In some of the chapters here over the last couple of weeks, we have spotlighted a few of the restaurants that have, happily and wonderfully, kicked down our biases and our preconceived notions about Chinese cooking. That’s not to say “out with the old,” permanently. Marie will, unaccountably, get occasional cravings for Golden-This-Happy-That stuff for the rest of her life, just as I will, equally unaccountably, get occasional cravings for El-This-Los-That Tex-Mex food for the rest of mine despite since learning to appreciate authentic cooking, because when you find a “favorite food” around the time that you’re in high school, it’s nigh impossible to get rid of it for good.
But I’ll tell you this for free: the next slow evening we somehow end up getting carry-out from some place with “Buddha” in the name that claims to serve Szechuan-style food when all they really offer is peppery iridescent glop over flavorless chicken, and every other similar slow evening for the next forty years when this happens, I’m going to question why we didn’t make the forty-six mile round trip to Gu’s Bistro in Doraville instead, because man alive, this place is fantastic.
It is in a completely bizarre strip mall a few traffic lights north of the perimeter. There’s a Burlington Coat Factory anchoring one end, and Gu’s is in the middle of the other, surrounded by wholesale outlets that sell handbags and sunglasses and marijuana-themed T-shirts to people with business licenses and tax IDs. I know this because they all have large signs taped to the doors announcing the rules. I’m certain that nothing ever falls off the back of a truck with businesses like this, certainly not.
Anyway, into this downmarket and amusing little strip of dying commercial space we went, Marie and me and the baby making three, to meet our friends Helen and Vincent. This was Gu’s last night open before taking a long vacation. They’ll be reopening on June 18 after a “second honeymoon” vacation in China for Chef Gu and his wife. When the Bistro opens its doors again, if you have never been before, you’re going to want to go and try this cumin-spiced lamb. Heaven have mercy, that is one amazing dish.
Dishes from the Szechuan tradition in China tend to be served without a sauce (there are, of course, exceptions), and spicier than dishes made from other traditions. Marie, who doesn’t care to have her food as spicy hot as I do, asked for her lamb a little less spicy than they usually do it. My order of Chongqing Spicy Chicken was considerably hotter, but not quite at painful level. It comes out on a little foil-covered bowl and I’d say that the chicken was drier than I’d prefer, but it was still flavorful and tasty. I had originally wanted to try the ma po tofu, but changed my mind at the last minute when I saw the photograph of the chicken in the menu.
We also shared one of Gu’s signature dishes. Now, the cumin lamb was mine and Marie’s favorite, but Helen’s order of tea-smoked duck was almost as good. We heartily recommend this. The mix of flavors was very pleasantly unusual and mild. It tasted and felt like it was made with lots of hands-on attention. That went for the entire meal; all of the servers were top-notch and all of the food was very good. We came expecting a very good experience and we certainly received one. When they open again next week, make tracks and have a great meal there.
Other blog posts about Gu’s Bistro:
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!