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Peter Chang's Restaurant

50% off Peter Chang's Restaurant
The Scoop: He's been the obsession of Sichuan-addicted chowhounds for years, teasing us with just...
The Scoop: He's been the obsession of Sichuan-addicted chowhounds for years, teasing us with just a taste of his cooking and hitting the old dusty trail the very next day, leaving no clues of his next destination. Hundreds of words have been written in ode to Peter Chang, that mysterious chef who alights upon generic Westernized Chinese restaurants and shows 'em how to work those famous peppercorns, only to notoriously disappear after working his magic. Those words include praise, adoration, and even mopey "come back to us!" tomes that read a bit like a spurned ex. They must have worked, because after years of teasing everyone from Atlanta to Fairfax, Virginia, the elusive chef seems to have settled down -- at least for a little while -- with his namesake restaurant on Powers Ferry. If you're looking for the type of bland, sticky, Westernized fare that you'd find in a pre-Changified "Chinese" restaurant, look elsewhere. This is inarguably the real deal. We can only hope Chang decides to stick around for a little while... but hit it up while you can, just in case.

Chang's culinary specialty, besides inspiring dogged hoardes of devotees to track his whereabouts, centers around home-style Sichuan dishes. It's the kind of food you'd be served if invited into his home, he told me (via his manager and translator, Dahe. Thanks, Dahe!). And if you stick to the Sichuan menu, it's also the kind of food that comes closest to "face-melting" that I've ever tried. That would be ma la, the hot and numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorn. Those little suckers, sprinkled on a hot plate of beef or tossed in with dry-fried mushrooms, look innocent enough -- like tiny brown Pac-Men. But don't be fooled. While not terribly hot, they will actually numb your mouth, in a strange sensation that some people probably pay lots of money to experience in illegal situations. The gratinating steak, covered in heaps of chili peppers and peppercorns, had me alternately begging for mercy and crying tears of joy (or pain), and it was worth every one of the six glasses of water I consumed thereafter.

If face-melting isn't what you're after, there are plenty of options that will leave your tastebuds intact (and begging for more). In finally settling upon a home for his culinary skills, Peter Chang has also settled into home-style cooking, which you can find on the "Chinese Local Dishes" (we're guessing it's not "lo-cal dishes"). The fried bamboo fish, Hunan stir-fried lamb, and deep-fried smoked duck are just a handful of the dishes that Dahe points to as house favorites, best enjoyed in the restaurant's prime riverfront seating. And in case you're wondering, yes, there is an "American Chinese" section of the menu, complete with General Tso's, sesame chicken, and their ilk. But you don't go to a chocolate shop looking for a Kit-Kat, do you? Stick to the real-deal menu and soak up Chef Chang's cult-worthy culinary talent while we still have him. You'll forever be a chang'd person.

Menu Highlights:
Peter Rolls, $3
Crispy Pork Belly, $8
Dry-Fried Mushrooms, $8
Sichuan-Style Baked Lamb, $28
Mixed Seafood in Clay Pot, $20
Spicy Fragrant Duck, $17
Hot & Numbing Hot Pot Combination, $17
Shan City Chicken, $13

Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

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