Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle Edmonton
10336 81 Avenue
No listed delivery service
Seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
Dinner for two excluding tip, taxes or beverages: Basic, $25; loaded $50
Food: 3 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
By GRAHAM HICKS
Don’t believe the hype.
Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle restaurant, at least here in Edmonton, is nothing special.
It’s your basic Asian beef-noodle shop with marketing clout. Backed by Vancouver business conglomerate the Fairchild Group, Chef Hung now has five outlets on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, two in the USA, a handful in Asia.
The Edmonton Chef Hung, in Old Strathcona off Whyte Avenue, is the first in Canada outside B.C.
Maybe just this outlet is the problem. Before partnering with Fairchild, Chef Hung is said to have been a renowned chef in Taiwan, a two-time winner of the Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival.
To read the breathless prose on the Chef Hung Canada website, its Taiwanese-style beef noodle should be the very best of Asian noodle concoctions. Chef Hung has “unrivalled techniques” and “secret recipes”. His restaurants use only the “finest beef”. His “uncompromising standards” result in an “unforgettable soup.”
Extraordinary? More like ordinary!
The beef broths and other dishes our party of six tried were pretty darned dull.
The broth was okay, the beef slices standard, the colour a uniform dull brown. Nothing about the noodles stood out. The vegetables in the broth were … soggy vegetables.
The broth dishes – beef shank, noodles in a ground pork sauce, cabbage & pork dumpling soup – were bland, curiously under-seasoned. Nothing came close to the flavour, texture and general zing of comparable Asian soups, i.e. the fantastic beef pho/ramen soups available in this city.
Of the surrounding side-dishes, the green onion cakes were nondescript, the chicken nuggets dry and tasteless, the red bean cake dessert tired and without freshness.
The deep-fried sweet sausage on rice fared better – at least the tangy sweetness woke up my slumbering taste buds. The marinated beef wraps may have come close to the “well-marbled” hype – had the beef not been so overcooked as to chase out any marbling that might have been.
The establishment was clean and attractive. The servers were pleasant and reasonably informed – at least they knew the menu’s best-sellers. Service was prompt. The power of marketing: By 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, the 50-seat restaurant was three-quarters full.
Perhaps the problem is a local one, confined to this Chef Hung outlet. It seems peculiar that a chef and his cuisine should warrant a multi-million-dollar business investment that receives glowing reviews elsewhere, yet be so obviously sub-standard at one particular outlet.
That’s no excuse in any case. In any successful chain, consistency from outlet to outlet is crucial. The Edmonton Chef Hung has been open for months and ought to be up to speed with its Lower Mainland associates.
CHINATOWN DINING WEEK
Devotees of Edmonton’s Chinatown are following the downtown’s lead and creating the second annual Chinatown Dining Week.
From Thursday, January 17 to Sunday, January 27, at any of the eight participating restaurants, a two-course offering can be had after 5 p.m. for $15.
All Asia is on offer: New are Kanto 98 (Filipino fusion), Padmanadi (Asian vegetarian), Namaste India (South Asian), Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles and Tea Bar Café. Returning are Asian Express Hot Pot, Gui Lin Noodles and King Noodle House (Vietnamese). More info at edmontonchinatown.ca.
TIPPING COLUMN HIT A NERVE
Last week’s Weekly Dish column on restaurant tipping – Tipping is out of control – hit a nerve. The online column went viral, attracting readership and comments from across Canada and into the USA.
I’ll return to the subject but suffice it to say almost all commentators agreed that subtle efforts by servers and credit card payment terminals to push tips into the 20% to 25% range, with ownership’s tacit complicity and especially on top of an Alberta $15-an-hour minimum wage, is both greedy and outrageous.