I hate myself. Let me explain.
Somehow, I am responsible for writing a restaurant review of The Hong Kong. Only 18 short hours ago, I was surrounded by students wearing a haphazard mix of Southern, Texan, and Canadian Tuxedo type clothing, in what was ostensibly the Midwest Club’s Barn Dance on the legendary Third Floor of the same establishment. Now I find myself walking through the front doors again, all-too-soon.
I arrive with three section mates, who, to protect the (not-so) innocent, I will call Charles, Chaaarles, and Kob.
It is 9:15pm. The front door is empty – no stonefaced bouncer to save me now. Likewise, the first floor of The Hong Kong, the restaurant, is a wasteland. One couple sits in a corner. The gentleman wears jean shorts and tennis shoes. He bickers with his lady accompaniment about the tip. In short, the ambiance is relaxed.
We are seated quickly and efficiently. A veritable cornucopia of delights awaits us on the menu, which is numbered from 1 to 111, and then from C1 onward (for the combination specials).
Chaaarles inquires about off-menu specials and is informed that, unfortunately, the Chef has no surprises for the evening. We order Scallion Pancakes, Pork Dumplings, and Spare Ribs to start.
The sommelier is on vacation, and we settle for the pedestrian guidance of our waiter, who is nonetheless highly attentive. Chaaarles asks about the House White and is, again, informed that there is no official House White. When we ask for a wine recommendation – a popular selection, perhaps – the waiter responds without pause:
We order one, and also a bottle of Chardonnay. Kob asks the Scorpion Bowl to be sent back, as there are not enough little plastic animals in it. Thankfully, the kitchen is responsive and the issue is resolved at the table. The managers have thought of everything – with such long straws via the scorpion bowls, we no longer have to bring the wine glasses to our lips to indulge. As a future Baker Scholar might state, “these network effect synergies are seldom seen utilized so effectively in a consumable luxury dining context.”
As Lifehouse’s seminal 2nd-hit-wonder “You and Me” plays over the dining room speakers, we order our mains. Chaaarles, who is quickly outing himself as the most particular of the party, is in a debate with the waiter over the etymology of the General GAO versus General TSAO chicken offerings. He ends up settling for Broccoli Garlic and Singapore Noodles. Charles and Kob stick with the scorpion bowl, while I order C33 – Stir Fry Pork, 4 Chicken Fingers, and an Egg Roll Combo.
Just as Jewel soothes our ears, our stomachs are soothed commensurately as the accelerated, highly responsive service delivers our appetizers.
The food demands to be tasted.
The scallion pancakes are best described as disarming, delivering near-perfect weight and savory to the palate. Kob is pleased with the girth of the dumplings, and he describes the spare ribs as “sexual.” I find the spare ribs a bit dry. I suppose this is not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Immediately, our mains arrive. Chef is impatient and will not allow us to be left wanting. We sip on our House Scorpion Bowl while we observe the visuals of the mains – the Broccoli Garlic is strikingly delicate in its presentation, while Combo C33 is more direct, laying the Chicken Fingers and Egg Roll bluntly and boldly over the top of the fried rice.
Was it the Scorpion Bowl? Upon degustation, the Broccoli is a goo. The Egg Roll enters and then immediately exits my mouth in a clump, as it is inedible. The Chicken part of the Chicken Fingers is slimy.
On the upside, the Stir Fry is well-balanced and the Chicken Finger dough is delightful in its density.
Am I dreaming? What is happening to me? We descend into a nightmare. It is 10:15pm, and the place is getting packed and loud. Patrons stumble across the dining room. A friend walks in and observes haltingly, “Are you all drinking? But you [author], you are drunker than the rest.” Kob is making an obscene daisy chain of Scorpion Bowl plastic animals – giraffe, monkey, unknown 4-legged thing. My God. I feel awful.
Ultimately, the appetizers carried the day, while the mains left us wanting. The establishment promises a generally energetic dining experience built on the back of a constant stream of B-sides from the 1990’s. The beverages were to standard, which is quite high. The service was prompt and alert.
Perhaps Charles’s Fortune Cookie sums it up best: “The Night Life is for you.”