My dining posse, who regularly and reluctantly tags along to exotic Asian Buford Highway joints where English (if even used) is the second language, were lured to May's Chinese on Cobb Parkway with the promise of "normal Chinese food." The gang, disappointed that May's doesn't offer a pupu platter, ordered up a round of Tsingtao beer and took in the decor. Between the red paper lanterns tattooed with Kirin beer logos, the big mouth bass mounted on the wall near the bathrooms, and the "Miami Vice" triangular wall sconces, May's looked to be decorated with leftovers from a suburban garage sale.
May not surprise: Start your feast of classic Chinese-American with scrumptious pan-fried pork dumplings ($3.25) heavy with melon ball-sized pork meatballs popping from the edges. The slightly sweet dipping liquid topped with scallions is a perfect balance for the salty dumplings. Another dish worthy of sharing is the lettuce wraps -- crisp, large feathers of iceberg lettuce packed out with a mixture of chicken, mini-corn cobs, cabbages and bean sprouts, laden with soy sauce goodness ($4.95).
Not a fan of Atlanta's compulsion to serve sushi at every Asian restaurant, I expected a cookie-cutter product. I was staggered, then, by the quality of their California rolls ($4 per roll). The rice was moist, fresh and speckled with orange masago.
The complimentary wontons served in a faux-wooden bowl were stale and soggy. Equally unappetizing was the teriyaki steak -- two slices of shriveled bland beef dressed with canned pineapple triangles and maraschino cherries ($2.95). The taste of teriyaki never touched my tongue, and after those cherries, I'd prefer a package of Slim Jims from the nearby QT.
Un-a-may-zing Asian: Sticky and nearly full from ample portions of appetizers, I ordered the fried mandarin chicken ($8.50), large lengths of fried chicken breast coated in coral-colored syrup. This concoction would be better served on a sesame bun, with a slice of cheddar and purple onion to make a lovely BBQ chicken sandwich.
The roast pork with Chinese vegetables ($7.95) looked and tasted more like fried pork tidbits, but there were no leftovers of the shrimp with black bean sauce ($9.75). Each spoonful spilled with shrimp, and the deep flavors of fermented black beans, caramelized onions and green peppers gave this chow a multi-dimensional and addictive spank. Spicy garlic chicken ($7.95) was neither spicy nor garlicky but if you are looking for an easy-going white sauce dish, the poached poultry was tender and the snap beans bright green and crispy.
Tough call: May's Chinese would be a better 'burb joint if it cut its menu in half and stuck to the basic Chinese-American dishes. The food is reasonably priced and rarely greasy, but since the Hooters next door, filled with 18-year-olds in Tang-colored shorts, has more ambience than May's, you might take a pass on the bowl of wontons and order your grub to go.