less talked about restaurants in Naples
I had dim sum at Charlie Chiang's today. I had dim sum in Chinatown in San Francisco a week ago with a local Chinese couple (who have their special favorites to order at each of a dozen Bay area spots) , and I've had dim sum in Hong Kong. I am pretty picky about where I'll have dim sum.
Charlie Chiang's has very good Cantonese specialties, as well as items from North, East, and West China. For example, Szechuan has their spicy items which are quite different from better known, Hong Kong Cantonese. I'l write up what i had on my blog, suffice it to say I have several times to Chalie C's before, and happily return for authentic Chinese food. Thre are also innovative touches that actually improve on dom dim sum classics-there's a Szechuan red oil dumpling that's wonderfully traditional, and right above it on the menu is a new Spicy tangy dumpling with peanut sauce. I think most folks will prefer the creamy mildly spiced peanut sauce one-I do! Their shrimp toast is among the best I've ever had, and I could eat several orders of the Seafood eggplant medallions. They serve roast duck in Chinatown in SF and in NYC, and this is even more tender than what I've had there and in Hong Kong-top that! The crispy pork wonton and sliced fried shrimp ball are other favorites
I asked about having carts with food at Charlie C's. Basically in places that seat 2-400, the carts' contents are eaten on one circuit through the place. Here, with only 20-40 people, it's not enough to empty a cart, and much un eaten good food will be tossed, as dim sum isn't reheated. When Charlie C's get perhaps 80-100 folks, then carts will start. The current deal, without carts is actually even better for customers than carts, as the food is truly fresh and cooked to order, and arrives much hotter on your table than at most dim sum places, even with the enclosed clear plastic walled carts. (I seat myself by the kitchen , whenever possible, in Chinatown dim sum spots for that reason!.) Iti's tougher for the chefs at Charlie C's to cook so many orders at once, they are "sIammed" when a bunch of tables order at the samce time- they have a clever way to prepare the goods that I';ve only seen in the really big dim sum places-peek in the kitchen to see! I often order chicken feet- at dim sum places-that is no longer offered at Charie Chiang's as most caucasians don't try it. Bottom line, there's over 40 dim sum items to be had, not only from Cantonese, but also from other areas of China. As more and more come out for dim sum, the varity will get wider. That's a pretty wide variety. I finished off the meal with a heavenly mango sorbet, and very good raspberry sorbet, green tea ice cream, and a pistachio ice creams. In time they may offer the egg custard desserts-again, it's not worth stocking some items if people just won't try them. Eat inside, or better on the patio overlooking the river and watch the eagles get their fresh fish, too. CC does offer sushi-that's very good. I've tried PF Changs, and it's not authentic, or as good as Charlie Chiangs. Other dan dim sum on Sat and Sunday, they have one night of $8 dinners, 1/2 price specials on appetizers some nights and happy hours that can fill up the place-call as these things vary, and may not be offered in the season..
I haven't been to Alexander's in about 3 years but I enjoyed my meal there. Haven't been to Chardonnay Nouveau but the original Chardonnay was old fashioned french food with lots of cream sauces. I was not very impressed with the menu at this new incarnation but I haven't tried it and so I won't comment on the food. Vergina has a great reputation for it's "scene" and a bad reputation for it's food. I'm not a lover of Charlie Chiang's-it's what I call typical suburban chinese food, which unfortunately is perfect for the Naples area that isn't exactly teeming with ethnic variety. I prefer the more authentic chinese cuisine from Chinatown in Chicago where I grew up or San Francisco. If you like PF Chang, you will enjoy Charlie Chiang's.
Chardonnay has had several chefs in the last few years. They were supposed to reopen in September-they are still closed. A phone call today gets a message that says the number is no longer in service. Bad sign.
I've never had good luck at ZiZi on food, and stay away. I like drinks there on the patio, used to go there when they had live entertainment.
Haven't been to H.B's in a couple years, so can't say.
I like Charlie Chiang's ribs, slippery shrimp and Dim Sum, best enjoyed in the open air on the river. . They are not Chinatown in Chicago or San Francisco-Naples has a different set of diners whose palates prefer blander food. They are more authentic than PF Changs and their spawn. Charlie's chefs are from China, so if you ask, they may whip up a dish you like. I've had this there when dining with fluent Chinese friends. Most Americans in Naples complain about the spicing in authentic foods, be it Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Polish, etc. The food is gradually dumbed down so it tastes right for Middle American palates, and the restaurant thus draws more customers to stay in business. I'll have to go back to San Francisco and get my fix on international foods!
I don't go out of my way for Vergina's food-it's ok. Same for Ristorante Angeli and Gina's on 7th. I like Two Brother's Baci, and I hear Giovanni's is very good!
I've eaten at Alexanders over the years, not in the past two years. I believe owner is chef still. Should be very good.
Have you tried Cibao? I like them.
I know I've recommended Alexander's to others in the past on this board...problem is, I have not been there in over a year since they relocated our probate department down to 5th Ave South...I don't have a long enough lunch hour to trek up there for lunch! It really has been a fine place...I know they close the entire month of September for holiday. Hope they are still as good as they always have been. Used to love going there for a special business lunch.
Haven't been to Chardonnay since it was sold and became Nouveau. Vergina has always been too much of a scene with me and I like Campiello. which has a similar social reputation.
Somehow the Fifth Avenue venue seems more "impressionable", not impressive.
Charlie Chiang's is on my to do list, soon. LMF