Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Ho Won – Lobster and Wine

It’s a small world. It turns out Bottlenick knows the daughter of the chef at Ho Won, aka the flash-fried squid magician. If you don’t recall my fake news blunder on Reddit, you can read it here.

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Bottlenick, L and I decided to visit for dinner when the Magician was working. Pro tip – you can bring your own wine for a small corkage fee. Bottlenick said he would bring a bottle of bubbly. For this post, let’s listen to Amy Winehouse – Fuck Me Pumps.

I asked my friend the Wine Wizard what sort of wine pairs best with fried squid. He recommended something that has great acidity like a Riesling or an Austrian white called Gruner Veltliner. I went to Highlander Liquor store to shop for something that fit that description. An employee recommended Weingut Robert Weil –  Klosterberg Klosterberg ($48).

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I thought I was quite clever to wrap a wet tea towel around my bottle and then to freeze it so that the icy cloth would keep the wine cold. However, when I arrived at the restaurant, my dripping brown bag alarmed the servers. Pro-tip – get a reusable cold bottle sleeve like Bottlenick.

Bottlenick popped open his bottle first. Got to say, I preferred his pick over mine. I thought the dryness of his sparkling wine worked better with the squid than my Riesling, which was a tad sweet and I thought for the price, wasn’t anything special.

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We ordered pea tips, lobster with fried noodles and salt and pepper squid. The first to arrive at our table were the pea tips. Bottlenick was expecting a more dainty dish – not the luscious, vibrant greens that we received. Pea tips taste like a hybrid mix of peas, spinach and gai lan (Chinese broccoli). I love the delicate crunch of the stems. I’m not sure how much the lobster or pea tips cost, because L didn’t take the receipt and couldn’t remember how much they cost. Pea tips normally average around $23 dollars a dish.

The fried squid ($13.99) arrived so blistering hot I could feel the heat steam in my mouth. The squid itself was toothsome and not chewy. The batter was stellar – thin, brittle and broke apart when you bit into it. I usually eat fried squid with plain white rice and hot chili sauce. However, I passed on ordering rice because I thought the noodles would be enough.

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I haven’t had lobster in a long time. Usually, I’ll wait till I visit my family back in Richmond. The lobster was cracked in such a way that made it easy to remove the sweet meat. The lobster dish with noodles is a must order at Ho Won. The noodles retained its crunch despite the white sauce, which tasted like Alfredo without the cheese.

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I prefer the ginger and green onion version as its more fragrant and flavourful. I told Office Dad I never tried the white sauce before and I thought all Cantonese style lobster and crabs were served with the green onion and ginger sauce. He said the white sauce is automatically given to non-Asian customers unless specified. Dammit L and Bottlenick – you got me the wrong sauce.

I remember as a kid, when we went to a Chinese restaurant for a banquet, lobster would be a messier affair. We would use slippery metal lobster crackers to get to the meat. There would be bowls of hot lemon water to wash our fingers afterwards.

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At the end of our meal, we received fortune cookies. Bottlenick viciously crushed his cookie and then left it on the table. I don’t think he likes fortune cookies.

At 7:00 pm on a Saturday night, Ho Won was packed. I noticed the majority of the clientele are Asian, which is a good sign that the food is good. The Magician does indeed have special powers. This visit was far superior to the lunches I’ve enjoyed in the past.  I’d love to return again, particularly when he is working. Hitting the Sauce gives the Magician two fat thumbs up.

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Comfort food · Restaurants

Ho Won – Ho No!

I started eating at Ho Won since I was hired for my current position, back in November, 2013. I’m a fan of the salt and pepper squid, pork dumplings, ginger beef and pea tips. For this post, let’s listen to Gossip Folks by Missy Elliott.

Office Dad came back from the long weekend and told me Ho Won was shutting down. I was sad to hear this unfortunate news and immediately went to Reddit to voice my despair.

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Reddit is a powerful medium to spread information or in my case, misinformation. As you can see, the “news” spread fast.

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When I read that staff confirmed that the restaurant was not closing, I called Office Dad in a panic. Of course he didn’t pick up or text me back. The next day he came over to my pod, scratched his head and asked me why I posted the info on Reddit. I responded that Ho Won is an institution and customers would miss it and want to go back before it closed. I asked him to stop redirecting the conversation and to answer me. He exercised his right to remain silent.

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I rounded up the troop: Asian Persuasion, Lil Strawberry, Lam Jam, Legal and Aye Caramba. Office Dad couldn’t go. He acted all mysterious but I found out later it was because he wanted to leave early. Deeclan bailed after promising she would go. She said she forgot she had a coffee date with a friend.

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Initially, I ordered a medium bowl of Fish Maw Soup ($10), Chicken Chow Mein ($9.99), Ginger Beef ($12.99) and Salt and Pepper Squid ($13.99). Our server told me that I had to more one more dish. I said “What? But I ordered a total of four dishes.” She looked at me and shook her head. “You got six here. You need to order at least one more dish.” Okay boss! I added the Special Fried Rice ($9.99).

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The fish soup was served nice and hot. The bowl was filled with fish maw, egg whites, and little pieces of crab. Everyone at the table except for me added soy sauce.  This was a real Joy Luck Club moment. You know, the scene when the Rich puts soy sauce all over the Waverly mother’s famous steamed fish dish. Jesus Rich. You’ve got terrible manners. I thought the fish maw soup was great on its own, with just a little white pepper to accent the delicate flavours.

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The squid at Ho Won is legendary. This time around, I noticed the batter wasn’t as light and crispy. I could also taste a little uncooked batter. I’ve eaten squid here at least 15 times, and this was a first. Maybe the chef knew I was the person on Reddit that started the rumour. I’m paranoid.

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Asian Persuasian enjoyed the fried rice. I thought the rice was a tad overcooked, but  it was tasty. There was lots of chopped and whole shrimp, peas and egg whites. We wanted hot sauce to liven up the dish, but we couldn’t get the attention of our server. We gave up after ten minutes. If you haven’t already noticed, the portions are huge.

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The table’s favourite dish was the ginger beef. The platter was piled high with tender, generously sized pieces of beef. Aye Caramba and Legal mentioned that they could actually taste the ginger in it. Too often, ginger beef tastes like candied meat. The batter was light and retained it’s crunch up to the very end. The sweetness of the sauce reminded me of honey.

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The chicken chow mein was also a big portion of food. There was ample sauce to soften the noodles and a generous amount of chicken, sprouts and mushrooms. I would pass on the noodles in the future.

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For five dishes and a 20% tip, we paid $12.00 per person. I’m glad Ho Won is still around and the information I received was just gossip. Looking forward to organizing the next food adventure with my office mates.

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese

Ho Won – Work Lunch

I told my husband L that I need a pseudonym for my boss when I blog. L advised, “I don’t know honey… Whatever you choose, you should tread lightly”. Originally, I was thinking of naming my boss ‘Mozza’ or ‘Angel’, because he’s obsessed with the mozza mushroom burger at Angel’s Drive In. However, after L’s heeding, I decided that from here on in I will refer to my boss as Tread Lightly.

Tread Lightly announced he was taking his team out for a lunch meeting. My co-worker Rascal said that since Tread Lightly was treating, he wanted steak or lobster. Tread Lightly retorted, “No. We’re going for Chinese. I want to go the squid and dumpling place that Hitting the Sauce picked the last time.” He was referring to Ho Won.

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At the restaurant, I ordered Salt and Pepper Squid, Ginger Chicken, Singapore Noodles, Pea Tips and Pork Dumplings. I requested the dumplings to be steamed rather than fried, as we would be having enough oily delights throughout our meal. Rascal said he wanted it fried. I told him Office Dad prefers the dumpling steamed, as it’s not as greasy. Rascal retorted, “Yeah, while I’m not Office Dad.” I ignored him and ordered what I wanted. I’m learning a lot from Tread Lightly. The large dumplings were fat and bursting with pork, ginger and cabbage.

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The best thing to order at Ho Won is the salt and pepper squid. The batter is mouth-watering, well-seasoned with salt, pepper and hot chili flakes. Rascal thought the squid was too long in size. I disagreed with him but I lacked the energy to tell him that not everything should be shaped like a chicken nugget.

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Before I left for lunch, I asked Office Dad to write in Chinese “pea tips in garlic sauce” so the server would know what I wanted for our vegetable dish. He obliged and wrote out the Chinese characters. It turns out he forgot a character so the piece of paper read “peas”. In any case, the snow peas were sweet and crisp, covered in a garlic sauce. Tread Lightly said we should give Office Dad the bill as he screwed up on the ordering. When we got back to the office, Tread Lightly tried to find Office Dad to give him the bill. Lucky for Office Dad, he had already left for a meeting.

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Next up was the Singapore Noodles. The noodles were spicy and clearly fresh off the wok. I liked the generous coating of curry. Flecked with green peppers, egg, sweet onions, chai su and shrimp, this dish was very tasty.

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Rascal didn’t comment about the Ginger Chicken, but I noticed that he ate most of it. Tread Lightly prefers ginger chicken over ginger beef. I prefer the ginger beef, but the chicken was good. Though heavily battered, there was a decent amount of meat. The ginger sauce was syrupy and reminded me of honey, but lacked a garlicky bite to it.

There’s a bigwig that is leaving our company soon. Ho Won was his weekly lunch spot on Fridays. Office Dad and I plan to take him to Ho Won to celebrate his retirement. This time around, I hope to get my order of pea tips.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato