Love Local: Urban Hai Brings Authentic Chinese Flavors to Midtown
Midtown's newest Chinese restaurant offers duck, dim sum and more.
Urban Hai is owner Gary Lin's first foray into the Midtown Atlanta dining scene, but he's no stranger to the food and beverage biz.
BY ELLIE HENSLEY
Dumplings? Noodles? Peking Duck? At Midtown’s newest Chinese restaurant Urban Hai, you can have all of the above and lots more.
The contemporary Chinese restaurant opened several months ago on Crescent Avenue with authentic dishes found from various regions of China.
We spoke with founder and owner Gary Lin about his experience operating restaurants all over the metro area, why he chose his latest location, and what’s on the menu. Read more below.
Urban Hai's menu includes spicy cauliflower, left, and dumplings, right.
Bringing Years of Expertise to a New Location
Lin has dedicated his entire career to the restaurant industry. He moved to the United States when he was 19 and has since opened dozens of restaurants.
Although Lin once held cooking roles in his restaurant, he now leaves all matters of the kitchen to his chef-partner, who at this location is Hai Wang. Wang has 25 years of culinary experience and has traveled China to learn how to cook various types of cuisines, particularly Sichuan. Lin and Wang have known each other for about four years, and they’ve been working to open a restaurant in Midtown for a year.
“Every chef is different,” Lin said. “He runs the restaurant very well. Every day, he goes and picks up ingredients from the supermarket, or food vendors. He makes sure all the veggies are ripe. Even though we have a delivery service, he really wants to see it in person, to touch it and feel it.”
Lin currently owns restaurants across the metro area including Wei Authentic Chinese in Buford, Ga., and Marietta, Ga; Urban Wu in Buckhead; Hai Authentic Chinese in Alpharetta; and Wok Provisions in Duluth. But this is his first in Midtown.
“In every big city, there is a Midtown, and you want to be in Midtown,” Lin said. “High-rise buildings, crowded, it’s a cool place. And it’s growing a lot too.”
The menu will include takes on American-Chinese restaurant classics such as Mongolian beef, above, as well as authentic dishes from various regions of China.
A Rotating Menu of Global Flavors
Urban Hai specializes in duck dishes such as Peking roast duck, and a dim sum menu unlike any other you can find in the Midtown Improvement District. There are currently twenty shareable dishes on the menu, and Chef Wang plans to swap out slower moving menu items at the restaurant for new, seasonal dishes every quarter. You can find spicy deep fried cauliflower, crispy pig feet, fried eggplant with thai sauce, spicy beef tendon and much more.
“We want to give customers a new taste,” Lin said. “We’re not just going to do traditional Chinese where you can get fried rice, chicken and broccoli. So the chef changes the menu every three months. We’ll see what sells and what doesn’t sell.”
Urban Hai will offer American-Chinese classics on its lunch menu, including General Tso’s chicken, Kung Pao chicken, orange chicken and Mongolian beef. The latter is one of Lin’s favorite menu items, and it’s less characteristically sugary than one might expect and offers more of a vegetable crunch.
“When people come in and try it, they say it’s so different,” Lin said of Chef Wang’s dishes. “The presentation is not traditional Chinese. You can have gluten-free, you can have vegetarian. The good thing about Chinese food is there are so many veggies.”
The Scallion Bubble Pancake, a fun shareable dish that comes with curry dipping sauce.
There are also plenty of rice and noodle dishes, soups and appetizers on the menu, such as the Scallion Bubble Pancake, a hollow globe-shaped pastry served with a curry sauce. The shredded chicken Dan Dan noodles are tossed in chili oil and sesame sauce and served with Sichuan bean sprouts, tofu and scallions.
“We want to give people different tastes to try,” Lin said. “Whether you’ve traveled a lot and been to China, or you want to do it very spicy, very umami, we’ve got options for you.”