Finding the Best Chinese Takeout in Miami

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Have you ever really looked at the Chinese takeout box? Invented by an American in the 1890s and made from a single unit of waterproof bleached cardboard, it features Japanese-inspired graphics, a wire handle borrowed from an oyster bucket, and origami pleats. It’s also — surprise! — unfolds into a plate.

But you might not get a chance to test out this underutilized feature any longer. As Chinese takeout in Miami has evolved into something more nuanced (and in some cases, even less traditional), the takeout container has also begun to change. new times reviewed three restaurants (below, in alphabetical order) to see how well this more complicated fare fits into compostable, recyclable and reusable take-out containers.

BoyChoy (delivery only), from the owners of Novikov Miami, launched in December 2020 as an Uber Eats-exclusive, delivery-only pop-up. – think rich duck and foie gras siu mai ($16) and crispy spring rolls with king crab and prawns ($16) – bao buns and a half or whole peking duck.

Today, the system remains much the same, with the addition of a take-out menu that varies slightly and gives you an estimated prep time. Delivery is still done by Uber Eats only for certain lunch and dinner times. On the plus side, you can place an order before the restaurant opens and arrange delivery as soon as possible afterwards.

It worked wonderfully on a recent evening, and the crispy pork ($14) and roast duck ($15) bao buns were still warm and moist, contrasting beautifully with the textured interiors, when delivered. This came in handy because reheating the bao buns (and the pancakes that come with the Peking Duck) is tricky business. The main courses were a little less than perfect. The Ginger Lobster ($18) had five small pieces of shellfish, the Mongolian Beef ($20) just one or two more slices. Unfortunately the restaurant also forgot to include the white rice in the order. So while we enjoy the distinctive, flavorful sauces and quality entrees in the reusable, microwaveable take-out containers, we were left wanting more.

Note: You cannot make changes or special requests to dishes in the BoyChoy Uber Eats cart, so if you are allergic to any of the ingredients, do not order online; call for take out.

Click to enlarge

Call it old school if you will, but the tropical Chinese restaurant will cook you a Peking duck to go – and they’ll even roll the pancakes for you.

Photo by Jen Karetnick

Around since 1984, Tropical Chinese (7991 SW 40th St., Miami; 305-262-1552; tropicalchinesemiami.com) is perhaps best known for its classic Hong Kong hand cart-style dim sum, which was suspended at the start of the pandemic (and is now back). But he’s always done an inspired dinner business as well. During the lockdown, owners focused on feeding frontline healthcare workers and donating meals to hospitals.

All this practice has turned the restaurant’s takeout into a work of art. Although Tropical Chinese doesn’t use a delivery service, you can call in for takeout the old-fashioned way. Just head over to the website to check out the menu. There is even a pdf of the whole dim sum list.

We stopped in on vacation for dim sum and ordered Peking duck ($75) to take out for dinner later that evening. Expecting a bag of pancakes and a box full of bird parts, we were pleasantly surprised to find the beautifully prepared pancakes in small cones filled with crispy skin, green onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce. Another container held a large portion of sautéed duck meat and vegetables. The yeung chow fried rice ($15) ordered as a side dish was filled with plump shrimp, chicken pieces, roast pork nuggets, egg ribbons and peas.

Tip: To reheat previously rolled lacquered duck pancakes, cover with a damp cloth and microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. This softens the pancakes and also re-molds the duck fat to restore suppleness to the skin.

Click to enlarge It may not look as pretty as when you dine there - where the dumplings are beautifully plated - but Zitz Sum's takeout is something else, transcending the category.  - PHOTO BY JEN KARETNICK

It might not look as pretty as when you dine there – where the dumplings are beautifully plated – but Zitz Sum’s takeout is something else, transcending the category.

Photo by Jen Karetnick

Owned by unnamed former Chinese owners Chef Pablo Zitzmann and Natalia Restrepo, Sum Zitz (396 Alhambra Cir., Ste. 155, coral gables; 786-409-6290; zitzsum.com) started life as a hugely popular Instagram dumpling vendor. A year later, he calls Coral Gables home.

Zitzmann and his pastry chef wife Restrepo do not deliver. But while your order may slip and slide a bit, the dumplings survive a return trip in much the same condition as when placed in the recyclable packaging. A vertical on the website offers a take-out menu (subject to change, as is the dinner menu), so all you have to do is call in your order and drive in.

Hand-rolled daily, dumplings like the succulent pork potstickers ($16) in brown butter tosazu (a smoky-tasting seasoned vinegar), are counterpointed with fermented cucumber. These and the explosive shrimp har gow ($17), sprinkled with chili and garlic and topped with basil, are favorites. But they are made in limited quantities, so order early in the evening. Luckily, there seems to be an endless supply of wonton in brodo ($15), stuffed chicken balls drifting in a teasing parmesan broth. If you have never understood what the word umami really means, try this and you will.

Complete a meal with an addictive dan dan cavatelli with braised pork, mushroom and radish stew ($22), exceptional gluten-free karaage (Japanese fried chicken) ($14) and a superb charred cabbage half-head ($15) , infused with chilli and parmesan. You will never be able to go back to your old Chinese delivery standby again.

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