Everyone and their brother has been raving about Frank Ma South as of late. I'd never heard of the Ma-ster (can I call you that, Frank?), but I've been living away long enough that I apparently missed out on his previous restaurant stints.
With high expectations, the boyfriend and I and our double date buds headed out to a nondescript Druid Hills strip mall. If you try to find Frank Ma South for yourself, be aware that it is still labeled as Wingnuts, and apparently there are still wings to be had there.
Frank and his wife actually greeted us, which is a nice touch. The dining room is hilarious in its rag-tag collection of seating. It felt more like poorly planned community center bar mitzvah seating than a much hyped restaurant, but I guess that's part of the charm of authentic ethnic restaurants.
I'd already read numerous write-ups on the place, so I figured I should try the dishes I've heard people rave about. I tried to get our waiter to give us some hints about what to try, but he wasn't giving anything up. I've heard Frank loves to get recs, but not this guy. We ordered the pan fried dumplings and scallion pancakes to start. Both were delicious. The dumplings were soft and crispy at the same time with savory filling. I could have eaten a couple plates of them by myself, but alas, I had to share.
For entrees we tried the three cup chicken which everyone keeps talking about, pork belly (served with some kind of onion-like veg that this naughty food reviewer should be able to identify but can't) and Chinese broccoli. So many enthralled food reviewers can't be wrong can they? The chicken was a flavorful combo of sweet and spicy, somewhat akin to General Tso's chicken, but the bite size pieces had bones in them, making them very hard to eat. I generally hate chicken on the bone because it's more trouble than it's worth. I pay chefs to de-bone for me! In this case, they were even harder than usual to eat because they were so small that each morsel only yielded a bit of meat. Tasty, yes, but a lot of effort and not really any better than the General Tso's I can get anywhere. The pork and broccoli were what I'll call "meh." Not bad, but not something I'd order again. There just wasn't that much flavor, and everything was the same semi-soft texture. I'm sure there's better on the menu.
Frank came by at one point to see how our meal is, and there is something immediately likable about him. He mentioned that he came out of retirement to open this restaurant, and he's only sticking around for a year to get it off the ground. I haven't read that bit in other reviews (but then again maybe I just wasn't paying attention), so perhaps that is some good scoop!
We enjoyed Frank Ma's, especially the dumplings, but I just wasn't as excited about it as others have been. I feel like I'm being a hard-ass, but it just wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Maybe I'm just not that into Chinese food, other than my beloved dim sum style dumplings? I'd like to try it again because I'm convinced that there is something to all the rave reviews, but I'll definitely be trying something other than the three-cups chicken and pork belly.
Pros: authentic dishes, well loved chef
Cons: doesn't quite live up to the hype, blah decor
Frank Ma South
2088 Briarcliff Rd
Atlanta, GA 31136