Friday, July 9, 2010

Noodles du Jour: Hong Kong Style Seafood Chow Mein from Hong Kong Lounge

Yesterday was Leilani's birthday and we took her to Hong Kong Lounge for a dim sum lunch, her S.O. having first dibs on her for dinner. Our anchor dish was a Hong Kong-style seafood chow mein (identified on the menu as "pan fried noodles"). I'm not a big fan generally of the fine egg and wheat noodles beloved in Hong Kong, especially in soups like the iconic wonton mein; they make me feel like I'm chewing on someone's hair. When used in "Hong Kong style" chow mein, however it's another matter.

In Hong Kong style chow mein the fine noodles are pan-fried to a crisp and topped with a moist topping. The topping serves to soften the noodles on top, leading to a satisfying combination of textures (and flavors, if the topping delivers as it should). A key is having some of the bottom noodles browned, even burnt, to accent the crunchiness and sharpen the flavor, much as the crunchy bits of burnt rice do in a good bibimbap or a Chinese clay pot rice dish.

Our chow mein at Hong Kong Lounge came generously topped with shrimp, scallops and cuttlefish, and was vegged up with bok choy and carrot chunks, infusing the whole construction with subtle but savory flavor. If I could fault anything, it's that Hong Kong Lounge's chow mein seemed to be lacking its full complement of browned/burnt noodle bits -- I had to fish for mine. Overall, I found the dim sum above average and modestly priced. Our whole set (slide show here) of eight dim sum plates plus a communal bowl of congee and the chow mein filled the four of us to satiety for under $50 before tax & tip. Service was good, and the ambience agreeable. I'll be happy to return, though I might just try a chow fun as an anchor dish the next tine.

Where munched: Hong Kong Lounge, 5322 Geary Street, San Francisco

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