March 18, 2018 | ° F

Hoja’s food tastes less ‘vomit-inducing’ than U. students claim

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

The resturant flaunts a vibrant color scheme.

The widespread adoption of the Internet has permanently altered the way society communicates. Information is now at the average person’s fingertips, available for distribution at previously unimaginable speeds.

Naturally, this technology has affected the world of food, providing a unique means through which the masses can communicate about various culinary matters. As a result, a single person’s opinion on a restaurant can now spread through the World Wide Web, reaching a wider audience than ever before.

On Sept. 13, user ”mookyvon” posted on the Rutgers subreddit, urging fellow Reddit users to refrain from visiting Hoja Asian Fusion, the newly opened Asian fusion restaurant located in Livingston Plaza. The initial post sparked a conversation involving several users who expressed similar sentiments.

Complaints mainly focused on the poor quality of food, which was described as “bland,” “flavorless” and “forgettable.” One user went so far as to say he almost vomited after dining at Hoja.

Photo: Dennis Zuraw

Food reviewer Matt Mikolay visited Hoja on Livingston campus after reading bad reviews and found the food to be of average take-out quality.

Photo: Dennis Zuraw

Food reviewer Matt Mikolay studies Hoja’s take-out style menu.

Photo: Dennis Zuraw

Mikolay said the beef lo mein tasted dull.

I’m never eager to consume vomit-inducing food, but I knew this was a matter I had to investigate further. After hearing the widespread criticism concerning Hoja, I felt it was necessary to experience the Asian fusion restaurant firsthand. Would I finish my meal at Hoja with the urge to heave? Or would I leave with a full stomach and a smile on my face? It was time to find out.

In appearance, Hoja is chic and stylish. The restaurant is decorated with a vibrant color scheme, including red, green and yellow walls adorned with gigantic plastic bowls of noodles and oversized utensils.

Dance music plays over the speaker system while hungry patrons sit at red and white tables. Altogether, Hoja’s atmosphere allows for customers to enjoy their food in a casual environment.

Hoja is not a sit-down restaurant — no table service is provided. Much like Burger King or Wendy’s, patrons wait in line to place their orders at a counter, and food is served atop trays on plastic plates with disposable utensils.

I started my meal with steamed pork and cabbage dumplings served with a dipping sauce, which tasted similar to a popular name brand bottled dumpling sauce. The filling of the dumplings offered a plain but dull pork flavor that lacked proper seasoning.

The finest pork dumplings delight the taste buds with a harmony of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and other spices in perfect balance. The Hoja dumplings were barely edible.

I proceeded to order the curry chicken, a familiar mixture of carrot, onion, potato and chicken in a curry base. Accompanied by a generous portion of white rice, the curry base seemed flat, lacking the flavor complexity of other curries I’ve tasted in the past.

The beef lo mein was most disappointing of all. The noodles were devoid of the conventional, strong saucy flavor associated with the dish. It’s not that too little sauce was present, but the sauce’s flavor seemed dull in comparison to typical takeout lo mein.

Along with my meal, I chose to order the “Traditional Milk Tea with Tapioca,” a standard black milk tea found in nearly every bubble tea cafe. I was aware of the complaint expressed on Reddit that the bubble tea at Hoja was 95 percent ice. Surprisingly, my bubble tea contained no ice at all — it was just a light milk tea mixed with tapioca pearls and served in a plastic cup covered with cartoon elephant characters.

The bubble tea wasn’t too sweet and it possessed a slightly powdery quality. The tapioca pearls were the softest and smallest I’ve ever had. Their diminutive size resulted in clumps frequently clogging the beverage’s straw.

The food I experienced at Hoja was far from amazing, but I don’t believe the Asian fusion restaurant deserves the harsh criticism it received on the Rutgers subreddit. Nothing I ate was unappetizing enough to be labeled vomit inducing.

Yes, I’ve eaten much better Asian food at other restaurants, but Hoja needs to be accepted for what it is — takeout-quality Chinese food. They even include the ubiquitous “Have A Nice Day” smiley face bag for carryout orders.

Hoja attempts to mass-produce takeout-style Asian food in a fast food environment, a sort of dim sum McDonald’s. Therefore it should not be held to the same standards as more formal, sit-down restaurants.

Do not expect the finest pad thai, the most outstanding Kung Pao chicken nor the world’s greatest b?ozi. Though none of the menu items I tasted impressed me, the food was on par with many of the takeout restaurants I’ve visited in the past.

Hoja’s food is of average quality, much like the fare found at other eateries located in New Brunswick. Fans of takeout might be interested in trying out Hoja in Livingston Plaza. Students with higher standards will be better off passing by.

By Matt Mikolay

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