I first spotted Toon Kee in December on its first day of operation. It took over the space formerly occupied by New Hai Ky. I went in to ask if this was a new owner or just a new name. The female cashier said that it had new management, owners, cooks, and menu.
Interestingly, when I was next at Lam Hoa Thuan down the street, I asked one of the staff there about this. She laughed and said, “no, the same people.”
In any case I tried it twice with my mother and brother in recent months. Like its predecessor, the cooking is Cantonese/Teochew and Vietnamese with many noodle dishes, as well as a barbecue station at the front. Prices are rock-bottom, unusual for a new leaseholder, so maybe that’s a clue.
The first time, we tried the $22 set dinner shown here for four to five people.
$22 wo choy menu
There’s even an $18 set menu menu.
$18 wo choy menu
I asked the manager for assistance in translating the $22 menu for us, and he was happy to help. Here’s what we had.
Old fire soup, tofu and dried mustard greens – good intensity and clarity of flavor, well-skimmed of grease.
Salt poached chicken – made with a Vikon chicken (wai hong gai) and almost as good as Sam’s in Oakland, but cooked just a shade more, served with ginger oil paste.
Teochew style soy sauce duck with garlic vinegar dipping sauce – one of the best ones I’ve had in the area, less fat under the skin and nice complexity from the master sauce poaching liquid, tender and rich meat served on the bone, delicious with the dipping sauce. William and I liked this a lot, whereas Mom was lukewarm and preferred the chicken.
Beef and choi sum – simple stirfry with somewhat overtenderized beef and juicy choi sum with garlic,
Tofu claypot – delectable for its rich gravy, can’t remember whatall was in it other than various forms of dry and fresh tofu, whole garlic cloves and black mushrooms.
Steamed egg custard with live clams – silky custard was perfect but the clams in the shell were a little overcooked and rubbery.
All in all, this menu delivered good price to quality performance and a lot of food to take home with us.
On the return visit we ordered ala carte.
Lobster lo mein – listed on the wall, this was a good replacement for the inexpensive version at the now-closed Ocean on Clement with firm noodles, savory but slightly clumpier gravy with ginger and scallions, and a nicely cooked lobster.
Oyster omelet – the best dish we’ve had here, and a superlative version of a classic Teochew style oyster pancake with a puffy and crispy brown exterior yet still soft and moist inside with scallions, chunks of oyster, and chewies, served with fish sauce and a steak knife.
We’ve had one bad dish – water spinach with fermented shrimp paste (ong choi) that was so stringy and fibrous as to be inedible. After we’d paid the bill and the staff came by to box up our leftovers, I pointed out the problem in this uneaten dish. The manager took the offending plate back to the kitchen and there was a loud discussion. Then he gave us half a roast duck to take home to make amends. We were mightily impressed by this gesture, not seen often anywhere and especially not at this rock-bottom price point.
2191 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
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