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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food: Dining at the Chinese Dollar

I have been craving Chinese food of late. Not the Americanized interpretation of Chinese food, but something more akin to the Chinese interpretation of Chinese food. That meant only one thing - a trip back to the China Yuan on North Armenia Avenue in Tampa.

The Chinese dollar - the yuan
Before I launch in to a discussion of the tasty delights my bride and I enjoyed last night allow me to mention that Yuan is not pronounced you-an. For non-Mandarin speakers, the pronunciation of Yuan is very close to that of the abbreviation for the United Nations. Saying "U.N." without taking a pause between the "U" and the "N" sounds very similar to one way a native Mandarin speaker would say the name.

Now, don't you feel better? Just think how impressed your dining partners will be when you impart this tidbit of knowledge while sharing a myriad of savory delicacies around one of the large, round family tables.

I would encourage you to round up a number of friends and family when you dine at the China Yuan. The servings are very generous - more than enough to share as you rotate the giant "lazy Susan" in the table's center. This also affords the opportunity to experience many different tastes.

Alas, on all three of our visits there has been but the two of us so we have had to experiment with just two or three dishes at a time.

After perusing China Yuan's on-line menu I knew I just had to start with the Fried Chicken Feet on the Dim Sum menu. Unfortunately, Dim Sum is only served between the hours of 11 and 5 and we just missed that window. Our server took pity on me and asked the kitchen if they could accommodate my request. They could, and they did.

Like the Thai Style Boneless Duck Feet from the appetizer menu, the chicken feet had a pleasant taste, but a texture that takes a bit of getting used to with bones, cartilage, and a gelatinous consistency. The chicken  feet with a fried coating paired very well with my Tsingtao beer. My dining partner eshewed the feet and said, "Knock yourself out, Bubba," which bothered me just a tad since my name isn't Bubba and being knocked out doesn't sound pleasant. Oh, well!

On to our entrĂ©es. The Belle of Ballast Point ordered the Honey and Garlic Chicken with the chicken morsels deep fried with a crispy crunch and swimming in a rich honey garlic sauce. This superb dish was served with steamed broccoli and the ubiquitous rice bowl. I chose the Salt and Pepper Crispy Shrimp (heads-on) served over steamed bell peppers and onions. This tasty treat is consumed whole -  heads, skin, and tails. As the chef explained to me, this dish is meant to be consumed this way as it provides a different taste than head-less, peeled shrimp. Perfectly prepared, the shrimp were tender on the inside with a crispy crunch on the outside.

On past visits we have tried selections from the beef and the vegetable categories and have yet to be disappointed. The Beef with Scrambled Eggs was a memorable dish that I tried to replicate at home. China Yuan still does it better.

For a more authentic taste of China without the expense of long distance air travel, the China Yuan will certainly tantalize your taste buds. Dining here means a yuan well spent. Confucius only wishes he had said that.

Our bill for the evening came to $63 and some change and included, food, beers, and 20% gratuity.

China Yuan on Urbanspoon China Yuan Restaurant on Foodio54

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