In search of ... Chinese food

Frank Ma South

2088 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, 404-417-9990

Frank Ma’s habit of lending his name and dishes to various spots across the area doesn’t seem to dilute his popularity. Though he’s no longer a part of this restaurant, it doesn’t change the lightness of the scallion pancakes, flecked with bits of green onions and delicately fried; or steamed pork buns, plump with light dough and filled with savory minced meat; or Shanghai juice dumplings, deliciously steamed. Sichuan beef is part soup, part saute, where beef strips swim in a not-too-hot peppered au jus checkered with baby bok choy and cilantro. If his name is involved — whether it’s over the door or mysteriously placed elsewhere — foodies flock, knowing the dishes will taste just as sweet.

Chef Liu, not rated

5221 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-8181

The local Chinese community gathers often at this odd spot to slurp down dumplings and Chinese doughnuts. My favorite, though, is the noodle dish of cha chiang mein, with its thick, spaghetti-like noodles and rich bean paste sauce with a side of sliced cucumber.

Tasty China

585 Franklin Road S.E., Suite B-3 Marietta. 770-419-9849

This gem is one of the best Sichuan restaurants in the area, even though some of my favorites, such as the scallion bubble pancakes, left with the exit of chef Peter Chang years ago. Lots of things have changed since the restaurant first opened its doors, but it’s still hard to beat its fiery version of dan dan noodles, with spaghetti-like noodles, vegetables and lots of chili oil. Warming is a charitable description; four-alarming is more like it. The menu boasts other regional favorites as well as more Americanized dishes, too.

Cafe 101

5412 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-458-8883

Known for its excellent Sichuan and American-Chinese menu, Cafe 101 is almost as popular for its funky decor as for dishes such as super savory shrimp in garlic sauce with dried Chinese black mushrooms. The restaurant’s shaved ice dishes, drenched in sweetened condensed milk and served with fresh strawberries, kiwi and mango, are as much a draw as the rest of the well-crafted menu.

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