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Manhattan Asian

Cafe Hong Kong and Ken's Asian Taste


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Restaurants & Bars Manhattan Asian

Cafe Hong Kong and Ken's Asian Taste

Jim Leff | | Oct 11, 2013 08:23 PM

After being urged in this discussion to hit Cafe Hong Kong for serious Cantonese food, I did a quick hit. There were just three of us, so too few dishes were ordered for any sort of authoritative experience. But I doubt I'll go back.

We got beef chow fun dry, beef ribs with bitter melon (in black bean sauce), salt and pepper shrimp (I know, calamari would have been better, but one of our party insisted), soft shell crab (also done salt and pepper style), and bok choy with foo yee (fermented bean curd sauce).

This was by no means serious Cantonese cooking. Salt and pepper stuff wasn't crispy, just soggy/greasy (like the oil wasn't hot enough). Quality of crab was good, shrimp so-so.

Ribs with bitter melon and chow fun were absolutely pedestrian - which is to say pretty good. Exactly like what I'd expect to get in one of the generic humdrum little quick/cheap Chinese lunch haunts in the garment district. Zero panache, just a good cheap diner-ish fill-up.

Bok choy was mushy and overcooked, and the foo yee sauce was out of a jar - and not one of the better brands. This is, again, quickie/cheapie midtown lunch cooking. It can't compare to late lamented favorites like Shing Kee, Kam Chueh, Tindo, and Fuleen's (back when it was good).

Afterwards, feeling dissatisfied, we hit Ken's Asian Taste on Bowery for a scientific comparison via some similar dishes (beef chow fun, salt and pepper shrimp, clams in black bean sauce, and snow pea leaves). Nothing was decent. Chow fun was all rubbery noodles, very little beef (and no wok flavor). Shrimp were bland and boring (though at least crisp). Clams were severely undercooked, and served in the thickest, gloppiest, most canned-seeming black bean sauce imaginable, and the pea leaves contained no garlic....something I've never before seen and hope never to see again. The characterful manager made no fewer than three pitches for the upstairs massage service, each time emphasizing a bit more explicitly the extra services which can be obtained there. As we left, I noticed a health grade of "C" in the window, the first I've ever spotted.

I think I need to go to Flushing for my Cantonese.