Looking for a decent Hong Kong style dinner in Richmond, my guest remembered my appreciation for themes so took me here. As its name suggests the restaurant’s decor was centred around film and movies. It bounced around: taking you back to old Hollywood, the days of noire and back and white cinematography; then immersing you in twentieth century pop culture characters and references.
The exterior parking lot facing windows were decal-ed with a film strip, it ran all around the black and white building, reading “Hollywood”. Their logo was a bull’s bust facing off against a fork, a natural reminder that they are a steakhouse and a cafe despite their name. By the entrance a full poster dropped down. It presence was hoping to entice those passing by with coloured photographs of their most popular dishes.
My guest found the strung up LED lights and the row of blinking icicles visible from both inside and out a nice touch. I found it a sign of laziness. They were probably left up after Christmas of 2013. This is a pet peeve of mine. If you plan to decorate for the holidays and celebrate the seasons with lights and ornaments you need to be prepared to take them down in a timely manner. Taking a note from retail stores, as soon as an occasion elapses you change your theme and move on to promote the next thing. For example the morning after Halloween evening stores everywhere will be pushing Christmas front and centre. Though luckily for “Hollywood Steakhouse” we are now approaching fall and in about a month or two their lights will be relevant again for winter.
Stepping inside you don’t know where to look first. Most would consider the floor to ceiling decorations clutter, but you could tell a great deal of effort was put into covering every inch of available wall space. Walls coated in memorabilia and photos in black, white, and grey. As a result the room was dark and the setting a bit gloomy. Kind of like at movie theatres before all the lights dimmed and the previews ran.
Geometric stars with names of celebrity stars were stickered on floor. Laid down by the entrance they were meant to mimic the walk of fame. Cardboard cutouts of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and a battered Bruce Lee stood on guard. The walls were papered in grey with spotted white “O’s”. They were a similar pattern to each of the monochrome toned table cloths haphazardly polka dotted. Paintings of pool halls, poker games, gentleman’s clubs, and other stereotypical scenes from gangster and good fellow movies hung together. Images of various video equipment: cameras, film reels, canisters, tape rolls, and projectors were scattered high above above the room. And very classic, black and white stills of Marilyn Monore and Audrey Hepburn graced the space. All this movie and film memorabilia was intermingled with reminders that this is still a restaurant. Statues of chefs in white smocks and puffed up hats, extending their menus and a welcoming hand. A metal wine rack bolted to the wall, it held bottles between wire glasses. And a full menu transposed in chalk on a black board. On the television monitors played Asian concert DVDs with the audio broadcasted as music overhead. It reminded you that this was a Hong Kong style diner. Out of place was the giant wheeled tricycle and the moped plastered with logos. Both felt irrelevant unless they were a set prop that I am unaware off.
The menu had Betty Boop on the cover. In her little waitress apron she posed with a tray of food for a videographer and director. Each page had similar images of her costumed with a random cartooned animals and ingredients. Titles in Chinese characters and English script said little about what you would be getting. “Ham & egg” and “fish”? What would the assorted vegetables in the fried rice be? What is the difference between the “Singaporean style fried vermicelli” and the “Malaysian style fried rice noodle”? A diner unfamiliar and new to the cuisine would have difficulty with this menu. Luckily a photo heavy menu insert was available. Condensing the full menu to a one pager back and front, these were their most popular dishes celebrated in full colour, captured in close up shots. Here you ordered with your eyes, a guide perfect for those new to the cuisine and unfamiliar with the language.
My guest’s order of “Sole cutlet and angus beef tenderloin cubes on rice” came with your choice of drink and a soup on the side. He got a half coffee and half tea and cream soup over a borsch.
The cream soup possibility used a can of cream of chicken soup as its base with kernels of corn and chunks of ham stirred it. It was descent, silky with a very strong corn flavour.
With the sole cutlet and angus chunks, for once the picture didn’t do the dish justice. Portions were large and colours were bolder in real life. The fish fillet was very well breaded, a golden deep fry cutlet fried light and flaky. You cut into it with a hearty crunch. Though I am sure that the tartar sauce served as an accompaniment was bottled from the grocery store. The cubed pieces of steak were tender, and its sauce meaty. Good but not as impressive when chopped up like this. The vegetables were frozen carrots and corn, nothing special. Overall this dish was pretty good, especially considering half of it was not from scratch.
“Beef brisket and noodles in soup”, always my safe dish and my go to, regardless of where I visit. Considering this wasn’t their speciality I was surprised at how good it was. Not the traditional beef noodle soup, but one of the better variations and one of the best I have had. The beef brisket was prepared separately then added on top. There were lots of it and each was well seasoned, having been prepared on its own. Very common was the ratio of noodles to beef, more noodles than beef. Towards the bottom of the large bowl the wide rice noodles soaked up majority of the delicious broth, leaving none to savour and sip. The green onions sprinkled on top were dried and tasted deep fried. Once again this didn’t taste like familiar beef noodle soup, but it was definitely better than most.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We came in with lowered expectations, especially given the later time of night. But everything we had at this Chinese fast food joint looked good and tasted good. This was home style cooking slightly dressed up. I am especially amazed at how good of a beef noodle I had. I am not a fan of the location or the darken decor, but on food alone I shall return. I hear the laksa is worth trying as well. Sometimes in Hollywood it’s all style and no substance, but with this “Hollywood” you get style and substance. Don’t deny your cravings.