The Cheesecake Factory Hong Kong – worth the wait for a table at American chain’s new outlet?
An unimpressive starter, a salad that was all colour and little substance – thank goodness for the passable sandwich and palatable cheesecake
When we finally sat down at The Cheesecake Factory in Tsim Sha Tsui having stood waiting for over two hours, we found ourselves next to a Canadian man who had just finished his club sandwich.
“How long did you have to wait?” we asked him.
“I just walked in,” he said sheepishly.
Ravenous with hunger, we stared at him incredulously.
“You always get a seat by the bar. And there was one spot so I just took it,” he said.
We blamed the army of receptionists and managers standing outside the American chain restaurant on opening day for not making him wait as long as we did.
The moment staff placed two mini square tablecloths and cutlery on the granite-topped bar, we reeled off our order, which surprised them.
We asked about our bar guy’s club sandwich and he said it was nothing to rave about. He reported he was drinking a whisky soda, but the restaurant ran out of soda water so they used San Pellegrino sparkling water instead.
So this was what we were in for.
Asked if we wanted the bread basket, I said, “Of course.” We were starving – couldn’t they see that?
When it did arrive, we were pleasantly surprised – one of the rolls, a honey wheat brown bread roll, was delicious – warm and slightly sweet.
Our gin and tonic – we needed a drink badly – was severely watered down, but we needed the alcohol.
Soon our orders arrived – all at once. We were overwhelmed with massive plates of food.
There was an appetiser called avocado egg rolls (HK$128) which is described as “avocado, sun-dried tomato, red onion and cilantro fried in a crisp wrapper, served with a tamarind-cashew dipping sauce”. The rolls were presented on a bed of deep-fried noodles.
“This looks very ’80s,” our bar companion said, looking over at our plate. We had to agree.
The taste? It was basically guacamole in a wrapper deep-fried, while the tamarind sauce was sickly sweet. What was the appeal of this dish? And more importantly would someone actually come back to the restaurant and order it again?
Another curious dish is the luau salad (HK$206), which looked like a layered mess of greens – an edible Christmas tree on a plate. The list of ingredients is breathtaking if you read it aloud: grilled chicken breast layered with mixed greens, pineapple, cucumbers, red and yellow peppers, green beans, carrots, onions and crisp wontons with macadamia nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds. Gasp!
Our bar man, now on his next whisky soda, remarked it was an Instagram dish that one would photograph but not eat. The lighting in the restaurant was so bad, though, that one couldn’t even take a decent picture of the dish, or any others.
We examined our salad further. My dining companion remarked US President Donald Trump had recently celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a taco salad, and we decided our luau salad was possibly inspired by Trump, with lots of ingredients to distract you, but not much substance.
Yes there were greens, and slivers of carrot, seedless cucumber slices and beans and peppers, but where was the pineapple? They were hardly chunks, but really tiny pieces, perhaps to avoid making the salad too sweet, and we couldn’t really find any macadamia nuts. And even if they were there, everything tasted peanuty.
Our one salvation was the Cuban sandwich (HK$148). It features slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayonnaise on a grilled and pressed roll.
My dining companion commented it didn’t look pretty, but it was pretty good, with the slivers of pickles cutting the richness of the cheese. Still, it wasn’t as good as the Cuban sandwich that made us salivate in the movie Chef. What was missing was jalapenos to perk it up. At this point, though, we were just happy to have decent food.
Oh, and the fries were not bad either, though they got cold quite fast.
And what’s a visit to The Cheesecake Factory without cheesecake?
We shared a slice of the fresh strawberry cheesecake (HK$79), described on the menu as the restaurant’s most popular flavour for over 35 years.
It arrived before our plates were cleared, but at this point we didn’t care.
The presentation of the dessert reminded us of the ‘80s yet again – two massive florets of whipped cream with a trio of strawberries covered in a red glaze that reminded me of the strawberry tarts my mum would sometimes give my brother and I to eat after school.
The cheesecake itself was fine – it wasn’t too sweet, nor too rich, but by the looks of plates that the bar staff cleaned off, no one actually finished their desserts.
We looked at the clock. We’d finished our meal in an hour and 15 minutes.
Was it worth waiting three hours for?
Not even one.
The Cheesecake Factory, Shop G102, G/F, Harbour City Gateway Arcade, 25 Canton Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 2791 6628