Monday, August 24, 2009

"Authentic" Eats in the A - Chef Liu's

When dealing with ethnic food, many times the term authentic is thrown around. It seems some folks think that if the meal isn’t prepared exactly like it is overseas or by someone from the country of origin, it just won’t be as good. This, logically, is not the case. There is both good sushi made by Hispanic sushi chefs and good Chinese food made by Koreans. What I’m getting at here is that authenticity does not necessarily equal delicious food. So then why do I find myself cruising Buford Highway? Was I unsatisfied with my Chinese options in my neighborhood? The honest answer is that I was looking for some more authentically tasty Chinese.

Buford Highway is Atlanta’s hotbed for authentic, or at least more authentic ethnic eats. It’s dotted with all sorts of Asian and Hispanic hotspots ranging from inexpensive pho-houses and taco stands to one of Atlanta’s most well respected and expensive sushi establishments - Sushi House Hayakawa. Chef Liu is more of the former - being a freestanding building (shack) in the middle of a shopping center’s parking lot. It even has sliding doors like a back porch!

Their specialties are less entree like and more appetizer style; what some and myself would refer to as street food. So the menu is adorned with soups, varieties of dumplings, buns, and noodles. I’ve had a number of things here now but my favorites include the Shanghai Juicy Steamed Pork Buns (aka soup dumplings), the French Cruller, the pan-fried Pork Dumplings, and now, the Beef Noodles Soup.

Back to my authenticity rant. There was a place that was famed in Atlanta for having the best soup dumplings and authentic Chinese fare around - Frank Ma’s Dinho. Frank was a consultant and Chinese restaurants around town would hire him to improve their menu and manage things. I went to Dinho and it just plain sucked. The soup dumplings were flavorless and the rest of the food was just meh. After Dinho, Frank moved to Chopstix (aka Frank Ma south) and while they didn’t have soup dumplings there, I had both a good and not so great experiences. So I stress, authentic does not equal good.

The soup dumplings at Chef Liu’s are phenomenal. They are served in a steam basket and always come out piping hot. The soup and interior meat is extremely flavorful and juicy and just hits the spot every single time. The skin never gets that gummy texture that can sometimes occur with steamed dumplings. These morsels are hard to find in Atlanta, and this would be my #1 suggestion for them.

The French Cruller is essentially a piece of fry bread. It’s light, airy and has the perfect combination of sweet and salty. I’ve seen many patrons ordering it with condensed milk (I think to spread on the bread) but we have yet to.

Beef Noodles Soup, who knew?! It’s the perfect combination of ingredients with very thick, long noodles interspersed with stewed chunks of beef and Chinese vegetables. I’m not a huge soup fan, but the broth was the most flavorful and delicious I’ve had in recent memory.

Kins is also a very big fan of the Lamb Kabobs here. They come out on skewers and are rubbed in primarily what I think is cumin. For my taste, they are a bit too fatty and oily but are tasty in small doses.

By the way, all four of these items totaled under $20. We were stuffed and didn’t even finish the soup. Another plus of BuHi eats.

I love Chef Liu and it is authentic. So here’s the deal. Next time you try a place on Buford Highway, before you go ranting and raving about it because it’s on Buford Highway ask yourself, “Was the food really up to snuff compared to other joints I’ve tried around town?” I feel that more often than not, people give added credibility to places on Buford Highway because of their proximity to Atlanta’s ethnic epicenter.

Lastly, there was a group of young “ladies” sitting next to us that were annoying as fuck. They were loud and somewhat obnoxious in the same way that running into a group of sorority girls screaming, “Wooooooooooooo! Margaritas!” at a Mexican joint are. Apparently one needed a pep talk to be coaxed into even coming to Chef Liu. I’m guessing she ordered Mongolian Beef? I kid. I kid. It’s just… I don’t know. Know your audience. If you’re coming to a small, quiet place, with slightly more exotic food than you’re used to, be humble. Don’t act like you’re at Nuevo Laredo Cantina jonesin’ for some Margaritas.

Hounds Tooth Caps - All the Rage

Chef Liu on Urbanspoon


  1. Interesting. I appreciate your rant on authenticity - I believe I've gone on about that myself. However I do take issue with Chef Liu's ( I've had nothing but terrible experiences there and was a big fan of Frank Ma's - his food was on par with what I experienced in China. But, that's part of the beauty of the variety we have on Buford Highway - there's really something for every taste.

    Good job on posting a picture of the d-bags acting up in the restaurant - I think I'll try that! I'm right with you on that one.

  2. I found your blog through a Google Alert I run. Glad to add a link.