Monday, May 11, 2009

"Tai Hing" Means "Public Housing"

I feel bad for my ex-boyfriend. For years all he ever wanted to eat was Chinese food. Every time I would ask him what he wanted, I always knew the answer would be (in an extremely insenstive but humorous faux-Chinese dialect) "Chinese foooood?" And inevitably, I would scrunch my nose and roll my eyes. That man only got Chinese food on Christmas when we were avoiding our families. Same goes for the one that followed, who would sometimes come home with Chinese carry-out for himself and a pizza for me.

(I love pizza.)

And now here I am, ordering myself some damn General Tso's and Egg Foo Young. Sweet irony. Honestly, I think I was tainted by all those years my parents dragged me to this one place that used to be on Gratiot and ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken every. single. time. I hate Sweet and Sour Chicken now because of that. (That place did have those electronic/neon landscape wall art signs that look like they're constantly moving, though...that was kinda cool.)

After an aggressive marketing campaign during which time I would regularly step over menus slipped discreetly under my apartment door, I discovered Tai Hing Express, a strictly carry-out and delivery Chinese eatery located at 1114 Holcomb St. at Jefferson (east of Van Dyke). Out of boredom, hunger, and a fast-growing realization that I quite possible eat too much pizza, I decided to go with this new Chinese place.

A perusal of the menu revealed all of the classics: egg rolls, assorted lo and chow meins, almond chicken, sweet & sour everything possible. Make no mistake: this is very much a generic Chinese-American joint, no different than the hundreds of thousands of generic Chinese-American joints that came before it (often located in strip malls or shopping malls). But hey--I'm not looking for anything fancy, just something tasty. Oh, Tai Hing also caters to the sushi trend, offering a variety of standard tuna/salmon/shrimp/avocado rolls and edamame. Cute, but I stuck with a straight pseudo-Chinese slate.

You gotta love a place where you order by number (it's the hallmark of all Asian eateries): I opted for A34, General Tso's Chicken and Shrimp Egg Foo Young. This also came with Chicken Fried Rice and an Egg Roll, all for just $8.45. I also added a pint of Egg Drop Soup for $1.32. The price is right as the quantity is enough for two; too bad it was so hard to choke down.
First of all: bland-a-roni. And mind you, I was going into this with low expectations. But even the General Tso's chicken, which should at least have a thick, brownish-red, slightly sweet and spicy sauce was BLAND. The rice was BLAND. The soup was BLAND. The Egg Foo Young was disgusting, but that's partially my fault for not remembering how wholly unappealing it was when my father used to order it (it's basically an omelet slathered in a BLAND gravy). The shrimp was also rubbery and tasted like it had been in the freezer for a year. The egg roll was an egg roll, and much like most egg rolls is only really edible when drowning in plum sauce.

Overall the entire experience was disappointing. I wasn't really looking for anything special: maybe just a place to occassionally scratch my General Tso's and fried rice itch, a non-pizza place to deliver food directly to me when I just don't feel like walking all the way out to the parking lot. Nothing fancy; just decent cheap food. Like a Chinese Little Caesar's. What I ultimately ended up with was almost inedible, and even after braving the leftovers most of it still ended up in the trash. I'm all for giving the local holes-in-the-wall a chance, and have often been pleased enough with the results. But this, dear foodie friends, was more than I could stomach. If only blandness could be their worst crime: it was simply unappetizing. Even the fortune cookie was stale. I didn't even know those things could get stale.

So, the search continues for a decent Chinese diner in Detroit. This is one thing I do miss about Macomb County: Chinese eateries are in abundance and most are pretty decent. (My favorite remains to this day Wok Inn on Hayes in Clinton Township, across the street from Lakeside Mall. Their General Tso's is the bomb-diggity but don't take my word for it--click on the link and check out the comments left by Whytegurl 18.)