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.