Sunday, June 14, 2015

Little Szechuan - Buford Hwy

Little Szechuan is located at 2863 Buford Hwy, Atlanta GA 30328 in a small shopping center on your left driving South from North Druid Hills right after Classic Collision. I'm calling this area Druid Hills but it may be known as something else.

Had a chance to visit one of my favorite Chinese restaurants Saturday night, only to find out that Little Szechuan is now under new ownership. I've been eating at the original location for over 20 years - the new owner has a new chef and menu. Chef Kong has finally retired, and so has the complex flavors embedded in the food at this new restaurant. Chef Kong and Little Szechuan helped to define what Chinese cooking in Atlanta could be - something unique, blending classic Szechuan flavors with Americanized Chinese sauces and producing something new and better than your typical Chop-suey shops from before.

We decided to try the food from the new menu - we ordered the sweet-and-sour soup, some fried pot stickers and a Hunan black bean chicken dish.

The Sweet-and-sour soup carried very little of the sharp contrast found in Kong's recipe. It really tasted quite a bit like mall-Chinese food, with a heavy corn starch hand and little of the white pepper goodness you find in good versions of this classic. Sparse came to mind.

The pot-stickers were palatable - these were chicken and not bad - the sauce was once again a bit weak.

The chicken dish was very heavy handed - the veggies were very fresh but once again the sauce was thick with cornstarch and had little of the zing found in Kong's cooking. Oh and did I mention that there were jalapenos in there?

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the Chinese food and menu designed by the new chef (I believe the ingredients are very fresh) - but it's a far cry from what Kong built over so many years. Lost is much of the complexity of the sauces. Lost are the distinct contrasts in flavor and also, lost is much of the heat and layering of pepper and chiles that made Little Szechuan so memorable.

The service was very good however the place was empty (one other table and one take-out while we sat). I hope the new owner can find a unique path to great Chinese and wish her the best.

-- John

(also published to Yelp)
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