19 August 2010

Gweilometer: Western Chain Restaurants

Since CNNgo has shown me that any random gweilo with a Lonely Planet guidebook is qualified to give expert advice about how to live like a local, I decided to try my hand at restaurant reviews. Alas, it turns out my innate aversion to hypocrisy makes me unqualified to write about shit that's way over my head (or maybe it's just my fear of being called out by Henry and William). So I'll aim my gweilometer at something I'm actually marginally qualified to write about: Western chain restaurants.

Deli France: During my first week in the Village, my gweilometer wasn't properly calibrated: I was desperate for familiar food and a menu I could understand without visual aids. At Deli France I found neither. Deli France is to European food in HK as Panda Express is to Chinese food in the US. If you see a gweilo in a Deli France, and I never have, it's safe to say that it's his first (and last) visit. I won't belabor the point here. Gweilometer reading: -43.4.

Cafe O: Once a gweilo makes the Deli France mistake, Cafe Ok-lah is likely to be the next destination his gweilometer directs him to (though I think mine might have been deceived by the ESPN-look-a-like-logo). And if it’s been a while since the gweilo has had some of his native cuisine, he’s likely to be satisfied, if not impressed. The pizza here is more California than Italy (whole wheat crust!? Isn’t that like Chinese food with brown rice!?) The sandwiches are a little dry, the soups are bland, and the bagels are hardly worth of the name, but in general, Ok-lah is ok-lah. Cafe O was the first Western restaurant I visited in the Village that seemed designed to give me neither diarrhea nor diabetes. Gweilometer reading: 64.5.

Duke’s Deli: Let’s not waste too much space here. Duke’s is a mediocre NY Deli (by Denver standards: it wouldn’t survive a week in NYC). They’ve got way better sandwiches than Cafe O, an all-you-can-cram-into-a-container salad/random unhealthy shit bar, and trendy potato chips and bottled water. What more can a gweilo ask for? Gweilometer reading: 76.25.

Spaghetti House: The food here makes a gweilo guilty. I know the game they play here: infuse every dish with tons of cream and cheese sauce, inundate the customer’s taste buds with fat, and they can’t resist (I’m American, we invented this game). Besides cheese covered pasta, one of the joys of the Spaghetti House is watching Mainland tourists eat Italian food as if it were Chinese food (I know, the Chinese invented Italian food, except without the cheese, cream sauce or tomato sauce). The only thing more fun is watching English people eat burritos, which is the only reason I go to Taco Loco. Communal dishes, slurped noodles and clumsy fork usage are the only things that separate the Spaghetti House from an Italian chain in the States. Eating at the Spaghetti House is like looking at photos of pseudomodels: I know the needle on my gweilometer shouldn’t be pointing up like that, but it’s instinctual and I can’t help myself. Gweilometer reading: 82.6.


  1. Reading your post while eating an MSG-loaded Lo mai gai, every one of those restaurants you mentioned had me go 99 on my Villagermeter.

  2. I go to Delifrance quite often on my way to work.
    Coffee, toast, and scrambled eggs for 19HKD.


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