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Dec 26, 2004 02:18 PM

nam yuen

  • m

what's the deal with nam yuen? i was in chinatown last week and i wanted to show my 2 friends where the dead pool shootout scene was, because i am so fascinated at the fact that that they shot that scene at nam yuen. I looked in the window and noticed the same fish tank from the dead pool and the same bar. anysways why is it just sitting there?

  1. I think Nam Yuen went out of business years ago. Maybe one of the other chowhounds could give us the scoop. How about it Melanie?

    6 Replies
    1. re: 0riginaljoe

      I don't recall any dead pool, but Nam Yuen closed about 20 years ago. It was a great spot for both lunch and dinner. Every Friday for years, we would have a long lunch staff meeting from about 1 to 4 PM. The owner, Al Chin, decided to expand to a gourmet club upstairs with a (as I recall) free membership for regulars...after that, Al died and the place went downhill. Violated the old Chinese saying...don't improve on a good thing, leave it alone. After it closed, Sun Hung Hueng (sp) got most of the business in that area. Then it closed.

      1. re: Jim H.

        My recollection is that it closed 20 years ago, sat empty for about 10 years, reopened as a Chinese-Thai restaurant for a short while, then shut down again.

        1. re: Jim H.

          Jim, thanks for all of the kind comments you made about Al Chan's (my father's) restaurant. He actually is alive and well at 81 years old, and currently traveling in Hong Kong enjoying their great food! The gourmet club or, as it was called, "The Room at the Top" actually turned out to be a nice spot. It was actually my mother who died in 1980. My father sold his share of Nam Yuen in 1979 so that he could take care of her full-time. I agree with you; the place did go downhill quite rapidly afterwards.

          Thanks again for all of the kind comments. I cannot tell you how much that kind of unsolicited praise will mean to my father. That restaurant was our life, and all of us kids still miss it. All these years later it is very cool to hear that people like you enjoyed Nam Yuen as much as we did!

          1. re: Jim H.

            I believe that "Dead Pool" is a reference to the Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry film. We used to have extended family dinners at Nam Yuen, but I don't think it's been open for many years.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Yes it is. BTW, that watched that movie last night, it was made in 1988, one year before the quake. Had to be as the Embarcadaro bridges were still standing which is what prompted me to check the date.

              He killed about 4 in that scene.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Thank you chocolatetart.guy! I had no idea what all these guys were talking about.

                Really neat to hear from the son of the owner of Nam Yuen, too.

          2. I remember Nam Yuen across Portsmouth Squarewith fond memories growing up in Chinatown. My first venture going out to eat at a restaurant way back when the only thing my brother and I could afford was a bowl of char sieu noodles at 35 cents. Sun Hung Heung was another old favorite in the old days, but Nam Yuen was extra special and superb! Still remember the specials like dried scallop chowder soup and the stuffed chicken wings that only Nam Yuen could make!

            1 Reply
            1. re: CYL

              I too have fond momery of Nam Yang, but it has been over twenty years since I have been there. Once a Uncle took us up to the "private" dining room and the food was great. But I fear I can not remebfer much about the food. In those days I did not get to put my two cent. I came from a family of eaters and cooks.

              My aging mind remind the stuffed chicken wings were they not a dish at Sun Hung Heung? Something I would love to have again.

            2. I know Sun Hung Heung also had a stuffed chicken wing which drew many my fiends' raves. However, Nam Yuen's version was unforgettably superb! My brother had a business account and he treated me to Nam Yuen for dinner regularly. It got to that he would simply asked the mai-tre d'/head waiter whom he knew so well for what was special that night without even bothering to scan the menu. Many of the dishes which we so much enjoyed there for so long, including the stuffed chicken wings, often did not even appeared on the menu.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CYL

                Didn't they used to make a really good steak cubes and gai lan? dish?

              2. Yes!! I still think about those Nam Yuen steak cubes to this day; I think our whole family does. We should really try to get the recipe out of our father's memory banks. I have yet to find a place that serves similar steak cubes. Do you know of any?

                12 Replies
                1. re: dhgchan

                  My memories of the restaurant's food are too hazy at this point, and I'd have trouble keeping them apart from its neighbord, SHH. But both were certainly beloved by our family with many celebrations, Christmases, grandpa's birthdays, and other happy events there. I would be forever grateful for whatever recipes your dad would share with us. I think one of the problems with restaurant versions today is that with the price of beef so high, the better cuts aren't used any more. And, maybe we can get Peter Yee to interview his uncle, who used to cook there, before it's too late.

                  Also, if you know of any of Nam Yuen's cooking staff that are still working and not in a well-deserved retirement, please let us know which restaurant kitchens. I believe a couple chowhounders have mentioned Nam Yuen alumni from time to time, but it would be good to get an update.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie, I don't know if any are still working as cooks but will check with my father when he returns from HK. The best of them, Jerry Quan, died about 10(?)years ago. I will post alumni updates if and when I get the info. Thanks!

                    1. re: dhgchan

                      Bro, Jerry's brother Tong is still alive, but just retired. Dad hadn't seen him in many years but spent last July Fourth with him. He unfortunately has bad knees now and can no longer work a restaurant kitchen.

                      1. re: dhgchan

                        Dear Mr. Chan,

                        This is what makes the web wonderful. As children Mom and Dad would drive the family into SF from Pleasanton to eat at Nam Yuen. We got to play in Portsmouth Square while Mom and Dad had a cocktail - can't do that anymore! My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE dish was the Pressed Duck. Oh to have that dish once again. Thank you again for being such a wonderful part of my childhood and being the source of my love of Chinese cuisine. Charles Holzer

                    2. re: dhgchan

                      I remember the steak cube and also an absolutely delicious Mongolian lamb too! I do not remember who did the selection, but Nam Yuen was one of the highly rated gourmet restaurants in Chinatown in its day.

                      1. re: CYL

                        Loved the Mongolian Lamb as well, one of the signature dishes, but the steak cubes...

                      2. re: dhgchan

                        Are the steak cubes coated with a peppery sauce (not sauce that runs onto the plate - but a flavoring for the meat) and served with steamed red onions? If so, they are our favorite dish at Legendary Palace in Oakland.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          The Black Pepper Sauce Beef is a update verison of steak cubes (not a good but the orgianl dish was just steak and maybe some vegetable without a heavy sauce to cover the taste of steak). I remember when I first had the Steak Cube dish in the early fifty, my Dad told me it created by a Chef in New York and making the trip out here. As I remember it there were large chucks or cubes of fillet marinated and stir fried in really high heat. The cubes were seared in a crust and juicy inside. I do remember I had this dish at both SHH and Nam Yuen. I fear that is all I remember. Just a marinaded and qucikly cook in a high out put Wok.

                          1. re: yimster

                            The one thing I'm sure about is that Nam Yuen used hanger steak for the dish. I tried to replicate the Steak Cubes for my Home Ec final and I know I got the cut of meat right, but the rest of the "recipe" supplied by my dad did not seem to translate into what he served at the restaurant.

                            1. re: echanberg

                              I'm pretty sure the steak cubes at R&G Lounge in Chinatown is made with hanger steak.

                          2. re: oakjoan

                            Thanks oakjoan, next time I'm in Oakland I'm going to Legendary Palace to checkout your cubes. Nam Yuen's was not a peppery sauce, you would remember it for it's more garlic-based marinade with probably a hint a some kind of liquor (My palate and maturity level was too young for me to accurately describe it.). We would have thme served with greens and sometimes asparagus tips! No red onions. But I still want to try the ones you like at Legendary--could you leave me the address. I have not lived in the Bay Area for many years now. Thanks!

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              I recall the sauce as being a light gravy. Did it have a dash of Ho Yo oyster sauce in it. The cubes were often medium rare with some red juices.

                          3. Nam Yuen was a go-to place for a late night date and we loved their "Hun Toe Yee Won Ton" and their greens. Nobody makes that version of wonton with care now and Nam Yuen's green were so very fresh!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: margret

                              Fresh vegetables were a great part of Chinese food in the day. Accorss the street at the Washington Cafe (not sure of the name) was a wholesage vegetable market. I am remember the chefs walking accross the street to pick up the freshest and best vegetable.

                              There are still places serving Hon Toe Yee Foo Won Ton, but my favorite is still Shredded Duck Yee Foo Won Ton. I fear is now a home made dish now.

                              1. re: yimster

                                That vegetable store, I think, was Mow Fung. Vegetable farmers all around the area used to come to the city, sit at Mow Fung and shop talk. They sell Chinese vegetable seeds there for the farmers and retail public alike. They were also one of the few places that used to sell nice small winter melons perfect for Doong Gwa Joong where you put all the goodies inside the melon and put the entire filled melon in a huge stockpot for steaming using the melon itself as the soup tureen.
                                Mow Fung was a couple of places below the old Chinatown telephone exchange.