An old Chinese standby, re-envisioned and worth revisiting
The new owners of the Hong Kong Inn keep the spirit alive of the landmark restaurant
By JR Grant 06/26/2014
Hong Kong Inn
455 E. Thompson Blvd.
At the end of 2012 the owners of the Hong Kong Inn retired and closed the doors of this 48-year-old landmark restaurant. Now, at its half-century mark, a hip and energetic new owner and staff are reinvigorating both the menu and the nightlife entertainment. The fondly remembered Friday and Saturday night Polynesian Review dancing and live music have been re-imagined, happy hour Tiki drinks are now only $5, most nights offer happening live music, and the menu, though vast, is once again a go-to location for old-fashioned Chinese preparation much as many of us remember from our childhoods.
Of late, I have been popping into the Hong Kong Inn for a quick lunch. If you order the special (either $7.50 or $8.50), you begin with a steaming cup of soup — the wor wonton is particularly delicious, redolent of rich chicken broth, a perfectly cooked wonton, a slice of barbecue pork, several plump shrimp, water chestnuts and a scrumptious hint of ginger root underlying the other flavor combinations. There are many entree selections; one of my favorites is the bean curd with vegetable. The sauce tastes like a combination of soy and hoisin sauces, with shallots, snow peas, water chestnuts, carrot and green pepper. Served also with fried rice and egg roll, this lunch is hearty, healthy, flavorful; in short, great value in so many ways.
The first time I ordered Szechwan chicken as my lunch entree, I was a bit disappointed in its lack of spicy kick. Subsequently I have requested the Szechwan dishes extra hot and my expectations were more than met. If you enjoy very fiery cuisine, it is also a good idea to ask for a side bowl of hot oil.
Recently some friends and I decided to order Chinese take-out for dinner, and we opted for the family meal combination ($13.95-$17.95 depending on the selections). The pupu platter included shrimp tempura, skewered beef and chicken, egg roll and crab rangoon. The shrimp had been butterflied and the tempura batter was light and airy, leaving the shrimp flavor to dominate. We ordered the fairly common cashew chicken as our main course: many large slices of chicken in a slightly sweet sauce, with scallions, red pepper, garlic, mounds of cashews and a hint of ginger. All at the table were very pleased with this selection.
A friend is obsessed with shrimp with lobster sauce. The version at Hong Kong Inn is similar to traditional recipes (basically a creamy white sauce with ground pork, pepper, onion, garlic and egg). At the Hong Kong Inn the flavor also seems to have a bit of fermented black bean to add a bit of a zing to this traditional dish. The shrimp (both whole and minced) were abundant, and my friend is happily anxious to order this dish again. This same friend is also an excellent chef of egg foo young, so we ordered the dish so she could compare. The texture and flavor combination were up to par for me but my friend wanted the egg to be a bit firmer and the dish to be less dependent on the sauce and rely instead on the savory ingredient mixture for flavoring.
Hong Kong Inn offers a vast quantity of familiar Chinese dishes, all prepared to order and using only the freshest possible ingredients with no usage of MSG at all. So while it may remind you of a childhood favorite Chinese restaurant, the attention to freshly prepared items, attentive service, and a willingness to customize and create any dish to your liking certainly moves the bar up a notch for quality and familiar fare. Also, the nightlife scene at Hong Kong Inn is fun and inviting, and if you’ve never experienced those Polynesian dancers on weekends you will certainly be in for a treat.