Monday, January 3, 2011

Atlanta Restaurant Preview: Peter Chang's

The elusive Peter Chang is back! The Chang-er has been bouncing around the southeast for years, much to the chagrin of his devoted followers. Mr. AT and I were lucky enough to catch a rare Tasty China appearance last year, and our luck continued as we got an invite to a media dinner at his new venture, Peter Chang Chinese Cuisine in Sandy Springs. 

Chang used a translator to chat with the crowd of PR peeps, bloggers, journalists, and a Top Chef alum. Just as during our previous meeting, Chang was all smiles and decked out in full chef regalia, including a giant chef's hat. Love. Him.

Snow peas
The  meal was a free for all with plate after plate coming out to our tables, placed on a lazy susan, vaguely explained in broken English, and quickly scarfed down whether we knew what it was or not.

This is not your momma's Chinese food. They certainly have some dishes you'll recognize, like sweet and sour fish, a mild flavored crystal shrimp and simple veggie dishes like snow peas. But who needs to schlep to Sandy Springs for that? Much more exciting, and totally worth the drive, are the dishes you don't see elsewhere.

Crystal Shrimp

Chang is a big fan of numbing peppers, which is a unique sensation for most American diners. It's not jalapeno hot, rather it inspires a pleasantly numb feeling that allows you to chow down without overheating. The spicy cilantro beef was just such a dish. Definitely some heat, but nothing even a wuss like me couldn't handle. Many of Chang's best dishes are chock full of flavor and heat - there's nothing subtle about these dishes.

Spicy cilantro beef
Other dishes, like the tofu skin stuffed with sticky rice, pork, and mushrooms are incredibly subtle but still oh so tasty. This dish didn't sound that exciting, but it was in fact one of my favorites of the night.The earthy potatoes and hot seasoned rice were comfort food Chang style.

Tofu skin stuffed with sticky rice, pork and mushrooms
Fried pork belly
Speaking of favorites, fried pork belly was exactly as awesome as it sounds. Ever wished for Asian pork rinds? Here you go. Brady Lowe was sharing wines from his personal stash with us, but I can imagine that this dish would be pure bliss with an ice cold beer.

Smoked tofu

A huge surprise for me was perhaps my favorite dish of the meal - smoked tofu. I am an avowed hater of food that imitates other food, so tofu is usually on my no-go list. But I'll be darned, this tofu had such a lovely texture and pleasing taste, that it was the only dish I took seconds of. Wow! Think you don't like tofu? Definitely try this dish.

Not ever dish was a hit. My table lamented the lack of fish in the sweet and sour fish, but considering the bacchanal we experienced, even that wasn't that bad. It just tasted like fried dough and sweet and sour sauce, which all things considered isn't all that terrible.

A few of the dishes were dim sum classics such as pork dumplings and sesame balls with red bean paste for dessert. Mr. AT and I love us some dim sum so these were welcome dishes if not particularly original. I especially love the texture of sesame balls because they have a chewy sweetness so unlike nearly anything else you've ever eaten outside of Chinese food.

Sesame balls with red bean paste

Peter Chang's just opened on December 18, but he's not known for his longevity at a given restaurant, so I suggest you high tail it out there before it's too late. The restaurant is airy and comfortable in a 80's suburban  kind of way and has notably better ambiance than Tasty China.Considering the hype that Chang creates whenever he lands somewhere, I consider us lucky indeed to have his eponymous outpost in the ATL.

Salivating yet? Here is some more food porn for your viewing enjoyment...

Tofu skin with chili oil and cilantro
Peter's Rolls
Cumin lamb chops over fried onions

Sesame oil chicken
Our waitress serves up pork and taro soup

An interesting note - if you look up the Chang-er on Wikipedia, that is Mr. AT's arm next to him.

Peter Chang's 
6450 Powers Ferry Road
Sandy Springs, GA



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