Restaurants & Bars

Superior Take-Out on Inner Clement

niki rothman | Jan 25, 200704:23 PM    

Wing Lee at 503 Clement is where it's at! I was in Kamei Housewares stocking up on my favorite Bee and Flower brand soaps (39 cents a bar!) and was in the mood to slack off from my housewifely duties by stocking up for the weekend with plenty of dim sum and Chinese take-out. So I asked the cashier where the best dim sum in the immediate area was. She enthusiastically directed me to Wing Lee on the south west corner of the block.

She was right! Wing Lee occupies 2 adjacent storefronts. One supplies the buffet take-out items, the other has the dim sum. I spent $28 and came away with almost more than I could carry. In other words, the prices are very fair. We ate all weekend and had enough for a few work lunches for my husband too. What distinguishes Wing Lee besides the low prices is that other vital variable: yes, the food is superior to other Chinese take-out joints I've patronized. Actually, I avoid Chinese buffet style take-out buffets in droves. The neon dyed sweet and sour is horrendous, and the chow mein is mostly starch and grease. "nuff said, you all know what I'm talking about.

So, what makes me say the buffet take out at Wing Lee was superior? Well, I've never seen sweet and sour pork without red dye before. Thank God! Somebody realized that red dye is a big drag. And it was delicious too. Not greasy with light crunchu coating and the pineapple & sauce had a subtle lemon flavor. There was a pan of what I only know of as yuba - delicious tofu skin in a rich dark sauce with vegetables. Two different roast chicken choices - one had 5 spice, the other was whole leg quarters. Both juicy and flavorful. There was a pan of saucy cauliflower - a veg. you never see at low end Chinese take-out parlors, and more vegetarian choices too. Roast ducks looked beautiful but I didn't buy any. I did buy salt and pepper shrimp for $6#. Just fine. Instead of the awful chow mein you usually see, Wing Lee featured chow me fun - thin rice stick noodles mixed with meats and veg. Excellent.

On the dim sum side of the operation I actually did something I've never done before: I asked to taste a har gow first before ordering, and that I'll recommend you do it too - because a few weeks ago I threw away about $15 on some rotting mushy har gow at "Happy" dim sum out on Irving in the 20's. Anyhow, Wing Lee's har gow may well be the best I've had. Really big with a lovely thick, yet tender rice dough. I don't usually like siu mai but Wing Lee's was excellent - bigger than you usually see, yet still at the standard 3 for $1.40 price. They had a clean, subtle sweetness with little chunks of rehydrated straw mushrooms adding a nice smokiness. Pot stickers also really big and fine. Custard tarts were top notch.

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