After a particularly dangerous meal at a local fast-food Chinese joint, my boyfriend, Brian, was nervous about eating Chinese ever again. However, our pals Kurt and Erin convinced us otherwise, at least in reference to the Hong Kong Diner. Working long hours at the Sierra View Library, Kurt is known to frequent the Hong Kong Diner for its affordable chef’s specials and because of its proximity (both the library and restaurant can be found in the Reno Town Mall). After much reassurance of many well-digested meals, Brian and I left our culinary prejudice at home and headed off to chow down, armed with Erin and Kurt’s menu knowledge.
It’s a Wednesday evening, and our various jobs keep us from dining before 8 p.m. The weather is starting to feel like fall; the air is brisk, and the night is clear. The diner is bright and inviting but still air-conditioned, so we all need our sweaters. After some general confusion as to whether or not the waitress brings us our menus, I approach the counter, and she apologetically tells me she was just on her way over. We decide to start with a few Tsingtao beers ($2.50 each) to help us decide.
Since the air is cold, Kurt looks closely at his many soup options, eventually choosing the egg flower soup ($4.50), without the pork. My eyes wander to the vegetable chow mein ($4.75), and after a brief argument with myself, I stay there. Chow mein is friendly, like pasta. Brian debates over sesame, almond or cashew chicken, and the sesame comes out as the victor. Erin, from the moment I said “Hong Kong Diner,” has been extolling the virtues of the spicy crispy tofu ($6.95), and she promises a taste for any interested parties. Brian always orders crab Rangoon ($2.95) as a barometer of the quality of the Chinese food he’s eating, so he orders it tonight.
As we wait for our meal, our conversation turns to the décor, which is puzzling. Most of one wall is occupied by many different commercial-looking portraits of babies and young children, most sun-bleached and faded, which don’t appear to be family portraits. We ponder their importance and eventually find ourselves making off-color (but hilarious) jokes about baby appearing as various menu items.
Luckily, our food appears before we lose our appetites. We share our items. “Woah, it really tastes like crab!” Brian says happily after his first bite of crab Rangoon. The egg flower soup comes in a giant bowl, and there’s plenty for all of us. My chow mein is chock full of veggies, delicately flavored and delicious. Erin passes around the deep-fried tofu, which rests on a bed of crispy lettuce and is every bit as yummy as it was trumped up to be. It would be easier to eat all of Brian’s giant plate of sesame chicken swimming in teriyaki sauce if there were more vegetables to break it up a bit. The chicken is really tasty, though, and if it sat in less sauce, I would indulge even more.
The Hong Kong Diner is great for a simple, easy Chinese meal, and they do take-out in case you want to enjoy it elsewhere. With more than 100 items on the menu, there is much to sample and grow fond of (but no Szechuan babies). Make sure you ask about the toddler pictures on the wall—I forgot. Too much Tsingtao.