Duck Hunt: New King Restaurant

The first thing you see when you walk into New King Restaurant (actually, entrance is from the back door via their parking lot) is a window display of roast meats including roast pork, BBQ pork, and roast ducks.  
New King is located on one end of International Blvd., only a few blocks from Lake Merritt and serves a combination of Chinese and Vietnamese food. A close friend introduced me to this place about a year ago. She frequents the place often in the mornings to pick up a Vietnamese iced coffee. With a lot of choices in Oakland for Chinese or Vietnamese food, I have been drawn to New King more often in the past six to eight months.  
One day I was craving wonton noodle soup and discovered that New King makes a good one. You can select one or more of their roast meats hanging from their display as a topping. The plump wontons are filled with pork and shrimp. I found the wontons to be fresh and just the right size. The egg noodles also had the right texture. My topping was a delicious BBQ pork. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to savor the sauciness of the BBQ as much because it slowly melted away in my soup. 

My favorite noodle dish at New King is a Vietnamese dish called Hu Tieu Mi Nam Vang Kho, where the broth is served on the side. It comes with assorted sliced meats including some intestines as well as seafood. Topped with an abundant amount of cilantro, there are other deep flavors that meld together to make this dish wonderful. It’s nutty, garlicky, and kind of umami.  

If you look closely enough, there are two kinds of duck that hang on display. The first is the common Chinese roast duck. The other is a flattened duck called Peipa duck. I had never eaten Peipa duck before. Last Friday, I planned “Duck Day” for a small group of my colleagues. I bought the two ducks cut up, brought them back to the office, and we ate.  
Two liked the traditional roast duck (pictured on right) best and two liked the Peipa duck (pictured on left) best. The Peipa duck was a bit leaner and had a deep sweet flavor I enjoyed very much. Most importantly, the skin was crispy like what you would find on a Peking duck. One coworker found this one “gamey,” but that didn’t bother me. I did a Google search to find more information on the Peipa duck and interestingly enough, it was named after the Pipa, a Chinese guitar that is pear shaped. When the duck is cut open and flattened, it resembles this instrument.

Aside from flavor, I look for a crisp tight skin and juicy meat on a traditional roast duck and this one had both. I have enjoyed New King’s roast duck a few times now and I find that it is one of the best you can buy in Oakland.
I would be remiss not to mention the roast pork at New King. I bought a small sample and my colleagues devoured it. With its crackling skin, I can’t imagine anything better at that moment of consumption.


Italian Comfort: Lo Coco’s 

Restaurants in Oakland come and go and keeps me on my toes. There is a small Italian restaurant that sits on Piedmont Avenue in North Oakland that has been around for quite some time. Lo Coco’s is an authentic neighborhood restaurant that serves Sicilian style food.  

A couple of weeks ago, I was craving Lo Coco’s. My BFF was happy to join me. “Remember it’s cash only,” she said. I picked her up after visiting the ATM. Actually, you can write a check, but who carries around a check book anymore?  

For the two of us, we decided on getting a pasta dish and a pizza. We ordered the pappardelle pasta with porcini mushrooms. My BFF had tried ordering it before when it wasn’t available, so the desire to have it had grown. The scent of the mushrooms were intoxicating as the dish arrived. The pasta had the perfect level of creaminess and cook with a strong earthy flavor. It exceeded my expectations.
 My usual pizza at Lo Coco’s is #9, the Vesuvio, which is topped with pepperoni and green onions. The pizza crust is well cooked and chewy and the tiny crispy pepperoni and the chopped green onions offers a royal match. The leftover pizza I reheated in my toaster oven the next day tasted even better.
 We shared the special homemade chocolate cannoli for dessert which is hand packed with ricotta cheese. The cannoli was pretty good, but slightly grainy.  I have enjoyed much better on the East Coast. The other option for dessert is tiramisu which I’ll need to try next time. Nonetheless, Lo Coco’s is there to satisfy my cravings for Italian comfort food. Don’t forget to bring cash!

New Lun Ting Cafe: An Ode to my Father

I took some time off from writing for the past month after my father passed away. It was a much needed break. This post is dedicated to my dad who was born and raised in San Francisco. He was a product of San Francisco Chinatown. He worked and retired from the U.S. Postal Service. The route he was most proud to deliver mail to were the offices in the Transamerica Pyramid in the Financial District, a few blocks down from Chinatown.

My dad’s old watering hole was a dive bar called Red’s Place on Jackson Street in San Francisco Chinatown. I have never been to Red’s Place, but I am definitely curious and want to check out the scene one day. Right next door is New Lun Ting Cafe, a Chinese American restaurant that has been open since 1909, where my dad used to eat.
A few days after my dad passed away, my sister and I had lunch at New Lun Ting Cafe. The small restaurant seats patrons at three tables, four booths, and a countertop. We sat at one of the booths with red pleather benches. My attention was fixated at the older Chinese men who would drop in alone and plop themselves at a seat at the countertop.

We each ordered a rice plate which comes with a cup of vegetable soup and your choice of coffee or tea. I felt nostalgic like I was in an old diner pouring cream from the metal dispenser into my thick ceramic mug of coffee. I imagine my dad having multiple refills of coffee when he was here.

It was a busy lunch hour and our waitress thanked us for our patience. She brought us each a large potsticker on the house as an appetizer. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. The potsticker was nicely browned with a crisp and chewy skin and a juicy meaty filling.

One of our rice plates we ordered was oxtail stew. I love the Chinese American preparation of oxtail cooked with carrots in a tomato based gravy.

Our other rice plate was minced beef with peas and a raw egg in the center. It might not sound or look all that appealing, but when you mix it into the hot rice, it’s delicious and comforting. This is a plate my dad introduced me to when I was a kid.

Being one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco Chinatown, New Lun Ting Cafe is no doubt filled with lots of history as well as memories. I will keep the memories of my father in my heart. Rest in Peace, dad!