Yummy House has a funny name, but some serious food
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.
It's hard to take seriously a restaurant that calls itself Yummy House.
Yummy House China Bistro
Location: 7605 W. Newberry Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. daily
Atmosphere: Bustling, family friendly
Service: Good, but language challenged
Libations: None yet
Info.: Yummyhouseflorida.com, 333-7688
After a friend told me about it, I drove past probably six times before I gave it a chance. I finally stopped because there was a line at the door — at 11 a.m.
Yes, a line at 11 a.m.
It is remarkable to see anyone standing in line for Chinese food these days. It is one of the world's three great cuisines, but you would never guess it from dining at most Chinese restaurants in America nowadays.
There used to be fabulous, creative Chinese joints even in tiny American cities. But that was before the plague struck, before some Typhoid Mary invented the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It replicated like viruses do, and it destroyed Chinese food in America.
Now, practically every restaurant serves the same slop, the same 20 or so dishes prepared as cheaply as possible. It seems the ingredients are all the same; only the sauces are different. I wonder if the menus all come from the same printer.
Chinese cuisine is thousands of years old and among the world's most sophisticated. It is supposed to be about premium ingredients, fresh as can be, cooked in small batches, usually very quickly, and served immediately. Buffets and steam tables are anathema to this kind of food.
That's why it is so remarkable to see patrons standing in line at a place called Yummy House. The name conjures everything bad about Americanized Chinese food.
If you manage to find a place to park and make it inside, though, you will find no buffet.
You will find a serious restaurant featuring some 200 dishes of Hong-Kong-style cuisine. The food is rich by Chinese standards. It is flavorful, filled with premium ingredients, and it is mercifully seasoned.
Upon first taste, you may think the food at Yummy House is under seasoned.
It's not. This food tastes like it should — like what's in it — not just like soy sauce, black beans, chili, five spice or, heaven forbid, MSG.
When did you last experience that in a Chinese restaurant, especially in Gainesville?
There is an out-of-town influence that might explain it. Yummy House is part of a small chain with three locations in Tampa, one in Sarasota and since December, one in Gainesville. The local store is housed in a former KFC just west of Tower Road. It's not a big place, so expect to wait, even if you go early or late.
There are fairly exotic things to order: abalone, sea cucumber, octopus, frog legs, conch, lobster and bitter melon, not to mention the beef, chicken, duck and pork dishes (most under $12).
But what I find most exceptional at Yummy House are the basic things.
The egg drop soup is spectacular. I'd almost forgotten this soup can be much more than an egg whisked into some canned chicken broth. This version is worthy of the name yummy, packed with sliced baby corn, carrots, straw mushrooms, chopped snow peas and, of course, eggs. And nothing tastes like it came from a can. A bowl is a meal for one or an appetizer for four ($6.95).
The house-fried rice, horrible at most Chinese restaurants, is the best I've had in a long while. No frozen peas and carrots here. It's chock full of barbecue pork, chicken, green onions, cilantro and shrimp as big as a child's finger. It's well worth $8.50, serving three to four as a side dish.
At lunch, you can order from a menu or choose dim sum (think Asian tapas) from a pair of carts that traverse the dining room. The dim sum range from the usual dumplings and buns to fried chicken feet and steamed tripe ($3-$7). Be aware, though: on a cool day, the dim sum may be cool, too. I suggest ordering a hot entrée to share along with dim sum.
Servers try hard to please, but as with many good ethnic restaurants, there can be a language barrier, especially at the dim sum carts. This is a price we all should be willing to pay for good ethnic cuisine, but it could be easily solved with a printed dim sum menu (hint, hint). There's one on the website, why not in the restaurant? Parking is a hassle, too, as the lot is too small for the space.
It's still worth it, worth it to the point that my dining companion keeps insisting I write something like, “Yummy House is yummy in your tummy.” But I just can't bring myself to do that.
David Carlson has been writing about food and wine for more than 20 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dining is done anonymously and without advance notice. All meals are paid for by the Gainesville Sun.
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