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Wo Hop -- worst meal of my life

I've traveled a bit in my younger days and I've had some pretty foul meals in the back of beyond. Weeks and weeks living on taro in New Guinea with maybe a bit of rat or lizard the dog brought in. But I have a new winner.

I decided the time had come to try Wo Hop. I couldn't claim to know about Chinatown without trying the most famous restaurant there. So down the staircase I went. Five o'clock and every seat was taken. I waited on line. The waiters seated me at the first table that came free, a four-top, even though there was a party of four behind me. A rare kindness. I should add that service was excellent. Though overworked, they found time to bring me water and whatever else I asked for immediately. The ambiance was really cool. I wanted to love this place, and I was hoping for excellent renditions of American Chinese classics.

I ordered squid in black bean sauce, which I love. And out it came, squid floating in lake of brown glop, like flotsam on the muddy banks of a fetid bayou. The taste was indescribably foul. I thought the squid had putrefied. It's hard to tell but I'm pretty sure it was the sauce. It took so much will power to eat each bite.

They have photos on the wall, head shots of people I've never seen before. Maybe if you finish every bit of your food, they let you put your photo on the wall. I will never know if this is true, because I didn't qualify.

Wo Hop
17 Mott Street (downstairs)

see also my post http://www.chowhound.com/topics/302791 -- the first paragraph of which was written about Wo Hop.

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  1. I used to be a regular there. The American Classics were good and the place was fun. The last 2 times though the food was inedible. I used to be a staunch defender of the joint. Never again will I eat there. sorry it stunk.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sweatshirt Guy

      Me too. Had lots of fun 3AM dinners there. Several years ago I had a bad meal, then I gave it one more chance, and had an ever worse meal. Never again. ditto.

    2. I've been eating regularly in Chinatown for about 35 years, and yes, Wo Hop has become an armpit. I stopped going there years ago,, even when out-of-town visitors asked about it. Sad to say, but I believe that the overall level of dining in Chinatown has fallen. So many places are just plain bad that it's almost a relief to get a mediocre meal served without rudeness. Last Sunday at HSF I sat, waiting for a glass of water, or tea, or the TsingToa beer I ordered when I was seated... for ten minutes. The carts came by, and I waited... and waited. Finally, one of the floor managers came over and said that the tables are for people who are here to eat, not just to sit and order nothing. So, I reminded him that I asked him to have a waiter bring me a TsingToa... where was it? Did he see it on my table? Where is a glass of cold water for a man on a hot day? Where is my tea, if this is, indeed, a tea meal? "Bring me what I asked for, and give me a moment to have a sip of my drink, and then I'll order. I will not be rushed, especially in a restaurant that's not even half full." Bah! Who needs that kind of rudeness?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sommelier

        At least the carts came by! I went to HSF about a month or so ago, and I should have been the one saying that the tables were for people who come to eat! We waited and waited..

      2. Brian, I always enjoy your restaurant reviews and appreciate your recommendations. But I must say, the link you provided at the bottom here is my favorite part of this post -- that was one of the most entertaining threads I have read in a while. I missed it the first time around (I was an occasional newbie then, and never posted, myself). Thanks- I think it should be nominated for the current "classic Chowhound threads" topic thats been popular lately.

        1. heh...yeah, i have a vague drunken memory of my last foul meal there about 7 years ago...(and some more pleasant but equally drunken remembrances from before then)...thanks for the cautionary tale and i hope recall it if i'm ever tempted in the inebriated future...

          However, i do have a fond Wo Hop memory: my dementia once led me to get takeout salt baked squid and carry it all the way to eat at the Marz Bar at 3am w/ some Jameson's...foul meats foul and celebrates...

          1. Nicely described - sorry you had to endure it. Can't comment on 17 Mott (downstairs), which I haven't tried.

            I have been to 15 Mott (street level), same owner, different kitchen. I've had some real clunkers. One common misstep seems to be extravagant overuse of soy sauce. Also, cloying sweetness. Both in the same dish, if you're unlucky. The more Chinese-American stuff, including dishes the menu highlights as specialties, is more likely to suffer these problems.

            Even at its best, Wo Hop 15 steamrolls over the balanced, nuanced flavors you'll find at higher-end Cantonese places. Which may be beside the point for its target audiences. One is the late-night crowd, well represented in past Chowhound threads.

            Another is the early-evening crowd, heavily Asian, including many families. Take a peek at their tables and you'll see dishes that are not especially Americanized: steamed fish, stir-fried snails, pea shoots with garlic, etc. In my experience, these are hit-or-miss - not bad, not memorable, sometimes carelessly prepped or cooked. The other thing you'll notice is that none of these parties appears to be here for a special occasion. For them Wo Hop is a convenience, a place to grab a weeknight meal when they didn't have time to cook. Something like a diner.

            Off-menu, I've never asked about the Hakka dishes, which KRS and others suggest are what they really do well. I have had an off-menu beef curry over rice, which was tasty and satisfying - humble comfort food, nicely done. There's also a Chinese menu featuring some things, including a section of casseroles, that I don't think are on the English menu.

            So I'd say at least the upstairs Wo Hop is worth checking out. Just order carefully.

            Wo Hop
            17 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

            1 Reply
            1. re: squid kun

              I've always wondered about the upstairs Wo Hop. I've noticed the casseroles before and no, they are not on the English menu, which is a good sign. I don't think I will try it any time soon, though... not worth the risk.

            2. ordering squid at Wo Hop just never sounds like a good idea. Ugh, Chinese greasy-spoon.

              1. i remember a dish called fukinese pork chops at wo hop from some 30 years ago. i wonder if they still have them?

                1. I never understood what the fuss was about at this palce. I remember ordering some simple chinese dishes and it was awful. Maybe only the americanized chinsese food is good?!?!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ammel_99

                    The wonton soup, duck chow fun, & mei fun were good and the crabs cantonese were good. However, it was awful in recent years. I think they had good Cantonese many years ago, + the fact they were open all the time made the place worth the fuss, but that was long ago, those days are over. One of the points someone made on a post a few years ago was that there woks were well seasoned. Maybe someone started cleaning them?

                  2. Well now you know what glop is! Like you I have also avoided going to Wo Hop, but actually I might be inclined to give it a try based both on your posting and the recommendation of one of my bicoastal friends who's come up with some good recs over the years. Perhaps the secret to Wo Hop is ordering chow fun or something like that which is difficult to ruin.

                    1. Their black bean sauce tasted bland and watery to me last time I had a black bean sauce dish. I think typical black bean sauce dishes usually comes thick n starchy (gloppy) or liquidy but usually flavorful not bland like wo hop. I don't think their curry is any good either. I always liked their fried rice though.

                      1. i actually have not been in years, but have enjoyed many a meal late night and during the day at the hop - but ive only ordered three things - salt and pepper pork chop, whole flounder with ginger, whole crab.

                        damn i wanna go now

                        1. I had the General's Chicken, and it wasn't hot or sweet. I'm happier that it wasn't sweet, more disappointed that it wasn't spicy. The Young Chow Wor Wonton soup was great! I'm sorry you've all had bad experiences. I haven't had a bad one there, and I'll keep going.

                          1. Wo Hop 17 mott has been in chinatown since i can remember. They have possibly the best lo mein and chow fun in chinatown. The prices are very reasonable. The roast duck is OK there, the Congee is Ok also. Years ago all they offered was noodles and rice dishes , I would never order anything there except what I mentioned.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              FW - When was the last time you were there? Just comparing, my last visit was awful and I am hoping your visit was more recent then mine. I once liked their lo mein, duckchow fun, wonton soup, & crabs cantonese
                              Thanks -

                            2. I must agree that Wo Hop basement is the worst food that I have eaten in Chinatown. Will never eat there again. I would rather just starve. Perhaps trying Wo Hop street level. It serves much better food.

                              1. The only thing I ever really liked at WoHop was the Chow fun.

                                1. My gosh, you went there sober? Courageous.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jacquelines

                                    I haven't been there in years, but I did enjoy it when I went. I ordered very carefully, wonton soup (good), and any of their noodle dishes, especially their chow mein catonese style.