Published on January 20th, 2013 | by Gary Rice0
Don’t worry, it’s part of the charm – Hong Kong Restaurant Hillcrest
Hong Kong Restaurant Review
Every San Diegan that lives in the downtown area knows that Kearny Mesa is the Mecca of Asian cuisine, a geographic wonder where practically every Asian ethnic group is represented. Indeed, we’ve all come to learn that when our tummies long for tasty bites of the Orient, the plethora of hole-in-the-walls in Kearny Mesa is where those cravings will likely be satiated. Every now and then, however, just mustering the energy to drive to that part of town can be a challenge after a hard day at the office, and in those instances we can settle. Yes, we can settle for food that functions to merely quell the yearning, understanding all the while that its lack of authentic taste will likely not inspire us to hear Chinese harps, flutes and zithers playing in the imaginary as we might expect to experience at those other locations on Convoy St. And that’s o.k. because all we really care about is the moment’s urge, the desire; that primal, animalistic need to shamefully debase ourselves with bastardized, cheap Kung Pao Chicken is what propels us in those flashes in time. If you live anywhere near the Hillcrest area, or if you’re merely passing through, there’s really no better place than Hong Kong to engage in such demoralization.
Unassumingly located on a very busy stretch of Fourth Avenue, Hong Kong can be found in a drab-looking building that is extremely easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Notwithstanding, please don’t allow yourself to stress out too much by trying to visually identify the restaurant whilst driving. By simply employing your olfactory senses the old smell of fried wantons and sweet and sour pork that’s ingrained into the brick and mortar will undoubtedly lead you to its front doors. You can smell it blocks away. Upon entry, a dark, dingy space chock-full of cheap tables, booths and chairs out of the early 80’s will greet you, along with a harsh “Sit wherever you want!” from one of the menacing Chinese waitresses standing at a distance across the dining room. Most customers might be offended at such displays of hospitality, but those of us that are loyal patrons realize that it’s part of Hong Kong’s charm that we’ve all grown to adore.
You see, gentle reader, if you expect to walk into Hong Kong and be doted upon, you’re going to leave thoroughly disappointed. Hong Kong is busy; they have no time for niceties and that peculiar notion of customer service that we’ve all come to feel entitled to. Armed with that information, you’ll do well if you keep the following in mind throughout your visit: (1) Sit down, (2), Order, (3) Shut up, (4) Eat, (5) Pay bill, and (6) Get out. If you happen to make the unfortunate mistake of asking for something, like an extra bowl of rice, don’t be aghast when it’s literally thrown onto your table in passing. Again, it’s all part of the charm.
Everything on the menu is good. It’s not stellar, but it’s good. I’ve tried a myriad of things, but these are some of the items that I’ve recently shoved in my face:
Egg Rolls (x4) $4.95
Served piping hot on a bed of cabbage, accompanied with optional spicy mustard and sweet and sour sauces, these are fairly decent. The filling, composed of finely chopped pork, carrots and cabbage, is executed well. While not the best I’ve had, these will surely scratch your egg roll itch.
Crispy Beef (Spicy Sauce with Orange Flavor) $10.95
I’m not a fan of this dish, but only because I’m not too keen on sweet-flavored sauces in my Chinese food. Sadly, the “spicy sauce” that is supposedly in this entree is woefully lacking and underrepresented. If, however, you’re a fan of orange chicken, than this beef dish will be pleasing to your palate.
Kung Pao Chicken $9.95
Reliably good and is always a favorite at the table. The flavors are balanced, a welcomed characteristic by those that are typically timid of spicy food. Yet, for those of us that love the heat, there’s enough spice to remind you that you’re eating Kung Pao. Seriously, this is the kind of dish that I can just keep eating and eating without coming up for air. Each time I order it I have to consciously tell myself at some point to stop gorging. I fear that one of these times I’m going to stuff myself so full of Kung Pao that I won’t be capable of waddling out the door.
Beef Fried Rice $8.50
The beef is succulent. The rice is cooked to near perfection. All of the components are infused with unbridled deliciousness. Hong Kong’s fried rice is a caloric nightmare, but it’s very comforting and will guarantee to make your taste buds happy campers.
One of my largest quibbles about Hong Kong, aside from my disappointment that it caters to an American palate, is that its dishes are, in large part, overly sauced. Thick, rich sauces tend to be overpowering, thereby masking the natural, fresh flavors of the vegetables and meat. My usual dining sidekick advised me that he loves a lot of sauce. To each his own.
Hong Kong is one popular place and is cooking Chinese favorites up until 2:30am in the morning at reasonable prices. Its late operational hours make it a prime, after-the-bars-close destination for the gayborhood’s drunken masses. Phone orders are also available; food will typically be ready within a span of fifteen minutes after placing the call. While dining, it’s not surprising to observe locals pouring into the restaurant to retrieve their warm, sweaty bags of to-go beef & broccoli, only to then watch them scurry away in a mad rush to, presumably, more private settings to gorge out of the public’s gaze. Yes, Hong Kong is a revolving door of San Diegans wanting to get their Chinese fix. So, when the mood strikes again, and when my standards have temporarily descended into the abyss of mediocrity, I’ll be right there with them. I’ll just need to take a shower afterwards.
Hong Kong Restaurant
3871 4th Avenue
San Diego, CA. 92103
Mon-Fri, 11:30am – 2:30am
Sat-Sun, 12:00pm – 2:30am