By now, most every food fanatic in Atlanta knows that in order to sample authentic Chinese fare, one must grab their gas card and head north. Hong Kong House, the newest entrant into this combative cluster fuck, is no exception. You see, while the restaurant’s location might be typical, the food there is anything but.
Save for a few notable exceptions, the trail of ATL non-westernized Chinese restaurants starts in Doraville and drifts up into Gwinnett and beyond. The intersection of Buford Highway and I-285 might serve as this community’s centrifuge, but the lineup extends well beyond. Case in point: Johns Creek is home to Hong Kong House (5710 State Bridge Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30097). Located in a converted Rio Bravo at the intersection of Medlock and State Bridge, you’ll find HKH in the same lot as the big Regal Cinema up yonder.
Walking into the cavernous cave [side note: aren’t all caves cavernous??], you can’t help but a get a little shell shocked. While many a folk are used to more homely establishments like Wan Lai and Ming’s, Hong Kong House is different in that it is both large (spacious) and in charge (kinda nice). Such was the setup for one of the better Chinese meals I’ve had since this journey of ours began.
I don’t consider myself much of a Ben Franklin; thus, my diplomatic duty necessitated that I harass Spark Plug until she acquiesced and agreed to a rendezvous [ps … the reference to BF isn’t political]. It was on her demonstrative advice that the urge to pummel my stomach via two dinners in one night came to be. Last Friday came, the dame broke, and just about 8:30, I began my aggressively anxious commute to John’s Creek.
The hall is divided in such a way that half the restaurant looks like your basic, high-end Cantonese joint. The other half probably does as well; however, I wouldn’t know since I didn’t stick my head around the divide. It turns out, HK House doubles as a sort of Chinese discoteca where big time bashes are a mainstay. Last Friday, one was in play when I arrived, at least the 4th such example I’ve heard of since the restaurant opened up early in July.
So after realizing that our party accidently asked to be seated at separate tables, we merged forces and settled into the haphazard conversations we’re known for. Menus came to the table, but no sooner than my hand clasped the edge was it batted away. No menu for this Buddha! I probably would have gotten a slap across the face but thankfully … I ducked!
Spark Plug slung our order at Frank, one of the many English speaking servers. Their rapport was obvious, a consequence of the Madam’s repeated visits. It went down quickly and without too much trouble (at least … as little trouble as we’re known to cause), and off he went, into the kitchen hell bent on snickering at the amount of food these three pups had ordered (little did he know!).
As I finally snagged a menu, I immediately understood why I was punished earlier. The menu read as any post modern Chinese establishment. Sichuan, Cantonese, Lu, & Huaiyang cuisines all get mashed together with the underlying meddling of the American palate … thus creating a Chinese version of Tex-Mex. Somewhere in this, a man walked out with a fish net and proceed to wrangle a tilapia from the fish tank … he would find his way to our table soon.
Unlike many of the other frequented Chinese restaurants in those parts, Hong Kong House does not have an alternative menu full of authentic dishes. Thus, I am at a loss as to menu navigation. I can only say that you should probably familiarize yourself with Cantonese food before your trip and take notes. Use Chow Down’s post (linked at the end if you missed it earlier) as a guide. Furthermore, I suspect the wait staff will work with you if need be.
Moments flew by and once it started, it did not stop, even with no table room to spare. With dish upon dish, I must advise you to consult with your server if you are worried about pacing.
The table was covered: bites of bean sprouts and peanuts gave way to fish head tofu soup which led to pigs ear and cucumbers, Yeung Chow fried rice, Peking duck, deep-fried Tilapia in a black bean sauce, stir-fried sea cucumbers, giant clam in XO sauce, braised duck with taro, and one immensely deep breath.
Time and stomach space prevent me from indulging every detail of the meal. Needless to say, it was mostly awesome with a few little bumps. Since Chloe has dune it up … I’ll hit the highlights.
In no particular order:
The giant clam, served shelled and sliced was coated perfectly in XO sauce. Bits of mushrooms, chilli, scallions, garlic, and oil joined the sliced clam. Perfectly balanced so as to let the clams do the walking, bites were clean. The spice hit at just the right notes, and the freshness of the clams was carried wonderfully by the airiness of the scallions. According to CDA, all their dishes are subject to the freshness of the day’s intake. This one being particularly harder to snag. MUST GET!
The Peking duck immediately joins Wong Kee’s version as tops in this town. Presentation goes to HKH, as does the quality of ingredients. Meanwhile, the taste of both types is eerily similar. The fat is a non-factor, leaving a roasted, crisped skin wrapped around juicy, succulent duck. Though the dish included a little too much meat to be called truly authentic, I’m not one to tussle with such trivial facts. The steamed buns were fluffy yet dense. Mmmm … It was good … damn good … MUST GET!
Catch me at any random moment, there’s a good chance the Tilapia with black bean sauce would take the title of evening’s best dish. The black bean sauce was full of flavor, as was the battered fish. You might want to see if you can get some help serving it. If you aren’t comfortable with heavily boned fish, the staff may toss you a hand. Although that’s a presumptive statement on my part. IF YOU DON’T GET, YOU’LL REGRET IT.
The Yeung Chow fried rice was full of fresh ingredients. I totally dug the barbecued pork, though I did find a couple of over cooked pieces of shrimp. Again, so much good amongst so little bad makes such indiscretions forgivable offenses.
Everything else hit somewhere between really good to pretty good (with a small miss here and there). Save for the pigs ears which were just too disjointed and inconsistently delivered even in a single plate. Who knows what that means for the typical situation. While sea cucumbers are almost destine to drive unfamiliar taste buds running in all directions … this is a good place to start if you’re looking to open up your window.
Beyond the food, service and price are really the only two other notes to drop on you. Awkward exchanges with the staff were frequent, probably on account of their familiarity with at least one member of the party. I’ve kinda given up on addressing service at restaurants like this because, for lack of a better thesis, Asian culture dictates a very different restaurant environment.
Last but not least was the price. While the quality was outstanding, and the portions were certainly worthwhile, the bill rang up just north of $100. For the amount of food we got and the overall quality, it was more than reasonable. However, there are other restaurants around that will cost a lot less.
But let’s not bother ourselves with matters of coin and time. Instead, focus on the food, the friendly staff, and the adventure of something new. Any attempt to identify consistency would be futile, as any one visit does. However, when you find a restaurant that can kick your ass and make you beg for more in even three dishes, a gamblin man shall you become. Even if that giant clam hits you just one in every ten chances like a clandestine culinary treasure, I’d be willing to suffer through those other nine meals for a sampling like this.
Atlanta Foodies on Hong Kong House
- Chow Down Atlanta on Hong Kong House (07.30.10)
Hong Kong House Restaurant Address & Information
5710 State Bridge Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30097 // 678.584.5855 // Su-Th: 11a-10p Fr-Sa: 11a-11:30p