Friday, March 27, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: A Rose By a Wholly Other Name

Knowing that Nine Roses is a Vietnamese restaurant, I tend to play it safe when I go there, getting what they do best -- Vietnamese. But the other day, I thought to myself, let's see what their chefs have really got. The Chinese lunch menu they offer on one of their nineteen thousand pages of options sounded like a great deal, so why not? For under $7, you get a choice of brown, white, or shrimp fried rice; wonton, egg drop, or hot and sour soup; and a page of options brimming with possibilities.

After much debate, questioning, and considerable patience from our server, I finally decided on the Moo Shu Chicken, with shrimp fried rice and wonton soup.

It was only a few minutes before a small bowl of hot, steaming soup hit the table. Two traditional Hong Kong-style wontons, in a thin wrapper and simply balled up and held together by the ground shrimp and pork filling, floated at the top of the bowl; generously wide-cut strips of roast pork had sunk to the bottom, lightly dyeing the golden broth as the red marinade faded into pink into the soup. Fresh cilantro rested at the surface, wilting in the steam and heat, releasing the distinctive fragrance of the herb. The broth was the addicting pho we all know and love, and the use of thin wonton wraps made for a silky sensation as your teeth struggles to get a good hold on the slippery tidbits. There was more of a mild, sweet shrimp flavor to the meat than of pork. To accompany the soup was a bowl of fried, crunchy noodles, which was excellent dipped into the thin, chili-infused duck sauce-like orange sauce that sat on the table's second condiment carousel.

I started to get pretty filled up, having eaten almost the whole bowl of crunchy noodles and rich soup, but found plenty of room to dive into the big plate that was then presented to me. The shrimp in the fried rice weren't exactly high quality; the taste, shape, and fact that they were veined thickly through betrayed that they were inexpensive filler shrimp. On the other hand, the flavor of the rice was wonderful, a nice hibachi-style fried rice with scrambled eggs, peas, carrots, and onions. Slightly smoky and with a tinge of oyster sauce flavoring, this was a great side dish that almost made up for the fact that there were no traditional moo shu pancakes to wrap my entree in.

The moo shu itself was very good, shredded cabbage taking place of the traditional "golden needles," or lily flowers, a practice that has been going on for quite some time in Westernized Chinese food. (Thanks for sharing, Gabe!) Wide strips of scallions added zest and bamboo shoots added a different type of crunchiness to the dish. The sauce was a thin coat, just enough to permeate every component of the moo shu without causing it to drip all over the plate. Other vaguely unidentifiable vegetables were stir-fried with the main ingredient, the cabbage, all combining in a satisfying yin of cooling freshness.

Two end-of-meal options were provided, one being an interestingly cut fried noodle glazed over with some kind of thin, sweet drizzle; the other was a perfectly ripe slice of navel orange -- a common and authentic dessert and palate-cleanser in Chinese and Japanese culture.

The verdict? Ordering off the Chinese lunch menu at Nine Roses/Hoa Hong gives you a great bang for your buck. You can't, of course, expect it to be ultra-authentic and true to real Chinese food, but you can expect it to be pretty good. I can't make a fully valid judgment until I taste some other dishes from the lunch specials (namely something with brown sauce like chicken with broccoli or General Tso's chicken; or a noodle dish like lo mein or chow fun), but this was a positive experience as I attempted get my feet wet on this Vietnamese restaurant's Chinese offerings. Who knows? I may get in knee-deep next time. I'll make sure to tell you all about it.

Hoa Hong Nine Roses
1100 Stephens Street
Gretna, Louisiana (West Bank)


  1. This is definitely one of my destination when I head down to New Orleans. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well, you're from where you can GET good Asian food. Skip this - I'll tell you where to go. You need to have some real Nawlins food!