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Chinese to cherish

Masterful meats and menacing cleavers at Chamblee's Hong Kong B.B.Q.

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Rows of minivans fill the parking lot of Atlanta's Chinatown Square. Two large dragon sculptures flank the main entrance that leads into one of our city's most exciting eating destinations: a food court that transforms even the most jaded foodie into a manic glutton. Food stalls serving everything from slutty Americanized General Tsos chicken to pig stomach surround a mass of well-worn tables and chairs populated by every manner of diner, who huddle intensely over their dishes of choice. Hong Kong B.B.Q. (5385 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee, 770-451-7277) is, without a doubt, one of the court's most popular destinations. The Malaysian-owned stall serves nearly 200 different dishes — and that doesn't even include the specials advertised on a sign to the right of the cashier.

A glistening assortment of roasted and barbecued meats — soy sauce chicken, flats of glazed red pork, and whole mahogany ducks — hang side by side in a large window that offers a sneak peak into the carefully managed madness of Hong Kong's kitchen. Handpick your meat(s) and watch as the cook, armed with a menacing cleaver, deftly chops them into precise slices on a well-worn cutting board.

Bright yellow noodles or rice act as a foundation for the roasted meats. One of the more soothing options, a bowl of won ton noodle soup, offers a myriad of textures to counteract with the masterfully executed meats. The clear, mildly flavored broth overflows with plump pork won tons with delicate skins, crinkly egg noodles, a grassy pop of green bok choy and slices of intensely red pork or crispy roast duck.

While the congee choices look like an appealing steal at around $3 per bowl, they are often watery and best avoided. The stir-fried noodles, however, should not be missed. A litmus test of Chinese cooking, the dry-fried beef chow fun has the requisite oiliness that takes this sinful dish from good to fabulous. Black bean sauce mixed with a generous dose of soy permeates the flat, wide rice noodles tangled with a mix of chopstick-slender slices of beef, green onions and bean sprouts.

Hainanese chicken rice mashes up both Chinese and Malaysian cooking beautifully. Although the dish hails from China, it's often found in Malaysian restaurants. Plump pieces of skin-on, bone-in chicken glisten with fat. Hong Kong encircles the chopped up chicken pieces with cucumbers that have been quick-pickled for a little acidic contrast to the dish. A plate of fluffy white rice is served on the side along with a tiny container of spicy chili sauce, a bowl of soup, and the piece de resistance: a sauce for drizzling made of soy sauce and other ingredients that the restaurant's grinning cook refuses to divulge, no matter how much you pry.

Since the restaurant has a Malaysian owner, Malaysian dishes litter the menu and deserve your exploration. A heaping plate of the classic rice-noodle dish char kway teow is packed with tiny, juicy shrimp, and thick slabs of fish cake. Ask for it spicy and you wont be disappointed; these guys aren't the type to deter their American customers from the real deal. Add the bustle of the food court to the mix and it's almost like landing in China — without the painfully long flight.

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