some fantastic bakeries around (Alon's comes to mind), most of the Americanized Euro-bakeries seem much too sweet to me. I don't know how people can eat that stuff all the time - even the non-sourdough breads seem slightly sweet. Asian bakeries, on the other hand, seem to have many more savory options and the sweet baked goods are sweet but not over-the-top death-by-sugar confections.

On this night we hit this new Cafe Mozart after enjoying Korean Tofu pots at Cho Dang across the street and noticing the sign. We were more curious than hungry but still managed to speak to the staff and split a coffee and a single almond dessert. The staff were quite kind and accommodating and answered all our questions. I've since dropped in a couple of more times - the service is efficient and very business-like, the baked items I've tried very good and the place kept immaculate. In all a great experience.

(also posted to Yelp)
Cafe Mozart Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato