Review: Yummy Spicy brings prickly Sichuan flavors to Buford Highway


On my first visit to Yummy Spicy on Buford Highway, I made it through the hot and numbing chicken, no problem.

I devoured the beef tendon and tripe in chili sauce as easily as a can of sardines — easy-peasy.

Even the stir-fry of spicy lamb did not blister my Caucasian taste buds, though it was spiked with no less than three kinds of capsicum: Sichuan peppercorns, red-pepper flakes and pods of dried red chilies.

However, on my second visit, when I tasted a dish of strips of battered and flash-fried eggplant in a nest of incinerating red chilies, I cried uncle.

Reaching for a bite of cold sesame noodles tossed with cucumber, I asked the server: “Am I supposed to eat those chilies, or are they just for decoration?”

“No,” he said. “Take a few, if you like.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory here.) “But don’t feel compelled to scarf them down. Not even Chinese people eat all those chilies! They are mainly for looks.”

Thank goodness. My parents taught me to clean my plate, but that would be torture.

I took a swig of Tsingtao and moved on to the next course: a blazing hotpot of catfish, tofu and Chinese greens, all swimming in a heady red broth — fragrant with chilies, so delicious spooned over rice. Yummy Spicy, indeed.

Such has been my experience at Atlanta’s new inside-the-Perimeter spot for Sichuan. In a terracotta-colored building with arching Spanish-style windows, it appears to have been a Mexican joint in a previous life. Now it’s a dependable place to experience the famously prickly cuisine of southwestern China.

More safe and solid than stellar, Yummy Spicy may not be on par with Masterpiece in Duluth (a 2017 James Beard Award semifinalist that AJC dining critic Wyatt Williams awarded three stars) or Q Cafe in Johns Creek. But it has its charms.

The friendly staff is eager to hold your hand and usher you through the mysteries of a menu that includes pork intestines, lamb backbones, salt and pepper frog and “malatang” (skewers of veggies, meat or seafood cooked tableside in bubbling vats of broth).

Beer and wine are available, so thankfully, you don’t have to run to the closest convenience store for BYOB. For non-tipplers and the kids, there’s an appealing list of house-crafted fruit sodas, teas and bubble tea.

A good strategy here is to start with the cold appetizer assortment called the Yummy Platter. It’s a sensible way to acclimate yourself to the experience and calm your taste buds if the spice becomes too intense as the meal progresses.

Pickled cabbage is gently seasoned with toasted-sesame and red-chili oils. Wood-ear mushrooms are earthy, pungent and soothing — unless you unwittingly bite into one of the green chilies that are coyly tossed in.

And don’t be intimidated by the aforementioned hot and numbing chicken and beef tendon and tripe in chili sauce: Yummy Spicy’s versions of these Sichuan standards are delicious. One caveat: Since you get a dish of that same pickled cabbage as a complimentary nosh, why is it repeated with this spread?

Noodles are a standout at Yummy Spicy. I still dream about those “Sichuan Cold Noodles” tossed with peanut-butter-like sesame paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Classic dan dan noodles are another wonderful option. Essentially, it’s a bowl of vermicelli, sitting in a puddle of chili oil and garnished with crushed peanuts, scallions, sesame seeds and your choice of ground pork or beef. (We liked the pork.) Just toss it all up, and slurp.

Mapo tofu, that defining regional dish of soft bean curd and pork in a slick of bright red chili oil and crunchy Sichuan peppercorns, was satisfying but not exceptional. The blocks of tofu were ginormous; better to dice them up into tiny cubes so they can better absorb the flavors.

Though our server recommended it, the family-size Spicy Fragrant Lamb was a bit of a snooze: stalks of Chinese celery, lots and lots of undercooked onion, meat that was more generic than gamey. A better choice to share is the Braised Fish With Tofu in Chili Oil, a lovely catfish dish that keeps revealing surprises (tofu, bok choy) the more you toss it around.

And be sure to order the dry-fried eggplant. It’s cooked at such a high temperature that the interior virtually collapses into something soft, unctuous and custardy, while the exterior develops a pleasing crunch. Pick these featherlight spears up with your fingers, and inhale them like french fries.

Just be sure to push that abundance of red chilies out of the way.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

Where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in Chicago's West Loop 
Where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in Chicago's West Loop 

Just on the other side of the river from downtown Chicago is West Loop, which was and remains an active industrial district. The city wears its blue collar proudly, and it was in this neighborhood that organized labor staged a rally in 1886 advocating for the eight-hour work day, an event that devolved into a deadly riot. In recent years, the area...
Henri’s Bakery reopening in Sandy Springs and other metro Atlanta dining news from the week
Henri’s Bakery reopening in Sandy Springs and other metro Atlanta dining news from the week

Here are the stories that made a splash in the Atlanta food world this week.  The Sandy Springs location of Henri’s Bakery & Cafe is reopening at 7 a.m. July 21. The remodeled store now features stainless steel countertops, white subway tile, quartz tables and a new banquette. To celebrate the new space at 6289 Roswell Road, the eatery is...
7 Atlanta places where you can comfortably enjoy the rain
7 Atlanta places where you can comfortably enjoy the rain

When there’s a lot of rain in the forecast, sometimes it’s tempting to just curl up at home with a good movie without even looking outside. However, there are plenty of places around Atlanta where you can watch the rain yet stay comfortably warm and dry. Dancing Goats Coffee Bar: With plenty of chairs and ceiling-to-floor windows...
Go behind-the-scenes at Atlanta’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Go behind-the-scenes at Atlanta’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

Lines have been out the door since Nashville-based Hattie B’s Hot Chicken opened its first Atlanta location earlier this month in Little 5 Points.  We went behind the scenes with director of culinary options Brian “BMo” Morris to get a taste of what’s being cooked up at the spicy chicken purveyor’s newest spot...
Try Max Lager’s Indominus at the Old 320 Beer Fest
Try Max Lager’s Indominus at the Old 320 Beer Fest

On Saturday afternoon, Max Lager’s in downtown Atlanta, also known as the oldest brewpub in Georgia, hosts its third annual Old 320 Beer Fest.  With more than 30 breweries from around Georgia and beyond, a chef’s tasting room, and live music, it’s a convivial showcase for some of the best beers around. Among the beers on...
More Stories