Won Ton Soup with Noodles; Kung Pao Calamari; Peking Duck
Occupation: Operations Consultant
Location: Corte Madera
Favorite Restaurant: Hing Lung
Reviewed Hing Lung: Saturday, July 8, 2006
The reason Hing Lung has been one of my favorite restaurants for over fifteen years is because they use fresh, seasonal ingredients in imaginative ways that never fail to satisfy. We almost always order their juk — a rice porridge, which is made in a large crock pot-type vat, which the restaurant imported from Hong Kong in order to achieve their particular spin on this traditional dish. The base juk, flavored with bean curd, a thousand-year-old egg, ginger, soy and lemongrass, yields a fresh and flavorful soup, highly recommended for when you are feeling “under the weather,” for whatever reason, and as a great dish for breakfast, lunch, or late-night snack. We are especially fond of the Fresh Clam and Abalone version — it goes especially well with Hing Lung’s freshly-made Chinese donuts (the donuts are great for mopping up the sauces that come with other dishes as well).
Satay Beef with Green Onion in Claypot was a new dish for us. There are hundreds of different dishes listed on the several menus that you are presented and most of them are in the $5 price range. This dish was amazing and indicative of the kind of Asian-fusion type of dish that the chefs create at Hing Lung. Satay is generally considered Thai in origin, and claypot slow-cooking is part of the Chinese tradition. I may or may not have the origins correct, but when the dish arrived steaming hot, and we got a first whiff, we got excited. The satay flavor had melded with the green onion and produced super-tender, flavorful beef that melted in your mouth (we used the Chinese donut to mop up every bit of the sauce).
We’ve eaten Kung Pao Chicken and Kung Pao Prawns for years, and we were intrigued to try out Kung Pao Calamari. We know that they believe that seafood has to be cooked super quickly to maintain flavor and freshness at Hing Lung and that they use super hot gas jets to achieve this (they can boil water in 15 seconds). The calamari was the sweetest and tenderest calamari we have ever tasted anywhere. This dish has joined a list of our favorites. We didn’t order it this particular time, but the Chinese-Style Chicken with Ginger and Green Onion is our all-time favorite. Unlike any chicken dish we know, it is either salt-baked or steamed and served cold with the sauce on the side. They usually have two kinds of chicken available. The “Chinese-Style” chicken is a bit gamier and full-flavored — worth asking for!
Usually, if you have the juk, two additional dishes is plenty of food for two people, but we were super hungry, and we love Chow Fun — the big wide rice noodles — so, we ordered the Peking Style Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce version, which was top notch. Our usual choice, the Beef with Tender Greens version, is no slouch either. The Chow Fun itself is NOT overcooked, it is served al dente, and there is always enough sauce to saturate the dish without overwhelming it — a balance most restaurants do not achieve.
We were so full, we had to ask for take-home boxes for all of the extra food. Two slices of cool watermelon with fresh fortune cookies were presented with the check, which totaled . . . $ 23.60. So, for a total of $28, two of us had an excellent dinner with yummy leftovers for lunch the next day. That is why we love Hing Lung — all of the ingredients are super fresh, the chef has imagination, and you can try all kinds of new dishes without worrying about going broke doing so. It is a great place for a family or a group of friends to check out (they have lots of big tables with lazy susans). We have two standards by which we judge Chinese restaurants: number one, if there are lots of Chinese people eating there, especially families, that is a VERY good sign; number two, as you enter the dining room, scan the tables to see what the food looks like. You should see LOTS of colors — reds, oranges, greens, blacks, saffron — if the predominant color is brown, turn and leave. Color means you have an excellent chef in charge of the kitchen, who is comfortable with fresh ingredients and really knows how to cook. Brown means that the overwhelming flavor will be soy sauce, and bland at that.
Hing Lung’s casual atmosphere, quick service, fresh creative Asian-fusion dishes, and super-affordable prices make it an excellent destination for a fresh spin on breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack.
Occupation: Recruiter in Restaurant Industry
Favorite Restaurant: Saylor’s Landing
Reviewed Hing Lung: Friday, July 14, 2006
Honestly, I could not recommend this restaurant if you are vegetarian or sensitive to MSG. Parking is not very easy since it is in the heart of Chinatown, so hopefully you will make other arrangements for transportation. There are many buses and a walk through Chinatown is always fun.
The traditional Chinese food looked great and there were even pictures of a lot of items on the menu, most of them listed in Chinese. There were a lot of locals and they really seemed to be enjoying the food. The waiter tried very hard to accommodate our dietary needs, but it just wasn’t a success. After ordering various items he would return to the table to inform us that there was MSG, and we would proceed to try something else. No luck. My friend, who is vegetarian, ordered the vegetable fried rice only to find out, after tasting it, that there was MSG in it, and the waiter took it back. He tried so hard to find something for us to order and then finally came to the table with a puzzled look on his face and offered us steamed rice as our only option. We were ravenous at this point, so we left and most likely will not go back again. If you are not sensitive to MSG or vegetarian, this may be a good traditional Chinese restaurant for you.
Occupation: Actor, Business Analyst
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Reviewed Hing Lung: Thursday, June 20, 2006
This is just the sort of restaurant I choose for a late night meal. Most restaurants in the Bay Area close around 10:00 p.m. and many that stay open later are burger joints and run-of-the-mill or fast food stops. Hung Ling serves authentic Chinese food in an open, fairly plain setting until 1:00 a.m. The walls are filled with long strips of white paper with large Chinese characters advertising the specials and their prices, the menus (there are several) are all primarily in Chinese with English subtext, and the clientele seems to be mostly Asian, which might well be seen as a good indication of the authenticity and basic quality of a restaurant’s food.
As I entered the restaurant, I noticed that many of the tables were still cluttered with dishes, and I figured I’d come in right after a rush. The hostess started to offer me a table right in front by the door and, seeing my hesitation, she promptly suggested a table in the back and sent someone to set it immediately. Even at the
late hour (11:00 p.m.), there were people from all walks of life spread around the dining room and they continued to come and go. Excellent people watching.
I chose BBQ Pork Won Ton soup to start, a favorite of mine. This is enough for a meal by itself — very filling with plump, flavorful slices of BBQ pork, thoroughly stuffed won ton, freshly cooked cabbage, and a tasty broth. It can be had with additional noodles. I followed with another favorite, Kung Pao Chicken which, although it may not have been the most amazing I’ve ever had, was right down the middle for spicing, degree of heat, and expected flavor. I had rice and tea, took half the chicken home, and, with tax and tip, my meal came to $17, for more than I could eat.
Even with the task of cleaning up the tables from the rush, which had preceded me, the wait staff was attentive and my menus, meal, and check were all delivered promptly. In a high volume, no frills establishment like this where the expectation for politeness and ambiance is low, it is particularly noteworthy that the wait staff were all gracious, gave their full attention while at the table, and thanked me for coming.
While I wouldn’t always choose this very plain atmosphere for an evening meal, for a good meal at a great price and especially for late eating, I’d definitely recommend Hing Lung for one or two, or even a large group (several large round tables), and I’ll return myself.