I want to make a few things clear. First, I have never actually been in Hong’s Kitchen. I have only ordered takeout from them so I can not comment on the decor or anything when it comes to the restaurant. Second, I warn you, if you are a sensitive person when it comes to food safety issues, do not read this article. Third, I really did not want to write this review but I felt it would have been irresponsible of me not to.
OK, let’s get this over with.
The other day, I had a very miserable day. I did not want to make dinner. So I finally “treated” myself to some “authentic” Chinese food by ordering the dinner for one with the sweet and sour chicken and a side order of one of my favourite soups in the world, hot and sour soup.
The mediocrity of the “dinner for one” was pretty predictable. I have yet to be wowed by Chinese food in Nova Scotia. When you have lived in Vancouver and Toronto, you have been spoiled rotten when it comes to good Chinese food. I was totally prepared for traditional “Canadian Chinese Restaurant” flavours, sauce and grease. Whatever. Just give me the food.
Sadly, the sweet and sour chicken was not very saucy. The beef fried rice was dry and forgettable. The vegetables were a joke. Broccoli, cauliflower and carrots? Probably the worst choices for a stir fry ever because they take the longest to cook. No snowpeas, bamboo shoots, waterchestnuts… heck, not even mushrooms! The spring roll was vegetarian and filled with cabbage seasoned with allspice. It was OK, nothing to write home about.
I saved “the best” for last. The soup. I could not wait for its spiciness to help warm up my wet bones after a cold and dreadful day. You could only get a large portion of the hot and sour soup but I figured it would last me days. It did not last seconds. I took one sip and first was surprised that it was neither spicy, nor was it very sour. Then, in horror, I realized there was something very wrong with the soup. There are no nice words to say it. I realized it smelled like manure. It also tasted like manure. I spat it out. My mind went blank with horror… then panic.
My first instinct was (after getting it out of my mouth) to get it out of my freakin’ house. Flush it. Flush it! But even in a foodie crisis (and it was a crisis) I try to be as environmental as I can so I drained the soup instead and dumped the rest it in the compost. Not smart! I should have held on to it so it could be inspected but I was so upset, I just was not thinking.
Now I know hot and sour soup. I make it regularly! When I visit Toronto, I order it regularly. A part of me wonders if it was the egg drop soup since, horrific seasoning aside, it was neither sour nor hot. In the end, who freakin’ cares? I started to get scared that I was going to get e coli. I finally found an old package of Gravol and waited with my cordless phone ready to dial 911 all night to see if I had been poisoned but thankfully, probably because I did not ingest it, I did not get sick. Of course I was extremely distressed and horrified, it was the worst food experience I have ever had and I have drunk bad chocolate milk as a kid. I did not think it could get worse than that.
What caused the problem? Who knows? Unclean mushrooms or worse? I did call the restaurant the next day once I had gotten over the trauma and knew that I was not going to the hospital. I had a hard time connecting with the owners who were not there during the day and when they were at night they were cooking. They did call me back and left a message saying they wish I had saved the food for them to check. I called back again, they were gone but the woman on the phone was very kind and courteous. I could not come right out and say what was wrong, just that the food was contaminated. She said she could offer me a 10% off coupon and I said thank you but I had paid $30 for inedible food and would not be coming back.
I have read several reviews of this restaurant and they were all glowing and positive. Perhaps this was just nightmarish fluke and one batch of soup got contaminated and it is just bad luck? But one batch of bad soup can hurt people! I lived in fear all night that I was going to have to go to the hospital. It was humiliating, offensive and horrific. There are many reasons I make my own food and this touches on one. Safety.
It would have been irresponsible of me not to call a food and safety agency about the restaurant, as it would be for me to not write a review about the restaurant considering I am a food writer. Even though it was a disturbing and painfully embarrassing experience, I will be the voice of dissent among the masses with their glowing references. This is what my foodie nightmares are made of.