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.**
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 Atlantacuisine.com, 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.
The onion pancake was expertly prepared. Flaky, light, and crisp. A paragon of the dish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Hours: Lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays.
Payment: Cash and credit