My Wonton Mein Saga: Hon’s on Robson

The Scene has moved on
But nostalgia, not the food
Drew me back to Hon’s
I think when the cavernous Hon’s opened on Robson, that was the height of the Hon’s empire which at the time comprised of several eateries across the Lower Mainland and the commercialization of their popular dumplings which you can still buy frozen at most local grocery stores.

I remember what a treat it was when my parents would take us to Hon’s in Chinatown when I was kid.  Since then, the quality of Chinese food has anted up and specialized in Vancouver.
I am amazed that the Hon’s on Robson Street is still open, given how large of a space it occupies on a street that is notorious for high rents.  It’s been a long time since I stepped into a Hon’s, as many restaurants prepare similar food at a higher level.
The cafeteria-ish dinning room looked like time had stood still since the place opened, albeit with a layer of dulling grim.
I ordered my usual wonton plus veggies and an order of old school spring rolls.
As much as I prefer some pork in my wontons to create a more complex umami taste, Hon’s wontons were mostly pork and it was not good.  They were overcooked.  The filling had a taste of sesame oil, a dense texture but lacked a satisfying savoury flavour.

 

 
The noodles also spent too long in the hot water bath as they were inexcusably mushy.  The soup seemed watered down and didn’t have the impactful seafood flavour I was looking for. 
The Gai Lan was the only component that was prepared well in my soup noodle.  They were vibrantly green, with the correct crunchy texture and came in ample amount.
What are old school spring rolls?  They are the kind my mom makes with julienne carrots, wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots, celery, garlic, pork and importantly NO cabbage.  This use to be the norm before the shrimp filled became the standard spring roll at most traditional Chinese restaurants. 
I miss this kind of spring roll as my mom refuses to make them anymore for Chinese New Year as everybody is watching their cholesterol, blood pressure and weight now.  I’m old but these specific health concerns are not mine yet so I feel unduly punished by my mom’s decision to prepare a more healthy Chinese New Year spread.  Yes, this is a preemptive rant.
As a result when I see them on a menu, I order them.  Hon’s actually offers a few variations of spring rolls on their menu, which makes sense since who doesn’t like spring rolls. 

 

 
Unfortunately, problematic execution marred the spring rolls as well.  They were overly greasy.  As for the taste, it was weird as the filling did have that sweet, earthy, garlicky taste of my mom’s spring rolls but without the visible presence of veggies. 
The meal was subpar but I expected as much as Hon’s hasn’t been a go to place for laudatory Chinese food for a long time despite still maintaining the various outlets scattered around the GVRD.  My visit to Hon’s was more a trip down memory lane; a mental revisit of what life was like when the pastel purple and green themed restaurant was a player in the Chinese food scene.
I’m curious to see how long the Hon’s on Robson will survive as there has been quite a number of restaurants that have come and gone on that block in the last few years.  Lastly if anyone knows a place where I can get my fix of old school spring rolls, please leave me a comment.
Hon’s Wun-Tun House
1339 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 1C6
604 685 0871
http://www.hons.ca(note the Chinese version of the website has more info)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. LotusRapper says:

    I've long suspected their Robson store may be just barely scraping by as far as solvency goes. My uncle and aunt had a small gifts store of approx. 1000 sq.ft across from Shenanigans in the '80s and '90s and at that time they were shelling out about $10K in rent every month. I wonder if in a way, Hon's has a captive audience for low/average-level yet familiar Canto-Chinese fare in much of downtown, and their name maintains their appeal esp. to the non-professional, service industry workers who work and live in the West End. And to tourists too. And even if they're not solvent, perhaps the Hon's empire (what's left of them) subsidizes this “flagship: store.

    Like

  2. Moyen Chow says:

    Hon's may be a cautionary tale, for those Chinese restaurateurs with expansion ambitions.

    Like

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