Good Luck Gourmet is ‘pretty damn hot!’

When Gu’s Bistro closed about a year ago, Atlanta lovers of Chinese cuisine wept. That’s not to say they weren’t weeping when the restaurant was open, since its menu featured Sichuan cuisine, China’s spiciest. The restaurant moved to a pared-down booth at Krog Street Market, mainly featuring its popular dumplings. Alas, it’s not been very well received.

Meanwhile, a new restaurant opened in the old Gu’s location and I’m tempted to call it every bit as good as Gu’s, maybe better. Good Luck Gourmet (5750 Buford Hwy., 770-451-8118, emphasizes the cuisine of China’s Shaanxi Province, which borders Sichuan. So it’s not surprising that Good Luck also makes use of hot peppers, if more moderately, and sometimes combined with the numbing, tingling peppers also popular in Sichuan.

I might as well warn you at the outset that this is a restaurant with a menu of more than 100 items. Moreover, the staff speaks quite halting English, so you’re not likely to get an explanation of dishes any more elaborate than you’ll find on the menu.

I confess that when I visited a few weeks ago with friends, I was not in a very adventurous mood. So, I bypassed pig ears, tripe, and, above all, the tofu and fish head casserole. We started with an order of super-tender pork dumplings afloat in mild chili oil and a plate of the restaurant’s famous dry-fried string beans that furnish a bit of crunch, a moderate tang, and a melting saltiness. The beans were actually not on the appetizer menu, but listed under vegetables. It’s hard to find anything here over $15, so give yourself plenty of liberty with the menu when sharing.

The best dish on our table was a “dry” bowl of spicy lamb with some veggies, which appears in quite a few dishes here. I’m loathe to order lamb in many Chinese restaurants, because it’s often mutton, the meat of older sheep with a gamey taste and tough texture. But this was lamb for real, cut into bone-in chunks, and served brothless, but mysteriously and mildly spiced. My prejudice did keep me from ordering the mutton that leads the list of chef ’s recommendations. I later learned I was stupid. It’s the house specialty – a bowl full of lamb broth, noodles, sliced lamb, and pieces of a Chinese flatbread. Friends told me it’s not gamey.

My own entrée was a plate of fried jumbo shrimp heavily scattered with crispy chili pieces, tossed with some onions and red bell pepper. Our server repeated at least three times “hot, very hot, you like hot?” Yes, I like hot and, oh my, it was pretty damn hot, but way too delicious to come close to inedible. A friend ordered another shrimp dish, “Argentina red shrimp with ginger and scallion.” To my taste, it was the blandest dish on the table, resembling something you’d find in a Chinese American spot. We also ordered bone-in braised chicken with noodles – another winner.

After dinner, we waddled to the car and drove to the nearby White Windmill (5881 Buford Hwy., 770-234-0914, a Korean bakery and cafe with several locations in the suburbs. The dry pastries are super-crumbly and low on flavor. The cakes and tarts, however, hit the spot.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who now practices life coaching for creative types; 404-518-4415.