Taiwanese cuisine brings new flavor to Midtown

Photo Courtesy of Si L.

The Midtown Atlanta area has always has a shortage of traditional Asian cuisine. For smaller countries like Taiwan, restaurants solely featuring their fare has been non-existent inside the Perimeter, so when Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen, popped up this summer, our staff decided to give it a go.

JOE: I got the Lu Rou Fan. As a newcomer to Taiwanese cuisine and picky eater in general, I was pleasantly surprised by the relative simplicity of the dish. The dish consists mainly of a small bowl of braised pork on top of white rice, covered with a thin layer of cilantro and pickled radish and with a hard-boiled egg cooked in soy sauce on the side. On its own, the radish was a bit too sweet for my liking, but I found that it did infuse the rice and meat with an almost sugary quality. The cilantro provided an added zing whenever it was mixed with the surrounding flavors, and the egg created a solid base when mixed in with the meal, or provided a nice palate cleanser when consumed afterwards. Overall, the meal was worth the money. I kind of wish there was Wi-Fi in the restaurant though.

ARVIND: Being a vegetarian, I did not have many options when I saw the menu, but I settled on the veggie bao. I am, by no stretch of the phrase, a connoisseur of Taiwanese food. I did not recognize or attempt to pronounce a significant number of items on the menu. Therefore, I did not really have high expectations when I ordered the veggie bao —this was lucky. The dish was not too impressive or memorable. It was certainly heavier on the bao than on the veggie, but it proved to be a convenient snack.

I would describe my first bite as vibrantly flavorful, but to be honest, I do not remember the taste at all. I simply drowned my hunger in this confusingly-sized morsel of food and was mildly satisfied. Eating the veggie bao at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen is comparable to watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen; it’s massively entertaining when you have nothing else to focus on, you cannot really remember it ten minutes after you have finished with it, and there are not really enough vegetables in it for the thing to be practical.

KENNY: I had the shrimp and pork belly baos. The shrimp bao was excellent—well seasoned with a great sauce. The pork belly bao was not quite as good, but it was a heavier lift as I am not partial to pork belly. Together they made a good meal, although perhaps not if you are hungry.

I had originally wanted to try the beef noodle soup, which sounded delicious. However, I was told that they had run out of it by the time we got around to ordering. That being said, both my baos came out from the kitchen very quickly.

BRENDA: As the lone person of Taiwanese heritage in the group and the only one with previous experience with Taiwanese cuisine, I thought the food was very true to the name of the restaurant, Ah-Ma’s Kitchen.

Ah-Ma, meaning grandma in Taiwanese, in combination with the word kitchen, invokes memories of yummy comfort food that my grandmas make for me whenever I return to Taiwan for a visit.

The food the restaurant serves are simple, traditional dishes, just as Grandmas would make, such as Braised Oxtail and Sticky Rice. Although I had quite a hard time deciding what I wanted to order ,as I wanted to try it all, I did find myself wishing there was more variety on the menu to include other favorites like Stinky Tofu or Ba Wan. I ultimately  settled on Lu Rou Fan with a starter of Salt & Pepper Chicken.

My order of Salt & Pepper Chicken was served surprisingly fast and had a very well balanced seasoning of basil and five-spice powder. The Lu Rou Fan was similarly flavorful and was probably one of the better ones I have had in the U.S. in quite some time, even better than my mother’s! Both serving portions were pretty reasonable for the price, but the latter dish could probably be just tiny more generous.

My biggest qualm with Ah-Ma’s was that time between when the starters and the main dishes were served. I had the Salt & Pepper Chicken to snack on before my Lu Rou Fan, but I felt the hungry eyes of some of the others as they waited quite a long time before they received their food.

THE VERDICT: Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen is a wonderful new gem available here in Midtown for those either missing the foods of their youth or taste bud adventurers looking for a new, authentic taste beyond the usual Chinese or Japanese fare.

Although the server was very friendly and quick to refill our water glasses, the kitchen can do with moving just a bit faster to get out food as well as perhaps better gauge the quantity of food they need to satisfy all their customers for the day.

Once these issues are fixed, we are sure Ah-ma’s will sure be a hot spot here in Atlanta.