Where’s Delray Beach’s best Chinese food? A Chinese-food snob’s response: Tamarac

Hong Kong City BBQ on Route 7/441 in Tamarac

When people ask me where’s the best Chinese food in Delray Beach I have one response: Tamarac.

I’ve dined at almost every purported Chinese eatery in Delray, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach and with one exception (the ultra expensive Uncle Tai’s in Boca) have been disappointed by the sweet, corn-starch-laden glop that comes out of kitchens supposedly purveying one of the world’s oldest and finest cuisines. To me, it seems, they are cooking for people who no longer have their taste buds.

That’s why I like Hong Kong City BBQ in Tamarac. It’s a bit of New York City’s Chinatown transplanted to South Florida. A little out of the way relative to Delray Beach and environs, it’s worth the roughly 30-minute drive. You’ll find it on State Route 7/US 441, just north of Commercial Boulevard, easily reached visa I-95 or Florida’s Turnpike

I have no qualms about the drive. I have never left Hong Kong City disappointed. Located in a free-standing building at the end of a strip center that has seen better times, Hong Kong City BBQ is the quintessential New York City Chinatown eatery.

Roasted birds, meats at the entrance/

Inside Hong Kong City BBQ








Like many establishments in New York’s Chinatown, roasted ducks, chickens and racks of pork ribs dangle on hooks behind a glass wall above a chopping block next to the entrance. It’s a Chinese custom, I’ve learned. Guests entering a restaurant in China and Chinatown often will pass through the kitchen on their way to the dining area, allowing them to judge the chef’s skills and the restaurant’s cleanliness. I’ve no doubt about the chef’s skills and, yes, the place is immaculate.

Mind you, it’s not fancy. The décor is simple: green painted walls with pictures and flat-screen TVs and pink table cloths on mostly large round tables.  Service can range from friendly and helpful to gruff.  But that won’t matter. You’re here for the food as are the other patrons, who mostly are Asian.

Chinese is among my favorite cuisines. Yes, I am a Chinese-food snob. I no longer can eat the Jewish-American Brooklyn Chinese stuff that many Florida transplants recall dining on at chow mein and chop suey joints  up North. I insist on the real deal — Chinatown food.  To be sure HKC BBQ does offer some familiar staples — wonton soup, egg rolls and spare ribs — well executed here and pleasing to those with limited dining horizons.

I, too, once enjoyed that Chinese-American stuff, but after years of working at the fringe of New York’s Chinatown, I began to experience authentic Chinese cuisine on a regular basis. More recently, I’ve grown especially fond of genuine Cantonese food, thanks to a Chinese-speaking former colleague who introduced me to the real thing on Long Island (An eatery called The Orient, in Bethpage). Since then, I’ve become spoiled. I admit that I’m Chinese food snob. I strive to dine on the stuff that Asian diners order. I’ve had snails, chicken feet, duck tongues, abalone and other dishes the Chinese consider delicacies.

On my first visit to Hong Kong City BBQ some years ago, our server marveled at the dishes that I ordered and after explaining that I’d worked near New York’s Chinatown, she proudly told me that both the chef and the dim sum chef previously worked there.

It shows. This is classic Cantonese, where the flavors of individual ingredients shine in each dish. Green vegetables are crisp and the sauces are not gluey. Don’t expect spicy, steam-out-of-your-ears Sichuan food, which is even more difficult to fine in Florida.

Shrimp balls dim sum

Roast pork buns dim sum

Shrimp-stuffed eggplant dim sum

Egg-custard tarts

Baked custard buns

Velvet chicken corn soup

But at Hong Kong City BBQ you can expect to have dim sum, literally snacks in Chinese, and generally eaten at breakfast or lunch in China. Some Chinese eateries only offer dim sum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Here they are available at all hours, seven days a week.To be sure, there’s more variety on weekends here — and more crowds. I am content to start a meal with baked roast pork buns, crispy shrimp balls and eggplant stuffed with shrimp in black bean sauce. Dim sum prices start at about $3.95 a plate.

But first, I’ll order the gratis crispy, vinegary Chinese pickles with carrots and turnips, in lieu of the crispy noodles. You’ll have to ask your server for them.

And while the wonton soup, a staple for many, is fine here you’ll do well with other choices. The hot-and-sour soup is flavorful and well-balanced. You also can enjoy a fine rendition of velvet chicken with corn soup, essentially egg drop soup with minced chicken and hints of sesame oil.

Hong Kong soy sauce noodles

House special pan-fried noodles

Fish filet-tofu casserole

A simple dish, House Special Pan Fried Noodles, brings a glass bowl to the table teaming with crisp, but still elastic, thick noodles topped by oodles of sliced chicken, pork, shrimp, squid, mushrooms, bok choy and, regrettably, imitation crab meat, and a brown sauce.  Each bite reveals the characteristic of the ingredient. A casserole of tofu, mushrooms and crispy fish filet may seem boring; it’s not. Extra crispy, hot soy sauce noodles are addictive. Snow pea leaves saluted with garlic are a delightful bright green offering.

And while there is tea, water, a few wines and Tsingtao Chinese beer available to wash it all down, I like to bring a bottle or two of my own wine. I enjoy fruity Rieslings, spicy white Rhones, fruity Albarinos and Pinot Noirs. with Chinese food. Corkage is just a $10 a bottle; worth it if you appreciate fermented grape juice with your food.

If is a weekend, you might opt for baked custard buns or egg custard tarts for dessert. Otherwise, the sliced oranges delivered gratis to you table with your check—generally quite reasonable—should do the job of completing a fine meal. You’ll leave full and satisfied.

Hong Kong City BBQ

5301 N State Road 7, Tamarac, FL 33319

(954) 777-3832


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