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New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant -- amazing lobster with Cantonese (black bean / ginger) sauce [San Francisco]

Last night we stumbled into a basement restaurant in Chinatown -- New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant.

Looks like it has been there for a very long time.
I see only one or two mentions here on chowhound, both several years old.

I asked if they had any specialties, and the waiter pointed to the fish tank and said they did crab or lobster with a black bean sauce (or alternatively, I believe, ginger scallion). I asked if the black bean was the traditional cantonese sauce for lobster, and he said yes. So I decided to try the lobster cantonese.

This was my favorite dish as a child (only for special occasions, as it was expensive!), but I have not had it in a long time (decades!)

I've never tried it before anywhere in SF, so I have no idea whether I lucked out or whether other places in SF are this good. But this was absolutely amazing. One of my favorite things ever. The sauce had black beans, ginger, ground pork, chunks of onion and chunks of green pepper. It was amazingly flavorful, and the lobster was perfectly cooked and delicious. This was quite different from the more bland 1970s east coast counterpart that I remembered. But I have to say, even with the nostalgia factor, this was much better even than the dish I remember from my youth.

I am craving it again already and can't wait to go back.

Warning! It's pricey but IMO worth it. They charge $18 a pound, and mine showed up as $27 on the bill, so I guess it was a 1 1/2 pound lobster which sounds right for what I received.

Also, when the bill came it looked a bit high. The dishes added up right but the writing below that was cramped and messy. So I asked if the tip had been included, which would have made the grand total add up about right, and our waiter said yes, tip was already included. So watch out for this or you may end up double-tipping...

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  1. Pleased to have this update. Did you order anything else? I've heard that some of the Chinatown restaurants will add in the gratuity for anyone who looks like a tourist. So, yes, do check the bill carefully.

    This place is more than 80 years old. Here's more about Woey Loy Goey:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/19005
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/19329
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/45846
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/29877

    6 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks, Melanie. I'm curious since you seem knowledgable: Is this dish always so good? Do you know other places that do it particularly well? Part of me wants to try it at other places, part of me just wants to keep returning here.

      As for the tip, yes, I think they figured we were probably tourists. Clientele seemd to be about half locals (some big families) and half tourists. Perhaps when we return they will catch on...

      Yes, we also ordered:

      Dried scallop soup. This tasted kind of as expected. Kind of an old dried up fishy undertone which is pleasant or unpleasant depending on your perspective.

      Cantonese Fried Chicken. This was good. I am not a fan of fried chicken but I liked this. It seemed to have been prepared much like they might handle a duck. The fat had been kind of rendered out to make a nice crispy skin (no batter added like american style). They had also used some seasonings that made it kind of duck like and not like american style at all. I liked it.

      1. re: pauliface

        Great tip--- The Cantonese fried chicken was as you described it-- the fat was completely rendered out and left a crispy, albeit oily, skin and juicy meat. Comes with shrimp chips.

        For $9, this half a chicken was definitely worth it.

         
        1. re: hyperbowler

          Juicy meat is not common for this dish. The way this style of chicken is made typically is to start with the salt boiled chicken, the kind served with green onion-ginger oil condiment. It's cooked a second time by deep-frying to crisp up the skin. I love the skin but the meat, especially the white meat, is generally disappointing. I've been told that the secret is to do successive fry,-drain-fry steps so that the meat doesn't get overcooked., but not every kitchen takes the time.

          And for pauliface, sorry, I haven't ordered lobster Cantonese for ages and couldn't tell you where else to go.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            This is unfortunate. When I was a child in Hong Kong, juicy (even white) meat with thin crispy skin was the default. In upscale restaurants, they were (and still are) supposed to cook the chicken by laboriously pouring hot oil over a hanging chicken to cook the meat as well as crisp up the skin, without ever dunking the chicken in any water or oil. It was often debated whether upscale restaurants would use a live (instead of fresh/refrigerated or even frozen) chicken for their Cantonese fried chicken, with the understanding that a steamed chicken dish would always (but perhaps not nowadays) start from a live chicken.

            This kinda reminds me of how sticky rice is supposed to be stir-fried nonstop for 20-30 minutes from scratch. But virtually everyone these days just starts from cooked rice and stir-fries for a few minutes to finish.

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        My Dad use to take me and my siblings there as kids. Use to call it the Basement place. Looks like they cleaned it up a bit. :)

        1. FWIW, my Dad took me there when we visited in the early 70's. We went because his business associates took him there in the early 60's!

          1. Thanks for the detailed description of the sauce!

            There are a few East Coasters here who decry the difficulty in finding East-Coast-style "shrimp in lobster sauce" (sauce used for lobster, not sauce made from lobster) which does not include black beans or onions and peppers; this lobster sauce is clearly the West Coast version.

            1. Woey Loy Goey he'ped keep my body and soul together in the early '60s with its 10 cent baked pork buns. Here's an amusing anecdote which highlights the role it played for the Beat generatkion:

              http://goo.gl/r4xfg

              2 Replies
                1. re: soupçon

                  How white of those old beats! Probably got along well with Officer Jack Manion. Haha, what great guys!

                2. Great report. Reading your description of the lobster made me really hungry.

                  Also pretty cool that this place has been open for more than 80 years. How many tables are in the restaurant?