*** SF Chinatown Chowdown Lunch Series #9 - Yee's - 5/21, 11:45am ***
- Jeff S
Friday May 21 we had 14 for a meal at Yees. The outspoken owner and Melanie haggled over the menu, and Curtis helped to pick some Sow Gee, we ended up with some cantonese dishes:
Crab and Fish Bladder Soup
Goose two ways (bbq and dark soy sauce)
Sow Gee (sp. Roast Pig from the rib area)
Salt & Pepper Chicken wings
(Everpresent) Sweet & Sour Pork Chops
Squid and vegetable stirfry
Braised Tofu with shrimp
Clams with black bean sauce
As you can tell, I didn't write the menu down. Please fill in if I left anything off.
Total cost per person was $14.
Bucking the trend, $.69 cherries were provided courtesy of ChowFun.
Please start the discussion...
1131 Grant Street
About the SF Chinatown Chowdown Lunch Series
Each week an ever changing group of hounds lunch at a Chinatown restaurant. We focus primarily but not exclusively on Chinese cuisines. All types of hounds are welcome to attend: veteran chowdowners or newcomers; experts in Chinese cuisines or those just starting to discover them. Seats for each lunch will be alloted on a first come, first serve basis to those on a mailing list being maintained especially for these lunches. Email email@example.com if you would like to be added to that list for future lunches in this series
The SFCCLS are private, volunteer assisted events. No agency relationship, express or implied exists between any parties and Chowhound, Inc. These are not Chowhound, Inc. sponsored events.
I thought this was one of the better meals we've had in this series. Although some individual dishes were better at other places, other places also had dishes that were notably weak, while this meal had no "clinkers."
I really enjoyed both versions of the goose; the soup was an interesting and welcome departure from the usually rather dreary house soups; the fried fish (expertly deboned and reassembled at our table by chowdown rookie Pim) was delicious; and the salt and pepper chicken wings, although not quite as good as those at Capitol a few weeks ago, were as addictive as usual.
Aside from the roast meats, all the other dishes were from the $48 set menu, which was an excellent value. We had substantial leftovers and could easily have fed another person or two at each table. The only reason the meal came to as much as $14/person (which included a generous tip), was that the goose was quite expensive (we had two orders at $17/each). And was there corkage (Malik brought a very good Spanish white to share with us)? All the items on the bill were in sets of two (two set menus, plus what I assume were two orders of goose and two of roast pork), and then there was a single entry of $7 at the bottom, before the total.
The owner amused my table by insisting on dishing out the last of the soup before clearing it from our overloaded table. "Chinese people don't waste food ... like other people" (she lectured us, casting stern glances at the round-eyes around the table).
In short, this is carefully prepared classic Cantonese food at very reasonable prices. I'd definitely go back. It struck me as a good place to drop in for a casual lunch when you have visitors who want to "do Chinatown," as it has a bustling, authentic feel without being a hole in the wall.
Thanks to Jeff and Nick for organizing this lunch, I had a really good time.
When I first tried the crab and fish bladder soup, I found it a bit under-seasoned and was about to reach for soy sauce when Ed and Melanie advised me to add some white pepper instead. That was a great suggestion, the white pepper really helped bring the whole thing together, and the soup was definitely one of the hits of the meal. The fish bladder added an interesting texture, and the crab chunks were quite generous in size and quantity.
I've not been overly impressed with the chicken wings at the lunches I've attended so far, but I really liked the version at this lunch. They were piping hot when they got to the table, and had some garlic and sliced peppers sprinkled on top that were the perfect seasoning for the dish. I also liked the goose, with a small preference for the BBQ version over the soy sauce one. I was a bit surprised that it was so close in consistency and taste to duck, I would have expected it to be a bit tougher and gamier.
The fish, much like the wings, was also right out of the frier, and was quite good, though I did not care too much for the sauce underneath (it was oversoyed and hence took away from the taste of the fish). The squid and vegetable stirfry was decent, I especially liked the crispy pea pods in it and was glad to see there weren't any carrots :-)
I found the braised tofu with shrimp dish quite bland, though the shrimp bits themselves were tasty. The clams in black bean sauce were awful I thought, the first clam I had was gritty, and the second one tasted almost spoiled. I don't think they were very fresh. Too bad, because the rest of the dish (onions, bell peppers and black bean sauce) was pretty good. I did not try the other three dishes (roast pig, pork chops and mustard greens).
Overall, I thought it was a pretty solid meal but there weren't any wow dishes. The service was very attentive and helpful I felt, there was a lady hovering about the table that was on top of everything going on with our meal. At $14 per person it was a good value, and while I'm in no rush to go back to the restaurant, I would not complain if I were to eat there again in the future.
After the meal, we followed ChowFun to Golden Gate Bakery, where we had some coconut macaroons and fresh out of the oven egg custard tarts. As usual the tarts were absolutely fabulous.
The wine I brought was a 2003 Basa, which is a Spanish white wine from the Rueda appellation. It's made primarily with the Verdejo grape (90%), with a bit of Viura and Sauvignon Blanc (5% each) thrown in for good measure. It sees no oak, which keeps it fresh and lively, and I thought a decent match for the food we had. I really liked the nose on the wine, and it had decent structure, though I could have used a tiny bit more acidity. It can be found fairly readily around town (K&L for example) for $9, which makes it quite a good value I feel. I'll definitely be buying a few more bottles.
Thank you Jeff for organizing this.
I was a little underwhelmed today with this food. I am still getting to know SF Chinatown food and I really appreciate what everyone brings to the table.
My favorites were the BBQ goose, mustard greens, fried fish and Sow Gee. Melanie showed me some of the geography of the pork hanging and oddly enough when I have some history about something I will often enjoy it more. The pork was very tender, a pleasure to eat.
I liked that a lot of the food came to the table hot, but I found some of the proteins cooked too much, dry and/or tough. The clams were so awful that I hope I'm ok. I only had one, and like Malik, I was disappointed because the garnish was quite nice. Being from NY I really miss that clams are not readily available, but maybe this is why.
I had not a single thread of crab in my soup and I was not a fan of the fish bladder. I like textures, but this one felt like it was not really going to be dijested because I could not make it small enough in my mouth.
And I am always a fan of the dark leafy greens. They can always get them more tender than I can at home. I liked them at Hong Kong Clay Pot the best! (april 9).
The service was attentive and we received copious amounts of orange slices at the end.
But the very end was finished in Chowhound Style where we created a line on the street in front of Golden Gate Bakery and ate piping hot egg custard tarts, coconut macaroons, both blocking and attracting traffic.
For anyone who has not been to one of these, please join us when you can. It is really fun, silly, and an amazingly delicious adventure! I am learning so much about a regional cuisine I have always been too daunted to try.
ps, thank you Curtis for keeping my teacup full and hot.
Well, some might say that starting the week off with the curry dive and finishing it off with the Chinatown chowdown is a bit of an overkill. Those detractors would likely include doctors, dieticians, the late Dr. Atkins for my carborific naan consumption alone. They, however, would certainly not include any of my fellow Chowhounds, especially Melanie, Ruth and Malik since they did the same thing ;)
So with that, we bring to a close another successful chowdown. As with the others, there were undoubtedly high and lows, but I did think that the sow gee was particularly tender and had just the right amount of fat. The skin was blistered and crackling, but not tough as is sometimes the case. I also thought that the roast goose was slightly better than the shoyu goose, but again I am partial to that golden crisp skin. If anything, I came with high expectations for the bbq and deli items like the chicken wings. I was pleasantly surprised by the soup and the fish which again had us contentedly crunching through crispy fins and tail. If this sounds a bit peculiar, I think that it is the same attraction one might have to eating the deepfried shrimp heads along with an order of amaebi at a sushi bar.
Certainly the ubiquitous Peking porkchops and the clams were nothing to write home about, but again, one need only look to the front window of Yee's to devine what their forte is. I'll put it this way...if it ain't hanging on a hook or being fried, continue on.
I eagerly look forward to the next "free" afternoon whereupon I will try their "happy hour" (from 3-5pm) where small plates are $2 each.
All in all, I think what continues to draw so many of us back to these chowdowns is the ability to share our particular brand of mania with others of like interest...sort of like a support group for addicts. While the hostess asked what company we were with, I simply explained that we all love to eat good food and we try to do so as often as possible.
Thanks to Jeff for organizing the event and thanks to Malik for providing a very quaffable and suitable wine for our meal. Kudos, as always, to Derek for punctuating the meal with something sweet, and of course thanks to Golden Gate Bakery for keeping the hot fresh custard tarts rolling. BTW Derek, the coconut tarts were a wonderful dessert tonight with a nice fullbodied cup of coffee.
As always, I look forward to the next adventure with my fellow Chowhounds!
Getting caught up here...many thanks Curtis for your words and this time, pictures!!!
I wanted to add a few words on the goose front. Our server was insistent that one order was a half goose of either type. She tried to talk me into ordering a half of each kind for each table, i.e., the sum of one whole goose per 7 people, saying we could take the rest home. Finally, I convinced her that we wanted half a soy sauce goose for one table and a half roast goose for the other. The carvers did us a favor by dividing and combining them for us between two platters, as shown in your picture. However, I sort of wish they had not. The juices from the soy sauce goose softened some of the crispy skin of the roast goose and also changed the flavor where there was contact.
Chopping the goose into sections on the bone was fine for the roast goose, as the meat was tender enough to eat easily this way. The ginger-yellow plum (or maybe apricot) sauce for dipping the roast goose is shown in the photo.
However, I was dismayed at the presentation of the soy sauce goose aka master sauce goose aka Teochew goose. In this prep, the firmer meat and more rubbery skin are not easy to bite through cut into such thick pieces. I was expecting the meat to be cut off the bone and then sliced into thinner 1/8" slices for dipping in a garlic vinegar sauce and/or green chili sauce. No condiments were provided with it and it was hacked on the bone. I did think it had good flavor. I would buy it again but would take it home and prepare it the traditional way as it should be for best taste and texture.
Not much to add as I think everyone did a great job of describing the meal.
I had 3 clams...the first two were very good and fresh but the last was not. Too bad.
I preferred the thick, whole pieces of sow gee, which provided a great tender and moist contrast to the crackling skin. Also on the plate were various pieces of skin and meat that had fallen apart which did not provide the same completeness. I'll bet intact chunks are one of the many things those little old Chinese ladies look for when they hover around the afternoon tables.
I preferred the soy sauce goose over the BBQ one, but both were very good.
Thanks again everybody for the help and enthusiasm.