One of the not-so-hidden secrets of the Shoreline dining scene is the Taste of China restaurant in Clinton. Opened in 2000 by Huping and Jonathan Dolph, the restaurant filled a niche the Dolphs felt in a personal way – Huping was frustrated she couldn’t find “real” Chinese food. It didn’t take long for knowledgeable New Haveners to find the Szechuan-style dining spot, even though it’s 25 miles away. That trek is no longer necessary. The Dolphs teamed up with their chef of 13 years, Xiyu Huang, and opened New Haven’s Taste of China, bang on Chapel Street, across from the Green.
Originally from Nanjing, China, Huping went to Singapore in 1996 to learn English. Jonathan, had gone to Singapore to teach English. One year after she they met in his class they were married, and Jonathan returned to his hometown of Madison with his new bride.
Huping was always looking for “real” Chinese food, but could only find cheap take-out that resembled nothing she had eaten in China. “I was talking to my husband and said that I wanted to open a restaurant because I never had real Chinese food here, it’s all American-Chinese. My husband asked, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said ‘Yes, but I want you to quit your job. I want to do this together. You deal with the bar and I will deal with the kitchen and running the business.” Huping wasn’t a complete novice, other family members had restaurants in China, but she had never run one herself. A space came open in Clinton in 1999 and they opened Taste of China in 2000. “We got lucky and got a good chef. I tried so hard [to make] authentic food. Not Chinese-American kind of flavors. People are always thinking of Chinese food as chicken lo mein, or hot and sour soup, or wonton soup, pork-fried rice, broccoli and chicken. This is not Chinese food that I had in China. We build our business more and more successful and the people were thinking, ‘the food is totally different than other Chinese restaurants.’ It’s quality.”
As their business grew, they saw more and more customers from New Haven: Yale students, professors, office folk. They found the space on Chapel St. and opened in May of 2013.
Huping says, “I want to show that this is an [authentic] Chinese food. It’s quality. It’s healthy.”
Restaurant Website: http://www.tasteofchinaus.com/
• The Detes: 954 Chapel St., New Haven. 203-745-5872. Open seven days. 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Price Range: Appetizers $8-12, entrees $15-30.
• Style of Food: Szechuan
• Favorite dishes: sea bass, tea-smoked duck, chicken with pine nuts, Mongolian beef, salt-and-pepper shrimp.
• Drinks: full bar
• Vegetarian: yes
• Parties/events: yes, big room in the back
• Catering: not yet