Two words – SOUP DUMPLINGS! For those that have been fortunate enough to find these elusive Chinese delicacies, there isn’t much better. In Chinese they’re called xiaolongbao, and they’re perfectly cooked, super thin pockets of dough that house seasoned pork; one bite and your mouth is flooded with tasty broth that has simmered for hours under the care of masters. There are very few places that do them, and even less that do them well; Joe’s Shanghai in NYC is probably the most well-known and until last week the only really good ones I have had.
Enter Chef Liu, a little outpost on Buford Highway that just moved to a larger location, and purportedly is putting out a higher quality dumpling now that they have a bigger space to work with.
Their menu is pretty large and has everything from small plates like spicy sliced beef and leek pie to the aforementioned dumplings, soups, noodles and traditional Chinese dishes like smoked duck. However the dumplings are the draw and they have over 20 different kinds that fall into three main categories: steamed, pan fried and soup dumplings (they call them “Juicy Steamed Dumplings” and that they are)! I made a pretty decent version them myself a few weeks back if you’re interested or want to take a stab at trying to make them yourself (http://bit.ly/AbzCr4)!
We tried six different kinds of dumplings; four steamed (shrimp, pork, crab, shrimp w/ leek) and both of the aforementioned Juicy Steamed (there are only two kinds), crab and pork! The steamed pork was ridiculously good and came with a salty soy based sauce that I sopped up with the rest of the leek pie!
We also tried the three cup chicken, fish with tofu, and cool spicy noodles from the main menu. They were all just average however. The spicy noodles were probably the best of the trio and had an interesting flavor, but weren’t too spicy.
Besides the dumplings, the first page that had the small plates offered some great dishes like the eggplant with garlic, a really unique leek pie and an incredible Mongolian pork cake. The cake was sweet and savory and had a great crispiness that provided a nice bite to the perfectly braised pork; I could have easily had two of these to myself…and they were only $2.50!!!
The eggplant with garlic had great flavor and reminded me of a dish at Canton Cooks and Tasty China.
Last but not least was the leek pie, something I have never seen, which was like a little veggie pastry stuffed w/ noodles!
All in all, Chef Liu was a great experience; good service, good for groups and the food was pretty good. I would stick with the dumplings and some of the small plates for the best experience, and the Juicy Dumplings are a must!