Monday, October 11, 2010

Tasty food, but not worth the wait!

First we pray, then we eat. It’s a weekly happening for a dozen or so folks, all members of my shul just outside the Land of Cotton. Last week, the minyon group twirled the foodie wheel yet again and this time it was decided we’d visit Hong Kong Star, a new Chinese restaurants that’s received mixed reviews.

There were only eight of us and we were seated quickly in a far corner of the main dining room, an upscale-looking place of polished floors, stone accents and low-level, indirect lighting. This obviously wasn’t just another family-style Chinese restaurant, one of the ubiquitous joints that dot strip malls, well, just about everywhere.

Despite the swell ambiance, Barry was feeling a bit anxious. He’d quietly gone along with the group’s dining decision, even though he’d visited the “Star” before and found the service lacking. But on this night, all was going well – menus provided quickly, along with drinks and bowls of fried wonton.

Then our waiter, Mr. Peepers – tall and angular, a large pair of glasses set high on a boxy face – disappeared. He passed within shouting range a few times, but it was at least 10 minutes or so before he managed to make it back to our table to detail the specials and, finally, take our orders.

The good news is everyone seemed to agree that the food was fine, even dee-licious! Dennis and Debbie went for the bamboo diet steamer, a large bamboo container overflowing with chicken and broccoli. A cloud of steam puffed its way toward the ceiling when Dennis uncovered the container and I recall him sighing contentedly as he worked his way through the dish. Ditto Debbie!

Irwin scarfed down the chickeny thing in front of him and seemed pleased with the effort – of course they could have brought him a fried brick, doused in soy sauce, and he would have been happy. Go figure. Barry enjoyed the salad he ordered and Malka, JoAnn and Gary were all nearly orgasmic with the Fresh String Bean “Three Star” dish they each picked, one of the specialties of the house featuring veggies, chicken, beef and shrimp.

I was playing it safe, but was absolutely thrilled with the Mongolian Beef I selected – bite size slivers of beef, sautéed in a tasty, rich broth infused with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and dark brown sugar. The chefs at Hong Kong Star add a nice dusting of chili to the mix, then plop a little flower on the side of the plate for color. It all worked. Unfortunately, nothing else did!

Barry got his salad before all the other meals were delivered, but asked for oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. He got the dressing about 15 minutes later, around the same time a few of us were finally getting our meals. The salt and pepper arrived a bit later.

The “Three Star” special was apparently really special because Mr. Peepers didn’t manage to get the dish to JoAnn and Malka until most of us were half through with our dinner. Gary, meanwhile, was still left waiting until the waiter’s boss came by and announced they’d run out of string beans, but had just sent someone out to the market to fetch more.

Gary said thanks, but he’d pass and would simply graze a bit off of JoAnn’s plate. Apparently still trying to get it right, Mr. Peepers showed up 10 minutes later with another plate of the “Three Star” special, just in time for dessert!

Wait, the hi-jinks continued. In his haste to clear the table – I guess there was a get-us-out-of-here vibe hanging over our area at this point – Mr. Peepers dropped a few serving pieces on the floor, then grazed Debbie’s face with a folk as he attempted to make a final exit.

I don’t imagine the minyon group will be returning to the Hong Kong Star anytime soon. The restaurant has a pleasant look; a nice, modern vibe and tasty food. But the devils in the details and right now Satan is holding court at the “Star” and causing problems.


  1. There is always some kind of connection between Jewish people and Chinese food.

    Sometimes, not always a good one.

  2. Correction - Irwin would most definitely NOT have been enthusiastically content with the meager selection of "fried brick, doused in soy sauce." Over the years, he acquired a taste for, and appreciates quality dining.
    From your input, the "food" was good; the only thing that lacked was "good service".

    I would imagine it being "courteous" giving these folks a second chance. As human beings, we all make mistakes. That's how we learn the difference between right from wrong.

    Thanks for a cute article...


  3. I've also dined at the Hong Kong Star - we were MIA on the evening in question due to a prior commitment - and previous experiences are consistent with what the minyon group saw last Thursday. Good food, but terrible service.

    Offering to comp the late entrée would have been a smart move. It would also have been better had they simply said, "We're out of XXX - what else can we make for you?" It ain't brain surgery, it's elementary customer service.

    I might be willing to give the Star a second chance, but not right away... and certainly not with a large group. They have some serious issues they need to work through, and maybe they need some time to get it right. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other good Chinese places around - they seem to be popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain - so we won't be lacking options.