Atlanta restaurant reviews, culinary news, and gluttonous gossip by admitted foodaholic Serina Patrick

Pigs Ears & Wontons at Cafe 101

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My friend and Chopped champion chef Zeb Stevenson joined me for a Buford Highway culinary adventure…research for my upcoming article for the 2014 Where Guidebook.

And there were photographers. The husband and wife team of Anthony-Masterson Productions, met us at Cafe 101. Zeb chose the location for its unique architecture…much prettier than most strip mall restaurants along this road.

Once inside the cavernous space, we waited awkwardly by the door for a moment while the photographers, Christine and Owen, requested approval to shoot. The vaulted ceiling constructed with radiating wood beams was quite stunning as was the wall plastered with postcards and clippings from China. Dim lighting, red vinyl chairs and lacqered tables added a layer of ambiance few Buford Highway restaurants possess.

Photographers Christine and Owen chose a table by the window with the best lighting. There was a big lazy Susan in the center, perfect for sharing multiple dishes. Zeb and I planned to eat while the photographers got some shots of him slurping up noodles and such.

Zeb required something spicy to alleviate his hangover and I was happy to share. Their menu is extensive with many humorous mistranslations. I noticed spicy pig ears among the appetizers, thinking of the crunchy chiccarones that have become so popular at trendy restaurants. But no, these were not fried and puffy, they were sliced razor thin and sauteed, then tossed with a very spicy chili sauce. The flavor was fantastic, the texture disconcerting. After all, we were eating cartillage.

Then, May, the talkative manager stopped by our table, explaining that the basil chicken hot pot was their signature dish. Zeb said Cafe 101 was all about the hot pot, but we were fascinated by the braised pork meatball version called “lion’s head”. We thought a bowl of noodles would photograph well so we chose the spicy sesame dan-dan noodles and May insisted we try the pork wontons.
After the stringy pigs ears, the noodles were somewhat boring, but the wontons were fantastic, served in a spicy chili oil and garnished with crushed peanuts. Note to self: always order what the staff recommends, it’s usually the best dish on the menu.

The lion’s head hot pot was the finale. Our server mixed the ingredients in the steaming ceramic bowl…vermicelli rice noodles, Chinese vegetables, and of course, the braised pork meatballs. Although only Zeb and I were eating, she served the photographers as well. My pork meatball was quite pink inside so I ate the browned exterior with spoonfuls of the relatively flavorless broth. Zeb agreed it wasn’t up to par.

We had fun getting food shots with Zeb. Look for the 2014 Where Guidebook in Atlanta hotels next year.

There is so much to explore on the menu at Cafe 101, I would certainly return. But I’d probably skip the pigs ears next time.

5412 Buford Highway 770-458-8399

Café 101 on Urbanspoon

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