Hong Kong Restaurant, which is a stone’s throw away from the Harvard red line stop, was nearly empty on a Sunday evening — not an unusual occurrence for a restaurant in Boston. It should be noted, however, that Hong Kong Restaurant was considerably less busy than its restaurant neighbors. After failing to get a table at a nearby ramen shop, a party of four was readily welcomed to take a seat at Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Restaurant serves up pretty standard Americanized Chinese food. The pupu platter (in both small and large sizes) comes with an assortment of offerings from the appetizer menu, including short ribs, chicken fingers, chicken wings, a couple teriyaki skewers and crab rangoon — basically a smorgasbord of fried foods. None of the dishes in the sampler were stellar, but the individual elements weren’t abysmal either. Another dish, the Szechuan wontons, had an excess of wrapping, and the sauce in which the dumplings were served was noticeably lacking in Szechuan. Thus, the dumplings were swimming in oil rather than any discernible kind of sauce. The vegetable rolls at Hong Kong Restaurant are par for the course and bland.
The main courses tell a more varied story. The chicken with broccoli was palatable, yet somehow the sauce had a completely uneven texture. Parts of it were thin like water, while other parts were more viscous like syrup; even more perplexing, the thin parts of the sauce were extremely salty (almost like ocean water), while the thick parts were sweet and flavorful. The chicken was either bone dry or deliciously moist; just like the sauce, there was no rhyme or reason to how the chicken varied.
The dun dun noodles were more consistently disappointing. This dish is typically served spicy, yet at this restaurant the noodles are incredibly mild. The waiter said they were made with peanut butter; perhaps this should have been a warning. In any case, the noodles tasted just fine, but those expecting a spicy dish may be disappointed.
Meanwhile, the Szechuan beef was very good. Admittedly, this reviewer did not get to taste the dish — the person who ordered it ate it too quickly for the reviewer himself to get a piece to sample.
The final person in the party merely pointed to a random spot on the menu when ordering her dish and received a noodle dish adorned with pork and vegetables. No one could venture a guess as to what the dish was actually called, and it felt too awkward to ask the server what it was. In any case, the noodles were bland, but the pork was delicious. It makes no sense how two vastly different elements — one so flavorful, the other so devoid of flavor — can sit in such proximity, but this dish defies sense in this regard.
The service at Hong Kong was fine. Even though the place was practically empty, service was extremely quick; in fact, it was a bit too quick. The appetizers came out almost too soon after the order had been placed, leaving little time for diners to enjoy conversation before eating. Everything was served hot, so it was not like the food had been sitting on a warming shelf, but something just felt a little off about food being ready that quickly. In any case, the water service was comically inconsistent — at one point the server filled three full cups to overflowing and ignored the empty cup on the table altogether.
Hong Kong Restaurant is fine if you have nowhere else to go and you really want Chinese food. But if you are going to venture beyond Davis, you might as well take advantage of the multitude of better options.
Hong Kong Restaurant is located at 1238 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02138. It can be reached at 617-864-5311 or on its website. The restaurant is open Sunday – Wednesday 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 a.m., Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 a.m., Friday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. Its delivery hours are Sunday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. and Friday – Saturday 11:30am – 2:00 a.m. There is a delivery charge of at least $2.00 for every order.