Last weekend, my girlfriend and I ventured into Binondo, Manila. For those who don’t know, it is actually the oldest Chinatown in the whole world! This old city is home to hundreds of shops and is of course also littered with restaurants and food shops offering Chinese cuisine. One of them is the Chuan Kee Restaurant, where we had our dinner.
Actually, we were looking to eat at a different cafe named Cafe Mezzanine. After ordering our food, we found the plates branded with “Chuan Kee Restaurant.” After we ate, we realized that the cafe we were supposed to eat at was at the 2nd floor! But we had no regrets because the food tasted good and we feel we spent a fair price for the meal.
Read on to find out about our experience with this Chinese Restaurant!
Chuan Kee Restaurant is located in the corner of Ongpin St. and Quentin Paredes St. and is one of the first food places you’ll see after entering Chinatown. It’s a small space and can get easily crowded during meal time, but offers a very clean and well-lit interior. Outside they display pictures of the food to tempt passersby.
They have an open entrance but the inside is air conditioned, which is well-appreciated by us after walking all afternoon in the heat.
If you don’t check the menu first, it would look like a canteen with food displayed behind glass counters and plain tables and chairs. But once seated, you will be given a menu to check the extensive offerings of meat, seafood, noodles, and etc. There are also menus available at the cashier area.
By the way, this restaurant is put up by the same family who runs Eng Bee Tin, the popular Chinese snacks store. Because of this, we were listening to their very catchy theme song for the duration of our stay. Even now, I can still hear the song playing in my head sometimes that makes me crave for some of their hopia. In fact, they have an Eng Bee Tin store connected to the restaurant, which is a good strategy because people can easily get desserts and pasalubong.
There are so many choices in their menu that I would have not been able to decide what to get if not for the recommendation of other blogs. We went for the Liempo, Canton, and Fried Chicken.
Pork Liempo + Kiampong
The Pork Liempo is absolutely delicious, but the dish was served a bit colder than expected. Like they forgot to microwave it. Still, it didn’t take away from the taste. The skin was a bit tough but undeniably crispy while the meat is tender. There is just the right amount of fat so you can feel and taste it in your mouth, but not so much that it’s oily. The sauce is salty-sweet and a little gooey, again because it was not heated enough. The serving should be enough for two people.
We ordered this together with Kiampong, which is flavored rice. It tastes good actually, with a mild flavor like adobo rice but it was quickly overpowered by the taste of the Liempo. I would suggest just ordering plain rice to enjoy your meal.
We were also given a clear soup with onion chives. It’s not something to write about my girlfriend says it was the best thing she had on our meal (I didn’t get why).
We ordered Fried Chicken because it was also one of the recommended items in their menu. The waitress told us that there would be 6 pieces of it but when it was served, we actually had 7 pieces. A pleasant surprise!
It came in a neat little basket, and unlike the pork liempo, was piping hot when it arrived. This Chinese-style fried chicken tastes similar to the one offered in Chowking, but the Chuan Kee Restaurant version somehow tastes more ‘authentic’ and has a milder flavor. The skin was so crunchy and holds most of the flavor of the spices while the meat is very tender and juicy. I didn’t like the gravy too much because it tastes sweet, almost like Mang Tomas Sarsa. I just partnered the chicken with the Canton.
Since there were only 2 of us and 7 pieces of chicken, we inevitably had leftovers which I took home. When we ate it the next day, the crispiness was gone but the flavor is very much intact and did not need to be reheated before eating.
I’m pretty sure that by now, everyone has heard that noodles can give you a long life. Don’t expect this to be true with Lucky Me Pancit Canton because those noodles have preservatives and other unnatural ingredients. The Chuan Kee Restaurant version should be much healthier because it has fresh ingredients. It actually has a mild taste, with more flavor being contributed by the toppings that consisted of steamed shrimp, Chinese kikiam, squid balls, and some veggies. The sauce is a little thin but it was just the right amount to go with the noodles.
One order should be enough for 3 or maybe even 4 people. I ate 3/4 of our order so after we ate, I felt very bloated that I almost wanted to let some of the food out! Watch what you eat!
Almost right after we sat down, a waitress quickly went to our table to hand out the menu. We were a little pressured with ordering because she stood there silently, waiting for us to say what we want. That aside, we had a very normal service from the crew. I guess one good thing about the small space of the restaurant is the easiness to get the attention of the servers if we ever needed something.
There was also a lot of the staff moving around so everything is taken care of; dirty dishes are taken care of at once, and not a single table was waiting too long for service.
And that concludes our visit!
To be honest, I don’t have a reason to go back to Binondo after our less than stellar tour around the area. Aside from the restaurants, there weren’t a lot to see in there and the tricycle fares feel like a ripoff. But in the slight chance that we might visit again with my family, Chuan Kee Restaurant will be one of my recommendations for their affordable yet enjoyable food.
How about you? What are your thoughts on Chinese cuisine? Share with me on the comments below!
650 Ongpin Street
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