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Feb 21, 2003 10:20 PM

Offal Lunch at Full Kee

  • j

A group of DC 'hounds met this afternoon for a lunch of nothing but the "delicacies" on the menu at Full Kee in DC's Chinatown. The attached file (I hope) will reveal what was on the menu.

I think that it was a huge success, and have to say that it has redeemed Full Kee in my estimation. The dishes were all prepared well, seemed highly authentic, and elicited the admiration of the wait staff at the restaurant (who only asked twice or three times whether we *really* wanted these dishes. (Side note: as we exited the restaurant, one of our party overheard another diner exclaiming incredulously to his dining companion that this place serves sauteed duck tongue; our friend had to break the news--as it was broken to us earlier--that unfortunately they were out of duck tongue today. Not sure that they suffered the same dejection over this fact that we did...)


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  1. As I recall, James, we had two dishes of intestine (?both pork), one marinated, the other not, as well as a tripe dish. The unmarinated intestine was my least favorite of the dishes-- there was a funkiness to the taste and a rubbery texture that marinating did a lot to improve. My favorites were the pork knuckle, the slices of rich meat enhanced by the spicy vinegar dipping sauce, and the shredded jelly fish, which had a delicate flavor and a fascinating, slightly crunchy texture. Served cold, they were a nice contrast to the other dishes. I agree with Jim Zurer about the duck blood--a little bit was plenty for me. I have eaten blood before-- I like boudin noir, which I ate in a very good restaurant in Paris... perhaps it was the type of blood (mammal vs. bird), or the ratio and variety of spices, herbs, onion and garlic that made the difference.

    Kudos to all who attended, especially the adventurous newbies. What an adventure! Gotta go back when they're not sold out of duck tongue!

    10 Replies
    1. re: zora

      You're right; there was a non-marinated pig tripe dish (which I seem to remember was the first one delivered of the offal dishes). I actually quite liked it, even more than the marinated one. Really goes to show that chacun a son gout. Don't know why that dish was not on the menu that I copied down; perhaps an oversight on my part.

      1. re: James G

        In other words, we really didn't know what we were eating...did we.

        A prize to the 'hound who can match up the names with the faces.

        1. re: Pappy

          Beginning with the individual closest to the camera, and proceeding clockwise:

          Photographer's chair
          Reserved chair for the Messiah

          1. re: StephenB

            I don't think that people who were in attendance were eligible for the prize......

            1. re: Jim Zurer

              That is not stated in the rules!

              1. re: Jim Zurer

                Stephen took the picture and remembered our offal faces, he gets the prize!

              2. re: StephenB

                What is the offal prize?
                Perhaps a catgut tennis racquet?

                1. re: Roe

                  Autographed copy of Night of the Living Dead.

                    1. re: Roe

                      Thanks for thinking of me but I had meetings in Greensboro and Charlotte on Thursday and Friday although I found a restaurant in downtown Charlotte, Mimosa, that I liked for dinner Thursday night. Sort of their version of Ten Penh or Atlanta's BluePointe. I did have mussels, oysters and tuna tartare so I was sort of with you in spirit as well as texture.
                      By the way I bought a 270 bottle Eurocave yesterday at the Wine Show in what appeard to be something of a closeout. They actually had a line waiting to buy them. They were priced over one thousand dollars BELOW their after Christmas catalogue price which they claimed, then, was the lowest of the year. (Single temp, glass door, 10 sliding shelves, three stationery shelves, four filters, 5 year warranty, with free delivery and tax included for $2,670.00. Previous best price was over $3,700 and before Christmas I priced this at $4,400. List is about $5,400.) Ro, if you or anyone on this board has thought about this, the price is incredible. It's The Wine Enthusiast. I'm guessing that if you call them tomorrow they will honor the Convention price.
                      Anyway, I'm now over 600 bottles in capacity so I have some more buying to do especially with the 2000 bordeaux coming out and great wines in the $25 to 30 range. I also know from having been doing this for the last ten years that even a decent $10 or 15 bottle improves with a couple of years of age so that a '97 Estancia (which I bought on sale at Total for $9.00) NOW drinks like a $25 cab and a '96 Pesquera which I paid $20 for is just delicious, drinking like a $75 to 100 bottle of wine in a restaurant.
                      I intend to expand on this philosophy since it really upgrades the wine that I'm drinking without adding to the price-especially if purchased taking advavntages of sales, etc. For great wines it also will allow me to drink them at their absolute peak, assuming that I live that long!

        2. And to complement the menu put together so artfully by James G, here are a couple of photos (taken by Stephen B.) documenting both the participants and the "delicacies".

          Jim Zurer
          Washington DC


          1. you people are like celebrities to me, and i was so thrilled to come to this lunch and meet everyone. i was less thrilled to eat all that offal. but i tried a bite of everything. though the texture of this food is different from what i usually eat, most of it is mild-flavored and in a delicious sauce, so if you could just get your mind around eating intestines or blood or whatever, it was ok. some of them were actually delicious, like the jellyfish. one of them i had to spit out (duck foot). it had an off taste (but maybe that was in my head) and felt hard, like fingernails. it felt like something i wasn't supposed to eat.

            despite that, i hope i passed my initiation rite and can hang with the chowhounds now. my only regret is that i didn't get to meet pam. maybe next time.

            both the vegetable dishes were delicious, thank god for vegetables and duck tongue shortages.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rachel b.

              You certainly passed your "initiation"...we look forward to seeing you at future gatherings. Too bad Stephen didn't get a picture of you sampling the duck feet.....

              Jim Zurer
              Washington DC

            2. I have lived in HK and Malaysia in the past and enjoy most Chinese food I have tasted.

              In the DC area I tend to eat Dim Sum (New Fortune in Gaithersburg, Tony Chengs, etc.) but have yet to find a favorite Chinese restaurant for main courses.

              Went to China town on Saturday and stopped by Full Kee (509 H Street NW). It seemed to be a fairly depressing place inside. Not just spartan, but a worn interior. The menu looked fairly simple and not that unique.

              We walked out of the place and down the block to the noodle shop - where the guy makes noodles in the window.

              Were we missing something? Is this Full Key the same one that gets rave reviews on Chowhound?

              Can you give me a good menu for two - if we can be convinced to return for a try?



              14 Replies
              1. re: Johann

                My wife and I went to Full Kee for the first time about two years ago, opened the front door and almost immediately turned around and left. You are kind to use such relatively mild words as depressing and "worn" in describing it. We went a step further and thought that it looked dirty.
                After following raves about it on here for over a year I joined Jim Zurer and his wife, James G., Pappy, Zora and Ro there for lunch one day. James has lived in Beijing and Jim has eaten his way through much of the rest of the world and settled on Full Kee as a kind of second home. We all trusted him, followed his recommendations and ended up with one of the best meals of its kind that I have had anywhere. I'll let Jim go into specifics but they have several great dishes include clams in black bean sauce and a particular green that is absolutely delicious, among others.
                Overall that which first really turned me off, based on several repeat visits, has turned out to be one of the best that the D. C. area has to offer. But I/we had the advantage of being guided through their menu.
                Still, I don't know about offal. I wasn't part of that meal.
                I was off eating oysters, mussels and tuna tartare elsewhere.

                1. re: Joe H.

                  You can't go wrong with any of these:

                  --any of the oyster casseroles
                  --clams with black bean sauce
                  --snow pea leaves
                  --leek flowers
                  --shrimp dumpling and noodle soup

                  It's definitely dingy, but I wouldn't call the place dirty (i.e. the tables and bathrooms are clean). Personally, I'll sacrifice ambiance for good chow any day...

                  1. re: butterfly
                    Hungry Celeste

                    Will be in DC on business next week, and I plan on eating at Full Kee. Unfortunately, my traveling companion won't eat seafood. Any recommendations for chicken/pork/beef items on their menu? I live far, far away from any decent chinese, so I don't want to miss this opportunity, but I am also forced to accomodate another palate on this visit. Thanks!

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      Having eaten at Jacques-Imo's, Peristyle, Brigsten's and Uglesich, among others, I have never had really outstanding Italian in New Orleans (excluding Mosca's which is superb, but in its own class). You really should include this for one of your meals here since D. C. has four of the best Italian restaurants in America. Obelisk, Tosca, Laboratorio, Maestro (the best but it's in Tyson's Corner while the other three are all downtown-you need to reserve right NOW for Obelisk ((36 seats, prix fixe $55)) and Laboratorio ((30 seats in Galileo, $110 prix fixe))Tosca is larger, al a carte and reasonable wine but courses are still in $20 to 25 range.) You may also want to consider Thai, Indian (Heritage of India), Yanyu (excellent and much more upscale Chinese which, considering your friend, might be "safer"), among others. Also, the Prime Rib on K Street (coat and tie required for men) has lump "Bawlmer" crab cakes superior to anything in N'awlins along with exemplery crab imperial. Beef is not quite as good as the original Ruth's Chris. I know, fighting words, but worth the $30 to find out.
                      Good luck!

                      1. re: Joe H.
                        Hungry Celeste

                        Thanks for the Italian round-up, but I was really looking for outstanding non-seafood menu items at Full Key! All of your recs sound great, but far outside the realm of my per diem on this trip, unfortunately. Re: Mosca's, it's near my house, but my last trip was a downer...their quality is off these days. It's still a gem, just for what it represents, tho. I'm planning to hit Pho 75, the Old Ebbitt Grill for breakfast, and Moby Dick's Kebab House. Perhaps I can do haute Italian on the next go-round...

                      2. re: Hungry Celeste

                        The pork casseroles are good, but only if you like your pork with some fat attached...definitely not for those who like their meat lean. Actually, they serve two different types of pork--one is roasted and the other is almost like pulled pork. I've had both in the casseroles--I think I prefer the "pulled pork" (someone here should know better what I'm talking about...).

                        Also, there are the vegetable dishes--snow pea leaves and leek flowers...

                        Now a question for the hounds...has anyone had congee at Full Kee? If so, is it any good?

                      3. re: butterfly

                        **Personally, I'll sacrifice ambiance for good chow any day...**

                        Isn't that the essence of a chowhound? By the way, I prefer New Big Wong's clams in a black bean sauce. I prefer the sauce a bit spicier than Full Kee's and New Big Wong has it perfectly!

                        1. re: butterfly

                          Clarification again: the bathrooms are not what I would call particularly clean.

                        2. re: Joe H.

                          Let me just clarify something: I am not a member of the Full Kee supporters' club, though I thought the lunch on Friday was very good. Full Kee is okay for what it is: a drab Cantonese place. I think I have finally identified my main issue with FK: I just don't care for Cantonese cuisine. I much prefer the bolder (less refined??) flavors associated with Sichuan and Hunan style cooking.

                        3. re: Johann

                          Well, Full Kee is certainly not a place most people will wander into based on its ambience. I am not sure what menu you were looking it...the regular menu (just redone) incorporates a couple of pages of unusual (for Washington DC) dishes among the more traditional American Chinese menu items. The specialities used to be easier to identify when they were on a typewritten sheet inside the back cover. The table tents also list many of the more exotic dishes--including most of the "offal" that we enjoyed on Friday.

                          If you want to try Full Kee again, let me know and I will be happy to join you for a meal.

                          Jim Zurer
                          Washington DC

                          PS How was the restaurant that you ended up eating at?

                          1. re: Johann

                            If you can get out to Bailey's Crossroads (intersection of Columbia Pike and Rt. 7--Leesburg Pike) there's a new branch of full Kee in the same shopping center as Trader Joe's and Best Buy. Some 'hounds feel that it isn't quite as good as the downtown DC branch, but it's new and clean and a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the H Street original. Personally, I think the food is excellent there.

                            1. re: zora

                              The Bailey's Full Kee is in my neighborhood and though the food is as excellent as in DC, and I go as often as the mood moves, I think it's a bit "characterless", suburban. Immaculate, sterile, squeaky clean comes to mind, and if you've ever been to China.....

                            2. re: Johann

                              Please tell us about the noodle shop "where the guy makes noodles in the window."

                              1. re: Steve

                                I imagine by now that you have found the thread on this topic that pam h started today (2/25).