If you ever wondered why Chinese restaurants all seem to share pretty much the same menu, there is a reason, said Kuan He, proprietor of the new Super Bowl Cuisine in Kingston Plaza. “Those menu items are easy to make, and any chef can make them,” Kuan He said. “You don’t have to be a skilled chef to prepare any of those dishes. There is nothing new on those menus.”
Which brings Kuan He right to his point. “We wanted to bring really good Asian cuisine to Kingston and Ulster County.” He and his father, Rui Quan He — a longtime professional chef from Liao Ling — opened Super Bowl Cuisine in the Kingston Plaza two months ago, adding to their very expansive menu “hot pot” dishes.
“Hot pot is wildly popular all over China,” said Kuan He. “People all over the 32 provinces of China know and love hot pot, it is like what football is to Americans. It is the number one top favorite food in China. People in China have hot pot every week, and they love it.”
Hot pot dishes are soups cooked right at the table in front of the customer on an embedded glass burner. The ingredients are ordered off the menu. It starts with the selection of a broth (vegetarian and meat-based; spiced, tomato, herbed or plain) and a variety of raw meats or fish (lamb, pickled beef, chicken, mini-sausages, spicy fish, bovine trachea, pork belly, quail egg, clam, beef tripe, baby cuttlefish, shrimp — with head on — mussels and more. Then, one adds fresh vegetables like spinach, turnips, baby bok choi, yams and five different mushroom varieties, among others. Next, the diner selects a starch, like udon noodles or rice vermicelli, rice cakes and dumplings. Everything is cooked together for a few minutes in the decorative red floral cloisonné cooking pot. There is a “sauce bar” where customers can select sauces for dipping or flavoring the final product.
Rui Quan has been a professional chef since he was 18. He owned two Chinese full-service restaurants in Liao Ling, and the city of Shanghai. He said he moved to the states and helped run an Asian-style restaurant in South Carolina. His son, Kuan He, a young business owner at age 30, moved to Queens at age 23 after earning a business degree in China. After working a while in the city, he and his father decided owning their own restaurant was the way to go. They turned to the Chinese newspapers’ classifieds ads, where the Kingston Buffet was listed. The He men said they checked out the area, loved it, and decided to buy the building and move to Kingston.
Kuan He studied accounting for one year in the states before committing to Super Bowl Cuisine, but plans to return to college in a few years once the restaurant is stable. “I know I am older, but here in America it’s never too late to go to college here,” Kuan He said.
Kuan He also studied Spanish and Mandarin in college to become tri-lingual. Unlike most menus in this area, Super Bowl’s menu is fully translated into Spanish. “I saw how many Latinos are in this region,” said Kuan He. “If I want to do business with Latinos, then I need to speak their language. I greet them in Spanish. I introduce them in Spanish, I made some Latino friends. Spanish people want good food, but they don’t speak English … I really like people out of my race, outside of my community.”
In addition to Spanish, the father-son restaurateurs are employing an uncharacteristically outgoing business model, embracing technology and advertising modalities that most Chinese restaurants and businesses tend to skip. They made a professional “hot pot” instructional video for YouTube, and have other culinary YouTube videos which they feature on their social media pages. Everyone is encouraged to check into the restaurant and upload a photo of their food to Super Bowl’s Facebook page, and the restaurant randomly s selects someone to send a $25 gift card. The entire menu is online where one can easily place an order and pay, and even choose a desired pick-up or delivery time, sending the entire order to Kuan He’s tablet. Kuan He also gathered over 200 fax numbers to local businesses where he could send his menu.
Sushi and specialty rolls are featured on the menu, some with unconventional twists. The strawberry honey roll has tempura shrimp, crab salad, soy paper, avocado, strawberry and honey for $10.75. The sweet potato chutney is sweet potato, shrimp tempura, soy-braised beef, onion, and pineapple topped with eel sauce for $10.25. The appetizer menu runs the gamut from edamame to crispy calamari to sliced beef and ox tongue in chili sauce. For those wanting healthful options, there is a Make Your Own entrée for $9.95 up to five steamed vegetables (out of a choice of 13), choose your own sauce and additional add-ons, like even more vegetables or a protein. There are stews on the menu as well, and other entrées like a half of a crispy fried duck for $18.99, spicy cumin lamb for $15.95 or mango chicken for $10.95.
Super Bowl Cuisine has rooms for hosting private parties, and for in-house or off-premises catering. Kuan He said the décor is the culmination of his father’s extensive travels and art collections, and they are hoping to use it to educate people about Chinese culture. “We want to be not just a restaurant, but also experience the Chinese culture and have art,” he said. “We want to have a museum and art here, so we put a lot of my father’s art out. I don’t want to just run the restaurant to sell food — I want to help people too — I want to help Ulster County. I want to help the disabled, help community with people in church. After we grow the business, we want to give people and take care of everyone here … Our goal is to be the best, we want to be the top and give the best food to people in this area.”