Hop Won in Davie: Mom and 19-Year Old Son Take Over Chinese Restaurant, Have A Blast

All photos by Zachary Fagenson
A spruced up Hop Won
There's not much to do in western Davie off Griffin Road near I-75, a stone's throw from the farmland of the Southwest Ranches. So Gigi Stetler, who for the last 26 years had owned and managed Broward RV, decided to buy the failing Hop Won restaurant with the idea to transform it into a trendy lounge-restaurant, saving people looking for entertainment and good food a 30-minute-plus ride east.

"I bought it because I'm not the only one who wants a place to go," she said. "To get any kind of entertainment, you have to go to the Hard Rock" Hotel and Casino.

Stelter is a first-time restaurateur, and her son Jarryd, who is only 19, helps run the kitchen and conceptualizes dishes of his own. Stelter has transformed the interior from one with yellowing white walls into a more enticing neon pink-and-black chalkboard checkerboard pattern on which diners are encouraged to write graffitti. Stelter is hosting nights for the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche-owners clubs, and the singles crowd. There's no doubt they're reaching to be trendy. With a step onto Bethenny Frankel's coattail, Gigi boasts about their "skinny" cocktails made with low-calorie Ty Ku Sake. Dishes conceived by Jarryd from the kitchen plainly come from the mind of someone who's spent years glued to the Food Network.

The menu is a mash-up of westernized Chinese food and Jarryd's creations. Though Gigi at first tried to get rid of the Chinese menu, customers who had frequented the restaurant under previous owners kept returning, demanding the honey garlic chicken and other items. Gigi has kept on the original Chinese chef, Hui Huant; he and his staff are old pros at executing some of the authentic Chinese dishes and have also learned to make Jarryd's inventions.

We tried a few items that held their place on the menu, as well as some new creations.

Beef tartar with black horseradish cream was fresh and balanced, with just enough

Beef tartare

 horseradish to tickle the sinuses. The beef, however, could have been served a bit colder and finely diced.

Salt and pepper seafood is a classic take on a Chinese classic. In this case shrimp was deep fried, tossed in a salt and mixture and topped with a bit of housemade sweet chili sauce and diced scallion. The kitchen could've gone a little heavier on the salt and pepper and left off the jalapeno slices.

The crispy chicken with chili sauce is one of the most labor intensive items on the menu, and a holdover from its former self. Whole chickens are boiled and then hung, allowing a layer of fat to develop between the skin and the meat. The chicken is then deep fried and served with housemade sweet chili sauce.

Crispy chicken with sweet chili sauce

Hickory smoked salmon is one of Jarryd's dishes that emerges from the kitchen covered in an upside down champagne flute filled with hickory smoke. A poof and the smoke clears, revealing a blini topped with smoked salmon and wasabi 'caviar.' This dish was the biggest miss for us. The smoke was unnecessary showmanship, the blini too thick, dense and cold and the wasabi caviar, gelled to imitate flying fish roe, provided none of wasabi's trademark punch.

Garlic snow pea tips made up for it, however. The leaf tips are simply stirfried in a mixture of neutral oil and pungent garlic, a perfect foil for the tender greens. We're happy this one made it through.

It's hard to try to pin down exactly what Hop Won, which means "cheers" in Chinese, has become. We imagine there will be those who love it, and those who hate it. Nonetheless the Stelters have put it all on the line, including $75,000 to refurbish the place. Some people talk about seizing an opportunity, others do it.

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