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ABC Chinese in St Pete...Heaven! I'm in Heaven!

Holy Cow!!! Good chinese in Florida!!! And they said it couldn't be done!!!

To all those who recommended this place, THANK YOU.
To any who haven't made it there yet, put it on your list!!

Saturday late afternoon, what shall we do for dinner? Ahhh it's the weekend, who cares, let's take a drive down to St Pete and try that Chinese place we've been hearing about. Even my manicurist that morning had said they have the freshest fish in the area, and the best authentic Chinese. She's Chinese, she aughta know!

Off we went. Little place, surprisingly lots of big tables inside. We got settled, beer and sake, ready to go. Big fish tanks on one wall; with striped bass, grouper, crabs, lobster, shrimp, tilapia. Oh, my. We're really talking fresh.

To start, we had dumplings, one order of steamed, one order of fried. They were great, didn't even need any sauce. The sauce they served it with was red, thin. I'm used to a brown vinegary sauce with dumplings. There was a pot of increadibly spicy hot chili oil-based sauce on the table; just a drop of that into the dumpling sauce made it perfect.

Next, dinner...Honey had the General Tso's Chicken (he's not as adventurous as I am, food-wise). It was really great. I had a small striped bass, fresh out of the tank, in a ginger scallion sauce. Watch out for the tiny bones but it was excellent. Yummy. Oh boy.

Then...two "salt and pepper" oysters, covered with scallions, smelled incredible, taste was totally out of this world. Am I allowed to say "orgasmic"??? Because that's what it was. Seriously. Huge oysters, each the size of my fist, served on the shell; took a long time but totally worth the wait. I can't wait to go back. Seriously. Need more of those oysters. Many, many more.

Dessert was a little bowl of tapioca, not thick like pudding, thin, with little pieces of cantaloupe and honeydew. Refreshing end to an incredible meal.

What a jewel!!! I'm so thrilled we found this place!

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  1. Oh, I'm totally with you here. I've been about four times and I've tried something new each trip and haven't been disappointed yet. The menu is HUGE and there's many things I'm pretty clueless on. The wait staff is friendly and will help guide you though.

    The complimentary cold cocounut/tapioca soup is delightfully refreshing. Next time you go try an order of the milk balls as a sweet appetizer or dessert to accompany the soup. I don't think they're on the menu as a side but they serve them with a seafood dish I believe. They're little balls of fried coconut milk heaven. I don't know how they're made but they're so good.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        oh, sorry, am I supposed to include a link to the restaurant's home page when I post about it? I didn't know; I'm kinda new here. Sorry, I googled, it doesn't look like they have a home page, but there are lots of favorable reviews online. They're on 54th in St Pete; we called information, got the street address, entered it into the GPS and off we went.

        1. re: Manderley

          Link is not at all mandatory but since you didn't include the address I thought I would add it. Have you tried Halang Bay for dim sum on 34th St., since it's pretty close by?

          1. re: Chandavkl

            We noticed Halang Bay when we were in St Pete. I'm a big dim sum fan. Do you recommend it?

            1. re: Manderley

              I ate there once. Wasn't impressed.

          2. re: Manderley

            you're not required to post a link or anything else. We're already on the internet, so I don't see what the big deal is. If you take the trouble to post about great food, that is enough for me.

            I'm also curious about how ABC compares to Tampa two titans. I'm considering writing a double (now a tripe!) review, as I did for two Vietnamese restaurants in Tampa, Trang and Pho Quyen (link below).

            delicioushistory.com

            1. re: andy huse

              I thought ABC was a step below Yummy House and China Yuan, but that was based only on one meal. Haven't had the dim sum at Halang Bay and I'm curious to get a report.

              1. re: andy huse

                Andy,

                I think ABC is just as good and on some dishes, better. While they don't have the dim sum variety that CY has, the rest of their menu is really top quality. I have now been there six times and have had a bad dish yet.

                John

          3. Manderley have you been to China Yuan or Yummy House? Just curious how ABC compares. Maybe we'll stop by on the way home from the beach this weekend.

            4 Replies
            1. re: rhnault

              A waiter at Yummy House told me about ABC - he recommended it for this side of the bay.

              I've only been once, but it was great. I had razor clams in XO sauce and the dish had lavish amounts of asparagus in it.

              B

              1. re: rhnault

                No, not yet, we're new to the area; will have to try both of those places....ohhhh can't wait! to heck with my diet!!

                1. re: rhnault

                  I noticed many dishes had the XO sauce; when I asked what it was, well....didn't really understand the answer. I remember hearing "dried fish"; it sounded more like a dry rub than a sauce...so I went with the ginger scallion. Can you tell me about the XO sauce? Maybe I'll try it next time.

                  1. re: Manderley

                    Well, many Chinese are highly brand conscious so somebody in Hong Kong created XO Sauce, a sauce not made with cognac, but with spices and dried shrimp and dried fish. Dishes with XO Sauce are typically served at restaurants specializing in Hong Kong/Cantonese cuisine.

                2. At Yummy House, the 'XO Seafood Fried Rice' is the best fried rice I've ever had...

                  The 'Spicy Seafood Combo in XO Sauce' mixed with their fragrant steamy white rice is spectacular...

                  It's not fishy or spicy--- it's very friendly on the palate... Just plain delicious...

                  I don't yet know what it is either, but I'll worry about that at a later date...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Mild Bill

                    The XO sauce at Yummy House is great. I had some fish there in XO sauce. Maybe sea bass? Anyway it was great! People tend to get a bit leery when they hear dried fish or fish sauce but both are just really concentrated flavored seasonings. I have been buying and cooking with fish sauce quite a bit this summer-perfecting Bun at home- and it is really a great all purpose condiment and seasoning.

                  2. Finally got to try ABC a couple of days ago, and carried out. My order was quickly filled by friendly, helpful staff. I regretted not being able to dine in, but DH was waiting patiently at home half an hour away for dinner. We got Salt & Pepper Calamari (very good with tender lightly-battered squid rings), Mix Seafood in X.O. Sauce (loved all the seafood except some of the squid pieces were SO chewy, I lost one of my dental crowns! LOL), and also had Sweet and Sour Pork - which again had a very light batter and some bones in it, but good cuts of meat and a nicely-balanced sauce. Even though some of the items I chose had the hot-pepper icon next to it, they were not too fiery for my heat-sensitive palate.
                    Can't wait to work my way through the menu!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: triff

                      I guess I'm really going to have to try that XO sauce. My mouth is watering. I'm trying hard to stay on my diet but those salt and pepper oysters keep running through my mind, calling my name......ooooohhhhhhhhh.....seriously, i'm salivating. oy oy oy this place is going to be my downfall!!!

                    2. Well we lasted almost two weeks and had to make the drive down to St Pete again; both of us jonesin' for some more of that incredible food. Oh, no! They're OUT of oysters!!! (sigh). Chin up, old girl, and pick something else! I had the fresh eel, right out of the tank, salt and pepper style. Delish as I expected, but watch out for those little bones. Also tried the clams in XO sauce, oh yeah, now I see what everyone's talking about! There was so much food this time I took home most of the clams, and they were even better the next day. That sauce has quite a kick!

                      My better half went with the beef in scallion and ginger sauce, and he hasn't stopped raving about it for 2 days now. The green beens in the dish were so perfectly cooked, still a nice crisp snap to them. Just perfect. We've got it bad for ABC.

                      But tonight we're going to try Yummy House. It's right here in Tampa, and we went for 2 years without having a good Chinese meal, so now that we've found ABC and are hearing about others on this board, well, we can't get enough. Next week, China Yuan is up at bat. As usual, I'll let you all know what we think!

                      I'm so glad I found Chowhound. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Manderley

                        Real glad to hear of your experience at ABC. I can't tell you how happy I am to have a great chinese restaurant so close to me in St. Pete!

                        John

                      2. Okay here goes, we had a little "Clash of the Chinese Titans" experiment of our own. Went to Yummy House for dinner tonight, our first time there.

                        ROUND ONE GOES TO ABC!!!

                        We called for directions, and to ask if we could bring our own beer. Since we obviously didn't know where they were, it was obvious we'd never been there before. When we arrived we were greeted with an attitude...we did not have reservations, and we were not told on the phone that we needed reservations. There were only about 4 tables taken, there were plenty of open tables, it was only 6pm on a Sunday; but we were made to wait while they checked to see if they could accomodate us. We were told we could stay but they really didn't have an available table and weren't sure what they were going to do.

                        Meanwhile, when we left an hour later there were still about 6 empty tables, and most of the people who came in after us didn't have reservations either, we watched them go through the same routine.

                        Okay, so score one point for ABC's congenial and helpful waitstaff; no points for the pretentious Yummy House. On to the decor.

                        No big fish tanks brimming with lively seafood; a couple of dead ducks hanging in a glass case. OK, I can deal with that. What I found it hard to deal with was not only the yuckky bathroom, but the tons of big black houseflies we had to keep shoo-ing away from our food. There were 2 of them apparently glued to the curtain over our table; another three or four continuously dive-bombed us. Not good. Decor/cleanliness points once again for ABC.

                        Appetizers...we had the fried dumplings, called "potstickers" here. They were just OK, not nearly as good as ABC. At ABC, you don't even need sauce, they're delish on their own. I had also read somewhere not to miss the salt and pepper tofu, so we ordered it. It was nice, OK. I wouldn't order it again, but we did finish it. It was my 3rd time having something cooked "salt and pepper" style; I had both oysters and eel at ABC cooked this way; it's not really sauce, it's dry, but with scallions, garlic, jalapeno peppers; really good. It wasn't bad at Yummy House, but it was better at ABC. Appertizer points go to ABC.

                        Honey had the Spicy Szechuan Chicken, which he was not happy with, nor was I. The sauce was OK, but it was mostly veggies, specifically zucchine and celery with a few water chestnuts, very little chicken. He picked the chicken out and left the zucchini. We had the barbecued duck with grapes fried rice; it was also just OK. Better when mixed with the salt and pepper tofu. I ordered the calamari in XO sauce. No, the waiter says, not a good choice. (he's the same one who seated us, with the reservations situation). He says the calamari is very fresh but when cooked with XO sauce it's got a horrible stench, I won't like it. OK, what do you recommed? He tells me shrimp and chicken in XO sauce. I'm not a big shrimp and chicken fan. I can cook shrimp and chicken wonderfully myself. When I eat out, I want something I can't cook myself, or something i WON'T cook myself. He recommended the grouper.

                        (sigh). OK so I had the grouper in XO sauce. It was OK, it was good. Wasn't great. I wouldn't order it again. I kept thinking I should've gone ahead with the calamari, or had calamari cooked another way. Hindsight.

                        So entrees, again, points go to ABC.

                        No dessert. I'm needing that sweet refreshing tapioca soup that comes gratis at ABC.

                        Dessert pointage to ABC.

                        So that's that. I have to admit that compared to most Chinese places we've been to in Florida, it's much better than all of them...but still doesn't top ABC.

                        We'll let you know about China Yuan next week.

                        Time to sit on the couch with a bowl of sherbet and watch Dexter!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Manderley

                          When Yummy House first became popular, I had a similar problem with service but they were busy. I had reservations and then waited for a table, then was told my dinner could be an hour or more - but they weren't sure so I better order now and why hadn't I decided before I was given a table? The cleanliness seems to not have gotten any better either. I feel bad that you had a less than stellar experience, but I'm glad I was not the only one. I was starting to think it was all in my head.

                          I'll stick to ABC or if in Tampa then I'll head to China Yuan.

                          1. re: Manderley

                            I too had a similar problem at YH. That is why when China Yuan re-opened after remodeling I didn't go back. The only thing I have found that is tastier at YH than CY is salt n pepper tofu. The salt n pepper tofu is not on the menu at CY but they will make it for you. What makes it so good at YH is the fried garlic in my opinion.

                            1. re: rhnault

                              I confess I don't understand the attraction to salt n pepper tofu. You take a soft, tasteless product, batter and deep fry it. I will try it at YH, but every other time I've had it I could only shrug. So what?

                              I'm glad to see there are some real comparisons going on. Also glad there is a bona fide Chinese option in Pinellas. I lived there for over 15 years and never had a nibble of decent Chinese there.

                              1. re: andy huse

                                It's a consistency thing along with the fried garlic . I can pinpoint the fried garlic as what makes it so good to me. Everything else "salt n pepper" style prefer CY.

                                1. re: rhnault

                                  I've never been a tofu fan, hey, it's like chewing water. I don't get it. But the review I read raved about it, said it's guaranteed to make tofu-philes out of non-tofu-eaters like me, so of course I had to try it. I mean, they laid down a gauntlet, you know? And it really was ok, tasty, but I wouldn't order it again. It was the best tofu I've ever had, but that ain't sayin' much!

                                  1. re: Manderley

                                    What, you mean you didn't change your mind? I had forgotten about my vegetarian friends who kept coercing me into trying tofu in high school - never tasted better than "chewing water" with something else. Well said!

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/558678

                          2. Well, I tried today (Thursday @ 1:30PM) to drive over to ABC from Tampa but they never answered the phone so I figured they were closed... :-(
                            Are they only a dinner place?
                            I guess I'll Google them now to see if I can figger it out...

                            Bummer---- I was excited and on a short-lived mission...

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: Mild Bill

                                Awwww...yeah the first time we went, we were in St Pete on our honeymoon, we were hoping to have a late lunch there on a Sunday before we headed for home. We were so disappointed that they weren't open.

                                Trust me, it's worth the trip. Hmmmmm it's finally Friday...should we go back tonight or try China Yuan? Decisions, decisions....

                              2. What a find! Some of the best salt-and-pepper shrimp I've ever had, thanks largely to the fact that the shrimp were swimming in a tank moments before they were cooked. You can't possibly get it fresher. Wow! Also had some rich and tasty hot and sour seafood soup, studded with shrimp, crab, fresh peas and tofu (and some other bits I couldn't identify). Only disappointment was the pan-fried dumplings; should've checked this post before ordering. Kind of bland with a dipping sauce to match, as you described; more like vinegar than sauce. It's hard to judge a restaurant based on three dishes at a single visit, so I'll be back for more, hopefully with friends so we can try more. But this initial visit suggests ABC is a strong rival to China Yuan and Yummy House. Which is certainly good news to anyone in long-suffering Pinellas. My only question is what took me so long to find a place that has been open for three years!