Chinese cuisine in this country (the US) falls into two categories: American-Chinese, and authentic Chinese-Chinese — the later more typically found in the more vibrant of the nation’s Chinatowns.
The restaurant I am reviewing is more American-Chinese than Chinese-Chinese, but the place brings in an old-country sensibility, and it is one of the rare one of these that in my experience is downright GOOD. Probably because many of their cooking techniques are indeed Chinese in origin. So actually they blend American-Chinese and Chinese-Chinese to make really good food. The primary focus of their recipes is Cantonese.
We (a party of eight adults and one toddler) descended upon this restaurant the evening of November 5th. We ordered lots of food, and most importantly, we shared.
I tried everything we ordered except the sweet and sour chicken, and the shrimp lo mein. (I am not a fan of “sweet” main dishes — although it was reported that this dish was not as sugary as it so often is; I was also not in the mood for noodles, so I skipped that, too. We had a couple folk who skipped seafood dishes, so it all evens out…)
I enjoyed EVERYTHING. Well, the least favorite to me (and to others) was the dish I ordered — the clay pot seafood combo with shiitake and tofu. The fish in it (shrimp, calamari strips, scallops) was cooked just right, but there was not much in the way of seasoning. And stems had been left on some of the shiitake. All in all, the flavor profile was bland. You need to punch up tofu and the rest of that dish with flavor.
A highlight was the snow pea dish. I think it came with scallops, but what I remember about that dish was the hearty crunch of snow pea in a good seafood sauce. Unlike at many Chinese-American restaurants, this sauce was not remotely heavy.
There were two orders of Mongolian beef and one of a ginger beef — I preferred the ginger beef to the Mongolian, but both were excellent. The beef in both cases was tender, cooked as thin slices, and served with assorted veggies and spices that were dish-dependent.
The roast duck was excellent – very little fat, and tasty crispy skin. And there was another seafood dish that was very tasty.
A nicely satiating repast!
Oh, yes, we’d started the meal with appetizers, also shared. We ordered salt and pepper calamari, salt and pepper chicken wings, and pan fried pot stickers/dumplings to share around. The calamari was tender and cooked/seasoned to perfection, as were the wings, which were almost the size of small drumsticks. I was less impressed with the dumplings, but I was outvoted by most of my compatriots. They seemed kind of “crispy” to me, and the filling seemed bland — but as noted, others really liked them. (I think my bias towards steamed dumplings is showing!) The appetizers came with a couple of dipping sauces — including a hot pepper sauce.
Oh — the toddler really liked his chicken wing! Even more than the sweet and sour chicken which had been ordered with him in mind. (He even downed a portion of calamari that his granddad kindly gave him.)
For those inclined, there are two dishes on the menu featuring frog legs. I could have been tempted, but I wanted to join in on the food sharing that went on.
There is no liquor license here, but you can bring in wine for your table. For large groups, there are round tables with a lazy Susan in the center to facilitate food sharing. We seated nine chairs with comfort. The place looks unimposing from the outside, situated as it is in a tacky strip mall, but don’t be fooled by appearances. The staff is great, and the environment is clean. And the food is worth coming back again for more.
Addendum: I had some of the leftovers tonight for dinner. Yum. And taking some of the leftover hot dipping sauce that had been provided for the salt and pepper appetizers lent new life to the remainder of that seafood clay pot dish!
Rating: 4.5 stars.
Yummy House, N. 2620 E. Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, Florida.