A block away from the bustling commercial hot spot of South San Francisco (Yes, that Costco on El Camino and Hickey), there’s this little restaurant in an unassuming strip mall. There use to be a D’s (or DS) market right next to the restaurant, and they had easy access to their seafood tanks; unfortunately they were replaced by a cleaner Grocery Outlet (that lacks a seafood deapartment…). You wouldn’t assume too much from this restaurant, just your typical Chinese-American cuisine, but my folks just found out that they had a recent management change.
We have never actually gone to the original restaurant, but talking with the waiters, they claim they are from the past KL Restaurant (Ah Yee Leng Tong) in SF (Balboa and 45th). There are two menus in the restaurant, one more for the Americanized-Chinese dishes and a separate one page menu with assorted Chinese dishes (they even have Shanghai dumplings though I haven’t tried it). However, unlike the past restaurant, they do not have any double boiled soup if you sit down and eat–you need to preorder them. Intrigued, I decided to give it a shot this past weekend.
My folks went with the double boiled soup that had coconut, chicken, and pork as their main ingredients. I often forget how many items goes into a double boiled soup, but wow that’s a lot of bits. Coconut wasn’t really soft but had a nice chew (great if you love coconut). With a dash of soy sauce, the meat was okay, but honestly most of the good bits have been strained out already!
Steamed for who knows how long, the ingredients eventually gets distilled into this rather clear liquid. The soup had the savory chicken and pork background with coconut essence. Hit the spot in this chilly weather. I don’t actually know the full list of soups that they actually do, talking with the waiters, they do a wintermelon soup and a double boiled sea whelk soup. Two soups that I’m especially fond of, so I’ll definitely try that next.
Following our soup, we ordered an ox tail claypot with red wine. The dish was okay, as the ox tail was quite tender. However, the sauce was a little on the sweeter side and there were more potatoes than I expected.
My folks actually ate here twice before I actually tried it out, but they liked their pan fried oysters with green beans (I can’t recall if it was called Szechuan style or Typhoon shelter). The relatively large oysters had a crispy exterior and juicy interior. Coupled with the savory bits of pork and the slight spiciness of the peppers, it was a very delicious dish.
After the oysters, we ordered the five taste chicken. According (and suggested) by the waiter, they use long kong chicken. Diced up, with a good bit of herbs and spices, the chicken was was cooked fairly well, not too dry (except the breast meat). I can only really detect three distinct flavors/aromas with the leeks giving a great smell. There was a hint of spiciness, a little sour, and mostly savory. I think there a hint of basil, but just overcoming a cold, I think you’re better off asking someone else for the full flavors.
Ah the veggie dish was a bit of a surprise. We ordered the large snow pea leaves with superior broth and hey it comes with pork and shitake mushrooms as well. The pork might look a little dry, but in fact, it was tender and had seemed to absorb the superior broth. The large pea leaves were not stringy at all! A nice surprise.
Lastly, we preordered a black bass for our meal (there aren’t really any tanks in this place). I was also sitting the furthest away from the waiter so uh… you get the chopped up and ready to serve fish photo… At any rate, the fish was fairly well done, but I think it was steamed just a little bit too long (maybe a half a minute earlier would’ve been the difference maker). In any case, the middle thicker portion of the fish was great, but the thinner ends were a little bit cooked.
There wasn’t really any dessert soups (we could have asked for fortune cookies I guess).
Overall, a very satisfactory meal with a quite respectable bill (I recall around $130 after tax). Highlights of the meal included the soup, oysters, and superior stock veggies with the low point being the ox tail. Note, if you want any seafood items and/or double boiled soups you have to call ahead.