Monday, August 04, 2008

Won Kee : Milpitas

As my Dad lives nearby, I've gotten a chance to try Won Kee multiple times. I'm congloming all of our visits into and my overall thoughts on Won Kee into one uber-super-post.

In summary, this is a damn solid restaurant for Cantonese food. If I lived even a bit closer by, this would be one of my top 20 go-to places.

Bao yu gai jeuk - abalone chicken Their jeuk (zhou or rice porridge) have a thicker, but not overly thick consistency, meaning they've let the rice cook for a longer time. It also tastes like they don't just make bak jeuk (plain rice porridge) and just add their ingredients at the very end, but instead let their ingredients cook with the jeuk for awhile. I can't say this is close to the best, but it's a pretty good rendition.

Cup dai jeuk - Same goes for this.

Braised Beef Brisket with Noodle - niu lan mian (牛欄面) - A standard, but solidly done rendition of this noodle soup.

Fresh Shrimp with scallion soy sauce dip - This isn't too complicated of a dish to judge. The shrimp needs to be fresh and needs to come out while it's still hot. Check and check.

Drunken chicken with pickled jellyfish I really enjoyed this one. The chicken having been marinated in wine had a strong taste that you can really sink your teeth into. It also has a nice juicy tenderness. Combine this with the pickled, slightly spiced jellyfish, which has a wet crunchiness and you've got a lovely pair of distinct yet complementary ingredients. A very nice dish.

Suen yeung dow miu - garlic pea sprouts - Well done, tasty and using fresh vegetables, you can't ask for much more.

Steamed fish (Tilapia I believe). Julia Childs mentioned that asking for roasted chicken was one of the simplest way to determine whether a French restaurant was worth its salt. I think the equivalent for a Cantonese restaurant would be their steamed fish. The fish needs to be fresh and exactingly cooked (it should have a very clean and moist texture and not a meaty texture). And even with the soy sauce, scallions and sesame oil, the emphasis should be on the fish taste, as it again demonstrates how fresh the fish is. While I wouldn't say that the fish was super-duper fresh, it was fresh enough and the accompanying sauce really made me realize that I've still a long ways before I've perfected my own version of steamed fish.

Papaya Rice tapioca dessert - Their desserts vary from day to day. We've been given red bean soup and green bean soup as well, which were pretty solid as well, but this papaya rice tapioca dessert was I think the most surprising. I don't generally like papaya, especially when cooked, but this had a mild and slightly sweet flavor and together with the creme(?) was a nice variation of the usual rice tapioca desert.

Roast Duck - This was quite nice. It was a touch oily, but on the flip side, the duck was really succulent. The skin was very thin and slightly damply crisp. The duck was fairly trim, lacking the huge layers of fat you so often see, but when you did encounter a piece of fat, it was tremendously tender and creamy, which while I still don't really like eating fat made me better understand why those who do uhh do.

Fujian Fried Rice - Fujian style food is probably not Won Kee's forte (Cantonese is), but I was curious to try it out. I can't claim to know what good Fujianese (?) dishes taste like, but I'm guessing this is probably a Cantonese rendition of it. It certainly wasn't bad. The sauce was a bit lacking in personality, but did have hints of the baby scallops in the dish. All in all, I wouldn't order this again, but it's nice to at least have tried it.

All in all, I wouldn't say this is a destination restaurant, but if you find yourself in San Jose, Mountain View, or Fremont, I'd give a hearty recommendation.

Won Kee
206 Barber Ct
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 955-9666
Bonus Chowhound post
($Chinese, $Recommended, $San Jose)

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