Movement among the chefs of Atlanta's Chinese restaurants is quite fascinating and entertaining to follow. Here’s how it goes down: Immediately after a restaurant’s popularity peaks, the chef jumps ship and is suddenly cooking down the street or, in the case of Tasty China’s original chef Peter Chang, another city. Poaching with the lure of higher paychecks is how it's inevitably done. But you can’t fault another restaurateur for seeking out the best.
Thus, the news that Wan Lai’s chef Danny Ting had moved to Bo Bo Garden (5181 Buford Highway, Pine Tree Plaza, 678-547-1881) was far from surprising. He had proven himself uniquely talented with the Cantonese/Hong Kong-style casseroles he served at Wan Lai along with his 14 years of experience in the industry. But, for now, chef Ting doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. He’s not only the chef at Bo Bo Garden, but also a partner with co-owners Kay Chan and Lynn Ng.
Chinese restaurants share another quirky commonality: the business hours. Most are open every day except for Tuesday. Ting says its because Tuesdays are the slowest business day. Well, Bo Bo Garden is breaking free from the norm with plans to stay open seven days a week and extend the hours until 1 a.m. during the week and 2 a.m. on the weekends.
Bo Bo Garden is located in a rather dapper space that formerly housed a Korean restaurant. Most of the fixtures — including a sushi bar and submerged hot pot cookers — remain. The owners have been toying with offering Cantonese hot pots when the weather cools. The current, enormous menu includes the aforementioned casseroles served at Wan Lai.
There are surprisingly few dumpling offerings considering Ting’s time at East Pearl in Duluth, which specializes in dim sum. But dumplings make an appearance in the “Three kinds dumpling,” a clear soup swimming with tender homemade pork, shrimp and vegetable dumplings. The “Duck leg noodle soup” takes more than two days to prepare. The combination of the dark and complex duck broth with muted notes of star anise, thin rice noodles, a large bone-in duck leg braised long enough for the meat to fall off the bone, and a touch of al dente bok choy is simply brilliant. The beauty of the “crispy garlic flavor chicken” lies in the texture and layering of flavors. The skin shatters like a potato chip, revealing juicy chunks of hacked up chicken and cloaked in chewy pieces of fried garlic, shallots and green onions. The “pepper salt pork spare-ribs” will seduce any pork lover. The chef marinates pieces of extremely marbled pork, coats them in a batter and fries them until the outside is crisp. The mound of pork chunks almost resembles sweetbreads in texture and the tang of the ubiquitous fried shallots, jalapeño slices and green onions brightens the dish considerably. A warning: This is meant for sharing as the portion is large and the flavors are entirely too rich for one person to consume.
Ting’s salt and pepper squid is crisp and tender with a little chew, and leaves that trademark layer of salt and spice on your lips. While the Hong Kong-style lobster is on the pricey side, it's a must-order when you’re feeling lavish. Fresh lobster — they bring the live lobster to your table for approval — is chopped into manageable pieces and stir-fried with a slightly spicy black bean sauce until the meat and shells are coated with a sweet and oniony glaze of umami goodness. They give you a miniature fork to pry the meat, but you’ll be using — and licking — your fingers by the end of the meal.
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