I hear it all the time: “I don’t typically eat Chinese, but I love the Yummy House.” (Yawn.) People don’t seem to realize that the Far East food haven turned yuppie dragon monster has some formidable competition.
ABC Seafood. Cozy, with antique décor and tabletops beautified by peacocks and other laminates, ABC is a prime destination for night owls: it’s open until 1 a.m. on Fri.-Sun. and midnight on weekdays (except Tuesday, when it’s closed). Like China Yuan (see below), ABC has a display aquarium filled with swimming pre-eats and a great seasonal veggie dish, snow pea tips. Servers patiently explain ingredients, but the restaurant has gotten flak for inattentiveness during busy hours. 2705 54th Ave. N, St Petersburg, 727-522-1888.
China Yuan. A no-frills place serving the best dim sum in the Tampa Bay area, and mid-afternoon Sunday is a good time for it. Warning: The shrimp dumplings ($2.95) might make your eyes roll back in your head, but don’t expect to find them after 8 p.m. China Yuan owner Peter Chen caters to families, not couples: “I keep the costs down and the quality level high.” He adds that Chinese Restaurant News ranked his eatery among the top 500 in the U.S. Looking for unusual fare? He serves frog items and bamboo fungus, and if you want something even more bizarre, call ahead and ask Chen, who claims his restaurant can prepare some 600-700 items on request! 8502 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-936-7388.
Ivory Mandarin Bistro. This conscientious Chinese eatery is the first to stop serving shark fin soup because of the inhumane practice of finning, says co-owner Steve Sritrairasri. Master Chef Jeffrey Wu meticulously prepares health-conscious specialties and vegetarian options, and even cooks with bai he, a lily bulb that aids in respiratory health. Ivory has the most consistent service of the three restaurants listed here — clean with a modest flourish, mood-enhancing Chinese music and orchid garnishes. Specialties include an elaborate dish known as sticky rice chicken ($25), in which Chinese mushrooms, diced white-meat chicken, roasted Chinese bacon and steamed sticky rice are all stuffed into a deboned chicken. It’s best for parties, ordered in advance. In the veggie realm, try the Shanghai bok choy with minced garlic and wine sauce and Chinese mushroom (pictured above). Or get a little more daring with jellyfish ($7.75) or fried chitterlings (pork intestines, $8.25). 2191 Main St., Dunedin, 727-734-3998, ivorybistro.com.
Late-nighters: The new Yummy Noodle House (1809 W. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-915-2888, yummynoodlehouse.com) stays open until midnight most days. Lucky Star Chinese Restaurant (4175 66th St. N, St Petersburg, 727-381-8888) comes highly recommended and stays open until 1 a.m. on weeknights and as late as 3 or 4 on weekends.
Cute guys. Mmmmm.
CL Restaurant Critic Jon Palmer Claridge responds: "Each week after CL's editors decide which restaurant…
Metaphors.. Big words... I get it, you're a writer.. What I want to know is…