Cheap Eats - Delicious KabobTuesday March 10, 2009 04:00 am EDT
There is no better evidence of our superior ethnic dining scene than the proliferation of restaurants specializing in sub-cuisines. The newest hot spot is Delicious Kabob (3640 Shallowford Road, 770-457-4948), an off-the-beaten-path restaurant specializing in Northern Chinese and Szechuan dishes. Owner Zhiqiang Zhang hired one of Atlanta’s Chinese super-chefs, Lu Liu, and his partner, chef Beijing Yang, to oversee the menu. Chefs Liu and Yang hail from Northern China as do Zhang and his sister, Shomey, who runs the front of the house. But Liu is an expert at cooking most regional Chinese cuisines and took home the gold in a national Chinese cooking competition.
Northern Chinese fare dominates the menu. The lamb kebabs encrusted with cumin seeds and chili oil delight with a hint of game on the tongue, the crunch of char rife with the kiss of the fire and the seductive aroma of toasted cumin. Tofu skin with pepper plays on subtlety. Chewy pappardelle-like noodles made from crosshatched tofu skin — the film that forms atop tofu — are stir-fried with slender pieces of juicy pork and slivered green hot peppers. A clay pot filled with lamb stew with goji berries and dates hints at Morocco with the waft of clove and sweetness from the dates and chestnuts. The stew’s broth is slightly thickened with cornstarch (instead of time), but the flavor is there.
The Szechuan menu is small but strong. Paper-thin pieces of beef in the Szechuan crispy fried beef spiced with chilis and peppercorns are lightly breaded and wok-fried to a crisp. The Szechuan peppercorns, dried red chilis, cilantro and green onions perfume the meat and add that quintessential “ma la” heat (numbing and spicy). The chili- and green onion-laden broth in the fish boiled in spicy chili oil isn’t slick with oil, but just fatty enough to play against the confit-esque pieces of grouper and crunchy Napa cabbage. Comparisons to other Szechuan restaurants are inevitable. But this restaurant’s breadth of warming food and equally warm staff give it more than enough strength to stand on its own.