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Friday, December 2, 2011

New Woey Loy Goey: Soup and a Mountain of Rice for Five Bucks

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 10:30 AM

New Woey Loy Goey, on Jackson and Grant. - JAVACOLLEEN/FLICKR
  • javacolleen/Flickr
  • New Woey Loy Goey, on Jackson and Grant.

Rice Plate Journal is a yearlong project to canvas Chinatown, block by block, discovering the good, the bad, and the hopelessly mediocre. Maximum entrée price: $10.

Finally emerging from the thicket of bakeries and butcher shops that surround the intersection of Jackson and Stockton, an entrepreneurial fairy ring it took me months to eat my way through, Rice Plate Journal has entered the block of Jackson between Grant and Kearney, one of the densest restaurant strips in the neighborhood. A month off from oversized steamed buns and overcooked siu mai! A relief. Finally, I descend the stairs to New Woey Loy Goey, a subterranean restaurant whose sign is so old it advertises chop suey.

At lunch, free stools along the counter that runs the length of the restaurant are rare, and the small restaurant is busy enough that the black-vested waiters dart from table to table, unable to exorcise the ghosts of previous meals that haunt the restaurant's largest tables. The restaurant is close enough to downtown to draw FiDi workers up the hill, and cheap enough to bring in tables of construction workers in scuffed baseball caps and thick canvas jackets. The white boards along one wall are covered in $4.50 lunch specials, translated in English on the back page of New Woey Loy Goey's menu.

New Woey Loy Goey's braised taro with Chinese bacon. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • New Woey Loy Goey's braised taro with Chinese bacon.

On both my visits, it takes me five minutes to catch a waiter's attention, first to get menus, then to place an order. But she always rushes back a few moments later with a pot of tea and a bowl of the house soup. Pork bones, swaths of fat and meat swirling around them, float in the thin, clear broth, as well as translucent cubes of daikon and dried bok choy leaves, now soft and earthy after simmering in the broth. 

There's an unvarnished appeal to the rice plates New Woey Loy Goey serves -- probably the most enjoyable I've eaten since hitting Yee's Restaurant two months ago: Fillets of sole (a splurge at $5.25) stir-fried with fronds of baby bok choy, slivers of fresh ginger hiding in the curls of the meat. A stew of taro and Chinese bacon that could sustain an extreme marathoner half the way to Sacramento. 

A dome of white rice towers over the entrees. Forkful by forkful, I carve it down to an uneven mound, but am unable to level it before giving up. Four-fifty's worth of rice plate is far too much for one person. 

New Woey Loy Goey: 699 Jackson (at Grant), 399-0733. Opens at 11 a.m. daily.

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