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Jul 20, 2012 04:39 PM

Good news for Sinophile Gators -- REAL Chinese food in Gainesville! (kind of long)

I'm a longtime CH lurker finally moved to post: A couple of credible, authentic Chinese restaurants have finally opened in Gainesville! As I've been suffering from extreme dim sum/congee withdrawal symptoms since moving here four years ago, I REALLY want these places to succeed.

1. Hong Kong Deli, 1236 NW 21st Avenue, Gainesville, 352-505-0454. This place is pretty much take-out only -- their seating area is a work in progress, to put it diplomatically. But the food is the real deal -- the "deli" part of the menu has everything you'd expect in a classic Cantonese deli: roast duck, Cantonese-style barbeque pork, crisp-skinned roast pork, various chicken preps. They also have a dim sum and noodle menu, along with stir-fried dishes that vary by the day.

It's a seriously bare-bones operation (the only people working there full-time are a young husband-and-wife team -- he's not Chinese but he knows what he's doing).

So far, I've tasted their roast duck, roast pork, and barbeque pork, and found them all up to my picky standards. (I'm a proud Chinese-American with family in the restaurant biz.) Don't be put off by the lack of ambiance in the place -- just get your food and go, you won't be sorry.

Raw grade: A-/B+
Grade on curve set by other Gainesville Chinese places: A+

2. Gator Suyaki, 3830 SW 13th St, Gainesville, 352-377- 4773. The thoroughly dumb name is misleading . While the place does offer a typical Gainesville "Pan-Asian" restaurant mix of fusion sushi, egg rolls, and rice bowls, it also has an a second, all-Chinese menu that wouldn't look out of place in a big city with a serious Chinatown.

The one time I went, most of the diners were Chinese (UF grad student types), which was a good sign. We had a cold meat platter (a very limited assortment compared to Los Angeles/ Vancouver/San Francisco restaurants, and not as fresh-tasting as I would have liked), braised eggplant with pork, and a fried fish preparation with red chilies. All were authentic,competently executed, and unlike most Chinese around here, not dumbed-down for non-Chinese palates. (Neither is the Chinese menu as a whole, which contains several preparations featuring kidneys, jellyfish, and other "exotic" ingredients.)

Absolute grade: B
Grade on curve set by other Gainesville Chinese places: A

Make no mistake, neither of these places can match the standards of the best places in Hong Kong, Vancouver, or even Los Angeles. (But I think Hong Kong Deli, given the youth and drive of its cooks, may be able to in a few years.) But it's pretty darned heartening to have places like this in town at last.

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  1. Tthanks so much, Felicial.

    I really like reviews such as yours. Your review was thoughtful and provided a lot of information. Not that I am unhappy with other reviews (Chowhound is great), but your review above stands out.

    1. Once drove from Orlando to Gainesville to try Mr. Han's, which was OK. These sound really interesting.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chandavkl

        They are -- relatively speaking, of course. I hope both of these places thrive. By the way, I was (and am still) a regular lurker on the LA board and your expertise on the Chinese food scene in SoCal makes me hungry, homesick and jealous! I wish I had taken the initiative to explore the SGV food scene there as aggressively as you have while I was living there! What the heck brings you to Gainesville?

        1. re: FeliciaL

          Short answer is that my firm frequently has meetings in Orlando and I ran out of places to eat there. Longer explanation would not be of interest to the board, so I'll let you follow the link which notes my drive to Gainesville.

      2. Have been to Hong Kong Deli several times recently and I agree - great food. I've started just asking what he recommends when I go in. Love love the Spicy Beef Soup w/Noodles. Also really liked the shrimp dumplings, duck and bbq pork. Haven't tried the squid yet, but it's supposed to be tasty as well. So nice to finally have some decent Chinese in town.