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Winnie takes all

After the slap of Charley and too many hours in a powerless, mildewing kitchen, the sight of the lights aglow inside Winnie's Oriental Garden drew us in like a magnet.

Though dressed in post-hurricane attire, we were welcomed by the young host, who sat us out of sight of the main dining area (at our request) in a corner table near the bar, in perfect sight of the color TV. (Another old friend, the A/C, was doing its job too.) We were just going to order takeout, but were convinced to sit and enjoy and not worry about our downscale attire.

Gracious, relaxed service and a sense of elegance – fresh flowers, pleasant music – has been the hallmark of Winnie's ever since it opened in 1996. Before that, for 15 years, Winnie ran the China Garden restaurant in Winter Park, which never recaptured her classy touch. The sense of elegance extends to Winnie's menu as well, which has always been a cut above the area's other Chinese restaurants.

Never mind the hurricane hardships, the typical pampering experience was the same on this night. Warm towels were delivered by our server, and it was tempting to use them for more than just grimy fingers, considering the habituation to cold showers.

Ordering was easy: For an appetizer, the four pieces of crab rangoon ($4.25) were crispy outside and full of creamy flavor. For an entree, the moo shoo vegetables ($8.25) are the best in town (if anyone else even offers this meatless version), and served with brown rice, if requested. The savory gravy holds together the colorful shredded vegetables that you roll up in Mandarin pancakes spread with hoisin sauce, and savor to the last bite.

Winnie, you still rock like a hurricane.

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