Fond memories but that’s all
A poor bowl at Hon’s
The good old days, when things were better, kinder and etc, etc, etc. However, were they?
The Hon’s in Chinatown played a significant role in my obsession with wontons and probably noodle soups in general. It was the only restaurant meal my parents would splurge on after shopping in the vibrant Chinatown of the late 80s/early 90s. Those wonderful memories nudged me towards the reincarnated Hon’s in Olympic Village.
Stepping into the new Hon’s was more a time warp than a nostalgic stroll. The space tells a story of tradition and yesteryears that I’ve seen only in period television dramas produced by Hong Kong’s TVB.
I always associated Hon’s with the 1980’s fondness for pastel colours, and plastic bowls and utensil. The new location didn’t exactly evoke the warm fuzzy feelings which made my visit simply about the food. Now about the golden past, well there was a reason why the original Hon’s in Chinatown shuttered*. Part of it was the decline of the neighbourhood, but also the food wasn’t that good towards the end of the restaurant’s time.
With various waves of Chinese immigration, the quality and diversity of Chinese food in the city just got better to the delight of diners. The wonton was upgraded to almost all shrimp and an umami rich seafood superior broth.
There’s nothing wrong with the more homey pork and shrimp wonton in a chicken/pork stock. This version is still very comforting when done well. The problem with the old and new Hon’s is the bowl isn’t put together well. The wontons are small with a modest bland pork filling and one chewy shrimp. One wonton did have a strong hit of sesame oil. It signals that the wontons were overcooked, and the boiling water seeped in and washed out the flavour of the filling.
The soup is just salty without any depth of flavour, although I could smell the aroma of ginger. This was disappointing. A lot of sins in soup noodles can be forgiven by an outstanding, savoury broth but too many restaurants skimp out on this component including Hon’s.
Maybe the stewed beef brisket was the better thing to order at Hon’s but when wonton is in your name, should it not be your standout dish? I was really hoping the new owners would tweak the dishes, and improve the quality and attention to details. The revival of Hon’s is such a feel good story and will draw Vancouverites in with nostalgia. I wish they didn’t also resurrect the mediocre food that felled the old Hon’s.
Hon’s Wonton House
25 E 2nd Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5T 1B3
*NOTE: There are other Hon’s (two I know of: one on Robson street in Vancouver, and the other in New Westminster) that remained open when the Chinatown Hon’s closed. However, they are not affiliated with the revived Hon’s in Olympic Village. According to Wanyee Li of The Star Vancouver, the other locations simply lease the name, Hon’s.