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Café Hong Kong – The South China Garden Guys Are Back!! (And Yes They Are The Best Restaurant In Chinatown)

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**For full post and pics**: https://www.lauhound.com/2013/06/cafe...

South China Garden was my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, which you can read about it here (https://www.lauhound.com/2010/11/sout...). It was one of the only places in Chinatown that you could get consistently good Cantonese food.

Needless to say I was quite dismayed when they were forced to shut down after they lost their lease. However, I recently received wonderful news when the owner’s son emailed me to tell me they’ve re-opened as Café Hong Kong. Also, the owner is still the head chef along with his brother, which means the food is being cooked by the same people.

The new restaurant is smaller, modern and much cleaner looking. Some of the staff is still the same from SCG. The menu is smaller and now includes a fairly substantial section Hong Kong café style foods (baked pork chop rice, spaghetti etc). However, it still has most of the staple Cantonese dishes, which I previously ordered at SCG.

Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):
This is exactly the same as before which means that they make the best version in Chinatown. The salty non-greasy batter and tenderness of the squid makes this a solid rendition of this dish. 8/10

Lobster in XO Sauce (XO Jiang Chao Long Xia):
This is again the exact same quality as SCG. In fact I thought the quality of the lobster was actually better than SCG (although I’ve only tried it once). The XO sauce tasted great and this was a winner. 8/10

Stir Fried String Beans:
This was slightly different than SCG as there weren’t any preserved vegetables in it, but other than that it was the same. It’s the classic stir fried string beans with minced pork and dried chilis. They still get good wok hay meaning the flavor you get from effectively smoking the food in a wok at a very high temperature. This is a definite winner. 8/10

Fried Garlic Chicken (Suan Xiang Cui Pi Ji):
Another SCG classic and it again tastes exactly the same although the dish is a little smaller. The meat is very tender and the skin is perfectly crispy and the garlic compliments it perfectly. This is still one of their strongest dishes. 8.25/10

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce Casserole (Yu Xiang Qie Zi Bao):
I ordered this randomly because I saw it on another table. While it was cooked nicely, making the eggplant nicely tender, I found the sauce to be a bit on the bland sauce. I like the sauce to be slightly sweet and spicy and it just didn’t have enough of that. 7/10

Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):
This is the Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork chops. The pork chops are perfectly fried; the meat is tender, the outside is crispy and it’s not greasy or oily at all. The sauce is slightly different than SCG in that they added more pineapple to it and while it was still good it wasn’t quite as good as SCG because I prefer less pineapple flavor. 7.75/10

Steamed Buffalo Carp (Qing Zheng Yu):
This is the typical Cantonese style where you steam the fish and then pour hot oil and soy sauce over the fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The sauce was excellent as well being both salty and very slightly sweet. While I am not surprised their technique was good, the quality was the fish was surprising. Carp typically has this muddy flavor that I really do not like and while this had a very little bit of that it was not that noticeable and really made this an enjoyable dish. While I still prefer an ocean fish, this was quite good. 8/10

Normally, I wait to go a few times to report on a place, but I thought that I should report on this as soon as possible. I definitely recommend trying Café Hong Kong out.

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  1. Venue info:
    51 Bayard St (between Bowery & Elizabeth St)
    New York, NY 10013
    (212) 608-5359
    www.cafehongkongnyc.com

    I'm glad you stayed in touch with these folks, Lau! Thanks for the word.

    Dave Cook
    www.EatingInTranslation.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: DaveCook

      Hey Dave - one the good things about having the blog is there is the "contact me" section which has turned out to be great b/c all sorts of people have gotten in touch with me that never would've if i didn't put that section up.

      anyhow very glad they re-opened, so i have a regular spot to eat cantonese in chinatown again

    2. The salt baked squid and garlic fried chicken at Cafe Hong Kong are just spectacular.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Riverman500

        yah they make both of those dishes very well

      2. Can't wait to go! Your blog photos make the food look as good as you describe.

        1 Reply
        1. hanks for the update Lau. Have you got a new camera?

          1 Reply
          1. re: scoopG

            nope same camera ive been using for a while, but the lighting was good in there for taking pictures

          2. Excellent post! The pictures on your blog really make me want to try this place again. I went a few weeks ago but I don't think I ordered their best dishes. That chicken in particular looks very tempting.

            6 Replies
            1. re: pravit

              yah the menu is while not huge has some very different stuff on it, so you have to know what to order

              1. re: Lau

                Are the specials on the wall or other off-menu items to ask about? Do they have XO with things other than lobster (conch, scallops, etc.)?

                1. re: swannee

                  1) no specials on the wall
                  2) not sure about off menu items, i didn't ask
                  3) i'm actually not sure, but i'm pretty sure you could request it b/c they obviously have XO sauce + they have all those ingredients you mentioned for other dishes

                  check the online menu on their website, it was accurate

                2. re: Lau

                  Went last night; unfortunately around 8pm they had already run out of the fried chicken! Guess that must be one of their best dishes ... I got Singapore fried noodles and the XO lobster instead, and enjoyed both... need to get there earlier next time for the chicken. That place is really packed - probably the only restaurant in Chinatown where I've waited for a table. Guess everyone else heard that it was the SCG people too?

                  I was surprised to see how popular the "Western" food dishes were - like baked cheesy rice; chicken wings with fries; white bread sandwiches...guess if you eat Chinese food all the time at home you like to go out to eat something different...

                  1. re: pravit

                    Did you ever go to the original SCG? You could wait as much as an hour there for a table.

                    HK style Western food is common in Asia, popularized, I think, in the 1970s (but maybe earlier) in southern China and Hong Kong and spreading to other countries' Chinatowns in the 80s. Even Japan has a lot of mutated Western food that they've spread around the world, such as the Italian Tomato chain. There are zillions of places to get this style of food in the various Chinatowns in NYC.

                    Off topic, but I just read that a Japanese bakery that specializes in American-style treats such as apple pie is opening a branch in NYC: http://downtownmagazinenyc.com/japane...

                    1. re: pravit

                      ahh too bad, but yah that place is packed. it has a very local type of crowd as i think its probably alot of the customers who used to go to SCG. the manager woman last time i was there was chatting it up with alot of the tables and im pretty sure she knew them

                      the HK diner western food is very popular in HK, i actually like it if you make it right, but it is sort of a strange concept