When I visited the Hong Kong Chef recently, I chatted with the cutest older couple. I could tell they were regulars from the assertive way they walked into the dining room and asked for a table for 12. They said they had been coming to Hong Kong Chef since 1966 or so, when they were a newlywed couple. On the day I met them, they were meeting their family; three generations brought up eating from the tiny kitchen.
Hong Kong Chef is a family affair. Lk Tse attended culinary school in Hong Kong, migrated to Houston and opened the restaurant in the mid '50s. His nephew, Abe (Kwok Wah) Sia, began managing HKC in the '80s. His wife, Mimi, told me a bit about the history of the place and what drives the family to keep things as they were in the early days.
Mimi explained that the menu has expanded, but they still serve all of the dishes offered in the '50s. You will find General Tso's and sesame chicken, kung pao, lo mein and many of the usual favorites. Their eggrolls, which they make daily, as well as the won tons, came highly recommended and didn't disappoint. "We make everything here when you order it," said Mimi. "Sometimes customers may be upset because it takes a little longer to make their order, but I want them to know that it takes longer because we make it fresh, nothing is reheated. Our food is made as if you were in my mama's home, she would be proud."
Following the cute couple's recommendation, I ordered the Ketchup Shrimp. I know, sounds weird, but it is so good. The shrimp are lightly battered and fried, then covered with a thick, tangy and sweet ketchup-based sauce. We also had the Butterfly Shrimp, which were wrapped in bacon, battered and served with a sauce similar to the ketchup sauce. I had the fried rice, which was good, though I still prefer Sinh Sinh's.
This little restaurant is a find, as the regulars will tell you. Do you have an old favorite? Tell me about it, I may just pay it a visit.