Avoid­ing the kitchen? Where to go, what to eat this hol­i­day

GA Voice - - OUT SPOKEN -

Christ­mas comes but once a year—and thank God for that. I’ve long ad­vo­cated that Christ­mas be­come a cen­ten­nial hol­i­day, but that would wreck the econ­omy and re­duce the an­nual in­ci­dence of fam­ily fights, bouts of de­pres­sion, and mu­sic from Hell. We can’t have that.

And then there’s the meal, which of­ten reprises Thanks­giv­ing’s tur­key. Does any­one really want two tur­keys within a month of each other? Hap­pily, there are al­ter­na­tives to tur­key and home din­ing. This year a huge num­ber of restau­rants open for Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day, so you can pretty much eat wher­ever and what­ever you’d like. Me? As a lapsed Chris­tian, for many years I’ve joined Jewish peo­ple and headed to a fa­vorite Chi­nese restau­rant.

Here are a few of the best tried-and-true au­then­tic Chi­nese restau­rants in town. (I do rec­om­mend you call th­ese restau­rants be­fore head­ing out.)

Chef Liu.

This restau­rant has drawn raves since the year it started busi­ness in a trailer in a park­ing lot. The big draw is the dumplings—par­tic­u­larly the soup dumplings. No, they are not dumplings float­ing in soup. They are del­i­cate clumps of dough filled with sea­soned pork and an amaz­ingly rich pork broth. There are 20-odd va­ri­eties of dumplings, and that’s pretty much all I eat here, but you’ll find plenty else, like a leek pan­cake. Warn­ing: I’m not very fond of the noo­dle dishes.

ford Hwy., 770-936-0532.

Tasty China.

5283 Bu-

This restau­rant has un­der­gone one drama af­ter an­other in re­cent years, but its hot-and-spicy Szechuan cui­sine keeps it on top. If you’re un­fa­mil­iar with Szechuan cook­ing, it em­ploys hot and numb­ing chilies. The heat burns but is cut off by the numb­ing. You’ll eat and eat. Fa­vorites: mapo tofu, fried egg­plant, dan dan noo­dles … any­thing else.

585 Franklin Rd., Ma­ri­etta, 770-419-9849, www.tastychina.net.

Can­ton House.

Ar­guably, this restau­rant still re­tains the ti­tle of best dim sum in the city. Be­sides the con­stantly rolling carts of of­ten mys­te­ri­ous but al­most al­ways de­li­cious dishes, there’s a reg­u­lar menu of mainly fa­mil­iar dishes. I re­cently had a fan­tas­tic lob­ster cooked with gin­ger and scal­lions here for only $20. Can­ton House is cer­tainly the most “vanilla” of the restau­rants listed here.

4825 Bu­ford Hwy., 770-936-9030, www.can­ton­house­r­estau­rant.com

Mas­ter­piece.

I wrote about this restau­rant a few months back. It is still gar­ner­ing raves and many re­gard it the best Chi­nese restau­rant in the city now. So, yeah, it’s worth the drive, but ab­so­lutely call ahead. Much of the food here is Szechuan, like Tasty China’s, but much milder than the usual. I’m still crav­ing the blocks of pork belly in rice-wine sauce and the best Kung Pao chicken I’ve ever tasted. But you can’t go wrong here—un­less you’re look­ing for el­e­gant am­biance. The din­ing room is min­i­mal­ist. Like, there’s noth­ing there.

3490 Bu­ford Hwy., Du­luth, 770-622-1191.

Har­mony Vege­tar­ian Chi­nese Restau­rant.

It’s true that a vege­tar­ian can eat well at al­most any Chi­nese restau­rant. But Har­mony does more than just serve veg­gies straight up in a sauce. In­stead, it cooks tra­di­tional meat dishes with var­i­ous tex­tur­ized meat sub­sti­tutes. So you can get all your fa­vorites, like fake eel with broc­coli. Yeah, really. Hon­estly, I’m not a big fan, but lots of peo­ple love the place. I can for sure rec­om­mend the mys­te­ri­ous curry pock­ets, a won­der­ful starter. Then you can move on to the faux chicken, lamb, fish and pork.

4897 Bu­ford Hwy., 770-457-7288, www.har­monyveg­e­tar­ian.com.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a long­time At­lanta food critic and for­mer psy­chother­a­pist who now spe­cial­izes in col­lab­o­ra­tive life coach­ing (404-518-4415), www.cliff­bo­stock.com.

Mas­ter­piece’s Kung Pao Chicken (Photo via Face­book)

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