Restaurant Review: Masterpiece

posted on August 17, 2015 at 11:32 am
Beef and carrot steamed dumplings with wrappers made with carrot juice. Photo by Eric Meadows

Beef and carrot steamed dumplings with wrappers made with carrot juice.
Photo by Erik Meadows

n 2006, Tasty China opened and chef Peter Chang transformed how our city views Chinese food. Our Chinese-food-loving population was collectively awakened from its Cantonese coma with a spicy slap to the face and it hurt so damn good. While Tasty China ignited Atlanta’s love for “ma la” (the hot and numbing flavors of Sichuan cuisine), one chef, who also worked at Tasty China after Chang moved on, is showing us the essence of truly skilled Sichuan cooking.

That chef is Liu Ri, a native of Harbin in northeastern China. He opened Masterpiece in a nondescript commercial strip in the desolate northern reaches of Buford Highway in Duluth last summer. His decision to name his restaurant Masterpiece seems borderline humble. Nearly 30 dishes in, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this chef’s talent, which begs the question: Why mourn the departure of Peter Chang when we have someone as gifted as Liu Ri hiding in plain sight?

Christiane Lauterbach of Knife & Fork newsletter and Atlanta Magazine has called Liu Ri a “master chef” on par with a Michelin-starred chef. When Lauterbach interviewed him through a translator for an Atlanta Magazine piece, the chef told her of how he came to the States on a special visa for people with “extraordinary skills” and of cooking for Chinese officials and dignitaries back in his home country where he is a highly decorated chef. Many of those awards, accolades, and photos of his life back in China hang on the wall of his tiny restaurant.

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