Tastebuds agree: More than meets the eye

When I say “Chinese restaurant” you probably envision General Tso’s chicken, lo mein and cramped strip-mall restaurants. Suspend that view for a moment; we all know these are just the Americanized versions of authentic Chinese dishes. What if I told you there was a place with authentic Chinese food, not far from Interstate 275 on Waters Avenue, nestled among average Chinese restaurants, called Yummy House?

Average-sounding, yes. Average-looking, yes. However, the food is far beyond average. It borders on stellar. Although it’s tempting to venture to one of the Vietnamese or Korean restaurants, as they often pack more flavor than their Chinese counterparts, Yummy House is by far the superior choice.

You may miss it. I almost turned into the wrong plaza three times. As a friend and I walked in, there was next to nothing on the walls, and little in the way of table décor. Only two people were dining. We were seated immediately and began to browse the extensive menu, which featured authentic Chinese dishes – not just General Tso’s chicken.

I am something of a calamari snob and when I saw the Salt and Pepper Calamari, I knew it was a must-order. I had heard it was exceptional from other food reviews, and it exceeded what I had heard. I am a coarse grader of calamari and when I hear people praising Carrabba’s calamari, I jump for my gun. I regularly challenge people for raving about ordinary squid dunked in bland marinara sauce.

Yummy House did not commit this sin. They fried their calamari in a thick batter with a touch of sweetness. Crumbled on top was a sprinkling of salt, pepper, scallions, jalapenos and other spices that created a magical combination. It was tender without being chewy and the batter hid any hint of the fishiness I often encounter with squid.

That was only the appetizer. Next, we received the beef with XO sauce, which I ordered spicy, but which still lacked the fire I desired. The beef was served in tender slices, and the sauce was ample and had plenty of flavor. With the dish came the biggest surprise: perfectly cooked, bright green, crisp snow peas.

I’m a man that stabs for the beef first. I see vegetables as filler, riding sidecar to the meat. Yummy House makes them worthy of pause and praise, and I would live as a happy vegetarian if I could always have them served this way.

Our final dish came shortly after the beef – a succulent half of duck. The surprising part was that the duck was priced at only $8.50. In most places, duck costs at least $10.50, so we thought it was a steal.

Thankfully, this duck did not taste cheap. The skin crackled like crisp fried chicken. It was paired with a ginger sauce that exploded with taste and was a perfect match for the savory duck. The duck was still on the bone, and it can be a little annoying to pull splinters from your mouth. However, this method of preparation keeps the duck juicy and flavorful.

There was plenty to take home. With entrees and appetizers running from $6.50 to $20.95 for some seafood dishes, patrons will get mountains of food. Dishes are served in no specific order and placed family-style in the middle of the table. The portions make Yummy House perfect for five friends, but the few fellow diners make the atmosphere intimate enough for two people.

We also witnessed another table receiving tea service from traditional Chinese cups and saucers. I will definitely request the tea next time I go.

Yummy House is Chinese food aimed at the local Chinese population, as revealed by the menu, which is written in Chinese with English translations.

It only makes sense, then, for the food to express the overt flavors of Chinese cuisine, rather than be watered down with soy sauce. One doesn’t have to be a food expert or to have taken Chinese culture courses to appreciate the food at Yummy House.

2202 W. Waters Ave.Tampa, Fla. 33604813-915-2828