Hualien's Tai Kee Won Ton in San Jose?
- Melanie Wong Dec 17, 2008 05:37 PM
Wondering if any 'hounds can offer a first hand report on the newish Tai Kee Won Ton in San Jose? It's a branch of the chain from Hualien, Taiwan that was established in 1928. The restaurant shares the strip mall with Ramen Halu. A notice is posted in the window says "The previous president of Taiwan, Gin-Kor Jiang, had been to this restaurant for more than eight times and admired the great taste of wonton soup. Tai Kee is a very famous restaurant in Taiwan and is very successful in wonton soup business due to its unique recipe for making flour skin and delicious stuffing for its wonton."
Tai Kee Won Ton
375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
One of the reliable reports is from tanspace's website:
Looks like a pass unless they have improved. I will say that the past couple of times when I've gone to Ramen Halu for lunch on a Friday and Saturday, the TaiKee Wonton place hasn't been packed.
I have a theory why that place won't do well in the SF Bay Area, but if the food just sucks (as yelp seems to say) then it doesn't really matter.
Yes, thanks, I'd already read tanspace's report and had added a link to the Places record a couple weeks ago. But that piece was from six months ago and a lot can change in that time at a new place like this one. I've also looked at other reports, but so many other sources don't know their wonton from a hole in the ground and are so lacking in specifics that they're not much help. It's easy to search the net and find lots of chaff that's worthless info.
I posted here because I'm looking for a different perspective, the opinions of chowhounds who are part of this community. I really would like to hear from chowhounds who might have tried it and/or encourage someone to give it a go.
For those that live closer to the Peninsula and northward, and if Redwood City is any closer to any of you, try the Yi-Lan style wontons at Formosa Bento House, either in soup, or in soup with noodles. If the style of wontons and the broth appeal to you here then try Tai Kee. Yi-Lan county is just north of Hualien and both are Eastern Taiwan (central and north side), but then again we're talking "in the US" not Taiwan.
Look for it on the specials menu placard (not the regular menu)
I'm going to take a guess that if anyone grew up with or are accustomed to Cantonese shrimp or shrimp and pork wontons, you will not enjoy the Taiwanese kind as much or at all. The Taiwanese version should be plumper than the Sichuan style spicy wontons as reference but not as plump as Cantonese won tons. The broth plays an even more important role here. If not done right, you end up with an imbalance to the experience.
I tried the won ton soup today along with the House Special dried noodle (Combo E1 for $8.99). I think tanspace's report is still accurate as I found the broth to be quite bland, and without the fried shallot & diced celery garnish, just barely flavored water.
The won tons themselves had a nicely thin skin, very silky mouthfeel but the pork filling was on the bland side. I'm no won ton expert, but I thought the filling was pretty tender, with just the slightest bite to it. Four won tons come with the small bowl in the combo.
I enjoyed the House Special dried noodle, and noticing the uneven widths and slight chewiness of the noodles, I asked if they were handpulled. The server said they were part handpulled, and part machined pulled. They weren't as chewy as the noodles at QQ Noodle in Fremont, but I still liked their texture enough to comment. The bowl came with a generous amount of ground pork and some fatty pork pieces, in a subtly spiced dark brown sauce/broth. I only detected some slight anise notes, and not much else, so more of a homemade style of cooking.
I'm not sure how important the broth is to won ton soup, but if it matters at all you'll likely be disappointed. I thought it was a nice change of pace from my usual high sodium Pho and Hu Tieu lunches. Since I enjoyed their noodles, I might come back to try a couple of their other combo orders (good value). The spicy noodle and the sesame one caught my interest.
I just had the beef noodle soup today and thought it was pretty bad. The noodles were standard, the soup was flavorless, and the beef was tough, completely bland, and without any fat or tendon! I was not expecting something similar to what you get at Yung Kang Beef Noodle 永康牛肉麵 in Taipei, but I had expected something better than what I had. I was so disappointed.
I also had the wontons and thought they were okay. The broth however was completely flavorless. Then again I'm no expert on these types of wontons so I can't really comment on what they are supposed to taste like.
I also had the fried popcorn chicken and thought it was okay. I liked the basil but wished they added the garlic bits the way they do it at 永亨鹹酥雞 on 永康街 in Taipei. It makes such a difference.
I also got a stewed pork rice 滷肉飯 to go but haven't tried it yet.