It's only been two weeks since the criminally-underappreciated Frank Ma's closed, and we really miss those soup dumplings and chive dumplings. Not to mention Frank and Amy Ma, who are my _other_ set of Chinese in-laws. And their full Taiwanese breakfasts on Saturdays.
But we've found a replacement that (in some ways) surpasses the original. On Sunday, Mrs. Levine and I met the Druckers at Chef Liu's 劉姐美食鄉. The street address is 5221 Buford Highway in Doraville-- it's the tiny freestanding structure in the middle of the Pine Tree Plaza parking lot.
According to Steve, Chef Liu was responsible for developing recipes for Frank Ma's dumpling chef. (see Steve's recent post at [BROKEN LINK REMOVED])
We ordered way too much food, but everything was absolutely authentic and truly sublime. And extremely reasonable-- we spent $40 on a feast that could have easily fed six. There's a short one-sided menu of mostly dumplings and noodles, with most dishes translated into English. According to the Chinese side of the menu, they serve breakfast all day, from 9ish to 9ish.
The soy milk was freshly made, and both the cold & sweet and hot & salty versions were as they should be. These beverages were the perfect complement for some unbelievably flaky baked turnip-strip buns 蘿蔔酥餅 (a Chinese-menu item, only available on weekend), and cold noodles marinated in sesame paste.
We proceeded to work our way through a steamer of Tientsin steamed pork buns (not the crispy bottomed kind, but we'll order those next time), and one order each of boiled shrimp (actually, pork and shrimp) dumplings and bitter greens (actually, pork and pickled greens) dumplings. All the fillings were uniformly excellent, the skins were perfectly hand-rolled, and the dumplings were hand-made.
And I need to devote an entire paragraph to Chef Liu's soup dumplings, which were bigger and fatter than Frank Ma's, with intensely flavored broth on the inside. If you're anywhere within a 100-mile area, you need to drive to Chef Liu's and eat these immediately. I haven't had soup dumplings this good anywhere in North America.
In the fried dumpling department, we ordered the Pork Cake 京都肉餅, a thin flat pastry shell stuffed with chopped pork seasoned with five spice and a plate of chive dumplings (I had no room left, but the Druckers and Mrs. Levine raved about them). The scallion pancakes were similarly excellent and flaky. Next time, we'll have to order the version folded over a fried egg.
I lived in Taiwan for two years, and I can vouch for this place's authenticity. It reminds me of a breakfast place in my old neighborhood in Taipei, and the service and ambiance was distinctly Taiwanese, down to the sliding-glass door that served as the entrance.
Too good for Atlanta? Perhaps, but this place eminently deserves your business, and it will satisfy all your Frank Ma's (or Taipei) cravings.