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All A-Bao Dat & Dim Sum

Hong Kong eatery conquers the Southside

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The busy confluence of boulevards—Beach and Hodges—seems to change from day to day, with stores opening and closing at the blink of an eye. So it's reassuring to see the familiar stylish décor, gleaming wood floors and charming chandeliers in Hong Kong Bistro, a long-standing Cantonese restaurant.

The authentic Asian fare isn't just Cantonese, though; you can travel from province to province, digging in as you go.

When I spied the rotating servers (OK, lazy susans) in the middle of each large table, I got a good feeling. The moveable feast it holds is common in restaurants in China, a true family style of dining.

We started our dinner with a pot of tea ($2). As at most Chinese places, there's a lot to sift through on the menu. It's not really overwhelming-there are sure to be two or three items you'll enjoy. We learned that Hong Kong serves a separate dim sum each day, until three o'clock. I'm not wild about the new dim sum craze sweeping Northeast Florida, but I'll have to go back to try the dim sum selection at Hong Kong.

I was thrilled, though, to find Szechwan (or Sichuan or Szechuan) specialties on the menu. In particular, Ma Po Tofu ($13.95) stood out; I ordered it so fast, fearful someone else would get all the creamy cubes of tofu, so light and silky in a light, slightly oily, bright red sauce-from the Sichuan peppers. These peppers, called "ma la" (which surely translates to numb), produce a sensation that's more tingly than spicy. Still, Hong Kong's Ma Po isn't the tear-off-your-clothes kind of hot you'd expect from a traditionally spicy province, it was simply flavorful (shocker)! There are fresh—not frozen—carrots and peas mixed in there, too, which makes a huge difference (trust your tongue, y'all). For those of you who read veggies and tofu and automatically dismiss the dish, you're missing out. Dotted with ground pork, it's a meaty combo, finished with circles of thinly sliced scallion for a bit of freshness. Spoon it over rice and dig in. Chopsticks encouraged.

Yummy Peking duck is available (half-order $25.95; full $45.95), too. It's one of those dishes that I recall vividly from my time in Beijing; Hong Kong does it right, with all the fixings. A steamer tray is laden with hot, fluffy, pure white bao buns, sliced meat, a house mix of hoisin sauce, plus strips of slivered cucumber and green onion. Try building an Asian taco; load up those bao buns. Each bite of crispy duck skin, with a punch of sauce and fresh green veggies, is fair, never foul. Our third choice, least memorable but still good, was the spicy fish dish ($17.95). Nice grouper chunks definitely packed a punch; the run-of-the-mill roasted red and green peppers were set afire with flaming hot peppers. These portions are generous, great for dining with the whole fam damnly.

So drag your dim summing self to Hong Kong; I now consider it among my top five NEFla Chinese venues. Quality Chinese fare is hard to find; this place is almost in a class by itself.

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If you have a recommendation, shoot me an email!

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