Eating Chinese Food In Abruzzo
Generally speaking, Italian culture and Chinese food go together like peaches and gravel.
Italians just don’t seem to understand what Chinese food is about; and the Chinese immigrants who run the restaurants in the main fight a losing battle trying to adapt Chinese dishes to Italian tastes.
So the result in most of the – surprisingly large – number of Chinese eateries in this part of Abruzzo is neither especially good; nor especially authentic; and at times downright weird: for example, with rice – plain, boiled white rice – often served on its own as a single, stand-alone course.
But curiosity’s finally breached the wide berth we’ve been giving Chinese restaurants for the past few years.
Newly-opened in Lanciano on the Via Treglio is the Hong Sushi Wok Restaurant. It’s just a few metres along from one of our regular supermarkets, so we’ve watched its development with interest.
It’s art of a chain slowly establishing itself in Abruzzo – maybe even across the rest of Italy too. The formula’s a simple one: For just under €11 a head at lunchtime and €17 at dinner excluding drinks, you can eat as much as you want from an impressively varied array of Chinese-style starters and mains, laid our buffet-style on a long, long counter.
And yes, there’s Sushi. Now let’s say straight-up this isn’t Sushi prepared on the spot with a big variety of fish. This is Sushi for the masses. And mass-produced at that. Perhaps a literal introductory taster for people who’ve never eaten Sushi before. Pre-prepared who-knows-where and trucked in.
True, Sushi’s not exactly a Chinese speciality. But do you want to split oriental gastronomic hairs – or do you want a bite of Sushi in one of the few places east of Rome you’re actually going to find any ?
At the Hong Sushi Wok, the Sushi’s fresh and if chosen carefully from what’s on offer, acceptably tasty. Salmon, Tuna and Prawn are the mainstays. Proper sushi rice and nori seaweed is used. The accompanying Wasabi is eyeball-meltingly pungent and the pickled ginger just fine.
Let’s not kid ourselves. As part of an all-you-can eat extravaganza, you’re not going to find gourmet Sushi, but this is a brave try at doing it right and I happily had seconds.
Elsewhere, results are mixed. Anything that had clearly been prepared from fresh ingredients – especially the prawn dishes – was good. Pretty much everything that had been deep fried from frozen wasn’t.
OK…except the crispy won-ton.
Of the half-a-dozen or so noodle dishes, Angel Hair with garlic and a little chilli and dried shrimp was excellent.
But the stars of the show were some unassuming pot-sticker pork dumplings hidden away in a bamboo steamer. Clearly frozen – but none the worse for that – these were as good as any dim-sum item I’ve ever had anywhere.
Even better, I seemed to have the entire steamer-full to myself…
Pauline reported the three little bits of fried duck she’d grabbed before the supply ran out though not especially crispy, were delicious.
Main courses were a let-down. The idea is to select your own meat or fish from what’s on offer and take it to a kitchen hatch to be wokked.
For whatever reason, my mixture of salmon, sweet little Queen Scallops and razor clams were done on a hot griddle with no sauces or seasonings. Very bland. Very disappointing.
There are desserts – mainly pastries and variations of seasonal fruit-salads and, this being Italy, a self-serve gelato machine that was being decidedly moody.
By late on a Saturday evening, despite seating inside for around 150, they were queuing to get in and the previously sedate cruise round the food selection had developed into a bit of a Great White feeding frenzy.
Best arrive early. Or for lunch. Or give Saturday night a miss.
Pauline drank good house white. I was thrilled to discover Tsingtao beer available, and as I can’t ever see an Italian ordering a Chinese brew, I might get to treat this as my own private supply.
We paid €42 for this blow-out and yes, we’ll go again.
Hong Sushi Wok Restaurant, Via Treglio 53, Lanciano (CH), Abruzzo, Italy. 0872 40607