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My Night at Kam Chueh

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Felt like Chinese tonight, and was determined to seek out a restaurant in The Eclectic Gourmet to Greater New York City.

My friend Stinky and I chose dishes recommended by M. Hound. In descending order of deliciousness:

1. The salt & pepper squid was the best I've ever eaten, and the peppers that accompanied them were just as good. A platonic dish.

2. Snow pea leaves. Yep, they are sensational. Great.

3. Jumbo Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce. Neither Stinky or I "got" this. The sauce was gloppy and too sweet (Stinky aptly compared it to a misfired mole sauce). Bad luck?

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  1. " 3. Jumbo Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce. Neither Stinky or I "got" this. The sauce was gloppy and too sweet (Stinky aptly compared it to a misfired mole sauce). Bad luck? "

    not sure. over many years, the black bean sauce at kam chueh/shing kee has been one of life's few sure-things.

    we MAY just have different taste, but nobody I've brought (probably 100 people at this point) has ever failed to love the stuff, so I kinda doubt it.

    sigh. I'll give it a check-up.

    jim

    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      Don't get me wrong, Jim. I was very impressed with the place. All of the vegetables, in particular, that I saw come out of the kitchen looked gorgeous.

      I was also very impressed with the host. He was harried (had a big party downstairs, a full restaurant, and folks waiting around the front desk) and he was unfailingly polite and helpful to everyone who came by.

      1. re: Dave Feldman

        thanks for trying to console me, Dave, but it's a little like saying you went to Cafe Du Monde and that the beignets were lousy but the coffee was pretty good and you had good service. Scant consolation!

        Kam Chueh/Shing Kee's black bean sauce is one of the pillars of the NYC food scene, and I REALLY hope they're not screwing it up as a regular thing...

        I'm in Long Island or I would've gone tonight...

        1. re: Jim Leff

          i think it must have been an off night. i was there less than two months ago and had the razor clams with black bean sauce and it was fantastic. a touch salty but nothing too bad. the slightly spicy kick at the end is what makes the sauce though.

          as a contrast, went to shun lee palace last night and had the baby little necks with black bean sauce. can i tell you how horrendous that was? we had to send it back because the clams were downright nasty and the black bean sauce nonexistent. the crispy smoked duck was quite good, however. dumplings were lame and hot and spicy prawns neither hot nor spicy. what a ripoff.

          i'll take kam chueh's razor clams in bbs over shun lee's entire menu every day of the week and twice and on sundays.

          wonki

          1. re: wonki

            While the food at Kam Chueh never fails to delight me, the dining experience during a recent visit left oodles to be desired. The prawns with walnut and mayonnaise, flowering pea shoots with crabmeat and the squid with peppers and black bean sauce were, as always, divine, but I ate most of it as leftovers. Why? I'd only ever eaten in the upstairs section---it's warm and happy---full of life and large groups of people sharing big family-style dinners. I'd never been...to the basement. I suppose the upstairs was too crowded on Valentine's night, so my boyfriend and I were shepherded downstairs to the mirror-paneled, buzzing-lighted other dining room. A couple of groups were somewhat grimly finishing their dinners, and we were left down there by ourselves. Sounds romantic, no? No, actually---we weren't quite alone. It was deadly silent down there, save for the aformentioned buzzing overhead lights, and every turn of the head brought a new mirrored view of the waiter hovering silently nearby---reflected over and over in the corners, so as to give the impression of an entire army of grim waiters, waiting for the level of our drinks to deplete by one sip, so they could come and replenish. It somehow crossed the boundary from attentive into downright oppressive. We ate grimly and sparely, comforted only in the knowledge that we were leaving there with a big bag of leftovers...which were simply scrumptious the next day. Another party came in just as we were finishing. They had the right idea---they just went upstairs to wait until there was a table available.

            It's certainly not going to stop me from going again---it's become a huge favorite. I just never wanna go down in that room again.