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The Journal Gazette

  • New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Orange beef at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Egg rolls at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Ginger chicken at at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • General Tso's chicken at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Shrimp egg rolls at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • The Bo Bo Platter at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Pepper steak at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Steamed dumplings at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Pan-fried dumplings at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.  

  • Moo shu shrimp at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Kung pao chicken at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Sesame chicken at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

  • Hot and sour soup at New Hong Kong Chinese restaurant in Riviera Plaza.

Sunday, January 22, 2017 8:13 pm

Flavor takes over at Chinese takeout spot

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

Everyone has their favorite Chinese takeout place, and everyone thinks theirs is the best.

I’ve been to so many that I have specialized my favorites. For kung pao, I go to this place. For Szechuan, I go to that place, and so on.

I had been to New Hong Kong in Riviera Plaza at St. Joe and St. Joe Center roads many times – always with solid results – but when a colleague told me it had the best dumplings he’s ever had, it was time to go back.

I hate to tell my colleague (Gene), but those dumplings, though respectable, did not live up to his praise.

But New Hong Kong exceeded my expectations overall, and my return visits revealed some new favorites that I must go back for.

At the forefront were a pair of chicken dishes; one that is a go-to for me and one that was new to me.

New Hong Kong’s kung pao chicken didn’t look like anything special. It had large diced carrots, celery, water chestnuts and green peppers, along with equal-sized bits of chicken and a smattering of peanuts.

But its flavor was perfect.

All of those vegetables were super crunchy, the chicken was moist and tender and there was no skimping on the wok-toasted peanuts, which truly made this dish special.

It was spicy, but not crazy spicy, and any lover of kung pao would struggle to find a flaw.

The ginger chicken looked more like onion chicken with a plethora of julienne-cut white onions – along with green onion pieces of the same length – as basically the only other ingredients besides the slices of chicken.

But after my first taste – which exploded with zesty, spicy ginger flavor – I looked a little closer and spotted the many thin strands of fresh ginger mixed in, too.

There weren’t a lot of levels of flavor to this dish, it was just a ginger punch in the face. I love ginger, so it was a winner for me.

The orange beef was also intensely flavored and it, too, had thin shavings of its signature ingredient. The orange peel gave the dark brown sauce coating the crispy, battered pieces an intoxicating aroma and zingy citrus flavor.

The only other ingredient was a handful of fresh broccoli florets, which were also pretty tasty when dragged through the sticky sweet sauce.

The sesame chicken had a similarly colored sauce and its fried meat was some of the crispiest I have had in this preparation, which usually makes the breading a bit soggy.

The hint of red in this sauce had me thinking sweet and sour sauce was incorporated to give it its sweet-spicy-tangy flavor. It was well-balanced and a fine choice.

Speaking of balanced flavor, the hot and sour soup was a much better choice than the rather mundane egg drop. It was chock full of tender strips of tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots and egg. It had the perfect mix of the two flavors, which is hard to find as most places seem to make it too spicy.

I could have used more spice in my General Tso’s chicken, however. It had smaller pieces of perfectly crispy, sauce-coated chicken – the folks at New Hong Kong know how to fry – and a nice balance of sweetness to go with what spice it had. I just like mine a little spicier, which I am sure I could request.

The only other entrée that I had any issues with was the pepper steak. The nicely velveted slices of beef were tender and there were plenty of sliced onions and green peppers, but its sauce was soy-heavy and sort of one note.

New Hong Kong made up for it with its moo shu shrimp, as it had several layers of flavor. The best thing about this dish was that it came with paper-thin pancakes for wrapping the heavily sauced shrimp, cabbage, carrots, green onions, bamboo shoots and scrambled egg.

There were plenty of large, nicely wok-charred shrimp, the cabbage and other vegetables still had some crunch and the sweet plump sauce rounded it all out nicely.

Having those light, airy pancakes instead of tortillas, which a lot of places use, was a real bonus.

The appetizers were OK with no real eye-openers. I was able to try most through New Hong Kong’s "Bo Bo Platter" – a different take or just a misspelling of the common pu pu platter. It included two each of battered shrimp, egg rolls, crab rangoon, shrimp toast, crab sticks and barbecued pork ribs.

The panko-coated crab sticks were the only surprise as the extra crunch was great with the sizable imitation crab stick. The shrimp toast were also quite flavorful. The flattened pork was tough, the rangoon was just OK and the shrimp’s batter lacked flavor.

The egg rolls were filled with many bits of barbecued pork and just cabbage, but that cabbage was nicely seasoned to make it quite tasty. The shrimp rolls, which I tried separately, were not as good as they, too, only had shrimp and cabbage. The shrimp did not provide as much flavor as the barbecued pork.

Then there were those highly touted dumplings.

I tried the fried and steamed versions and both were just OK. They were filled with a decent mix of ground pork and scallions, and the crispy fried were better than the kind of chewy streamed.

They were respectable, and I wouldn’t dissuade someone from getting them, but I also wouldn’t suggest them.

So I am sorry, Gene. But I am not sorry you persuaded me to go back to New Hong Kong. When it comes to Chinese takeout, the folks there are doing it right.

Restaurant: New Hong Kong

Address: 3245 St. Joe Center Road

Phone: 485-8803

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Chinese

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Bo Bo Platter ($9.35), soup ($1.85), dumplings ($4.95 steamed; $5.25 fried), moo shu shrimp ($9.25), ginger chicken ($4.95), General Tso’s chicken ($8.95), sesame chicken ($8.95), orange beef ($9.95), kung pao chicken ($4.95), pepper steak ($5.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.