Local restauranteur Jesse Wong has recently opened a third dining establishment in the new Hunt Valley shopping complex. We visit Jesse Wong's Hong Kong on a regular basis for dim sum on the weekends and for authentic Chinese dishes at dinnertime and haven't had a bad dish yet. A solitary trip to Asean Bistro revealed excellent and well-priced Chinese and Malaysian dishes. Based on those trips, we expected Jesse Wong's Kitchen to offer a similar experience.
The restaurant is an elaborate multi-tiered, extremely purple room with an open kitchen and loud smooth jazz piped in over the audio system on the day we visited for lunch. We were given both the regular and lunch menus to peruse. The dinner menu offers multi-course prix fixe meals for around $33. (Frankly, you can't beat the "prix fixe" dinner at New Han Dynasty in White Marsh - won ton soup, eggroll, fried shrimp, a choice of entree, and fortune cookies - for less than $10. It's all piping hot, freshly cooked, and very tasty for a neighborhood joint.) The lunch menu has a selection of sushi combinations for $10.95, and other lunch combos for $8.95, the latter served incongruously in Japanese-style bento boxes. Ok, so they serve sushi, but the lunch choices were mostly Chinese.
Neal went with his usual, kung pao chicken with shrimp. I went adventurous and tried the Malay red curry beef. Each meal was served with white or brown rice, two pieces of cucumber maki, a green salad with French dressing, and some fresh fruit. A "vegetable buffet" was also part of the meal, consisting of one roll-top steam tray that was off to the side of the sushi bar. We didn't bother with it.
The salad dressing was a bit off, and watered-down. After I ate that, I tried the sushi. Ehh, ok, but the rice was a bit cold. Then I sampled the Malay beef. Oh, it was AWFUL. The beef was tough and the sauce had an odd grainy texture. There appeared to be pieces of tomato and onion as well, but there was no flavor to speak of. I expected something complex, spicy, interesting, TASTY. What I got was more like badly executed beef stew. It was one of the worst things I have ever eaten in a restaurant (or outside of one, for that matter). I flagged the waiter and told him just that. He apologized and offered to bring me something else, but I refused so he just took my meal off the bill. To tell the truth, I was afraid to try anything else.
I didn't count Neal's kung pao as successful, either. It ok, with a taste like hoisin sauce straight from the bottle. The small shrimp were fishy-smelling and mushy, so he ate the chicken and left the crustaceans behind. I would have said something to the waiter about this one too.
It doesn't take much to break me. I'll never set foot in this place again.
What I ended up having for lunch was much better: a pumpernickel bagel from Wegman's, spread with Cashel bleu cheese and topped with sliced fresh purple figs. Now, that's tasty!
Jesse Wong's Kitchen
118 Shawan Rd
Cockeysville, MD 21030