Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - April 16, 2010

Su Hong returns to Palo Alto

Old Denny's is new Su Hong Eatery

by Sheila Himmel

According to my fortune cookie: "You will be called upon to celebrate some good news." Here it is: Su Hong has reopened in Palo Alto.

That is, Su Hong Eatery & Restaurant, formerly tucked into El Camino Way, no longer related to Su Hong Menlo Park. The new restaurant is located in the old Denny's on El Camino Real near the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel.

For generations of harried families, at least since 1977, Su Hong has been a place to dine with children and a go-to takeout tradition. Some do shun Su Hong, while others treasure favorites such as eggplant in hot garlic sauce. A welcome change with the new menu is that many dishes come in two sizes. The small-size eggplant ($7.25) offers enough bias-cut, soft Chinese eggplant with meat sauce for most tables.

Su Hong founder David King has expanded the menu with Shanghai specialties and house-made, hand-cut noodles, trying to span a great palate divide between diners who hunger for authenticity and fatty pork in fermented tofu sauce ($12.95) and those who never venture beyond pot stickers ($3.60) and mu shu pork ($6.25 and $8.95).

At a recent takeout dinner, the mu shu pancakes had cooled and stiffened. I guess we could have microwaved them for a second, but they came wrapped in foil and it seemed like too much trouble. (Note: Su Hong isn't especially microwave-friendly. Takeout cartons have metal handles.)

Hot and sour soup ($4.75 for small) survived the five-minute trip with its heat intact. Head-cold sufferers swear by the spicy broth's healing powers.

From the Shanghai menu, a luscious patch of snow pea greens topped with crystal shrimp ($14.95) could have used a few more plump, un-battered yet crunchy shrimp.

Among the hand-shaved noodle dishes, stir-fried noodles with mixed seafood ($8.95) was robust with shrimp and fish.

When we went to dine at the new Su Hong on a recent Sunday night, we found it packed. We waited 20 minutes for a table, and then a long time for anything to eat. The evening got worse when our starter, Shanghai spring rolls ($6.25), fell flat.

But then came everything else, including the eggplant, braised until very tender with spicy garlic sauce and chopped pork. Two Shanghai clay pot dishes were very different. Seafood with tofu ($12.95) was mild and hearty, with prawns, scallops and fish. Wu Xi ribs ($10.95) were large chunks of tender pork, many still on the bone.

And if you have a head cold or a bad mood, one sniff of No. 216 may help. A wonderfully aromatic dark broth, peppery pieces of beef chuck, and chewy hand-shaved noodles make Szechuan-style beef in hand-shaved noodle soup one of those dishes that feels it can cure anything.

A search for Su Hong on the Internet nets two "official" sites. One is for Su Hong in Menlo Park, and the other, www.suhongeatery.com, is the site for the new Palo Alto restaurant owned by David King.

On the site, King explains that his family is from Su Chow (City of Su) and his wife's is from Hong Chow; thus the name Su Hong. "Both cities are located on the east coast of Mainland China, near Shanghai, and are known for their beautiful scenery and wonderful foods," he wrote. "In China, we call them 'Heavenly Earth.'"

Su Hong Eatery & Chinese Restaurant

4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

650-493-3836 and 493-4664

www.suhongeatery.com

Hours: Lunch: Daily 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: Mon.-Thurs. 4:30-9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 4:30-10 p.m.; Sun. 4:30-9:30 p.m.

Reservations: yes

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: yes

Children: yes

Catering: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Party facilities: yes

Noise level: moderately loud

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

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