3. Masterpiece

75 Best Restaurants in Atlanta: Masterpiece
This Sichuan feast is a certified extraordinary achievement.

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

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The average human tongue has 10,000 tastebuds, and we have discovered a way to stimulate each and every one of them with just two bites of food. The first bite: Masterpiece’s dry-fried eggplant (Eggplant with Chilli Powder and Pepper Ash Powder), which sits at the pinnacle of every iteration we’ve encountered of the beloved Sichuan dish. The exterior is crackly-crisp and salty, the interior creamy and sweet, the level of ma la (numbing spice) precisely calibrated with a liberal but not obnoxious dose of fragrant, crunchy Sichuan peppercorns. The second bite: Masterpiece’s Dong Po Pork, a braised brick of pork belly lacquered in a mahogany-hued glaze that tastes as if it were a syrup extracted from a mythical tree. The first bite will blow your mind with its electric intensity. The second will transport you to another dimension of taste by simultaneously mellowing and somehow extending the pleasure of the first. Rui Liu, a certified master chef from northeastern China, came to America on an O-1 visa given only to “individuals with extraordinary achievement.” Just wait til you bite into the other 125 dishes on his menu. 3940 Buford Highway, Duluth, 770-622-1191, masterpiece-chinese.com