Oct 14, 2012
While it's no secret that I greatly miss New York City's Chinatown, the presence of great Chinese restaurants and groceries in Tampa more than helps me cope with my longing. The first Chinese restaurant I tried in Tampa was the original Yummy House on Waters Ave. I'm not sure if I remember exactly what I ate that day, but I do remember it being good. I also remember waiting a really long time for it, as well as the no frills decor and somewhat standoffish service. Of course, I ate at Chinese places in NYC with this type of service and decor almost on a weekly basis, considering it a small, almost novel price to pay for great, cheap food. The big difference was that you never had to wait long to get fed.
I always wanted to go back to Yummy House. I planned to return when I started getting my hair cut (and later on braided) in the next plaza over and would be in the vicinity regularly, but I soon discovered China Yuan around the corner in a plaza which also contains an Asian grocery and Chinese Bakery. China Yuan's food isn't necessarily better than Yummy House's, but I feel the service is a bit more pleasant, the interior a little easier on the eyes, and most importantly, food will generally hit your table faster.
When the owners of Yummy House opened Yummy House China Bistro on Hillsborough Ave, Terika and I went there on opening night (or maybe it was the second night open) and let me tell you, it was busy. Waiting for a table wasn't so bad because we were able to order glasses of wine while we waited. Once we were seated, the service was great (the staff here are younger and more personable) and the food still came out quick. Not only that, but it was off the chain. And the decor is possibly the best I've seen in a Chinese restaurant anywhere... not old school in the slightest. I know some people like dives, and even believe the prices are significantly cheaper at the original Yummy House. Comparing menus online briefly, most dishes seemed to be priced the same, but I would still pay a dollar or so more for a dish (and these are big portions) if it means service and decor will be great and I don't have to wait half an hour before I can eat it.
The newest addition to the Yummy family is Yummy Noodle House, across the street and a few doors down from the original Yummy House. This location had previously been an Americanized Chinese food place that seemed not so Americanized on the outside... but I found that out the hard way. The first time I came here I met up with my friend and co-worker Grayson West (who you Tampa blog followers may know from GNATV).
We started with pork skin soup. I have long loved the way Chinese cooks stew pork skin until completely gelatinous. From what I understand, this style of pork skin starts off dried, similar to it's textural opposite cousin known as the pork rind or chicharron. While in NYC I enjoyed large strips of this braised with turnips in a well seasoned brown sauce, this soup had it diced up in a much more delicate white broth with a slight sheen from cornstarch. It was tasty, but not as tasty as the version I'm used to.
Frogs Typhoon Style was really off the hook. Yummy House is known for it's salt and pepper mix (which is so ubiquitous in Chinatown that when I moved here I thought it was a little ridiculous that people considered it almost a signature dish... although it is one of the best salt and pepper mixes I've had) and "typhoon style" is apparently a similar application, except with less chiles and the addition of fermented black beans. Copious amounts of fried minced garlic really make the dish, which is the same way I feel about the salt and pepper dishes. Of course, frogs have bones and you have to be careful when you are eating them. The closer to the joint you get, the fishier it tastes... and if you accidentally bite down on a joint, let's just hope you have a glass of water or cup of tea nearby. But for the most part, frogs are delicious.
Fried Chitterlings, or crispy pork intestines, were good but I prefer China Yuan's version of this dish because they are slightly better there in my opinion and also served there with lightly pickled daikon and carrots which go with them very well. If you are squeamish about this sort of thing, just remember if you eat sausage, you probably eat intestine, although sausage casings are only the outer layer of the intestine. These are crispy on outside (the same layer that get's used as casings) but still have the chewy interior walls.
My second time here I had a dish of steamed fish and tofu with ginger and scallions, trying not to stray too far from eating healthier. There were several pieces of fish each atop a piece of tofu sitting in soy sauce and topped with scallions and julienned ginger (my apologies for not taking a picture). It's amazing how enjoyable something so simple can be, and I often recreate this dish during the week with just tofu and no fish. My third time here I tried seafood pan-fried noodles which was shrimp, scallops, squid, carrots, rehydrated black (shiitake) mushrooms and shanghai bok choy nestled atop crispy fried noodles which taste almost deep fried but I believe they achieve this result in a wok with much less oil. The noodles on the bottom start to rehydrate from the sauce which creates an interesting texture contrast. I always seem to forget this type of noodle is fried this crispy, next time I think I'll go for something more stir-fried than pan-fried.
All in all, Noodle House is definitely a welcome addition to the Yummy family, especially considering they stay open late. Yummy House China Bistro is hands down my favorite of the Yummy Houses, but I won't be able to say who holds second place until I return to the original Yummy House as well. You will definitely be hearing more from me about all three Yummy Houses, as well as China Yuan, so come back soon.
1808 W. Waters Ave.
Tampa, FL 33604