Dinner at Kam Po (HK) K(itchen) in SF Chinatown
- Melanie Wong Oct 9, 2006 05:39 AM
Dinner tonight with the parents was a stroll uphill to Kam Po Kitchen on Powell and Broadway. There's one step up to enter. We got there about 6:15pm, just beating the busy time when a lined formed at the counter and almost all the tables filled up.
My mother loved the prices on the menu; most items are between $3 and $4. Since no one else was eating at that time, we had no idea what the portion size might be so my mother threw caution to the wind and let us get three items.
Gordon's rec for the beef tendon was the hit. It is soft enough for tendon-loving elders to chew. This is something my dad has been missing and he got his fill tonight with a plate of beef tendon lo mein ($4.05). The tendon is paler in color, and I found that I preferred the non-soy sauce dominated, cleaner flavor that hinted of anise and onions. One complaint is that the plain, boiled noodles were barely warm. But the braised lettuce was a nice touch for a complete dinner plate, and the soup on the side was tasty if on the salty side.
My mom had dry-style beef chow fun and she asked for greens instead of bean sprouts. The bok choy were big and not the baby hearts, but still tender and cooked just right. She thought the plate was generous with beef for the price, $3.85. The seasoning wasn't as complex as better versions and these were lesser quality rice noodles, but again, that's a great price and a lot of food.
I had the roast duck soup noodles, $3.50. I was rather dismayed that the pieces of duck were below the surface, rather than perched above the liquid. Still, this was a surprising amount of duck for such a tiny price. The noodles were just a bit overcooked, still firm but not as bouncy as soup noodles should be. I liked the braised lettuce on the bottom, and again, the soup was too salty. It's would have been even better if the kitchen would cut back on the MSG, as there's flavor aplenty there. The duck was tender, more tender than usual, again good for seniors. There was more fat under the lightly colored skin than I would like, still the seasoning was applied with a light hand and this was very tasty overall.
Total cost with tax and tip was $14, and my parents still have half there food for another day.
Three dishes at Kam Po -
Gordon Wing's post -
I must have passed by this place dozens of times before actually trying it, scared away by the crowds that always packed the place. When I did go there and saw the menu, including I believe some $2 items, I assumed that the crowds were drawn solely by the economical prices. However the food's pretty good, and considering everything it's probably one of the best food values around anywhere.
Tacked on the walls are large sheets of colored papers listing more dishes in Chinese grouped by price (e.g., $3.25) and in some cases the prices have been whited-over and changed. But take note of the writing, they're really beautiful calligraphy and done with a brush. From the state of the paper, it looks like they've been on the wall for a long time. At the next table, the mother was reading the dishes to her children and I heard things like yu pin jook (sliced fish porridge).
This isn't fine cuisine by any means, but I can say that I've had many meals that have cost more than this in Chinatown that were not prepared as well. I also think the take-out counter does well because this place stays open until 8pm, whereas the butcher/deli counters on Stockton Street mostly close at 6pm.
As you've noted: Kam Po is definitely a good value. It's a big hit with a lot of tradesmen and for senior citizens who need to watch their budgets / or just appreciate the deals. The prices are low and the quality in general is good. My mother's favorite is the beef stew/tendon and we generally stick with that. Lots of orders of roast duck, bbq pork, roast pig, etc. coming out of the kitchen. Last time I tried a couple of the bbq/roast chicken legs.... they had a serious amount of honey glaze and lots of nice char on the edges but that meant that the meat itself was too done for my taste. Great for those who don't like their poultry pink at the bone. Guess this would make it a perfect accompaniment for a bowl of noodles?
re: gordon wing
The one person seated when we came in had a big pile of gnawed on chicken bones in front of him and those were plenty pink. Maybe the white poached chicken is cooked to a lesser doneness? The beef tendon was plenty good, and now that Hon's is a bit too firm and too spicy for my parents, this will be our go-to place for that dish.
After our blah dinner at PPQ's new place in the Sunset, my mom was wishing we'd gone back here. She asked me to tell my sister and brother about Kam Po so they can take them there another time.
re: pink chicken bones. In Chinese cooking, a perfect cooked chicken, the bone still has red in it. The meat is tender at that point. Anything cooked beyond that is considered to dry and hard to Chinese standards. KFC chicken is an example of too dry and hard.
Kam Po is famous for their roast pork. There is often a line for that. Especially before dinner time. Prices are rock bottom. The dry fried beef chow fun (gohn chauh ngau hoh) goes for about $ 3.75. My favorite rice dish is the pork chops and onions over rice. I used to like their salt baked chicken (yihm guhk gai), but they discontinued it for some reason.
I'm with you that chicken should still be red at the bone to not have had the life cooked out of it. This is especially critical for the plain salt poached type chicken prep. In this simplest preparation, the textures and the unadorned flesh and skin need to be exactly on point, as there's no where to hide mistakes.
We buy all our roast pork and roast duck here for big family gatherings. Prices can't be beat for what you get.