If you were a fan of recently closed Frank Ma's in Chinatown Square in Chamblee on New Peachtree Road not too far from Buford Highway and Chamblee Dunwoody Road...you are in luck.
China Kitchen, a stall in the Chinatown Square food court, is owned by Frank Ma's ex dumpling chef and his wife--one of Frank Ma's former wait staff who you are likely to recognize the moment that you walk up to the counter.
China Kitchen serves Frank Ma's EXACT menu, which lays on the counter. Its no coincidence that the food is as good as ever, as Frank himself is working with China Kitchen's owner helping him to get the dishes just right. I understand that China Kitchen's name in Chinese is in fact, the same as that of Frank Ma's.
A few days ago at lunch we had those superb soup dumplings, 'Koutieh' (pronounced sort of like 'gautier')--cigar shaped fried pork dumplings; beef noodle soup -- flat noodles in a deep brown beef stock rich with star anise; a Shanghai dish new to me--fresh soy beans with preserved vegetables and pressed dried tofu; and the obligatory onion cake which was better than ever. (actually, we had two orders each of the onion cake and Koutieh, one went so fast we had to re-order). Next time will definitely try the 'water dumplings' (i.e. boiled dumplings), they looked compelling as they went by.
Prices are reflective of the food court's ambience--about 30% less than on Frank Ma's old menus.
In the last week we also tried the Home Style Tofu and 3-cup Chicken which were both 'comme il fait', and the dry sauteed string beans, another keeper. Also the 'Pork Meatballs' (aka 'Lionshead')--delicate, with star anise, bok choy and very thin rice noodles: winter comfort food of the highest order.
What was interesting was that this time the Home Style Tofu was in a flavor complex red sauce with elephant ear mushroom, very different from the rather blah brown based sauce that bathed it during opening week.
Yes, yes, I pine for the relaxed mien and laid back ambience that Frank and Amy Ma maintained in their dining room. That, and the great food is what combined to make Frank Ma's so singular.
But China Kitchen is now serving that same great food. And those great prices, they don't hurt either. If you go on Sat at lunch, I understand that there is a good chance that you can say hello to Amy Ma, who often helps out at the counter during the busy lunch.