This week, I was craving some good old Chinese food. I’m sure Asia is on a lot of students’ lists for places to go when looking for a quick bite of Chinese to eat (I’m guilty myself). I’ve actually been to a good amount of Asian/Chinese restaurants in Hoboken. A few of my favorites are Ubu, Satay, Rice Shop, and Illuzion. Although all of these places are delicious, I always find myself ordering something familiar and safe.
So I decided to find a new Asian place, and I found myself at Keming, located on 10th and Washington, quite close to where I live now. Although it is close, I had never really heard anything about the restaurant, so I was surprised to see its high ratings online. From the outside, it is a small restaurant, but it’s hard to miss due to the bright and flashing lights. Upon entering, the restaurant was not busy at all. To my surprise, most if not all of the customers there were speaking in Chinese, something I honestly can’t say that I see that often at Asia! The decor inside threw me off a bit though. It was quite modern and hip, but not very Asian. Nevertheless, it was well-decorated, everything matched, and my OCD for things that go together was appeased.
As I took a peek at the menu, the inside contained many familiar dishes but also some not-so-familiar names. There were two sections of appetizers, one labeled “cold appetizers,” which included dishes like spicy dried beef tendon or ox tongue and tripe with spicy pepper sauce and the other labeled “appetizers” with dishes like little juice pork bun (which Yelp reviewers have revealed to just be xiao lung bao). On another section of the menu, there was a category for Chinese casserole. I’m Chinese, I’ve had a lot of Chinese food, but never in my life had I heard of a Chinese casserole. Confused, intrigued, and convinced by the waiter, I ordered the assorted mala casserole with a side of Shanghai egg rolls.
I was surprised at how fast the food had come out (I didn’t time it, but it seemed like fifteen minutes) and that both dishes came together. First I sampled the egg rolls, which came to $4. They were quite average, very crispy golden skins with hot crunchy vegetables inside. I did, however, find the duck sauce that came with it interesting. Unless it wasn’t actually duck sauce; it was pretty watery. Take out duck sauce is usually thick and gooey, but this one was watery, yet still tasted the same.
The assorted mala casserole was also enigmatic. For the $26 paid for this casserole, I truly expected greatness. When the waiter first brought it out, I was appalled at the size. It looked pretty small. LOOKED. After carefully examining, digging around, and sampling the dish, I had found potatoes, beef, chicken, ear fungus (not really sure how to translate into English but I swear it’s not an ear), many variations of tofu, cabbage, lotus, some type of gelatinous food that I suspect came from an animal, fish balls, and spam, and the dish was topped off with sesame seeds and many spices. TL;DR, it was quite an impressive amalgam of generally familiar foods that I had not put together before. When I took my first bite, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a taste and seasoning I feel like I have had before, but definitely not often enough to classify it or conclude where I had tried it before. It was spice-heavy, but only a bit spicy. There was a nice kick, but not to the point that I even thought about needing to take a spiciness overload break. It was quite the experience because the menu didn’t really give a big description of the contents of the dish, so I was left guessing.
All in all, I was really surprised that I enjoyed the dish. At first glance, I was a little hesitant. I was even more hesitant when I realized that I couldn’t recognize half of the ingredients in the dish initially. But the seemingly incoherent combination of foods turned out to be a pretty great “casserole.” My only complaint, besides the price, because I’m a broke college student, was the terrifying amount of oil on the bottom on the dish.
If I learned one thing from this proclaimed authentic Sichuan restaurant, it’s that you should just give food a chance and try it. Knowing what something is shouldn’t change your perspective on the taste. We get wrapped up in the fact that we just ate an eyeball (any other fisheye eaters out there?) or some kind of intestine from some kind of animal that we let this blind our tastebuds. Give everything a chance, and approach new foods with an open mind! Being respectful of others’ cultural foods can open doors you didn’t expect. Hey, I still don’t know what that gelatin they used in the casserole was, but I liked it!
Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s better to eat with your tongue rather than your eyes!
The overall dinner menu was definitely more expensive than your run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant, but from what I have read and eaten, it can’t really be compared to a take-out restaurant. The food seemed quite authentic.
~1006 Washington St. Hoboken, NJ 07030 (Gave it an extra star because 6th street is close :^))
Convenience rating: 4/5
~The service was very meh. Water was not refilled and I was surprised at just how fast the food was brought out.
Service Rating: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
~I was delightfully surprised! It was a flavor I was not used to even though I am not a stranger to Chinese food. I am quite unfamiliar with this style of Chinese cuisine, however. With that being said, I don’t know if it would be WORTH a second visit (my wallet). A $26 dish, though it was big, probably wouldn’t be a dish I would want to finish myself anyways.