Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hong Kong Cafe

Sometimes, you have to step out of your comfort zone and go someplace that you would never normally dine in the off chance that you discover a "hidden gem"; a place where the food is excellent, prices are cheap, and tables are readily available. It was because of this quest for that "hidden gem" that I decided to join my friends to eat at the Hong Kong Cafe in the Kenmore/Fenway area.

The Hong Kong Cafe is tucked away inside an old Howard Johnson. The outside is non-descript and is an anomoly in the area where new high-rises are being built and old buildings refurbished on a daily basis. My friend Marco has a strange fascination with old establishments. From old movie theaters to old school Papa Gino's there's just something about them that makes him giddy. I think it's the fact that these places are able to remain in business for so long without any big renovations or updates. That being said, it was no suprise when I received an e-mail today from Marco, bursting with excitement to try the Hong Kong Cafe.

When we arrived at the Cafe we were the only patrons there. Our waiter/host sat us at a nice big table next to the windows (overlooking the HoJo swimming pool...eek!). The first thing I noticed was the "Name the Presidents" placemats. I actually loved this. It was a nostalgia thing for me and I quickly went over the pictures trying to figure out who was who. The restaurant must have ordered the placemats in bulk because they still had Ronald Regan as a living president.

For drinks, Marco and Jeremy ordered the Blue Hawaiian. It came electric blue. I tasted it and it was actually pretty darn good and at $6.50, not too high of a price tag. Adam ordered the Fog Cutter which was described on the menu as "includes a nightmare of bartender's mixture. However, some people enjoy it" needless to say, he took only two sips of it the whole night.

For appetizers, the table ordered the Scallion pancakes, Ribs, crab rangoons, egg drop soup and a few other things to nibble on. I had the scallion pancakes and actually, they were delicious. There were plenty of them for $4.25 and they weren't overly greasy like some restaurants make them. This was the best thing I had all night there. Everyone else said the appetizers were fine but nothing to write home about. I should mention that the Hong Kong Cafe's menu claims that it is "gourmet Chinese food", don't let that bit of advertising fool you. It's anything but gourmet. For the main course, the table ordered sweet and sour chicken and General Gao's chicken. The sweet and sour chicken was bland and too heavily battered. The General Gao's was, again, okay but nothing remarkable.

Although the food wasn't gourmet, the waiter was very nice and extremely tentative to our water needs. I must have received at least 6 refills of water in under an hour!

The Hong Kong Cafe is what you would expect if you were to judge by the outside appearance. A bit run down, pretty bland food (probably a lot better if you've been drinking) and okay prices. A hidden gem? No way. This is more of a quick bite to eat before a Red Sox game when every other place has a line to get in.

[Bryan's note: I also found a little linguistic fun for me when the bill came. It was not only in English, but also in Chinese! Click here to see!]

Hong Kong Cafe on Urbanspoon

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