TC Choy’s Asian Bistro
Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on October 7, 2011
ohhh man remember pf chang? dude that guy was a class act. he made chinese cool again! and bistros. american chinese bistros. he was an american chinese hero.
wait… what? you’re telling me he wasn’t a real person? i see. apparently, DR. PF CHANG is actually a fictional character, created for marketing purposes. kinda like jimmy carter. as it turns out, the name “pf chang” actually came from the two creators of the restaurant chain, as the following diagram depicts:
what a beautiful union! and from that union popped out a somewhat hip chinese restaurant chain where you eat lettuce with your hands. what a country! so obviously such a rousing triumph of food eatery is bound to spawn countless imitators, and, sure enough, along comes tc choy’s asian bistro. as before, the two co-founders combined their names to make it seem that they were one giant, powerful man:
these are the true masterminds behind stealing pf chang’s thunder. but, surprisingly, the thievery is more or less limited to the the similar name, and the upscale atmosphere. and the asian themed cuisine. OTHERWISE, they’re mostly different restaurants. pretty much. and tc choy’s holds its own. in fact, i may go as far as saying i prefer the choy to the chang. suck it, chang.
tc choy’s is located on howard in hyde park. you can tell it’s some sort of asian place by the entrance. why, it feels like i’m in the heart of china!! no, it doesn’t really. it just feels like hyde park. but luckily, at this point you’re on the outskirts of douchebag territory. you’re safe here, friend.
inside you’re transported into the elegant world of american chinese bistros. it’s a little fancy, but the staff seems down to earth and cool enough not to make you feel out of place. assuming you’re like me. if you’re more into places like bern’s, then perhaps this will feel like an outhouse to you. i don’t know… i can’t really get a sense for these things. anyway, just look at the picture, and figure it out for yourself. maybe i shouldn’t be using words like “outhouse” in a review of a place that i actually enjoyed. hmm.
choy’s menu feels massive. the online menu looks relatively small, but when you’re in the restaurant trying to pick out one dish to eat, you can easily be overwhelmed. they offer all sorts of exciting asian-type things, such as sushi! and clay pot dishes! and dim sum! and FUCKING BENTO BOXES. okay, so maybe i’m a child, but bento on a menu excites me. i was sold. but first, there was sushi to be had.
as recommended by our server, the most popular sushi at choy’s is the volcano special roll. i was caught off guard when i learned they had a volcano special roll… the only time i’d ever had one, or even heard of one, was at jo-to, which is my favorite sushi place. since moving to hyde park, i’ve made repeated visits to jo-to, and every time i get the volcano special roll. it is the best. the best sushi ever.
so i’m not really sure if choy stole the volcano roll from jo-to, in keeping with their thievery motif, or if maybe it’s just a more common roll than i thought. regardless of the origin, choy’s take on the roll was magnificent. i was really blown away by it. i don’t remember specifics, but its main components were crab, cream cheese, a wild spicy baked crab salad, and roe on top. it’s a similar build to jo-to’s, but the difference is huge. the crab salad here is hot in temperature as well as spice. it has an awesome bite to it. and it is cooked to charred on certain parts, which is actually delicious; its warm, crispy, lightly burned flavor provides a perfect counterpoint to the fresh, soft, cool sushi roll it tops. i had no idea i was going to be so pleased.
i cannot really compare it to the volcano roll at jo-to… they are so very different. both are delicious. choy’s is definitely fancier.
my girlfriend got a boat of sushi. i’m unable to determine precisely what the order was, as their online menu is a bit out of date, and i’m still too stubborn to take notes when i go out to eat, but rest assured that it came in a boat. there was an assortment of nigiri, the sexiest of the sushi, and then a single roll of… some sort. the roll contained three different types of fish, but i honestly can’t remember any specifics on it beyond that it had something… something sweet in there. probably. maybe some roe.
i did not eat any of the nigiri, but i did have one of the pieces of the roll. this particular roll had the nori on the outside, and its diameter was almost twice that of a normal roll. eating it was intense and potentially humorous. the main thing i took away from the sushi is how fresh the ingredients were, and how high quality they seemed to be. it was a very pleasant experience.
nothing is as awesome as a little box containing all of your favorite parts of the meal, separated out by little dividers. remember a simpler time? this is like that, but cool and japanesy. included in this particular bento box meal (none of which are described on tc choy’s website) is a fruity mango salad, gyoza with dipping sauce, vegetable lo mein, and szechuan chicken. a full meal. the salad was fresh and delicious, with lettuce, pineapple, delightful cucumbers, carroty slices, and completely unnecessary cherry tomatoes. screw those little guys. the mango dressing, behind the box in the photo, was delicious; sweet and tart. the gyoza was delightful. the lo mein was everything it should have been. and the szechuan chicken was delicious, with a good spice and somewhat unique sauce. everything in the box was above my expectations, and very good.
again, my impression was largely that their best feature was the quality of the ingredients used. a lot of the bento was stuff you could get in any number of places, but everything here tastes much more fresh, and all came together better, than almost any other asian place i can think of (still a bigger fan of the original yummy house, though).
so it’s a good spot. high quality food. classy atmosphere. diverse menu. excellent sushi. and bento boxes for the kids. the bill for the two of us came to somewhere around 60 dollars, and we both agreed that it was completely worth it. i really liked the place. and that choy is a pretty cool guy. eh cooks chinese and doesn’t afraid of anything.