From Dahe Yang and chef Jiguo Jiang of Tasty China Jia opened in Ponce City Market last September. Along with Gu’s Dumplings (which has a much smaller menu – Jia’s refers to its own as a one hundred item menu), these may be the first Szechuan restaurants downtown. In one of the articles I read, they said that Dahe Yang had been wanting to open an in-town location for nine years. I, for one, am glad that he did. There are several Szechuan restaurants on Buford Highway or up I85, but in-town choices were lacking. For spicy Asian food, Szechuan cuisine hits the spot for me. Having a couple of options closer to home is a definite winner.
I was dining alone, so I took a seat at the bar. As I didn’t make it into the restaurant proper, I can’t comment on the interior, although they do have a patio that extends into the courtyard at PCM. The wait for table appeared to be about twenty minutes, on a rainy Thursday evening. It does look like a one hundred item (I didn’t count) menu with the focus on Szechuan cuisine, although it contains several American-Chinese dishes (like Mongolian beef and Kung Pao chicken) also.
To me, every cuisine has a dish or two that serve as the “litmus test” for a restaurant. For Szechuan food, it’s Shan City chicken – also known as chicken with chiles, Chongqing chicken or firecracker chicken.
So that was my order. They offered the choice of white or fried rice, and about ten minutes later this plate appeared. This dish had a more green than I’m used to, with a lot of cilantro, but the heat was right on. It was a very good dish.
The prices were a little higher than Buford Highway (or Tasty China), but I attribute part of that to the rent. And I was a little concerned that none of the servers were Asian, which is usually not a good sign, but the tastes were authentic.
While looking for an online copy of the menu, I found a hilarious Yelp review where someone was complaining about “one of the chicken dishes” and spending the entire meal picking out whole red chile peppers. I’m guessing that was a first visit to a non-strip mall (American) Chinese restaurant. There were also tons of reviews complaining that the “hot and numbing” dishes were hot. And numbing. Here’s a word of advice for those folks – just keep going to the Happy Golden China Buddha Dragon Garden and order sweet and sour chicken. You won’t be surprised there.