It was a cool fall evening and while most people were just getting ready for bed, I was heading out to play hockey. That's right, late night (11:30pm) hockey on a Wednesday. I'm not sure what has possessed me to commit to such lunacy since I do value my sleep. Hey, 4 hours of sleep is enough! Well, Polka King has been doing this Wednesday night hockey for over a decade and he seems to do okay. I must say, at the very least, I'm getting some form of exercise to make up for the food I eat. Of course, I'm not sure if it helps the situation that I intended on eating something afterwards. Delaying my need for sleep, I convinced Polka King to go out for some grub after hockey ended. I did drive him to the game; thus he really had no choice...
We ended up going to On Lok, a typical greasy spoon Chinese restaurant. I remember coming here when I was a kid. This place is definitely ol' school and apparently they have the vintage furnishings from the early 80's. But honestly, at 1:15am on a Thursday morning, there is very little choice in terms of food. There is Wonton Noodles and Penny that are also open nearby; but they essentially serve the same food. I guess it's habit that we headed over to On Lok. Let's get this out of the way first. Don't expect great Chinese food here. However, you will find acceptable food in a less-than-appealing environment. With these prices, you will need to make compromises.
Polka King only had $7.00 in his pocket and that was more than enough for his Sui Gow Noodles. For $4.65, he got a fairly large bowl of decent noodles and soup. Noodles were still chewy, soup had depth without being salty with 4 large sui gow on top. Obviously there is better; but for this price at this hour, it hits the spot. The same could be said about my Wonton Noodles. It's true that the wontons are not all shrimp; but they were still large and quite good. Both the shrimp and pork were firm in texture (which is way better than mushy). For good measure, I got a bowl of steaming hot Pork Liver, Kidney and Stomach Congee. Yes, it was "offal"! The congee was thick, all the way to the last spoonful. It's not the same as Congee Noodle King or Congee Noodle House; but it held its own.
Now over a year later, our Friday night hockey team decided to pay a visit to On Lok. Actually, we weren't planning to; but our original destination, Bo Laksa's Bubbles and Bits, was closed an hour earlier than its original operating hours. Thus, we had to go somewhere else. That somewhere else ended up to be On Lok. Since we had a fairly large group, we tried almost everything except for the stuff I had on my last visit. How convenient! No duplicates! So Gordo, Sweet Tooth, Boss Woman and I ended up sharing several dishes starting with the BBQ Pork & Shrimp Fried Rice. All the individual components were good including the chewy rice and cold water shrimp. However, the darn thing was super salty and oily. If you average it out, it was fine; but could've been better. We also shared the House Special Fried Noodles. This is essentially everything-you-can-put-on-top-of-it noodles. A combination of seafood, leftover BBQ meats and veggies, this was pretty standard stuff. As opposed to the rice, this was a little bit bland. Yet, it was just as oily as the rice.
Continuing on the oily theme, the Gai Lan with Beef was glistening from the plethora of oil. Not particularly unusual since it is wok fried. Other than the greasiness, the dish itself was pretty good. The gai lan was perfectly cooked with plenty of crunch and colour while the beef was tender. Now our last dish was a mitigated disaster. Looking more like spatzle, the Shrimp & Scrambled Eggs was highly unappealing. Normally, the eggs are wok fried until barely cooked. It would have a silky quality which is contrasted by the crunchy shrimp. In this case, the eggs were so horribly overcooked, it ended up as little pieces which were rubbery and hard. Furthermore, it was a tad too salty. Probably the result of overcooking and lack of moisture. At the very least, the shrimp were pretty good. Gadget Girl decided on something which we didn't hold out much hope for. She went for the Szechuan Beef Noodles. The fact that On Lok is a Cantonese restaurant specializing in wonton noodles and late night fare did not seem like the typical place to order this. Well, believe it or not, it was not only half-decent, it bordered on being good. The noodles were broad and thick. Not exactly al dente; yet not overcooked either. The soup had a decent amount of spice and was quite flavourful. The beef was decent as well being tender. Very strange. This could get this right; but couldn't execute the usual fare. That was also the case with the Sweet & Sour Pork on Rice. When it arrived, Milhouse looked at with some hesitation. Hey, the guy eats anything. For him to hesitate, that is a big deal. You see, the colour was radioactive-like. Normally, we'd find this colour at Manchu Wok. Fine, let's taste it first. Maybe it'll taste better than it looks. Nope. It was predominantly sweet with no little tartness. Since the rice depends heavily on the sauce for flavour, this was also another fail.
Lionel Hutz and Truditini ended up sharing 3 dishes which also drew some "mehs". Typically, Beef Fried Rice Noodles are quite greasy otherwise it would stick to the wok. Yet, in this case, it was very greasy and salty as well. Not terrible, just not good. The Honey Garlic Spareribs were pretty good. Sweet and garlicky, this was pretty much what we'd expect. Same with the Fried Tofu. It was fried and then wok-tossed with chilis, garlic and salt. Okay, we knew that On Lok is not known for great food. Rather, it is a place that is open late and serves decent enough eats to do the job at a very reasonable price. With that being said, this visit was not very impressive. Universally, items were greasy and generally salty. Yah, the place is a greasy spoon with the ambiance of a 80's joint. But when the food starts to head towards disgusting (such as the scrambled eggs), it defeats the purpose of eating out. For us, we agreed that On Lok would be one of those "desperation eats" where if there is nothing else open, then we'd return. Otherwise, there are way better options.
- It's cheap
- Open late
- Good portions
- It's a dive
- Food is average at best
- You will never confuse it with Congee Noodle King/House