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Asian bistro quickly draws rave reviews

Tampa columnisthooper
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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001

Local attorney Sam Mehring ate at Albert's Asian Bistro five times last week, and his only complaint was that he missed Friday.

Mehring is not the only person quickly becoming a regular at the restaurant, which has been open for only two weeks. The bistro on the southeast corner of Howard and Platt is building a following by offering what co-owner Chan Choy calls Asian fusion. The menu includes Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai entrees, and the food and ambience are clearly a step above the Asian buffets that dot the city's landscape.

"In the whole Tampa Bay, there was really no one serving authentic Cantonese and oriental food," said Choy.

Choy and his brother Tak, who also own the Oceanic Oriental Supermarket on Tampa Street, spent six years planning their restaurant. Choy estimates he took more than 20 trips to San Francisco's Chinatown to coax chefs and servers to join his venture in Tampa.

"I told them we don't have earthquakes," Choy said, laughing.

Fourteen chefs are on staff, including five who exclusively prepare dim sum during lunch hours. Dim sum, which means touch of heart, is appetizer-size morsels of such foods as crab dumplings, barbecue pork turnovers and pan-fried turnip cakes.

The restaurant also pulls live seafood out of aquariums to prepare as meals, including striped bass, perch and eel.

Choy said he's waiting for the servers and staff to become more familiar with the menu items before he starts a full-blown advertising campaign, but my guess is that word-of-mouth endorsements are going to make this one of Tampa's most successful -- and busiest -- restaurants. They certainly get the thumbs up from me.

* * *

Add Marvin Echeverria and Candace Hundley to the list of Tampa's good Samaritans.

After writing about Nick Martinez lending a hand to Bayshore heart attack victim Steve Russell, I got a fax explaining that 19-year-old Echeverria and Hundley, a longtime legislative director for the county delegation, deserve kudos. They stopped to help a man who had been ejected from his wheelchair on Waters Avenue when it slid off the sidewalk last February.

As was the case with Russell, a lot of people drove on before Echeverria and Hundley stopped.

* * *

Buccaneer John Lynch had a cameo on the HBO sitcom Arli$$ this week. When it comes to athletes-turned-actors, I would say Lynch's performance ranked way above Brett Favre's stiff delivery in There's Something About Mary and slightly below Keith Hernandez's comedic turn on Seinfeld.

Of course, nothing tops Jim Brown's stirring portrayal of Jefferson in The Dirty Dozen.

* * *

For the better part of seven years, I saw my son as a wildly energetic singing and dancing maniac. Even his older brother has trouble matching (and tolerating) his antics.

On Saturday, however, I saw him as a Lotto ticket. Visions of dollar signs danced in my head as we made our way to the Toon Disney Most Animated Kid Search at the Florida Aquarium. Some parents may have thought it was a good way to kill a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, but I was thinking Home Alone V, followed by a six-year sitcom deal and multiple appearances on The Tonight Show.

After his 30-second stint, I was not quite convinced he would win the national search and have his image transferred into an animated character. I think he was victimized by a parent doing too much dreaming and not enough coaching.

* * *

The plight of Steve Russell, the man who had a heart attack on Bayshore, has me thinking call boxes would be a good idea for Tampa's most scenic street. Not only would they aid someone who has been overcome by exercise, but they would increase safety for nighttime runners and cyclists.

* * *

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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