Restaurant Reviews

Takes on Takeout: Miami's Chinese Takeout Scene Is Abundant and Flavorful

BoyChoy's bao buns arrive by delivery in remarkably good condition.
BoyChoy's bao buns arrive by delivery in remarkably good condition. Photo by Jen Karetnick
Have you ever really looked at the Chinese takeout box? Invented by an American in the 1890s and made from a single unit of leakproof bleached paperboard, it features a Japanese-inspired graphic, a wire handle borrowed from an oyster pail, and origami folds. It also — surprise! — unfolds into a plate.

But you might not have a chance to check out this underutilized feature for much longer. As Chinese takeout in Miami has evolved to become something more nuanced (and in some cases, even less traditional), the takeout container has also started to change. New Times reviewed three restaurants (below, in alphabetical order) to see how successful this more complicated fare is fitting into compostable, recyclable, and reusable takeout containers.

BoyChoy (delivery only), from the owners of Novikov Miami, launched as an Uber Eats-exclusive, delivery-only pop-up in December 2020. Dishes were largely culled from the larger Novikov menu and ranged from some downright complicated dim sum and a variety of crispy rolls — think rich duck and foie gras siu mai ($16) and crunchy king crab and shrimp spring rolls ($16 )— to 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 preparation time. Delivery is still by Uber Eats only for certain lunch and dinner hours. On the plus side, you can place an order before the restaurant opens and arrange for delivery ASAP after it does.

This worked beautifully one recent evening, and the crispy pork ($14) and roasted duck ($15) bao buns were still warm and pillowy, contrasting beautifully with the textured interiors, when they were delivered. That was helpful because reheating bao buns (and the pancakes that go with Peking duck) is a tricky business. The main courses were a little less than perfect. Ginger lobster ($18) contained five small pieces of the crustacean, Mongolian beef ($20) just one or two slices more. Unfortunately, the restaurant had also forgotten to include the white rice in the order. So while we appreciated the distinctive, tasty sauces and the quality of the entrées in the reusable, microwavable takeout containers, we were left hungry.

Note: You can’t make changes or special requests to any dishes in the BoyChoy Uber Eats cart, so if you’re allergic to any ingredients, don't order online; call for takeout.
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Call it old school if you want, but Tropical Chinese Restaurant will prepare 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; is perhaps best known for its classic Hong Kong pushcart-style dim sum, which was put on hold at the beginning of the pandemic (and is now back). But it has always done an inspired dinner business as well. During the lockdown, the owners turned their attention to feeding frontline healthcare workers and donating meals to hospitals.

All that practice has turned the restaurant's takeout fare into a work of art. While the Tropical Chinese doesn’t use a delivery service, you can call in for takeout the old-fashioned way. Just head to the website for a look at the menu. There’s even a pdf of the entire dim sum list.

We stopped in over the holidays for dim sum and ordered a Peking duck ($75) to-go to have for dinner later that evening. Expecting a bag of pancakes and a boxful of bird parts, we were pleasantly surprised to find the pancakes beautifully made up into little cones filled with crisp skin, scallions, cucumber, and hoisin sauce. Another container contained a heaping portion of stir-fried duck meat and vegetables. The yeung chow fried rice ($15) ordered as a side was replete with plump shrimp, chunks of chicken, nuggets of roast pork, ribbons of egg, and peas.

Tip: To reheat already rolled Peking duck pancakes, cover with a damp towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds. This softens the pancakes and also re-renders the duck fat to make the skin pliant again.
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It may not look as pretty as it does when you dine there — where the dumplings are plated beautifully — but takeout from Zitz Sum is something else, transcending the category.
Photo by Jen Karetnick
Owned by former No Name Chinese proprietors chef Pablo Zitzmann and Natalia Restrepo, Zitz Sum (396 Alhambra Cir., Ste. 155, Coral Gables; 786-409-6290; started life as a wildly popular Instagram dumpling vendor. A year later, it calls Coral Gables home.

Zitzmann and pastry wife Restrepo don’t deliver. But while your order may slip and slide a bit, the dumplings survive a trip home in pretty much the same condition as they were when they were placed into the recyclable packaging. A vertical on the website offers a takeout menu (subject to change, as is the dinner menu), so all you have to do is call in your order and head over.

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

Round out a meal with an addictive dan dan cavatelli with braised pork, mushroom ragout, and radish ($22), an outstanding gluten-free karaage (Japanese fried chicken) ($14), and a superb half-head of charred cabbage ($15), infused with chili and Parmesan. You may never go back to your old Chinese delivery standby again.
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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick

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