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Hong Kong House, Knoxville TN

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This restaurant has been mentioned before, but it has no thread of its own as far as I can tell. So perhaps this thread could serve as place for folks to describe the dishes they ordered there.

I was in Gatlinburg for a few days. This was my first visit, and it was pretty much what fellow chowhounds had led me to expect. I appreciate the earlier recommendations (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543077). Alas, I did not make it to Blackberry Farm. But we were in Sevierville one afternoon and decided to continue up to Knoxville to go to Hong Kong House.

Located on a dreary section of Kingston Pike in a half-vacant strip mall you find the very ordinary looking Hong Kong House restaurant. A look at the menu, though, will get you very interested and very hungry. You know you are in for a treat when the menu actually has a special section dedicated to "American Chinese Food." I guess the rest is the real deal, then!

There were only two of us, but we intentionally ordered more than we could finish just so we could try a range of dishes. Unfortunately, they would not serve half-orders, so we did not get as much variety as we would have liked. Nonetheless, Hong Kong house serves Chinese, esp. Szechuan food that is among the best I have eaten in the U.S., surpassing the favorite places of my former locale--the DC area--such as Joe's Noodle House and A&J's, and rivaling the best Chinese food I've eaten in China (though I must say my experience in China was limited).

Here's what we had:

West Lake Minced Beef Soup - an eggdrop base with small pieces of beef dropped into the soup along with what appeared to be small pieces of chopped tofu and cilantro. This was fine, but it was also the least flavorful dish.

Sichuan Cold Noodle - fantastic. Spicy-hot, sweet, and interesting,

Scallion Bubble Pancake - we hadn't seen this before. We thought it was going to be a regular scallion pancake, which is crispy, salty, and dense. Instead, we were served three light and billowing pita-like pancakes. A nice variation.

Fish with Cilantro Rolls - these were great. Compact fried rolls stuffed with a light white fish and generous helpings of cilantro. Very tasty, and again something we hadn't seen before.

Honey Chicken with Cucumber - think of this as the proto sweet and sour chicken, though it is so far removed from that abomination that I am hestitant to even suggest a comparison. The chicken, dredged probably in rice flour, salt, szechuan peppercorn, and other spices, was fried, and served with warm cucumber chunks with honey. Absolutely delicious.

Crispy Shrimp with Scallion - this was amazing. Another fried dish, but completely different in flavor and texture from the chicken. The onions and scallions provided a contrasting sweetness to the heat and salt of the dish. I could not eat enough of this.

Dried Fried Eggplant - again, another fried dish. We didn't know that the chicken and shrimp dishes were going to be fried. Otherwise, we probably wouldn't have ordered so much fried stuff. But what was amazing was the diversity of flavors of the dishes, despite surface similarities in the cooking style. Here, the eggplant had a more pronounced flavor of spices and szechuan pepper covering the natural sweetness of the eggplant.

The waiters thought it was interesting that we were asking them what they liked off the menu. One of them wanted to know if we were from Atlanta (we're not), where the chef previously had a restaurant. Apparently they are vaguely aware of their chef's following, but "Chowhound" did not register with them.

I am looking forward to my next trip to Gatlinburg--so I can make another trip up to Knoxville and eat more from the menu. Fellow chowhounds, post what you've eaten so as to help me figure out what to order next!

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  1. My wife & I went to HKH a couple weeks back. We ordered the corned beef w/ cilantro appetizer, which I was surprised to find out was a cold dish. It was delicious with the perfect mix of spicy & sweet. I ordered a spicy pork dish w/ peppers which was also very tasty. The pork was not dredged & fried which was a nice change of pace for me. The wife ordered Mongolian Beef off the American section of the menu. She's not a very adventurous eater, but she reported that her dish was also very tasty. Since she usually just orders the standard beef & broccoli just about every time we've ever had Chinese food, I was impressed with her.

    The restaurant is located in a crummy 1/2 occupied strip mall, and is hidden in a corner behind a brake shop at that. Sparse decorations aside, we'll definitely be going back!

    1. His restaurant in Atlanta was very similar
      Located in a off the wall strip mall in Marietta but the food was divine

      1. For whatever reason, the thread you linked doesn't come up. Here is a link to the most comprehensive thread about Peter Chang's time in Atlanta.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/334616

        The dishes mentioned there are the best ones to get. Also, many of his best dishes are pictured on the wall as you enter the restaurant---you basically can't go wrong with any of those.

        There is a post from me in that thread, on Oct 17 2006, that has some further links, some of which still work, and which provide some further backstory.

        You mentioned you were previously in DC. I assume you are aware that before going to Atlanta and then Knoxville, Chang was in the DC (VA) area for several years, cooking at China Star (Fairfax??) and then TemptAsian (Annendale??). He was also at a place called China Gourmet just before disappearing and resurfacing in Atlanta.

        1. Hi Hounds! I searched your board (we are from Philadelphia) for Knoxville recommendations and came upon this and a couple other threads. The Chow-spouse was heading your way and I try to help with food recs for the travels. I was at home, but the C-S, colleague, wife and child visited HKH based on your reviews. Here is the email I recieved a 1/2 hour after the meal (C-S knew it was being posted)
          :
          Hong Kong House is the best chinese cuisine i have ever had and i have had a lot of chinese food!!

          Our menu tonite: west lake minced beef soup - amazing, silky, just delicious in every way; Fish with cilantro rolls - little index finger sized fried rolls - crunchy and addictive; Scallion Bubble Pancake - I will never be able to eat scallion pancake again!! Puffy, rich fried huge orbs - calling them pancakes doesn't really describe them at all; sichuan wonton with red oil - silky, light and incredibly flavorful wontons floating in a bath of hot red chile oil with green onions - we ate the bowl in about 2 minutes; The fresh shrimp in a huge hollowed out mango with peppers, onions, and sauce was amazing - shrimp were done just right, the mango was perfect and subtle; the honey chicken with cucumber was amazing - and again, what they must mean to do with "sweet and sour" - perfect; and crispy beef - actually crispy! delicious tiny pieces of beef with spring onions, peppers, sesame seeds - three adults and one 3 year old - who enjoyed her chicken wings and rice, by the way - tucked in and the only thing heard from our table for an hour was "on my god" and moaning. good thing people could see us and not just hear us!

          And, as I said, lots of Asian people dining in and taking out.

          We stopped at the take out window and conveyed how wonderful their food was - as we did to our waitress as well.

          We will be back in Knoxville in the Spring and we will eat here more than once that week, that's for sure.

          Thank you, thank you, Chowhound!!!

            1. re: Brawny

              Excellent -- he is an itinerant evangelist for Szechuan cuisine. How do I persuade him to make his next temporary home in Columbia, SC? We need him!