Having lived in four states and gone away to college I say it is probably a good bet that if you have been to one Chinese restaurant, you have been to them all, yes? I know that isn't the case, but it does some truth to it. Although I found a Columbus-area venture that breaks the mold.
Ying's Teahouse & Yum-Yum (seriously, that's the name) at 4312 North High Street (just south of the W. Henderson & E. Cooke intersection) in Clintonville is more than just a pleasant surprise. The eatery is in a small strip-like mall that isn't very flattering, but the mall itself has some decent stores and businesses. Despite the look from the outside Ying's is a slice of elegance in a not-so uppity fashion. Just enough decor to know where you are and allows you to enjoy it. Some places try to hard, Ying's does not.
They offer a variety of dishes in a number of categories: Non-Sweet, Sushi, House Specialties, Chicken, Shrimp, Pork, Beef, Soup, Veggie and Salads. Some are the dishes you would find at most, if not all, Chinese restaurants. Others are their originals or their twist on a typical favorite.
A couple of weekends ago Christine and I stopped by to check it out. Ying's was not very busy on this cold Saturday afternoon, though they were definitely being noticed by the locals. A few people were eating inside and more than a handful were ordering carryout.
After a short time perusing the menu Christine selected a Chinese restaurant staple with the General Tso's Chicken ($7.99. Oh, and FYI, they help you out by indicating which dishes are spicy and which are not on the menu). I, being a hug fan of eggplant, chose the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce ($8.95). The woman waiting on us looked almost stunned when I indicated I didn't want anything else on the dish. She asked me twice just to make sure she heard me right. We laughed thinking the woman had not come across to many guys who order a veggie only dish. I AM a meat eater, but eggplant is awesome.
To start us off I ordered a bowl of Egg Drop Soup ($1.50) and Christine the Hot and Sour Soup ($1.50). Both were tasty enough that we were scraping the bottom of our bowls by the time dinner arrived. We also took advantage of the tea service which comes steaming in a pot for one ($2.75) or a pot for two or three ($4.50). There is an excellent list to chose from. We took a selection from the Herbal Tea Blends, the Invigorating Tea. This is a combination of Jasmine, Lemon Grass, Linden Leaves and Sweet Chrysanthemum. The tea was not overpowering and gave just a hint of each of the blends' ingredients. The best part was the fact the tea stayed hot in our own personal pot throughout dinner.
As for dinner, the General Tso's Chicken was better than expected. I have had similar dishes in the past in which the breading on the chicken came a bit too soggy for my taste. This one came with a good crispiness still involved. The eggplant was exactly what I was looking for with big strands of Chinese eggplant doused in a tangy garlic sauce and lots of it. Christine and I had enough for dinner the next day. There were just as good as they were the first time around.
I don't mind fortune cookies, but I don't exactly crave them. Ying's avoided the stereotypical Chinese restaurant by not having these and leaving you with a tasty, flaky cookie (an actual cookie) that went well with the rest of the tea. We declined on dessert as we were stuffed to the gills, but if I would have had any room left at all...I would have been the first one there.
We didn't see it till afterwards, but a Columbus Alive article from not too long ago stated that Ying's homemade dumplings were something to be had. I'm sorry we didn't order them, but I suspect that would be something to attack the next time around. They also have lunch specials available during the work week from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. that range in price from $5.00 to $6.50 depending on your use of cash or credit card. There are four of these that come in the sushi, yum-yum special and rice plant varieties.
Ying's business hours are 11:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. They can be reach by phone (614-262-7587), fax (614-262-7928) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and take all major credit cards. They do not deliver, but have a very popular carryout service.
I think what makes Ying's unique is the fact that they are a Chinese restaurant that doesn't act like what most of us are used to in a Chinese restaurant. It is relaxing and casual with an atmosphere to boot.