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Feb 5, 2011 11:04 AM

EL Chinese real and excellent Chinese in Fort Myers...Dim Sum! Cuddle Fish!

a query here for dim sum a few weeks ago brought a smart remark from me, to the effect there was no decent Chinese restaurant in the Fort Myers area. Someone then mentioned dim sum at E L Chinese. I live less than 2 miles from there and so I stopped by this afternoon to try lunch. It is Chinese New Year and the place was packed with large groups of Chinese families. Adorable children in pink silk traditional pajamas at one table and at at least 4 generations at two others.

I didn't venture far this trip having General Tsao Chicken and broccoli, I think I was intimidated by all the chinese patrons. The dish was perfectly crisp with juicy chicken and broccoli that was crisp. Nicely hot garlic sauce which I augmented with the hot chili sauce on the table.

I brought home the dim sum menu to study. They don't do a cart but they have a check off menu with74 items that is available from 11:30 to 3 pm. I call that a dim sum brunch, don't you?

A number of items on the menu are baked in Spicy Baked Salt. Anyone ever tried that? Just curious.

I will be back for dinner and for brunch soon. I do recommend this place highly. It is the real deal. Chinese beer and Heineken. The table water tasted SW Florida chlorine taste. Shows a place that takes care.


E L Chinese Restaurant
12995 S Cleveland Ave Ste 133, Fort Myers, FL 33907

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  1. Thanks for the tip! I'll be down that way in a couple of weeks and dim sum sounds good to me

    1. cuddle fish? do they like to cuddle before or after?

      6 Replies
      1. re: Manderley

        color me embarrassed: cuttle fish!!! I don't know how I missed that. It's on my menu notes, spelled wrong, so it might have been so on the menu. LOL LMF

        1. re: LilMsFoodie

          I got to try any place that serves cuddly fish!

          Actually I know cuttle fish rather well-- when I go diving some will come by and hover like helicopters a few feet way, changing colors, and remarking to each other what an ugly bubble-blowing monster has moved into the neighborhood.

          If I'm slow moving, and one is willing (cuddly?) I can even touch them lightly, and watch the colors expand outward from my touch on their bodies like a neon sign! If they are pissed, they don't come near, or raise their two front tentacles in a clear "FU" sign!

          LMF, be braver next time, and try some of what the Chinese's usually the best tasting food around! And yes, I go for chicken feet and other oddball goodies by Caucasian standards-an acquired taste. Hey, few ate sushi and sashimi 10 years ago, and now it's at Publix, and some Italian restaurants, too!

          I enjoyed Charlie Chiang's New Year's feast, and it was a huge amount of delicious food for $58/pp. I've enjoyed their Dim sum, with over 40 items. If more Caucasians caught on, there'd be more items, and the carts would roll by. You need a good sized core of diners to keep the carts rolling, and not waste food.

          ELl's been on my list for Dim sum for years, but I'd only go if there's 4-6 diners at my table, so all sample oodles of items.

          1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

            That sounds really interesting and good! Just one question - what is the average amount of items people would check off on a menu like that?

        2. re: Manderley

          those fish need a "hoodie-footie" to snuggle in. sorry, LMF, i couldn't resist either. ;-)).

        3. good to know of real chinese in fort myers! is it a cantonese place?

          1. I checked out EL a couple months ago, and the items I've ordered off of their Dim Sum menu have been very good. I was especially impressed with the Shrimp Toast, which is easy to find on any Chinese menu in the Northeast, but apparently hasn't filtered down to being mainstream in Florida yet, so it was great to fulfill that craving.

            As far as the main courses on the regular menu go, I thought they were good, but nothing special, and not worth the price premium vs. other Chinese places. I haven't tried the General Tso's, but the Egg Foo Young and the Moo Shu were both good, not great. Jackie's on Summerilin does both better IMO, and for a better price.

            Still, for the Dim Sum stuff, EL is great, and certainly worth a trip if you want to order from that menu.

            10 Replies
            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

              I've read many complaints about the lack of good Chinese food in the Ft. Myers area. We're from Miami but spend a lot of time in SW FL. We enjoy eating at King Palace Chinese Barbeque in Miami, by far and away the best Chinese restaurant in Miami. Cantonese cuisine.

              We were craving Chinese food and went to E L Chinese (Cantonese) last night. We arrived at 7:15pm. We were the only ones in the restaurant. We asked our waitress to have the chef (75 yrs. old) cook for us like he cooks for his family. OMG....the food was sensational. Tons of flavor. We ordered orange beef, moo shu pork, Chinese broccoli, and special fried rice. We were expecting to get the usual run of the mill Chinese food, so we ordered "safe" dishes. The flavors were unique to each dish, complex, spicy, with a kick. Absolutely delicious. Next time, we'll be more adventurous when we order.

              Seems to me the problem with getting good food in this area is the restaurant owner having to cater to the mid-west American palate. We're finding that if we go late to an ethnic mom and pop restuarant and ask them to crank up the seasoning like they cook at home, we get really good food. I think a lot of retaurants in Ft. Myers would probably be better if they had a different type of customer. My two cents.

              E L Chinese Restaurant
              12995 S Cleveland Ave Ste 133, Fort Myers, FL 33907

              1. re: nobiscuits

                um. the customer is the customer. maybe the customer needs to know that the proprietors are dumbing down the food for them and that they need to ask for better spicing. my two cents. why do you blame the customer if the proprietor thinks that they can't "handle the truth"? you just want to blame the customer? sorry. i don't buy that.

                1. re: alkapal

                  I see your point. However, I think we all experience and appreciate restaurants relative to our likes and dislikes. For instance, years ago, I took groups of au pairs to fabulous Cuban restaurants in Miami. The girls were mainly European. Some of them came from meat and potato eating families that didn't cook with much seasoning. Without exception, those girls hated the food. The others from Turkey, France, Spain loved it.

                  If you're eating mac and cheese, meat and potatoes, baked chicken, etc. on a regular basis, I think you might not enjoy the kind of food the Chinese, Cuban, Indian, Peruvian chefs, et. al. might cook for their families. I think a lot of people around here fall into that category. Not to say that knid of food isn't good; it's just way different. I think it's a problem trying to cater to all types of customers if you own a mom and pop ethnic restaurant. I think that's why we have such great meals when we ask for the "home cooked" version.

                  1. re: nobiscuits

                    well said, nobiscuits. we've all got different palates. that's one of the things that makes it so special to me if i find a "foodie" friend who is as adventurous as i am. i just kind of smile and nod when people rave about baked chicken and steamed broccoli...and i reach for the sriracha.

                2. re: nobiscuits

                  seems to me you're blaming tute for not asking the owner to "make it like you do in your home country." you're blaming the customer. maybe tute is craving some good, authentic chinese (in fact, i'll bet he IS), but why is it incumbent upon him to ask the restaurant to make authentic, quality food. shouldn't that be a given? unless the restaurant advertises itself as "ok alleged midwest-palate americanized chinese food and not *real* chinese food."

                  you blame the customer, but i blame the owner. does the menu say, "food will not be like the authentic food i make in my home country unless you request it especially"? if it says that, and tute didn't ask for that, then i'll blame him….but not before!

                  1. re: alkapal

                    another thought, maybe you could bring this issue to the owners' attention, so they can really "shine" as the authentic chinese in fort myers. i'll bet that would get a lot of year-round customers who would appreciate good authentic chinese cuisine.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I think they need a larger Chinese customer base to make that happen. I respect their right to earn a living. Obviously, a lot of people like the food as it is. They've been in business for a long time.

                      I prefer a more authentic Cantonese dining experience. I'll continue to show up late (late for Ft. Myers) and ask for it. Maybe the restaurant will do that kind of cooking after 7:00 in the future

                      I don't think they would want to get too authentic. Cineses people like to eat really late, 1:00am, 2:00am..

                      1. re: nobiscuits

                        we have a nearby cantonese place -- XO TASTE -- in falls church virginia that is very busy from when they open for lunch at 11 am, and then through the lunch period and it picks back up around 6 and keeps going in waves through the evening. this has a mostly chinese clientele, but i know a lot of the take out roast pork is gotten by the hispanic population around the area. they do roast pork, roast duck, smoked duck….. good stuff.

                        and thinking of how you might crave some good roast pork, here is a recipe for "siew yoke" that looks very close to what they serve:

                          1. re: nobiscuits

                            haha, nobiscuits, i just went to hit the "like" button. ;-)).