China Syndromes

I’m still waiting for some enterprising restaurant owner to revive one of my favorite Chinese restaurant names, one dating back to 1916: the provocative Hung Far Lo, long-vanished from its former location at 704 East 12th Street. Back during World War I, most local Chinese restaurants — such as Shin Tong, Shing Mow, Wong Sing — were named for their owners. The more fabulous names indicating royal aspirations came much later, with the arrival of places such as King Palace, Princess Gardens, China King, Imperial Palace and Golden Pagoda.

One establishment with a much less traditional name is the Dainty Chinese Restaurant (1301 Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard), located in an old Pizza Hut building just a few blocks west of 71 Highway. Its name evokes a tastefully appointed 19th-century tearoom rather than a dirt-cheap Chinese joint. Still, Dainty Chinese is spotlessly clean, with some decorative touches that might be on the prissy side: fabric lampshades with red-fringe trim and a giant aquarium containing two small goldfish.

The tattooed hip-hop kid behind the Plexiglas windows at the front counter couldn’t be less dainty, but he’s enthusiastic about taking orders for traditional Chinese-American dishes such as chicken pineapple, sweet-and-sour pork, chop suey and egg foo yong.

Because of its urban location, Dainty Chinese also offers half a dozen traditional soul-food items — if you don’t want General Tso’s chicken, you can order a dinner with fried catfish, whiting or buffalo fish, available with potato salad, cole slaw or fries. (Something called “crab stix” just doesn’t sound dainty enough for me.)

A much more familiar restaurant name is Bo Ling’s, which combines the Chinese names of its owners, Richard and Theresa Ng, who continue to expand their 24-year-old culinary empire. The sixth Bo Ling’s is slated to open in late September in the Northland’s Zona Rosa shopping district, when the Ngs take over the space briefly occupied by the Flat Wok Mongolian Grill.

When those owners abandoned the space, they left behind the incredibly heavy Mongolian grill. But Richard Ng doesn’t plan to keep it. “I guess we’ll sell it,” he says. “We don’t do that kind of cooking.”

But what about dim sum, the assortment of savory dumplings, rice balls, chicken feet and other bite-sized delicacies served from metal carts rolled around the dining room on weekends at the Overland Park and Plaza Bo Ling’s? “We’re thinking about it,” Richard says. “Maybe a few limited items.”

You know, the daintier ones.

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