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Yung Kee, Hong Kong, China, tasted on December 11, 2005  It's harder than you might think to figure out which of tens of thousands of restaurants you want to eat one of your three precious meals at while you're in Hong Kong. You ask around, but you never know if the people you're asking are trustworthy. Are they discriminating? Everyone thinks they are, but most people can't be trusted. It's hard. While at my Thai cooking class there was a couple visiting Bangkok from Hong Kong. I figured they were into food enough to take a cooking class and they were from Hong Kong. Yes. I'm profiling foodies with expertise in countries I'm traveling to. Am I proud? No. Am I hungry? Yes. This is how I ended up at Yung Kee.

I had a reservation and was a touch early when i arrived at the Yung Kee building. There was an entry way and a sign seemed to indicate there was a restaurant on the 4th floor. Like in Japan where space is at a premium it's not uncommon for restaurants to be located on the upper levels of a building. I walked in and handed the maitre'd the card from my hotel with the details of my reservation. The dining room was small and gorgeous. It seemed super high end. They told me they hadn't heard of me. I insisted that I had a reservation. There was some conferring among the staff and then one of the staff members escorted me right out the door. This was weird. He was pleasant enough and asked me to follow him. I hoped he was taking me to get food or get the reservation situation cleared up.  We went back in the elevator and headed for the 1st floor (different than the ground floor I got in at). The door opens to a sheet of plywood blocking our exit. At  this point I am waiting for Rod Serling to speak of my predicament. My escort hits the button for the second floor. We get off and enter a pretty sizable restaurant (relative to the dining room I saw upstairs). Down the stairs is another equally large room filled with tables and diners. My escort, deposited me at the front desk at this other Yung Kee where they did in fact have my name on a list. I was worried they didn't like my jeans. Turns out there are multiple versions of the restaurant nestled in various nooks and crannies of the Yung Kee building. I don't know what the specifics were of the one I originally stopped at but  it looked cool. The hostess who took me on as her new charge looked like she could kick my ass and just might. She took me to my table back up on the second floor. She left me there but looked like she was reserving the right too kick my ass later.

The menu was kind of funny. The opening paragraph crowed about the restaurant making a top 15 restaurants in the world list in Fortune magazine... ...in 1968. Seems like a bit of a stretch. That said, it was followed by a list of every dish they'd entered into competitions and won with over the past few decades including Iron Chef. That was pretty cool. I also got seated next to German tourists in what seemed like the westerner zone. They were all drinking beer with dinner. Not sure why that was funny. 

Dinner started off  with an amuse. Specifically, a Preserved Egg and Pickled Ginger. Iillustrating just how much of a wuss I am this may be one of the scariest looking things I've been served in awhile. The white part of the egg was translucent. But the black glop where the yellow yolk had been was particularly frightening. It took me a few moments to screw up my courage but knew I at least had to take a big bite. I bit into it. Surprisinglyit was pretty close to a simple deviled egg where the yolk was super thick and creamy. The blackness of the yolk did eventually get to me though.

The specialty of the house was Roast Goose. It was prety good. It was super fatty with ultra crispy skin. You do need to watch out for the bones though. The meat was juicy and there was something in the center of the goose. Beans? Maybe boiled peanuts? I did feel like the goose could have been served at a higher temperature. It was room temp and that lessened my enjoyment. Maybe the fact that the runner had the dish for me but wouldn't put it on the table until the waiter showed up a full minute later had something to do with it.

Next up was Broccoli with Garlic Sauce and Goose Liver Sausage. Delicious. The garlic sauce was sharp and thick. The sausage reminded me of boudin noir. Dark, hearty, and chunky.

After that I got Fried Rice 'Yeung Chow' Style. This was served nice and hot. I never thought that a simple fried rice could move me. But this one did. Perfect light fried rice with bits of pork, broccoli, egg, and scallion. Quite simple. quite good. There were juicy plump shrimps buried in middle. That was a pretty nice surprise. Yay!

Yung Kee is a food factory and it's not cheap. The service is not going to be super (especially if you don't speak the language) and they are serving what seemed like hundreds of diners at once. But as far as an authentic Cantonese experience combined with a menu with dozens of interesting things you've likely never heard of, it's pretty enjoyable. My rice and broccoli were both very very good and unique. If I'd sent my goose back to get heated up it would have been just as good as its flavor was quite enjoyable. With all that fat I don't think it would have dried out any time soon. Of course, it's pretty lame for the money to get something served at the wrong temperature. But I look at Yung Kee as more of a challenge for someone not experienced with Cantonese food. You've got to fight to get the proper authentic experience. I think it also helps if you're there with more than yourself so you can try a broader range of dishes. I'd love to go back to Yung Kee with a native speaker and see what other exciting Cantonese food I could try.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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