Tai Kee Won Ton (戴記扁食) in San Jose

Tai Kee Won Ton is a new Taiwanese restaurant that hails from the eastern Taiwan city of Hualien, near the tourist area of Taroko Gorge. The original shop in Hualien was supposedly famous for it’s “bian shi” or wonton soup. When this place opened a couple of months ago, I was excited at the prospect of another place nearby which served Taiwanese xiao chi (小吃 or small eats) such as won tons and noodles.

The place is located a few doors down from Ramen Halu near San Jose / Santa Clara border. It is a fairly large space, especially for a casual dining place. The interior are all new and has two flat panel TVs showing satellite TV shows from Taiwan.

First up was the wonton soup (餛飩湯) itself. There were exactly 10 wontons in a bowl with light soup. The soup is very important in a wonton soup since it is always a clear broth, so the flavor really has to stand out to be noticeable. However, the soup here lacked any sort of character nor the freshness of high quality chicken stock.

The wonton’s pork filling was not as tender as it should be. Even worse was that it lacked any real flavor. The bland taste of the wonton and the soup makes this an average bowl of wonton soup at best. Definitely not enough to carry the name of the restaurant on.

Next came the fried ribs noodle (排骨酥麵). This is a common noodle dish in Taiwan, with braised pork ribs coated in batter and deep fried to golden brown. The noodle here seems to be homemade and was cooked el dente.

Here, however, instead of fragrant fried ribs, the flavor is of oiliness and greasiness. Somehow they did not deep fry this properly. The meat on the ribs was also tough. The soup also tasted somehow like cleaning solution.

After two bad showings, finally the braised pork hock (滷豬腳) arrived. Fortunately, this was braised nicely and the flavor was good. The meat and the tendon were also tender. The only minus was that some hair were not cleaned thoroughly.

Last up was the Yan Su Ji (鹽酥雞) or Taiwanese popcorn chicken. This was also decent, and the major plus was that there were actually fried basil in it. Most of the places that serve this popular Taiwanese snack in America skip the fried basil, but it is one of the signature ingredients in the Taiwan version and gives that special flavor.

It’s hard to recommend Tai Kee Won Ton based on the showings here. Even its signature item, the wonton soup, was not up to par. Also it is pricey at $6 for 10 wontons. I think they’re following the price-point model of the Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung. But it does not taste good enough to warrant that price.

Perhaps some of the non-wonton items may be worth exploring further. And it is a positive that another Taiwanese restaurant is open now in the south bay. But in order to survive with the high price levels, they have to improve their signature won ton soup and other noodle dishes, or else even the former Taiwanese president, Mr. Jiang Jing-Guo cannot save them.

Tai Kee Won Ton (戴記扁食)

375 Saratoga Ave
Unit H & J
San Jose, CA 95129

(408) 244-8886

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7 Responses

  1. That is too bad the flavor wasn’t there in the wontons, the soup looks soo good!

  2. My favorite thing about this post, is that you list the number of wontons in the bowl. That is of critical importance to me too!

    Also, I am always on the hunt for good Taiwanese food. It is unfortunate that this place wasn’t great, but that means we can keep looking and eating for one that is good!

  3. tanspace says:

    Johnna, the soup looked good, with the signature Taiwanese soup flavor enhancer – the fried onion bits – but somehow it wasn’t enough to make it tasty.

    PE, Yes, normally I wouldn’t worry about the number of wontons, but at this price point and the disappointing taste, I had to bring it up for comparison with other “similar” dumpling type food.

  4. judzzy says:

    I was disappointed with the food too, especially the wonton soup. I went back for the second time and the food was still bland and greasy….. 🙁

  5. tanspace says:

    That’s too bad, after this much time they’re still not good? Did their menu change or have any other good items worth going for?

  6. ShangDong DaHan says:

    I visited this place twice. The first time it was packed when it was newly opened. On my most recent visit, the place was nearly empty. I really don’t care much about the wonton. It reminds me of the taste of 貢丸.

    When I visited HuaLian last year, I saw the original Tai Kee there, but I was too afraid to try it. It was on a 2nd floor and the place was kind of dark and dingy. A lot of small restaurants in Taiwan are like that. The owner’s family sits there eating dinner and watching TV. I always feel awkward and intrusive to walk in on them.

  7. Cat says:

    The wonton soup strikes me as more Shanghainese than Taiwanese… and how’s braised pork knuckles Taiwanese? My northern Chinese mom made that all the time when I was growing up.

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