In the halcyon world of tents, there have been the US Army’s “pup” variety, Barnum & Bailey’s Big Top behemoth, and countless other sizes, small and large. Now, in deference to an increasingly virus-averse public, China Gourmet has entered the fray with its own portable outdoor edifice. GM Jesse Lear explains: “We added the tent to accommodate people who want to dine outside. There is generous seating out there, well-spaced (for social distancing). We have four heaters to go out there, and that makes the space nice and cozy even when the temperatures outside are not ideal,” she said.
We visited the tent during off hours, a roomy, high-canopy arrangement with side flaps to keep out winter’s chilling breezes. With tall patio heaters sporting Asian “rice-hat” caps that cast heat downward, the space is remarkably comfortable even as outdoor air moves through to create the safety edge upon which some diners-out insist. Ohio state law requires two openings to allow for easy entrance and exit, but even with these portals, the space remains comfortable and conducive to eating outdoors in mid-winter, Lear said.
The tent has proved popular and Lear recommends reserved seating for those who want to eat under China Gourmet’s modified Big Top.
While dining out is the essence of the restaurant biz, take-out (carryout in today’s parlance), especially Chinese take-out, is part of Jewish DNA. Public figures the likes of Buddy Hackett, Woody Allen, Philip Roth and more have paid homage to Chinese take-out in comedy, movies, books—even on Broadway. Lear stated that carryout (and delivery, too) is doing very well of late. “We are doing curbside pickup, too; so, if you want to do that, call, pay on the phone, and we’ll bring it out to you. You don’t have to come in or even leave your car.”
China Gourmet features Door Dash™ and Grub Hub™ also, which offer delivery. Another service I did not know those companies provide is ordering meals that you intend to pick up. Said another way, you can order carryout through those delivery services, even though you intend to pick up your food yourself. But Lear recommends you call China Gourmet direct instead of going through either service. “You pay a fee for them to place the order, even though you will pick it up,” she said. Makes sense for you to order direct, by phone, and save a needless service charge. She added: “Plus, there are times when we get too busy, so, we’ll cut off those services (Grub Hub and Door Dash), but we’ll still take phone calls and fill your carryout orders.” Another solid reason to take advantage of the lower-cost option.
Regardless how you approach your dining experience with China Gourmet, it’s all about the food, right? We have enjoyed just about everything on China Gourmet’s menu over the years, and I’m betting you will find much to savor from this eatery too. This last trip there (a take-out meal), we enjoyed the spicy beef noodle soup as one of our dishes. A bowl of this hearty soup is just-right with Old Man Winter at the door. Why so hearty? “What we use for the broth is our short rib broth; we braise our short ribs for hours; we degrease the broth and mix it with vegetable broth and that’s the base for this beef soup. The beef in the soup is steak tenderloin, the same steak we use in our kung po steak (entrée). The soup has udon noodles and is loaded with vegetables too,” she said.
The soup is a winner down to the last spoonful. It features red chili oil, which can make for a very spicy taste. But you can have the soup with or without the spice component—just specify. Mine was maybe a two on a 6-level scale, and the soup was zingy without being over the top. If you like a spiciness that is just a notch over mild, a level two would be in your wheelhouse.
Also, we enjoyed the sweet and sour chicken as an entrée. This dish begins with chunks of chicken breast, which are dipped in flour-based batter, then fried. The oil used for frying is a vegetable variety and not sesame oil, sesame being in the tree-nut family and a source of allergic reaction for some. Pineapple chunks and carrot ribbons are prominent ingredients in the dish and provide complementary flavors. If you order this chicken dish to go, the sweet and sour sauce will be on the side. Keeping them separate until you are ready to eat keeps the chicken chunks crispy, a hallmark of the dish. The combination of ingredients and technique make this dish a delight. Bet you’ll enjoy the sweet and sour chicken as much as we did.
See you at China Gourmet’s new al fresco dining tent, or perhaps in the restaurant!
3340 Erie Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45208