Thursday, February 17, 2011

Full Kee - Gallery Place 2/9/2011

Full Kee
509 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Located in the neighborhood formerly known as Chinatown, Full Kee is a holdover from the pre-Verizon/MCI/soulless telecom conglomerate Center era. While the restaurant is not as whimsically named like its neighbors, such as Wok n' Roll and New Big Wong, it is one of the few remaining Chinese restaurants in the area that still attempts to prepare a semblance of non-Americanized Chinese food.

While it has several species of roasted fowl hanging in the window, it isn't really a "hole in the wall" Chinese restaurant. It has several rooms and is actually fairly spacious inside. Since I was with a relatively large group and we were seated at a table with a lazy susan, one of those circular trays which allow you to spin different platters of food around the table, we decided to share our entrees family style.

The menu is fairly Cantonese, although there are many Americanized dishes intermingled in the selection, so you have to know what to order. For appetizers, I ordered crab rangoon with duck sauce, an Americanized dish, while others ordered steamed dumplings and a corn soup. The crab rangoon was as expected: a delectable fried wonton stuffed with cream cheese and very little imitation crab, just as I like it. The duck sauce however was obnoxiously cloying even for duck sauce. I didn't get to try the steamed dumplings, but people at the table seemed to enjoy them. I also tried the corn soup, which was basically egg drop soup with some kernels of corn tossed was extremely bland and forgettable.

We also ordered several dishes for entrees. I ordered the eggplant "casserole" with minced chicken and salt fish, which I thought was well prepared. The eggplant was steaming hot and the protein acted as accompaniments rather than the main players. Nonetheless, I thought it was well-seasoned and harmonious and would order it again. Someone else ordered a white fish dish with peppers and onion which was also quite tasty. The sauteed snow pea leaves were serviceable, if a little bland and undistinguished. It could have used a little garlic.

The peking duck was also well done. The skin was crispy and the meat moist, and when wrapped in the pancakes, worked beautifully with the earthy, tangy hoisin and the brightness of the green onions.

The Americanized dishes were a bit more mixed. The barbecue pork dish was nauseatingly cloying. The sauce tasted like corn syrup and tomato paste, though the pork was pleasantly crispy, I suppose. The shrimp with walnut in mayonnaise was far more successful, and really good. It did a better job balancing the sweetness with the savory and was probably one of my favorite dishes of the day.

All in all, if you want authentic Chinese food, you are better off trying to find something in either Fairfax or Rockville. Those restaurants are far more consistent and inexpensive (though they tend to be either Taiwanese or Sichuan, and not Cantonese). But, if you are in Gallery Place and you want to try some Chinese food, Full Kee isn't the worst option. At least it hasn't transmogrified itself into a Panda Express.

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