Hong Kong Express
Address: 246 Rideau Street, Ottawa
Hours: 11am – 10:30pm (Daily; hours may vary during/after pandemic)
While in the Byward Market area to stock up on adult beverages at the flagship LCBO on Rideau, as well as some Italian goods at Nicastro’s, my wife and I stopped by Hong Kong Express to refuel.
Their menu has a handful of typical Canadian Chinese food favourites (egg rolls, chicken balls, General Tao chicken) but is mainly composed of more traditional dishes, which is what I was here for.
At this point in the pandemic, everything was still takeout-only, so we Ubered home with our Market haul and ate al fresco on our back deck.
The stir-fried beef and rice noodles ($11.95) was a simple composition of of wide rice noodles, bean sprouts, green onion, and of course, strips of beef. The dish had an excellent wok hei flavour, and the beef was perfectly tender – even after being in a takeout container for a not-insignificant amount of time.
I had been hoping that the pineapple fried rice ($14.95) would come served in half of a pineapple as per its marketing materials, but since it was takeout, I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the light sweetness that the pineapple brought, while the chunks of fruit themselves got a nice bit of caramelization from their time in the wok. Like the beef we had, the chicken (you can choose your protein for this dish) showed the skills of Hong Kong Express’ kitchen.
A hot summer meal wouldn’t be complete without a cooling dessert, and the mango sago ($5.99) fit the role wonderfully. I’ve never had this before, but I thoroughly enjoyed this mix of coconut and cow’s milk, mango, and bubbles of sago starch. It was much less sweet than most North American desserts but was still tasty and refreshing.
On a second visit (once again on Market errands), I was hoping to eat-in and try some dishes that don’t survive in takeout containers very well, but Hong Kong Express was still only doing takeout, so I had to quickly adjust my plans.
Hokkien fried rice ($15.45) fit the bill quite nicely for a one-man meal, and I tacked on an order of curry fish balls ($6.95) to dive just a bit further into their menu.
This part of Rideau doesn’t exactly have a cozy spot to sit down and eat a meal, so I made my way back to the main Byward Market area and hunkered down on one of the Muskoka chairs on the section of William Street that’s closed to vehicles.
First off, the container of the Hokkien fried rice was hefty. Looking at it through the transparent cover, it was so packed with meat and vegetables that I couldn’t even tell that there even was any rice! Everything was cooked to perfection – plump shrimp with that little bit of snap, tender-crisp bits of diced gai lan, and plentiful amounts of cha siu and chicken. Squid was also mentioned in the dish’s description, but with the variety and generous portions of the other proteins in this, it was only missed on principle.
There was rice in the bottom third or so of the container, and it was lightly sauced with a rich and subtly sweet sauce. You can have the dish made to the spiciness of your desire, and I found the ‘medium’ that I requested had just enough heat to make itself known, but without overpowering the other flavours and/or melting my face off ala Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If you’re getting fish balls in a restaurant in Canada, and probably most in Asia, you can’t have any illusions on the freshness of what you’re getting. In fact, I’m sure their spongey, heavily-processed texture is a big part of their appeal. They did the trick though, and I enjoyed their mild fishy flavour. The curry sauce that they were lounging in was fairly subdued, which is common for East Asian curries.
I may have yet to actually eat inside Hong Kong Express and enjoy some of their more traditional Hong Kongese dishes, but with the high quality of everything that I’ve ordered from there, I can only imagine that I have more great meals to look forward to.