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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. Received local press today!!

            http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/nov...

            1 Reply
            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!

            2. My husband and I ate there last Wednesday. After reading so much good stuff about it here I really had my hopes up, and I wasn't disappointed.

              For an appetizer, my husband ordered the duck from the 'cold appetizers' section. What we got was duck that seemed to have been brined and steamed, served ice cold. It was otherwise unseasoned, and a little beyond our comfort zones, I must admit. I thought I loved duck full stop, but I suppose what I really love is crispy browned duck.

              Next came the Sizzling Rice Soup with Seafood. This was an egg-drop soup with bits of shrimp, fish, and unidentified tentacles alongside mushrooms and snap peas. Rice was added to it at our table that did indeed sizzle. I loved this soup. It had a difficult-to-describe flavor that was almost like something had been burned, yet every flavor went together perfectly to create something much greater than the sum of its parts. It was very filling and there was so much of it that it could have made a meal for two on its own.

              We also ordered the scallion bubble pancakes, which were just as delicious as promised here--perfectly chewy and just tantalizingly onion-y. You get three or four for $6, but they're big.

              My husband ordered the chicken lo mein for an entree. If this was a good test case for the question of whether their American Chinese food is similarly excellent, then I wouldn't hesitate to say yes. It was easily the best chicken lo mein I've had.

              I had the Braised Beef with Fresh Garlic. Let me tell you, I love garlic, and have never had the experience of 'too much garlic flavor'. This dish definitely had a lot of it, enough to make my husband's eyes go wide, but I thought it was outstanding! It was in a brown sauce, with carrots, bamboo, peas, and onions. The beef was perfectly tender and yet almost crispy on the outside as well, with a very fulfilling savory flavor.

              By the end of the meal, I felt angry that I could not eat more.

              Previous reports have said that they have no liquor license but that you can BYOB. That's true, but they also have a small selection of beer available.

              1 Reply
              1. re: FuzzyDunlop

                I just used HKH to cater my New Year's party.

                We got the Dried Fried Eggplant, Honey Chicken with Cucumber, Beef with Scallion Sauce, and Kung Pao Chicken and Chicken Lo Mein. I was determined to try the Tong Pao Duck, but they'd run out of duck that day. The gentleman up front who always smiles so much was very nice as usual and handed it all over in a handy Tsingtao box.

                Everything we got was predictably delicious, and I made a handful of new converts. Everyone was knocked over by the eggplant.

              2. I am from Atlanta and am an avid follower of Chef Peter Chang. I have business that takes me to Knoxville once or twice a month and I eat at HKH every time I am in town. Personal favorites:

                Hot and Numbing Beef Roll - perhaps one of the best apps. Fantastic flavors.

                Wontons in Red Oil - Another excellent app and very spicy. Delicious wontons in hot pepper oil.

                Chicken with peppers and scallion in hot pot or the beef version - both fantastic. High quality meat with an excellent blend of flavor and spice.

                My personal favorite is the Dry Fried Eggplant - perhaps the best dish on the menu. Wonderfully crunchy, juicy pieces of eggplant laced with the perfect blend of spicy and numbing. Every time it is ordered, it is consumed completely.

                I can not recommend HKH enough. But be sure to be adventurous when eating there.

                Samlev