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Oct 14, 2000 11:06 PM

possible chinese find

  • r

I had lunch today at a frequent weekday-lunch spot of my husband's, Kam Lok on Washington off Grant (uphill). It's downstairs, no decor, very friendly staff (a sign outside advertises that small, family-run restaurants have better food), and one of the two dishes was really really good. We ordered a prawn and string beans which came in a well-balanced, well-proportioned, ungloopy garlic sauce. We ate every morsel, the prawns were perfectly cooked, so too the string beans. We also ordered a special wanton dish which while pleasant seemed like it would have been better a couple of hours earlier (we ate after the lunch rush at three; all the staff were eating the family-meal). My husband usually orders the string beans with tofu, which he swears by. The menu is fairly long and varied. Please go and try more dishes and report back!

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  1. Kam Lok was the greatest thing to hit Chinatown when it opened in the early 1980s, but my impression was that time had passed it by. I haven't been there in years so I also would be interested in additional recent opinions.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      I went to Kam Lok a couple of weeks ago, on a recommendation of a guy who really likes the chicken curry--I mean loves the chicken curry, goes on about it ya know?. I didn't want that but got a few things for take-out. While I was waiting a guy brought me a big bowl of greasy chicken broth with some bones and bone shards floating in it. I drank some and it had a deep flavor. Just was not too appetizing. I have to say that the dishes were so forgettable I can't remember what I ordered. I ordered several things and nothing stands out. I think I ordered the seafood chow mein ($5) at their recommendation. I wanted friend tofu, but thought it would get soggy. We threw most of it away, what a waste. I have a to-go menu and there are house specials that maybe I didn't order. The list is extensive but there is no chicken curry on it. Go figure, maybe I went to the wrong place.

      1. re: Anne

        Chicken Bone or Chicken Feet soup is the soul of Cantonese cooking. Every meal is supposed to start with a clear soup, and this is usually it. Very cleansing. I'm assuming that you are not Chinese, so I am surprised that it was offered to you. Maybe the one concession they make for a non-Chinese customer is that your bowl didn't have a few chicken talons in it.

        It should have deep, essence of chicken flavor from the hundreds of chickens sacrificed to make it. Often there will be poached chicken feet, a couple strips of fatty pork on the bone, and slices of fresh ginger. When we were kids, dried Chinese cabbage or dried mustard greens was common with small flies floating on top from the vegetables that had been dried on Chinatown restaurant rooftops. This always grossed me out, and my parents would tell me to stop complaining when we were getting extra protein for free.

        It's really a shame that there isn't more appreciation for this simple soup. It's so delicious and every restaurant has a little bit different flavor in their blend, that is, those few that still take the time to make it. Unfortunately, bad versions of hot and sour soup is what the clientele demands in many cases for the on the house soup.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I guess I was not clear; that soup was the best thing I had there, and it was a large bowl that I drank half of. It had a deep flavor, as I said, but was too greasy for me; I could not think of it as cleansing because of that. I was thinking at the time that I wished I could take it home and chill it to take the layer of fat off, then use it for cooking, it was so intense.

          To compare with a place that you have mentioned, I have eaten at Hon's for many years. I really love that place. The soup there is not greasy. I really like it, but the Kam Lok one was one was more chicken-ey. I guess it would be too strong for soup noodles or dumplings.

          I make double chicken stock with chicken feet and sometimes pork neck bones that I get in Chinatown. It is the best for me, of course it is made to my taste and I take the bones and extra grease out. I am not Chinese and the soup was served to me by accident. Perhaps they wasted it on me. But if you like it then maybe a good place has been pointed out for you?

          1. re: Anne

            Anne, I'm sorry if you took my comments to be critical of you personally. That wasn't at all my intent.

            You did remind me that my last counter experience at Kam Lok did include a bowl of the chicken bone soup and it was very soothing. When I get take-out from Young's Cafe, the waiter will often offer me a small bowl of chicken bone soup on the house while I'm waiting. That may be part of why I like them so much.

            The cooks should do a better job of skimming off the fat, as it makes the broth excessively cloudy when it's simmering. When you find a layer of grease on your soup, use a paper napkin and lay it very lightly on top to soak up the fat.

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            So in this instance would you say........

            "Waiter, there are no flies in my soup!!"

            Just kidding. LOL. As a kid growing up in Chicago, one year we had the locusts (what is it every 7 or 14 years?!?), and we were eating outside. I didnt notice but one had flown onto a forkful of potato salad that first went into my mouth, then all over the table. Still leaves a funny (and wriggly) feeling in my mouth.


        2. re: Chandavkl

          My late uncle was a financial partner in Kam Lok some 15 years or so ago, so I had many meals there. The choy sum used to be the smallest, sweetest and most tender in Chinatown. I tried a rice plate at the counter a couple years ago and didn't find a reason to go back. I agree with you that it's day may have passed. But I suspect that it's no better and no worse than other Chinatown restaurants in its price range and that the key is to know which specific dishes to order.

        3. Rachel, thanks for telling us what you ordered and liked at Kam Lok. This is the most useful part, especially for Chinese restaurants which easily have 60 to 150 dishes on the menu, not including combinations and specials. Knowing what to order at each place makes all the difference. I remember one Chinese New Year's eve family banquet at Hong Kong Flower Lounge, the most difficult night of the year to get a reservation. We observed a Caucasian couple seated next to us who told the waiter that they were first-timers. They asked the waiter for recommendations, which he provided, then proceeded to order sweet and sour pork and chicken fried rice. What a waste of a great kitchen! Then we heard them mumbling to themselves that they didn't understand why this was considered one of the finest Chinese restaurants in the western hemisphere.