Friday, September 17, 2010

Spiced Right - Tasty China Revisited

So I've already written about Tasty China. And I love it. But with a new chef that everyone is raving about, I had to make it back to try some of his food. Peter Chang, one of the original chefs of Tasty China, is back after a break from the Marietta eatery. For a while there was rumor of him opening his own place in Atlanta and there was and still is so much buzz surrounding the guy, you'd think people were mistaking him for David Chang.

So I'm going to debunk the rumors right away. The food isn't any better with chef Chang in the house. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing considering how great their dishes already are. We went with a large group so I got to try some old and new plates, and a couple were outrageously good.
The Fish and Coriander rolls are a really great start to a meal. Light, delicate and flavorful, there ain't nothing wrong with these.
The Iron Griddle Chicken with Scalions is a spectacular mash-up of flavor and spice and is now my favorite chicken dish they serve. While I still love the Shan City Chicken, this just brings more flavor to the table without having to be fried (like many of Tasty China's great dishes).
The waitress also recommended the Crispy Beef (I think that's the name of it). Essentially beef is stuffed into Tofu skins, rolled into swirls and fried. This was a pretty unique creation, but not one of my favorites of the night.
My new absolute favorite is the Roasted Fish with Green Onion and Pepper. The fish was prepared to the utmost perfection; Crispy, spicy crust surrounding the most tender, moist and flaky fish.

I actually thought the dried fried eggplant wasn't as good as its previous incarnation. The eggplant was cut too thickly and didn't pack the crunch, or flavor, of the original rendition. I don't know whether to attribute this to an off night or Chef Chang's twist?

Mushrooms up front, eggplant in the back

The dried fried mushrooms were delicious. Meaty, slightly gamey, and just the right amount of chew, I'd gladly substitute these for any number of fried snacks or even popcorn at the movie theatre. Addictive.

Midway through the meal, someone ordered the pan-fried bread. While it was a nice change from the spice, I felt the onion-filled bread was just average. Pung Mie used to have one that was really terrific and this one just couldn't measure up.
The peppery aftermath

You might not be able to tell from the picture above, but I thought the food was not as spicy as it has been in the past. I actually appreciated that Chef Chang harnessed the powerful Szechuan peppercorn and used it more deftly than the previous chef. This allowed for a greater appreciation of the food, while still having to reach for ones water glass regularly.

I'd really put more hype on the owner, Phoung than chef Chang. She is so personable and makes the dining experience fun. She also makes great suggestions. The last few times I've been, she was not there - does anyone know if she's OK?

Tasty China on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 13, 2010

Battle Sandwich - Sawicki's vs. Star Provisions vs. Super Pan

I've been a bad blogger. To say I was uninspired couldn't be further from the truth; I've had a number of terrific and a couple of not so stellar meals in the past few months. However, I just haven't gotten around to writing anything about them. I won't bore you with the other goings on in my life, so with out further adieu, here is my first review in a month.

In this entry I will be comparing three of Atlanta's gourmet sandwich shops. With sandwiches hovering around the $10 mark, it's truly a testament to how many rich-folk there actually are that three sandwich shops of this caliber can stay in business in this economic downturn. And while I would generally scoff at a $10 sandwich for lunch, you can't help but notice the quality of ingredients and careful preparation of each of the contenders in this battle.
You may remember my last review of Star Provisions (Provisions To Go). I've found that one's experience at SP is directly influenced by one variable - the item ordered. Do yourself a favor and just order the Shrimp Po'Boy. It is absolutely the best sandwich I've ever had. Six freshly fried jumbo shrimp line the bakery fresh hoagie roll. Every single ingredient symphonically melds in this masterpiece and the quality couldn't be higher. The buttery, soft bread. The creamy and flavorful cajun remoulade/mayonaise. Those 6 fresh, enormous, crunchy, perfectly seasoned and succulent shrimp. It's just too good. At $9.95, it's a steal - you can't even get 6 shrimp this size anywhere in Atlanta.
Not my most appetizing picture to date...

Other honorable mention goes to Provisions To Go's chicken sausage biscuit. Only available on Saturdays, the over-sized biscuit (cats don't have heads this large) is extremely flavorful and topped with housemade preserves whose sweet notes balance out the salty sausage patty and biscuit. Other items at SP have been hit or miss.
Being tempted by yet another Shrimp Po'Boy, I made it out to Decatur's epicurean sandwich stand (and deli counter), Sawicki's. Their version of the Shrimp Po'Boy is very good but just can't stack up to SP's. Four medium sized, freshly fried shrimp are served on a baguette. While the green's are nicer than Star Provision's the flavor and textures just can't measure up. Sawicki's shrimp just aren't seasoned as well and they don't hold up against the tougher bread choice.
I also had a chance to sample Sawicki's "Definitive Cuban." This version of a cuban was excellent and the mildly sweet, and almost greasy bread was outstanding. The filling ingredients were also terrific but I have one complaint. When looking at a crossection, the pickles took up an equal amount of space as the meat. That bothered me. While the pickles were outrageously delicious, I think thinner slices would really put this sandwich over the top.
Lastly, I made it over to Hector Santiago's latest entry into the gourmet sandwich game - Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop (whew that was a moutful). While I've only had one sandwich there, the hype surrounding this joint is incomprehensible. I mean seriously, every blogger is dangling from Hector's unmentionables like some foodie groupie whores. While the ingredients in my sandwich were undeniably high quality, the flavor and particularly moisture were lacking. The medio dia (the shop's signature and highly touted sandwich) was on a very narrow, very dry pineapple (I couldn't taste any) roll. The berkshire pork was completely dried out and underseasoned but the pork cracklin was a delicious stroke of genius as were the slightly spicy chayote pickles. They also wrap their sandwiches in banana leaf prior to putting them on the press, which is also a nice touch. I would have to say that the hype is unwarranted for this $11 sandwich.

While both Sawicki's and SP's sandwiches warrant the big price tages, the Shrimp Po'Boy at Provisions to Go reigns supreme in this battle. You don't even have to take my word for it- get over there and try it for yourself - it's one of the best items I've ever eaten. The Po'Boy is definitely worth mingling with some of the snooty clientele.

Star Provisions on Urbanspoon
Sawicki's Meat Seafood and More on Urbanspoon
Super Pan on Urbanspoon