Hoy Wong Restaurant is the kind of place you could pass by a thousand times and barely notice. I have, and probably you have too. There it is, on the busiest, most tourist-strewn block of Chinatown, right between a souvenir shop and a bakery, and you can't help but see it, with its bright yellow sign and ducks hanging in the window, and chances are you have time to take a good long look at it because that's the part of Mott St so jammed with tourists you have to wait in line to move. And yet I never went in. To me, it screamed tourist trap, the kind of place that would serve you chop suey straight from the can.
But it's not. I finally went in last night, past the ducks. They have an extensive menu in English and a short menu in Chinese. There was something on the Chinese menu called "East River (Dongjiang) Tofu Casserole" I'd never seen that before so I ordered it. It was more a soup than a casserole. Four shrimp-stuffed pillowy dofu cubes, topped with shredded pork and sliced mushrooms, floated serenely in a savory broth. It was quite good, but the platters of steamed whole fish and roast duck going to the tables of Chinese families near me looked even better. Not all Chinese families, though.... tourists wander in too. The guy seated behind me had punky facial piercings and was happily chatting in Russian on his cellphone.
Oh, I don't think it's the best chow in Chinatown. I'm posting this more out of total amazement that a place could be so hidden in plain view. Talk about forgotten restaurants of Chinatown! And I got to like the decor, which viewed from the street was so off-putting. If you want Wo Hop with good food, here's a place for you.
81 Mott St