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Gu’s Bistro Restaurant Review, Doraville

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Gu’s Bistro occupies a quiet corner in a nearly deserted Buford Highway shopping center. It is the only dull aspect of this stellar Sichuanese restaurant. Owner and head chef Yiquan Gu is a native of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province in China. He brings 33 years of experience to the kitchen and was head chef at Sichuan House in Johns Creek before he and Yvonne Gu, his front-of-the-house manager and daughter, settled at the Buford Highway spot.

Review by Gene Lee

Review by Gene Lee

You might be intimidated by the massive amount of food listed single-space on a multiple-page menu. Don’t be. The trick in ordering Sichuanese dishes is to vary the textures, proteins and spice levels (spice can be adjusted on any dish upon request). And then add starches and vegetables to the mix, which helps provide balance to the meal. You should visit Gu’s Bistro in a group (the larger the better) for an optimal dining experience.

If it is spice you are looking for, try the Chongqing spicy chicken ($12.95), nuggets of batter-fried chicken, served with an abundance of red chiles and toasted Sichuan peppercorns in a wicker basket lined with foil. Dive in unabashedly if you want to experience “ma la,” the sensation of numbing your palate with tingle-inducing peppercorns to soften the spice blow from the chiles. The Sichuan -style boiled fish fillet ($12.95) – silky ivory slivers of tilapia simmered in a tangy broth and red chile oil – is also an exercise in spice tolerance.

If you want to take the heat down a notch or two, the must-haves include an appetizer of Chengdu-style cold noodles ($7.25) – a bowl of cold wheat noodles and raw sprouts flavored with crushed garlic, sweet soy sauce and chile oil. Also wonderful: a dish of sweltering eggplant chunks ($9.95) stuffed with ground pork and glossed with a thick, gooey garlic-ginger sauce.

Weekend dim sum selection (photos by Becky Stein)

Weekend dim sum selection (photos by Becky Stein)

Tea-smoked duck ($14.95) is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes and rightfully so. A mixture of tea leaves – primarily jasmine – is used to smoke a whole duck, which is then hacked into chunks and served bone-in. The duck has a sharp, smoky odor, and its rich and salty flesh complements the sweet and nutty house-made bean paste made with peanuts and sesame oil.

On weekends, the restaurant prepares a prix fixe dim sum feast ($15 per person) that can be reserved for a minimum party of 10 people. If this reservation requirement has been met, Gu’s will notify its Facebook and Twitter followers (www.facebook.com/gusbistroatlanta and twitter.com/gusbistro) of a “dim sum party.” The event then becomes open to any party size as long as customers make reservations and can arrive at the same time as the large party.

Tea-smoked duck

Tea-smoked duck

Unlike the more common Cantonese dim sum format in metro Atlanta, where carts of food are pushed around ripe for the plucking, Gu’s dim sum menu is predetermined and serves every participant the same dishes, which are brought to each diner one at a time. According to Yvonne Gu, the dishes are also served in traditional Sichuanese procession. She explained: “We typically alternate a spicy dish and a sweet or nonspicy dish so that the flavor of each dish is savored. The last dish is usually sweet or not spicy.”

On a recent, nearly two-hour dim sum experience, a bowl of spicy, chewy tofu intensely flavored with soy sauce served. Starchy dishes resembling congee (rice porridge) followed closely behind. Then a cool, thin bowl of peanut milk was given to refresh the palate. And then noodles, dumplings, sweet rice cakes, more noodles and more dumplings arrived – all varying in spiciness. Finally, a gooey bean powder-dusted rice cake sitting in a shallow pool of syrup concluded the meal. I counted 12 dishes altogether.

For the uninitiated, it will take multiple visits to scratch the surface of what Gu’s Bistro is capable of. But it is an enjoyable experience and one that should be shared with family and friends.

GU’S BISTRO
5750-A Buford Highway, 770-451-8118
3stars5 Food: spicy Chinese cuisine from  Sichuan province.
Service: attentive, helpful and knowledgeable of the extensive menu
Best dishes: tea-smoked duck, Sichuan -style boiled fish fillet, eggplant with ground pork, Chengdu cold noodles, prix fixe dim sum experience on weekends
Vegetarian selections: Lots of vegetarian fare such as tofu, eggplant, mushrooms and lotus root prepared in a variety of styles. A condensed vegetarian menu is available on request and on the restaurant’s website.
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; dinner, 4:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-
10:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays
Children: yes
Parking: in lot
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: low
Patio: no
Takeout: yes

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23 comments Add your comment

Colin

June 9th, 2011
8:37 am

I think you have the wrong address for this. This address is for Crawfish Shack.

Gene Lee

June 9th, 2011
9:39 am

Edward

June 9th, 2011
10:05 am

I will have to try this to see how it compares to another of my favorites, Man Chun Hong.

Zeek

June 9th, 2011
10:14 am

It’s better than Man Chun Hong or even Peter Chang’s. My favorite dish is the Cumin lamb, no gamey smell and the meat is so tender. I tried the cumin lamb at a newly reopened Chinese restaurant on Buford Highway and was so disappointed when comparing the dish to Gu’s Bistro. Gu’s Bistro has much leaner lamb and a better taste. When you eat at Gu’s, you’ll immediately notice all the ingredients are so fresh.

Guy

June 9th, 2011
10:26 am

Gu’s Bistro is amazing! It’s the best Sichuan cuisine in Atlanta hands down.

daniel

June 9th, 2011
10:56 am

I was wondering Gene if your “international” food critiques are limited to just Asian and Spanish cuisine? I read all of the food critic sections and was originally happy to have a focused section on international cuisine. However, you have limited yourself to only a few types of food. I am highly dissapointed.

Gene Lee

June 9th, 2011
11:09 am

@Daniel – The readers and I appreciate how you neatly labeled the vast array of cuisines offered in metro Atlanta as “Asian” and “Spanish.”

But if you want to generalize, “Asian” is fine but “Latin” would be more appropriate for dining in the region. Spanish is a very particular European cuisine that has influenced the Latin culture but is unfortunately — mostly — nonexistent here.

But again, if you think I just focus on these two areas, perhaps you missed my previous reviews of:

Mirch Masala – Indian (but I can see how this could be lumped into “Asian”)
Papouli’s Mediterranean Café & Market – Greek/Mediterranean
Desta – Ethiopian

Otherwise, let me take a quick look at my other past reviews..

Spanishy
Havana South – Cuban
Las Arepas de Julia – Colombian
Folia Brazilian Steakhouse – Brazilian

Asiany
Tofu Village – Korean
Wong Kee BBQ & Peking Duck – Cantonese BBQ
Tempoe Doeloe – Indonesian
Mongkoltep Restaurant – Thai

You’re right, this does read as a “few types of food” if you generalize us Asians and Spaniards. But let me warn you, don’t tell a Chinese guy that Peter Cheng’s is Korean food and I don’t think you will find tacos at Havana South.

Joanne

June 9th, 2011
11:39 am

Gu’s is absolutely AWESOME! It’s in such a hidden place though, that my friends and I just hope and pray that it will stay in business. It has some of the best “Chinese” food I’ve ever eaten. We try to eat something different each time we go, but we always return to the cumin lamb and jumbo shrimp with walnuts and lets not forget the SOUP…..to die for! The last time we went we had chicken pieces on sticks. I’m not sure what it was called, but also SO VERY GOOD. It’s a must go place. Yvonne is a great hostess!

Me

June 9th, 2011
1:32 pm

Oh damn now it’s going to be busy there. And reviewer, how could you possibly skip the smoked twice cooked pork? As long as you like bacon, it’s to die for.

daniel

June 9th, 2011
2:54 pm

I realized after writing “spanish” that it was the incorrect term. I was referring to Latin inspired. I guess after reading your specific terms regarding each restaurant you review, I am a little better educated on the specific regions in which these should be categorized. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is astonishing that you could see how these could be clumped into a generalization. Not everyone is as savy as you Gene with their geographic expertise.

drummerpop

June 10th, 2011
9:23 am

Daniel – before you open your mouth to express your opinions concerning food, you need to fill it first with more diverse cuisines. Only then will you understand the broad difference and/or subtle nuances within these varying cuisines. That is what makes one “food savvy”. Until then, I will clump you into a generalized category – food obtuse.

Gene – love what you do. Keep up the informative work!

Question

June 10th, 2011
9:33 am

Where does international food like Italian or French get any love on here?

John Kessler

June 10th, 2011
9:45 am

Question: Italian and French restaurants are generally covered in the main reviews.

Gene Lee

June 10th, 2011
10:11 am

@Question – What John said.. Otherwise, I’m not opposed to it. I’m open for stories that work with my narrative and am always on the lookout.

Thanks.

foodphotog

June 10th, 2011
10:12 am

lol!! love how you educate readers, Gene. Thanks to you, I have enjoyed meals at a few of these ‘Asian/ Spanish’ restaurants. I appreciate the education received from your addition to the dine team. bravo.

Joe

June 11th, 2011
6:47 pm

Gene, nice and insightful review. Just a little curious. The review appears to be all positive, yet it only managed 3 stars? I have eaten at that place a ton and love it. I would say the food is 5 stars, at worst 4 stars. The service is extremely attentive and friendly for a Chinese restaurant. Did you mainly dock points for the unfavorable location? Or did you just mainly choose to focus on the positives? I am not all that familiar with the AJC scoring system.

Gene Lee

June 12th, 2011
7:34 am

@Joe – I’m not entirely in agreement that the food is 5 stars but it is some of the best in the area. In awarding stars we also have to consider the complete experience, which includes factors such as settings/decor, drink program, plating, service, etc. Gu’s received the highest rating I could give a restaurant that has no liquor license and so-so settings.

Kurt

June 12th, 2011
10:24 am

I live in Chamblee\Doraville and Gu’s is hands down my favorite Chinese place. One thing not mentioned here is the hot pot menu, which is separate from the regular menu and must be requested. You can choose various broths, meats and vegtables and they will cook in the pot on top of your table. This is especially fun if you have a group or just want a nice, relaxing meal to be shared with friends.

Joe

June 12th, 2011
11:48 am

Thanks Gene for the clarification. I read the review, everything was mainly positive but the rating was 3/5 stars which had me a little confused. The settings are simple and they don’t have a liquor license yet so now I understand the lower score.

Mike H

June 12th, 2011
11:56 am

Great review Gene! Just like with Peter Cheng’s, it’s good to read the reviews to have a starting point on what to order. Their menus can be intimidating.

I have a suggestion on the star ratings. I think you guys should leave the “empty” stars off. So with Gu’s Bistro, just show the 3 stars and leave out the two empty ones. 3 stars is actually a good rating but I think people tend to notice the empty 2 stars.

Susan

June 14th, 2011
7:20 pm

We tried Gu’s last weekend after reading this review. The service was terrible and the food was extremely disappointing. We ordered kung pao chicken, and they brought a dish that looked like lotus root (certainly there was not a drop of chicken in it). We told the waiter it was not what we had ordered. He disappeared for five minutes, and when he returned he said “the spices are the same, so why don’t you keep this dish”? When we refused, he begrudgingly returned with a chicken dish that was not spicy, had no peppers or peanuts, and was definitely not kung pao. The other dishes we ordered were mediocre (eggplant with basil in a very thick cornstarch sauce) and szechuan green beans (greasy and soggy). I would give it 0 stars.

[...] recently reviewed Gu’s Bistro, a delightful Sichuanese restaurant located in a shopping center off Buford Highway. In my review I [...]

Yvonne G

June 15th, 2011
6:57 pm

@Susan-I am Yvonne Gu from Gu’s Bistro. I am so sorry if it happened. We can’t make everyone satisfied, but definitely I don’t want any of our customer to be upset because of anything. I will find out what happened that night. Please contact me anytime you want. Our restaurant number is (770)451-8118, or you can email me: gusbistro@gmail.com Once again, I am very sorry. Yvonne