High Praise for Hong Kong Cafe


photo by grace greenwald

Norse Star Staff stand outside Hong Kong Cafe with big smiles all around.

Imagine you’re watching an animal documentary. It’s informative and fun, until it inevitably becomes extremely depressing. A meerkat is kicked out of her pack by her mother and she loses all eight of her babies on the open savannah. A young flamingo is abandoned by his flock on their way to fresh water, dying under the scorching sun. A shrimp leaves his pregnant mate for a bigger, sexier shrimp, while his first mate dies of starvation.
Chances are you’d be pretty upset witnessing this. One way to cheer yourself up? Delicious food. This was the exact situation Norse Star Staff Writer Grace Greenwald found herself in when she gathered three other Norse Star staff members to embark on a journey to Hong Kong Cafe—post animal documentary.
This family-run restaurant is located at 2 South Mills St, Madison, WI. From Stoughton, it is only about a 20-30 minute drive. Hong Kong Cafe has a wide range of authentic Chinese cuisine loaded with vegetables, spices, and proteins of your choice. Their vibrant flavors may come as a surprise, especially when compared to Stoughton’s more Americanized Chinese food, but it is just as delicious.
If you don’t feel like dropping $1.75 on parking, you are in luck. Hong Kong Cafe has a private parking lot behind the restaurant that is free for all customers.
After stepping inside the restaurant, the Norse Star staff members took a moment to appreciate Hong Kong Cafe’s beautiful interior. Floor-to-ceiling windows ran across the walls, letting in natural light, perfect for dim-sum and people-watching.
The subdued lighting from the high ceilings gave the restaurant a cozy and intimate feel. The walls were decorated in traditional red and gold Chinese decorations, and framed paintings of flowing Chinese calligraphy hung on the walls.
Those eating at Hong Kong Cafe included Norse Star staff members Grace Greenwald, Lauren Amstadt, Simon Mehring, and Boden Jensen. We sat at a premier table in the middle of the restaurant, which was home to various soy sauces, along with place settings based on the twelve Chinese Zodiacs. After ordering, complimentary white rice was brought out to share. Although only two other tables were occupied, the door had a steady stream of carry-out patrons.
“The atmosphere is super relaxing. If we pushed all the tables together, I feel like I could do some yoga or take a nap,” Amstadt says.
The menu offered a huge selection of traditional Chinese foods, with dishes for those with even the most exclusive of tastes. Since Hong Kong Cafe is a sit-down restaurant, a friendly staff member quickly came over to take our orders.
After intense, careful deliberation, Jensen ordered the mild sesame chicken, which was breaded, covered in peas, carrots, broccoli, and smothered in the chef’s special sweet and spicy dark sauce.
“The chicken and broccoli together were really good,” Jensen says. Additionally, Greenwald thought the sauce was especially delicious when added to sticky white rice. Amstadt decided to try the steamed BBQ pork bun, which came in an order of two. The dough surrounding the sweet filling was soft and fluffy.
“The pork bun felt like I was eating a Squishmallow, which is something I had always wanted to experience,” Amstadt says. Jensen also agreed that the bun’s texture was surprisingly good, and the filling was a smooth counter to the soft dough.
In true Simon fashion, Mehring ordered the Governor’s Combo, which included breaded shrimp, pork, chicken, chestnuts, bamboo, and carrots. The entire dish was stir-fried with peanuts and scallions in a mild sauce, which Mehring chose over the dish’s original spicy sauce due to personal preference.
“The water chestnuts were crunchy, and the chicken was nicely cooked. It all had a great taste. Every bite was a surprise. It was either chicken, pork, or shrimp,” Mehring says.
Amstadt was especially impressed with the dish’s stir-fried peanuts.
“I tried Simon’s food, and the nuts were really good in it,” Amstadt says. “People know how much I like nuts, so for me to say these were good nuts means a lot.”
When the food was brought to the table, it was steaming hot. The waiters were attentive and very personable, always knowing when to refill our water and bring the table more white rice whenever they noticed these items were empty.
“The atmosphere was really nice, like we were making jokes with each other and the server,” Amstadt says.
Greenwald ordered chicken lo mein, which came in a heaping portion, perfect for sharing. The chicken and noodles were accompanied by snow peas, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and bamboo, and the flavors complemented each other nicely. The mushrooms were especially good, according to Amstadt.
The meal ended with a crispy and crunchy fortune cookie, and all the Norse Star staff felt personally connected to their fortune.
Prices varied depending on the dish, but our checks ranged from $10 to $32.
The Hong Kong Cafe staff was also understanding and discreet when one Norse Star member’s card was declined, saving them a lot of embarrassment.
Every Norse Star staff member was extremely satisfied with their food and we rated it 5/5 fortune cookies, and we left happy and full! We would recommend Hong Kong Cafe to anyone who appreciates friendly staff, a cozy atmosphere and delicious Chinese food!