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Omnivore - Exciting dim sum at Best BBQ

An exciting dim sum experience in an unlikely place

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It's weird that Atlanta offers such a mixed bag of dim sum restaurants considering the higher quality Chinese we have from regions such as Sichuan. A place will spike in popularity because a new recruit from somewhere in China with tons of training has come to work there, but then that guy leaves and the place is kind of average again. After a while, I stopped chasing the cart. But Best BBQ in Duluth (the sign just says "Cantonese Cuisine") has me very excited.

I'm not sure if it is the fact that my impatient self doesn't have to wait on carts or deal with any of that dreaded "dim sum cart stank" (you know, the weird metallic taste dumplings get from going round and round the dining room again). But this grocery store on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth holds the answer to my dumpling dreams: dim sum made fresh to order without waiting on carts.

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At Best BBQ, there are no fancy white tablecloths, fish tanks, shiny red covered chairs, and grandmotherly looking Chinese ladies pushing steaming carts. This is a different type of Chinese dining. You order at the counter of this food stall located within the Great Wall Supermarket (2300 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth, 678-957-0098, www.gw-supermarket.com) and then you find your table in the communal seating.

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Located at the end of the supermarket's food court, the stall looks a lot like a Cantonese barbecue vendor complete with the mahogany hanging ducks, planks of crispy pork, glossy honey barbecue pork, and soy sauce chicken. Like any good barbecue place, they serve 23 different bowls of clear-brothed soup filled with crinkly yellow noodles, tangles of barely cooked bok choy, and cuts of meat from the barbecue selection or other stuff like squid balls. Several options come with enormous, pale yellow shrimp dumplings. Piping hot after being submerged in the broth, the dumplings benefit from a little soy and chili sauces to balance out the sweetness of the shrimp.

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Best BBQ also serves 16 types of congee, chilled dishes packaged and ready to go on the counter, noodle dishes, and a separate menu of the kind of dishes you would get at a full-service restaurant. One of my favorite Cantonese dishes is very simple to make, but very hard to find well made. Here, the curly chow mein (L21) noodles have the separation, crispness, and interior tenderness one wants in such a dish. The soy sauce has penetrated the noodles enough to flavor them just slightly and the little perfect sticks of green onion and bean sprouts are just soft enough to calm their inherent bitterness. While it is hard to pull away from these noodles, the dry-fried beef chow fun was also good although it could have been a bit hotter to brown the beef and noodles more.

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There is a separate photo menu dedicated to dim sum, where you can find everything from crispy turnip cakes to Shanghai Soup Buns. As Kit Fenton of "Fried Chicken Lips" (the blog who turned us on to Best BBQ) pointed out, the dumplings with shrimp - whether a chive version or a simple har gao - were huge, as if there were two large tangled up shrimp in each one. Even the siu mai was larger than average and generous on the filling.

The shanghai soup buns were as good as any version I've had in Atlanta in recent memory. Each dumpling, while not as silky as it could have been, was filled with plenty of soup. Taro puffs were crunchy and the had a nice saucy ground meat mixture to counteract the wisps of fried taro. The large sheets of rice noodles filled with plump shrimp and drenched in sweet soy sauce were supple and delicious.

The best part about the entire meal - except for the lack of cart stank and super low prices - was that no one seemed to miss the sit-down dim sum experience.



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