If you’re a diehard foodie, you know the name Peter Chang. Many consider him to be America’s master of the extra-spicy cuisine of China’s Sichuan region. His story, including stints in the Marietta area, is full of intrigue, but for this column, it’s only important to know that one of his proteges, Wen-Qiang Huang, operates a restaurant, Fire Stone Chinese Cuisine, in Kennesaw. (No, it has nothing to do with tires.)
The restaurant has been open for more than a year. I don’t hang out much in Kennesaw, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the journey. The small restaurant is located in a gigantic shopping center that snakes its way around other gigantic shopping centers on an eight-lane road to god knows where. Once you find it, you’ll appreciate Fire Stone’s mainly minimalist design with fire-red walls and a stone wall that separates the main dining room from a full-service bar.
The restaurant’s menu describes the food as both Sichuan and Hunan. Both are traditionally spicy, but, honestly, I encountered nothing very challenging at Fire Stone — even to the delicate mouths of the four friends with whom I dined. It’s really simple in any case to avoid torching your luscious lips. While many dishes are bathed in hot chili oil, the real fire is in the dried peppers. If you avoid eating them, you’ll not suffer much.
We shared 10 dishes. The most unique dish was the gigantic “scallion bubble pancakes.” Far from flat, these two pancakes were inflated into gigantic globes that you tear apart to dunk in accompanying curry sauce or any other liquid you find on plates. The bread is chewy, with a mild grain flavor. Another favorite starter was the dan dan noodles, which seem to be appearing on every Sichuan-influenced menu in Atlanta. It’s thin noodles tossed with peanuts and topped with minced beef. A spicy oil pervades the plate. Yet another city-wide favorite on our table was cold, curly ribbons of tofu skin in an oily sauce moderately spiked with the infamous numbing peppers. If you want to run the risk of a five-alarm fire in your mouth, order the “crazy beef.” It is flavored with the infamously hot ghost peppers, but, here again, if you stick to the meat without popping a chili in your mouth, you’ll be fine. The final two starters included two varieties of pork-filled dumplings. One was quite unimpressive soup buns; the other was much better, fried dumplings draped with something like an edible, lacy doily. It looked funereal but tasted unhuman.
Our three entrees included one specifically ordered for a friend terrified of heavy spice. It was chicken with three varieties of mushrooms in a brown oyster sauce. I don’t like brown sauces, so this was my least favorite dish of the evening. I much preferred the tender, seared chunks of ribeye with onions and scallions, served with wedges that the menu called cornbread, but tasted much more like yuca. The best dish of the evening was fat, tender pork ribs that were fried and served under a mound of something like crispy bits of cornmeal. I asked the server for the actual content of the tiny bits, she asked the chef, and the chef said it was a secret.
There is much more of interest on Fire Stone’s menus, including several duck and fish dishes. There are also hot pots with which my friends and I have grown bored of. Also, check out the pork belly dishes. Any Sichuan treatment of that fatty flesh is always worth a trip anywhere – even to Kennesaw.
Fire Stone Chinese Cuisine
840 Ernest W. Barrett Pkwy. Kennesaw