April 7, 2011 § Leave a Comment
5091-C Buford Hwy.
Doraville, GA 30340
I was prompted to check this place out due to the Scoutmob deal that’s going on through November 17, 2011. It’s nice to see a few of the places on Buford Highway opening themselves up to Scoutmob, and it certainly gives me an incentive to single a few places out among the masses. This place, however, was possibly a little thrown by the amount of Scoutmobbers there and had a cash only policy for Scoutmob as well as were selective about what items were 50% off–I believe it is just entrees. Be aware of these restrictions if you go and use the deal there.
The menu showed a variety of more traditional dishes as well as more Americanized ones. The somewhat mixed crowd seemed to mostly be ordering from the Americanized side the night that I went, but of course I went straight for the more authentic side of the menu.
Once we finally got some service, we were served a cold bean sprout and pickled radish appetizer and some hot tea.
I immediately took to the refreshing lightly pickled vegetables side of the little dish and was left less inspired by the more much more mildy flavor of the bean sprouts. I did find, however, that they tasted rather nice in one bite and worked well together that way, so I managed to gobble up the greater part of these two small dishes while we began what ended up being a bit of a wait for more service and our food.
My companion was interested in my experiencing Dan Dan Mien for the first time as it was something that he enjoyed in his travels, so we started with Dan Dan Mien (Spicy Sesame Noodle) and Shredded Pork w/Szechuan Cabbage Soup.
The soup had a light, rather mild broth with a slight drizzle of nice fat on the top. I swear by those little oily droplets on top, and they were there and added a layer of richness to the clean broth below. The chewy bits of earthy mushrooms and bright clean notes of the greens within were nice, and the pork was mildy chewy, but it all worked out nicely. It wasn’t anything especially out of the ordinary or exciting, but it was a nice and simple soup.
The Dan Dan Mien on the other hand was a bit puzzling to me. As soon as this dish was stirred by my dinner companion who recommended it, he knew that it was not the authentic style he was hoping for and released a few choice words to express his dismay. Basically, this read simply as spaghetti in pasty peanuty/sesame sauce for the most part with the bits of spinach and scallions becoming entirely lost in the mix. I saw the presence of pepper flakes, but failed to pick up on any real heat, and if there were any Szechuan peppercorns in there, they were entirely lost on me as well. I found myself enjoying it in an odd sort of way possibly because I had grown rather hungry at this point, but it seemed Americanized, unremarkable, and generally reminiscent of something you’d get prepackaged at Trader Joe’s. The leftovers were kind of good for breakfast especially the way the peanuty sauce thickened when cold, and I’m sure this would taste great after a night of drinking, but that wasn’t what I came here to experience. After some research on the matter, I can see how what we had was different than what he experienced in China, and even Wikipedia notes the standard Americanized substitutions.
After that came the standard litmus test for me at a place such as this: Yu Xiang Qie Zi (Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce) and Chuan Wei Nu Rou (Szechuan Beef).
The eggplant dish was about par with what I’ve had on Buford Highway with the exception that I thought it wasn’t quite as melt-in-your-mouth cooked down deliciousness as I expect when I have this dish. The sweetness was there, but only mildly, so that was pleasant for me. There was just enough kick of heat to be enjoyable, and it had a subtly nearly buttery-reminiscent richness within the vinegared sauce. I do wish this were served with pork because I think the savory of the meat would really balance the flavors as a whole, but I still found this version generally satisfying. It certainly wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was passable.
As soon as the Szechuan beef landed on the table and I leaned over to observe it, I could immediately smell the Szechuan peppercorn and knew that I was finally going to get what I came for. The mala beef served over cabbage with onion really quelled a craving within me. The beef slices were more tender than I’ve experienced in the past and the heat level had a nice build to it throughout the course of the meal and paired magically with the tingly numbing heat of the Szechuan peppercorns. It’s the sort of thing you should order when you come here for certain, and it is downright craveable. I found the cabbage to be cooked well also as it was neither too crunchy nor too soft and served as a nice resting place for the succulent meat.
I started experimenting by eating a slice of beef with a piece of eggplant, and the balance I was hoping for with the eggplant dish was achieved this way and was really sort of divine. I’d recommend this combination.
This place was pretty tasty at times and lackluster at others. I would certainly come back for their beef dish again, but there are certainly many other places that have won me over at first pass more easily. It’s worth a shot for now especially if you use your Scoutmob deal here, but I wonder how hit and miss the rest of the menu will be. I’ll likely be back at some point, but there are so many other places I’d rather revisit or new places I’d rather try instead.