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Dec 9, 2006 07:57 PM

Sil Yeh at Denny's Cafe on Geary

Last week we took my dad to Denny's Cafe on Geary near 20th for sil yeh (late night eats). This is a Hong Kong-style coffee shop open till midnight during the week and 3am on Friday and Saturday (guess that would be Saturday and Sunday). We snagged the handicapped parking space around the corner. After 10pm, about three other tables were occupied. When we noticed that two of them had some kind of rice in a whole coconut shell, I had to find out what it was and order it too.

This turned out to be seafood rice baked in coconut from the Dinner Specials menu. For $6.95, it came with a cup of soup, garlic bread, and a drink. It was much better than I'd imagined with tender but not mushy long grain rice infused with the fragrance of the fresh coconut and bits of omelet and green onions. About six good-sized shrimps, a couple sea scallops, and five plump mussels comprised the seafood. None of it was overcooked and they were higher in quality than typically found at this price range. I liked the combination of the soft coconut flesh scraped off the shell with the seafood. While quite mild in flavor, it was a good choice to share with something more robust at the table. That shell can hold a lot and I served up about four rice bowls full and still had some remaining to take home.

William picked a dinner special too, ox tongue with mushrooms choosing spaghetti as his side rather than rice. The serving size was so enormous it overflowed the large dinner plate. Cut in thick, long slabs, the beefy tongue still had a bit of chewiness to some pieces. Al dente strips of sweet red and green peppers contrasted nicely with the long-simmered flavors of the savory brown gravy. A heaping portion of sauteed, fresh button mushrooms and the soft, plain boiled spaghetti sopped up the gravy nicely.

The watery, tomato vegetable soup that accompanied the dinner specials was nothing to write home about. We did like the garlic bread, soft pieces of baguette with plenty of buttery garlic. The fruit drink turned out to be canned fruit cocktail with crushed ice . . . no need to order that again. However, the fresh lemonade was quite nice and not overly sweet, perhaps the most value of the free drinks.

Dad had the oxtail soup noodles, $4.95, one of about five or so different oxtail dishes on the menu, and all of us liked his pick. While fairly fatty, the plain meat pulled off the bone easily and was tender enough for him to chew. Firm, wiry noodles and the sweet and crunchy poached iceberg were perfect in texture. The star anise-accented beef broth was so delicious we asked for the a cup to take the rest of it home with us and not waste a drop.

Baked seafood rice in coconut and ox tongue with mushrooms -

We got load of flavor and value for $24, including tax and tip, for the three of us and enough food for two lunches the next day too. Nothing fancy here, just tasty chow, and I agree with "anna" that the execution is better than D&A Cafe. My sister heard about it from William and went the next night with her husband. They enjoyed the Portuguese seafood (think ala king cream sauce with a touch of curry) and the short ribs (a little tough).

Denny's Cafe
5530 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 386-3288

Other posts on Denny's -

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  1. We were back out there a couple months ago. My dad didn't hesitate to re-order the oxtail soup noodles and my mother agreed that it was a very good version.

    One of the lunch specials in Chinese on the whiteboard (with drink, garlic bread and a cup of soup for ~ $7) was mixed seafood with Portuguese sauce. I had it over spaghetti. I liked it better than any other version I've tried around here, and the lightly curried sauce is very similar to the style of sauce I've had in Portugal. The seafood was handled with a light hand again and the fresh mushrooms are a nice touch. Here's the photo:

    3 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Finally visited Denny's this past weekend. First off, it appears they have reduced their hours to 8am-midnight 7 days a week. We were there at about 6 or 7 pm and they were about half full.

      Ordered singaporean chicken sewers with spicy chili sauce, curry fish balls, ox tail stew over rice, and baked rice and pork chop casserole with tomato sauce.

      The chicken skewers were good, chili sauce had a kick, but was greasy and did not tend to stick to the chicken. We thought it would only be 2-3 skewers, but it came out with 7. enormous portion for the price.

      The curry fish balls were good, but we were disappointed that they did not pan fry the fish balls prior to pouring curry on them. I think they just boiled them to thaw and then plated them. Much better when they are pan seared ever so slightly. Curry sauce was good.

      Ox Tail stew was excellent. I think there was a full half tail on the plate. Very juicy and tender meat that came off the bone easily. The tofu sheets that were the other half of the stew were unflavorfull and showed that they had been added as they were plating the dish. So we skipped the sheets and had our fill of ox tail.

      Baked pork chop casserole was okay. Tomato sauce was really just ketchup and it took them 20 minutes to get it to us. After we inquired to its whereabouts, it showed up instantly, our deduction was they forgot about it in the oven. The dryness of the rice and pork chop confirmed this suspicion. Hopefully it would have been better had they not forgotten about it.

      We wanted some Do Fu Fah to round out the meal, but it seems we were there too early and it wasn't ready yet. Drinks were on par with other HK style cafe's in SF. I had boiled coke with lemon and my SO had HK style milk tea.

      We will probably try it again (later in the evening so we can get Do Fu Fah) and follow Melanie's suggestions closer (portugese sauce and a fish dish.) On the definitie plus side, I survived the evening with no MSG induced headache. Always a fear when we try someplace new.

      1. re: tyler k

        I always order baked pork chop casserole whenever I goto a new HK cafe. That's exactly the reason why I have not been back. But, the coconut fried rice looks very interesting that I think I will go stop by this weekend.

        Melaine, any sign that they re-using the coconut shell?

        1. re: maoliu

          The coconut shell was pretty pristine. I suppose the outside husk could have been reshaved for a new surface. Also, I was scooped some of the coconut meat out of mine. If this was reused, the previous occupant hardly touched it. (g)