House of Chong, Middletown, NJ

I know House of Chong is not exactly Red Bank, but I will post my review here since this is where most of the discussion has been.

My friend Roy read my review of Temple from last week and called me up saying I needed some good Chinese food in me. I obliged, and my mom and I joined him and his wife Joanne and daughter Katie the other day. They are ardent fans of House of Chong, which has been in business since 1969. Joanne promised me a nostalgic experience of a place that has gone virtually unchanged in nearly 50 years. She was right—it reminded me of Ruby Palace, or of other Chinese restaurants I frequented when I was a child in the 90’s. They were dated then, and even more so now. But that is one thing I appreciate: the good, old-fashioned Americanized Chinese experience. Not every place can pull it off, though. There is a fine line between nostalgic and falling apart. Little Szechuan succeeded in my book, as does Sunny Palace. Meanwhile Crown Palace is just a cry for help. Where would House of Chong fall?

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“They are the same waiters”, Joanne said, “Probably when I first ate here as a kid in the 70’s.” That aspect was apparent. Not one of the servers had not hit their senior years. “They seemed old even when I was a child”. This wasn’t a bad thing, as it simply added to the experience. The ancient uniformed servers were quite attentive. Standing by at the ready to refill a glass of water or bring over the food as it was finished in the kitchen. We started out with some umbrella cocktails. I usually avoid these like the plague, but could not resist it here. Roy and I each had a Zombie, while Joanne went with a Singapore Sling. I enjoyed my drink, though I would probably go with a Tsing Tao next time.

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It had probably been over a decade since I went to a Chinese restaurant with the Column A/Column B option. We decided to do the family style for four, while Katie ordered a Hunan noodle dish for herself. For $15.50 a person, this was quite a deal. It came with soup, an egg roll, choice of rice, a massive entrée, and choice of dessert. I enjoyed my wonton soup—it was not too salty and the wontons were decent, though a bit rubbery. My egg roll was fried perfectly and not greasy at all. For entrees, there was a veritable feast present: shrimp and garlic sauce, shrimp and lobster sauce, chicken egg foo young, and chicken and broccoli. The platters covered the table. Two additional silver platters then came out, which were hefty portions of white and pork fried rice.

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I must say the food was excellent. I did not know what to expect. My friends love this place, but my mom’s only visit here was in the early 90’s, and she said the food was greasy. Another friend of mine was here last year and said, in his words, it was “disgusting”. Quite a mix: love or hate. We either got them on a good night or they changed something. This was as delicious a meal such a restaurant could churn out. There were over a dozen shrimp in the two seafood dishes. The garlic sauce was on the sweet side and vegetables were plentiful. The lobster sauce too was bursting with flavor. The chicken and broccoli was a massive heap and looked appetizing. I tried a little bit of the Egg Foo Young and I believe it may be the best rendition I have ever had. This was probably due to an incredibly rich brown sauce poured over it.

Egg Foo Young used to be a mainstay of mine until I was skeeved out a few years ago. I don’t remember where it was, but the patties were literally dripping in oil and the gravy actually started to separate into a bizarre-looking science experiment. I had not eaten it since. I gave it a try tonight and thought it was wonderful.

Some of House of Chong’s a la carte entrees can be a bit pricey, but for the family dinner, you cannot go wrong. There is even another option for $26 that includes a Pu Pu Platter to share and a house cocktail per person. Not bad at all. I couldn’t imagine ordering that because we had enough food as it was. I left stuffed. Overall, this is not fine cuisine but it was tasty and got the job done. The atmosphere was nice, though I know some would disagree and think it was too outdated. The bar is fully stocked but probably does not get many people sitting at it. The drink menu was extensive.

Sit-down Chinese restaurants in my area of Monmouth County are few and far-between. Ones that have a bar are pretty much extinct. Since I swore off Crown Palace and Sunny Palace is a bit far, I am glad I was introduced to House of Chong. This was a very enjoyable experience, both with food and company. I would definitely come back and want to try some of their other dishes. They will get a 4 out of 5 stars rating from me.

Original review and additional pictures on my blog here.

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Nice report Greg. I’m glad to see this place is still putting out some decent dishes.

What is the one dish at 10 oclock in the pic? It looks like some kind of noodles.

Do you remember the grand Marnier shrimp at RP,

The noodles, I believe, were Hunan style. I only browsed the menu before heading to the family styles section. The portion was enormous. I forgot to note in my review, she kept eating and eating and eating, and only made it through half.

No, I do not remember the Grand Marnier Shrimp at RP. I fondly remember their Egg Foo Young, and the Pu Pu. You have to remember I was probably 13 or 14 when they closed. I do remember the interior design to a T though.

I’m glad you liked it. But are you sure it’s that good, or does your review reflect your disappointment in Temple?

The HoC portions are a good value, especially vs. Temple, but we find the food a little bland. And the menu and decor are a little dated. Given the choice Helga and I usually make the schlepp to Matawan or Marlboro for something with some more spice in it.

Either that, or HoC has gotten a new chef?

That could very well be, but I’m hoping I am not so easily blinded. This food was good. Not fine cuisine as stated in my review, but better than most of such food I have had in this area. I suppose those Edison restaurants would blow HOC away, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.

If I had to put the comparable restaurants in a list, it would be the following:

  1. Ruby Palace :frowning:
  2. House of Chong- Middletown
  3. Little Szechuan- Little Silver
  4. Sunny Palace- East Brunswick
  5. Crown Palace- Middletown
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I wouldn’t necessarily say the Edison restaurants are better than any of the places you mentioned, it’s just a different cuisine they’re serving. Places like Little Szech and Chong are more or less strictly American Chinese places. Places like Crown and Sunny parlay that into a more extensive authentic menu that’s pan-Chinese. These are the Chinese foods that most of us “grew up with” and are familiar with. The places in Edison focus on regional Chinese cuisines and a lot of it is stuff that just didn’t exist in NJ 20 years ago.

Maybe it’s just my “upbringing” but I’m not a fan of nice sit down American Chinese places in general, I want it to come out of shitty hole in the wall places. :slight_smile:

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potd8

Went there again last night. Had an unusual craving for Chinese food. We went with the $26 family dinner option this time, which includes any alcoholic beverage, a Pu Pu platter, and instead of pork fried rice, they give you a version with chicken, shrimp, beef, and pork. It was very good but so much food! I left stuffed, and was not hungry again later in the evening as is the case with Chinese food sometimes.

Anyway, I share the above picture because it was nice to see their Pu Pu actually come with the sterno. I had not been served one of these in years. Last time was Ruby Palace. Some places just do not do it anymore, and Pu Pu via takeout is just not the same. Ribs were excellent, and enhanced even more when given a hit on the grill. Fried chicken too was surprisingly good. Very crispy. Beef on a stick was the real winner though. No fat at all, and such amazing flavor. The marinade or rub seemed to have a slight hint of curry.

And washed down with a Tsing Tao.

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And again, I have to note the sheer lack of customers. When I wrote my initial review, it was a Thursday night. There was one table table when we arrived. We were number two. No one came in after us.

Last night was a Saturday. One table taken at 7 PM, we were the second, and after us, only two more tables of two. While on both nights I have seen a steady stream of takeout orders coming from the kitchen to the front, the amount of people eating in is a bit worrisome. I have thoroughly enjoyed my two visits to HOC because of the nostalgia factor in addition to the good food. I hope they have a few more years left in the tank!

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$ 26 per person? “Includes any alcoholic beverage” again, per person or one with the meal?

It’s been years since I have seen or ordered a pu-pu platter, fried chicken wings is not a normal standard are they? Regarding your concern about their eat in business (or lack there of) I think it’s been like that forever. 90% of their business is take our or delivery, I really wish they still delivered to me. (I think my neighbors pissed them off, they used to order all the time and they were pains in the ass, thank God they just moved)

I ate one or two meals at the bar years ago, simply because I got a kick out of it. I might have to make a return trip soon you are making me feel nostalgic.

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The alcoholic beverage is one per person. It could be beer, wine, or a cocktail such as a Mai Tai, etc.

And it was $ 26. per person? The family meal deal?

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Yes, $26 per person. We had three people. Therefore we had:

One alcoholic beverage per person.
One soup per person.
Pu Pu Platter for the table (one item each per person).
One from Column A, one from Column B.
One platter of special fried rice (shrimp, pork, chicken) for the table.
One dessert per person.

Totally worth it when factoring in the drink. I didn’t take advantage, since I had a beer. Just was in the mood. But when you figure most entrees are around $15, and if you’re ordering an $8 Mai Tai, you might as well do the family meal deal for $26 and get all that extra food.

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There is also a $15 family meal deal that does not include the drink or Pu Pu, and the fried rice is strictly pork (or you can get white rice). But who goes there and doesn’t feel like a Tiki/Umbrella cocktail?

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So, as mentioned in the Temple thread, we went to House of Chong last night. Actually, we got in the car with our sights set on Sichuan Cottage, but then something popped into my head that they were closed Tuesdays.

Still the same scene: only three or four tables, waiters who are knocking on 80 years old. Delicious food, huge portions. I had chicken and broccoli with garlic sauce, Justin had the Szechuan beef (not sure what made it Szechuan-- it was not spicy) but the steak was cooked perfectly. Fried rice was light and airy. Egg rolls crisp. The wontons in the soup were even better than I remembered. Had a very well-made martini as well.

On the way out, I said goodbye to the host (not Mr. Chong, but a younger man-- an odd site for anyone who has eaten there given the average age of their workers). I asked if he made my excellent martini and he said he did. He introduced himself as Danny and I asked if he was the owner’s son, to which he was. I mentioned my blog and that I reviewed them last year. He said that he read it and thanked me. I should have asked if he was taking over and if we would see any changes soon, but it slipped my mind. Maybe I’ll give them a call.

I still love the dated interior. It is like stepping back into the 1970’s.

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Danny is one of mr. Chong’s son, the other younger man is Eddie.

I’ve heard that Danny would like to make some changes, but upper management is hesitant. :wink:

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No surprise there! I am sure Mr. Chong is wanting to hold on as long as he can.

I just hope they can keep it in business. There are never any tables! I have gone on different nights and different times, and I don’t think there have ever been more than five tables taken.

I hope he does not change the decor. Some will find it tacky and horribly dated, but for me, that is part of the experience. There are too many modern, minimalist, “fusion” restaurants out there.

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You should also check out tuzzios in long branch. I’m a big fan of old school decor too. You will like this place I think. The food is decent too and they have a Tuesday special

https://www.tuzzios.com/weeklyspecials

Has anyone ever wondered why there aren’t more “authentic” Chinese places around holmdel? The ruby palace is gone and there is a large Chinese population in holmdel. I would think there would be better dining options nearby.

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I think that China Palace in Middletown is authentic Taiwanese, and has lots of Chinese customers when I’ve been there, but it has gotten mixed reviews here.

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The bowling alley joint is as authentic as this area gets. Them and Shanghai Bun.

But the sit-down old school Americanized-Chinese experience is just as rare.

90% of Asian here is takeout and/or fusion. And while I love Nemo in Keyport, I am generally disliking fusion more and more.

Danny Chong reached out yesterday. The first changes under his watch are coming, including some additions to the menu.

I will be launching har gao (shrimp dumplings), Shui Mai (pork and shrimp dumpling), xiao long bao (soup dumpling), and char sui bao (roast pork bun)

He has a new chef as well. Invited me to come taste-test next week and offer feedback. Unfortunately, I start a new job next week and probably can’t do it until the week after. Will keep you all posted.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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