Monday, September 05, 2005

Hon's Noodle House

Our Japanese friends the Miyoshis used to live in Vancouver, in the same building as Hon's Noodle House on Robson street, a street crawling with restaurants, money, and the trendy young. The Miyoshis cook with the best ingredients and eat at the kind of restaurants you have to be very rich to even know about in Tokyo, so I expected their chosen noodle house would be very good.
The ambience of the place reminded me of countless university cafeterias I'd been in, as did the prices. Could the luxury-soaked Miyoshis have really made this their regular eatery, as Fumiyo insisted? I wasn't sure if I'd been to Hon's before, it reminds me of so many other vast, cheap and somewhat institutional places I've been over the decades. We are with Steph and her Europe-bound roommate Junko and Junko's boyfriend Yohei. Both Yohei and Junko work in a restaurant in Vancouver and have a professional interest in food quality.
The five of us order six dishes, and they all arrive at once. They are immense. Lined up on our table, they look like air craft carriers lined up for the battle of Midway.
I had ordered the mango scallops and a mushroom dish. Steph wanted the beef with crispy noodles. And they were complemented with mabudofu, a tofu meat stew that's a staple of Japanese Chinese food, fried rice from the same JC menu, and sweet and sour deep friend prawns, which could have been on any menu of any Chinese restaurant in Canada.
Each dish was perfectly prepared. The vegetables were just crispy enough to compare with the crisy noodles and benefit them both. No cuisine does mushrooms better than the Chinese, to my tastes and this was no exception. The prawns seemed delighted in their sweet and sour situation. Was this the first time I've had prawns in this sauce, instead of the usual pork or chicken? Hard to tell.
Small towns in Canada, and even large cities used to (perhaps still do) have predmoninantly Chinese restaurants. The earliest memory I have of eating out was a Chinese place in Yorkton in the early 50s; a town then as now not top-heavy with restaurants. When people in other countries have asked me what is typical Canadian food, I say Chinese. Noodles, meat, vegetables, rice. What more could you want?
I have had very upscale Chinese food in Vancouver but this was more the kind of food I knew from childhood, and poverty-stricken university days. Filling. Satisfying.
I had definitely never had mango scallops and things before but it tasted very familiar. It's the sort of dish usually done with pineapple, a fruit the Chinese have perfected combining with assorted animals. The scallops tasted like scallops, they weren't overwhelmed by the sauce, but more... entertained by it. The mango as juggler, Jughead and Mudhead.
Fumiyo used to make a lot of fried rice and this tasted like hers. In fact, everything in the restaurant had a home-cooked quality. Not a hint of fusion. No mango-peppermint martinis. Not the place you'd take a date to. Quickly it dissolves into deep layers of memories of eating very similar food over long periods of time. After finishing the meal, I feel like what a Sumo wrestler looks like. I might need a crane to help me up. A thousand cranes, perhaps.


At 4:28 PM, Blogger junko said...

Wow,our picture is there!!
Yohei and I really enjoyed having dinner with you guys.
Mando scallope was also my favarite dish.
At first I didnt notice it was mango.
When i find out that,I was impressed.
I'v never eaten a kind of dish.

Anyway,Hon's is one of my best restaurants.


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