Cafe Hong Kong report
I went to Cafe Hong Kong with very high expectations, since Lau has declared it to be the "best in Chinatown". I went with only a group of 4 (BTW, there is really only one table suitable for groups of 6+), and not very adventurous at that. We had:
garlic chicken ---excellent, but the garlic had a strong raw taste--strange in light of what is to come. I actually prefer it at Congee Village
West lake soup--excellent
Salt and pepper squid, shrimp and scallops--excellent seafood, but the batter fell off the pieces of squid and there was practically no lajiao, so it was very bland. I have to say this was a major disappointment.
Snowpea leaves--impeccably fresh, but completely unseasoned.
Chicken, eggplant, and saltfish caserole --lovely aroma, excellent ingredients, but very bland.
Curry Hofun--good but very bland.
Maybe they "adjusted" the seasoning because we were all "round-eyes"--although I ordered in atrocious Cantonese. The service was very kind and good. But even with the sadly fallen state of Chinatown in Manhattan, this was by far NOT my choice of the best. The Hong Kong specials--peanut butter and jam, mac and cheese, etc--may be great. The ingredients were great. Maybe the chef was off (it was Sunday, usually a good day in Ctown). But it was not great Cantonese food.
It's interesting to read reports about "blandness" at Cafe Hong Kong - you're not the first one to complain about it though that hasn't been my experience (yet), knock on wood.
sorry you didn't like it
Garlic chicken: I find congee village's version is decent, but can be kind of dry; i like Cafe Hong Kong and Imperial Palace's version the best (IP is probably my fav version of it in NY)
Salt & pepper squid: ive never had that happen there; its def the best version ive had in NY, but you are the 2nd person to complain about it so totally possible they have off nights (i think the other person said it was dry, which hasn't happened to me either). As for la jiao not being there, that's never happen to me, so hard to for me to comment.
Sad state of chinatown: I'll be the first to attest to this and the quality of NY chinese food in general, but I pick and choose my spots based on the dishes I like and I find Cafe Hong Kong to have the best in manhattan chinatown, but you're obviously totally entitled to your opinion and if you didn't like it then there is nothing wrong with that all. Also, "great" Cantonese food has never existed in NY for as long as I have lived here (~12 years or so); in fact little "great" Cantonese food exists in restaurants in the US in general
i had the chicken twice in the last couple months: one time it was just okay and bit dry, the second time it was excellent...
I love Cafe HK, though for me it's primarily about the lobster w/ XO sauce, and an order of bitter melon...sort of a one-and-a-half trick pony, but such a wonderful trick :)
For a diff variation of chicken, i prefer Amazing 66, where we had a stellar half-chicken w/ preserved veggies over the weekend...sort of resolved to eat my chicken there and my lobster at Cafe HK...