First lmpression: Frank Ma returns

posted on January 8, 2008 at 1:22 pm
**Update (6/10/08): The Mas and their chef are no longer at the restaurant. Please take this into account should you visit.**
Frank Ma's: Chamblee
When Frank Ma’s restaurant closed in September of 2005, his devoted patrons were devastated. Whenever friends and I would debate where to go for Chinese, those in the know would lament, “I wish Frank Ma’s was still open!” Well, their prayers have been answered. Steve Drucker, a former restaurateur responsible for such finds as Chef Liu and Tasty China, reported on, that Frank Ma’s would be reopening a week ago. Ma fans around Atlanta could barely contain their excitement.

I met Steve and some other friends for lunch yesterday—their first service since reopening. While I would not normally report on a restaurant’s opening day, I am confident talking about this place because Frank and Amy Ma are no strangers to the restaurant business (I believe they have had about 5 restaurants in Atlanta). The super-friendly couple kept trying to retire, but they always get pulled back in to the business. As our dining companions filtered in, Frank greeted those he knew with big hugs and lots of chatter. One of our table members recalled Frank teaching him how to use chopsticks at 6 years old and another talked to Frank about his family with the kind of familiarity you just don’t see much of these days. Through all of this, Frank had a massive smile on his face that never faded throughout our whole meal. It was all very endearing.

The restaurant has a Chinese buffet for lunch (which did not look half bad), but we chose to order the Shanghainese and Taiwanese specialties off the menu. Actually, Steve did the ordering which I was more than happy to step away from since he knows the menu so well (the menu and chef are the same as before according to Steve. As our dishes arrived, 5 pairs of chopsticks (and one lone fork) started darting around our table and the consensus was stupendous. In between snapping photos (a task considering I was the only gal at a table full of very hungry men), I sampled the dishes. I am not lying when I say everything was delicious. I literally could not find fault with anything.

The Shanghai soup buns (pictured above), probably one of my favorite things to eat in this world, were the first to arrive. I was so excited to have one that I didn’t wait for the bowl and spoon required to eat one and just grabbed it with my chopsticks causing me to lose much of the precious liquid. The paper-thin dumpling skins and flavorful filling were a welcome change to the frozen variety I’ve encountered around Atlanta lately.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee
The onion pancake was expertly prepared. Flaky, light, and crisp. A paragon of the dish.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

The Chinese broccoli was sliced into manageable pieces and just al dente enough. A little green among a sea of dumplings and meat is always a nice contrast.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

Slices of pork belly with leeks was another new dish for me. The soy-based sauce was silky and each slice of pork had the right amount of fat needed to make every bite a decadent dream for the pork lover in you.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

Pan-fried pork buns were a new dish for me. The dumplings were linked together and I did not know what to expect when I bit inside. The filling was luscious and juicy ground pork so hot I had to pace myself. Just gorgeous.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

The chive dumpling was another example of the kitchen’s excellent skills. A light skin filled with scrambled eggs, noodles, and bright bursts of chives. I couldn’t get enough, but they were gone before I knew it.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

Sliced fish in hot oil (the one dish I requested we order) was probably my favorite. The fish was confit-like and had the slightest hint of spice. Szechuan peppercorns maybe? This is a must order. Just make sure you place a little rice in your bowl to catch the juices from the fish. Stunning.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

Three-cup chicken was a new dish for me. I was expecting it to be salty, but the dish had a pleasant sweetness (without being cloying) and the pieces of chicken were caramelized and very tender. I also enjoyed the whole cloves of garlic, which I ate more than my share of. A must-order dish.

Frank Ma's: Chamblee

Lions Head (pork meatballs), served over bok choy, looked like they’d be heavy, but the egg whites made them incredibly light and full of flavor.

Verdict: Frank Ma is back and I think I am already addicted. The Chinese restaurant Atlanta has been missing and it was the original chef. The restaurant will be open every day this week, but will revert to being closed on Tuesdays next week. Get over there now.


*** The sign still says Dinho Restaurant, but will be changed to Da San Yuan***
Address: 5389 New Peachtree Rd., 30341
Phone:(770) 234-4885
Hours: Lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays.
Payment: Cash and credit
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  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Anonymous · January 8, 2008  6:17 AM

    Great review Bliss!

    Were you using the fork?

    How can anyone who claims to be a “foodie” not know how to use sticks?

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · January 8, 2008  6:38 AM

    LOL. Thanks. I can assure you I was not the “foodie” using a fork.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Anonymous · January 8, 2008  1:52 PM

    Great review and wonderful pictures! Do you use a smaller point-and-shoot camera or the pro gear? Whatever it is, the photos are awesome! Love your blog!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · January 8, 2008  3:43 PM

    A good blogger doesn’t give away their secrets 😉
    Thanks for reading!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Meagan · January 9, 2008  7:30 AM

    Just curious, what’s the price range there?

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · January 9, 2008  7:32 AM

    It is pretty cheap. We each paid $16 bucks (including tip) for all of the dishes and it was six of us.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: taztoni · January 13, 2008  8:46 AM

    My husband I are going to Frank Ma’s this evening and love cold beer with our spicy food. Do you recall if the serve beer.

    By the way I love your blog as well as your passion for korean, vietnemese and all the ethnics foods Buford Highway Foodie.


  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Sandra & Greg · January 18, 2008  9:32 AM

    Went a few nights ago and even printed out your post so that we could just show Frank what we wanted.
    The “lion’s head” meatball dish is truly the shizzle. That sauce ~ OMG!!!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: brad · January 21, 2008  4:36 PM

    Don’t worry about printing out the review. If you are nonasian, Frank Ma and his lovely wife will do the ordering for you ala Blissful Glutton. How easy is that? Thanks to Jennifer’s review, foodies must have been flocking to the place. Everything was great and maybe even better reheated! Especlally the pork belly I reheated in a skillet. I think next time I will order it well done! Mrs. Ma suggested snow pea tendrils which were DElicious. We can’t wait to go back and try the lamb with cilantro.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Anonymous · January 24, 2008  7:31 PM

    We went here tonite for the first time. I only intended to spend 20 bux we ended up spending 60 bux(including tip)! We got the Soup Pork Buns, Triple Chicken, the chinese version of cha ja mein(spelling?),hot and sour soup, onion pancake, and salt and pepper squid. Huge portions and great food!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Paulie · January 28, 2008  6:15 AM

    I went there on Friday for lunch and was somewhat surprised to see that there was only a buffet. A small, but dang tasty one at that. I think the price was around $6.50 which was a steal for what I ate. Probably not a great bargain for vegheads though seeing how the best portions contained meat.

    Thanks for the review, I shall return.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Andrew · January 28, 2008  4:33 PM

    With shots like this, I can assure the anonymous reader that these pictures are NOT simply from a point & shoot style camera!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Liz · February 8, 2008  4:13 PM

    Frank Ma’s is the best! The a poster above … bring your own beer – they don’t sell it.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: ed · April 23, 2008  4:27 PM

    gotta say, its very very very good, we went for the first time last week and had all the above mentioned dish’s, all superb, very good , going back on Friday!

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Anonymous · May 2, 2008  2:50 PM

    food is great, have been 5 times, crowds are variable, and ma said last night that business has not been good, impacted by economy, and they are struggling, hopefully this is not the case

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: ayan · May 10, 2008  2:29 PM

    We usually hit Canton House, China Delight, or Tasty China for Chinese (our Asian staple is actually Korean), but on a whim we stopped at Frank Ma’s today, based on your recommendation. The crowd was really light for a weekend, but then we got there at 2 pm, so perhaps we just missed the lunch rush.

    Amusing to scroll through your post, since we ordered the first three dishes pictured (well, yu choy instead of bok choy), plus the shredded beef in hot pepper oil. The yu choy was a hair salty, but swam in a delicious garlic broth. We scored “Westerner points” with the very friendly hostess – was that Ma Ma? – for correctly managing spoon and chopsticks for the soup dumplings without spilling them, and then for eating rice and beef from the rice bowls instead of mixing them on the plate.

    The food was as great as advertised. And if you get the shredded beef, roll it in slices of onion pancake – maybe heresy, but soooo good. Frank Ma’s has been added to the go-to short list.

  • Re: First lmpression: Frank Ma returns
    posted by: Anonymous · May 29, 2008  10:17 AM

    My husband and I ate at Frank Ma’s for the first time last night and it was by far the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. I love that Frank himself offers his guidance, making the slightly intimidating (because of it’s authenticity) menu Americano friendly. We will go back again and again and again…delightful!

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