House of Chin Fe - Familiar Tastes in Brand New Digs
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
It had been a few years since I had eaten at the House of Chin Fee...in fact, I wasn't even the Food Guy when I was there last. I remember that I really liked the Shrimp Egg Foo Young. I recall having Saimin, and Pork Chow Mein, because they had that special taste and texture that comes from home-made noodles. My other visits have been obscured by time (House of Chin Fee originally opened in 1962) and I probably had my first meal in 1974 or thereabouts. There weren't a lot of places then and that was a place for what we considered good old-fashioned home-cooked Chinese.
I don't even know why the name was spelled Chin Fee since the founder's name was Chin Fe...I guess somewhere someone wanted to make sure that the "e" sound wouldn't end up with an "ay" sound, like the e in "saute". I do know that in recent years I didn't frequent the old restaurant since it had become rather dilapidated, and I was so busy reviewing other restaurants that were in better physical shape or just newer that I didn't take the time. In its previous state, this long-time Anigua eatery posed a bit of a quandary for me, since there were some good menu items to recommend, but not a particularly good environment. The new House of Chin Fe, with its contemporary design, attractive and spacious dining room featuring comfortable seating, and plenty of parking outside, removed any reservations I previously had about recommending it.
House of Chin Fe's owner is Ed Wong, who took over running the restaurant in 1984. He started construction on this new, expansive structure nearly a year ago last November and they held a soft opening on September 23. They have retained the same old Chinese favorites such as Shanghai Fried Rice ($6.95 which we tried), Chop Suey, Chow Mein, a family of soups, Shrimp with Broccoli, Beef with Bell Peppers, and Sweet & Sour Pork, to name a few and expanded the menu to include American standards. You will now find Steaks and Chops, Country Style Chicken, Burgers and Sandwiches. Ed has also has added a breakfast menu with a "Build Your Omelette" section. You can order Pancakes, Waffles, and even French Toast, and can expect sides such as Portuguese Sausage, Chamorro Sausage, Corned Beef Hash, and Sausage Patties. For the heartier appetites, you can order a Sirloin Steak & Eggs or Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs, both $7.50.
We finally went to dinner this week and decided to try both East and West, so we had Honey Walnut Shrimp ($9.95), Wonton Mein Soup ($6), Shanghai Fried Rice ($6.95), and T-Bone Steak ($14.50). We'd ordered Oolong Tea from our server Michelle, who was really quite attentive and spent the night making sure we were fine. The Honey Walnut Shrimp had a lot of glazed walnuts that took up one side of the plate. The thick battered shrimp were pretty good and the sauce was light and not overly-laden with mayonnaise, as is the case with most Honey Walnut Shrimp dishes. The portion was ample.
The Shanghai Fried Rice really impressed me since all of the meat ingredients were over-sized! They did not skimp on the shrimp, which were served in big chunks that looked as big as the chicken pieces that were blended throughout with green peas, eggs, and pork. I still prefer May's for taste, but Chin Fe's ingredient portions are larger. The T-Bone came on a big platter (it makes that steak look smaller) with crisp steamed broccoli and a mound of steamed rice. I had asked that the steak be cooked medium, and that's how it came. The grill marks and overall appearance of the steak indicated that it was cooked by someone who knew what they were doing. The steak was satisfactory, and didn't really need any steak sauce. I did ask for some vinegar finedene, which proved to be ideal for this steak...in fact, I dipped every bite...that's how much I liked it!
The Wonton Mein Soup had that familiar savory broth, with sliced green onions and char siu pork. The noodles had that home-made texture that you don't get at other restaurants. The won tons were home-made and the taste was not what my companion was used to so she didn't really like these. The broth, though, had a fresh, natural flavor, and made without MSG.
I've heard good things about their Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers which are priced at $4.85....a B.L.T. is only $3.75, with the Grilled Cheese and Egg Sandwiches going for $2.50. You can go local with Beef Kelaguen ($11.75), Chicken Adobo ($9), Pork Adobo ($8.75), Lechon ($9.75), Pancit Canton ($8.50), and Fried Tilapia ($7.50). They do offer daily lunch specials for $7.95, and this week they had a choice of Combination Pancit, Chicken Curry, Beef Broccoli, or Short Ribs, which includes a bowl of house fried rice and a choice of soup or salad.
House of Chin Fe is a restaurant for the people, and I mean all types of people! While we dined, we saw many ethnic groups and ages dining. The price is right and so is the taste...that's what 40 years of restaurant experience will do for you. This new location accommodates more people and welcomes everyone. You can come in here without feeling intimidated and sit back in zori, short and t-shirt and eat to your heart's content.
In some respects, the new House of Chin Fe is a work in progress. I realize that they are still training new staff and have a few more areas to address, such as dessert, which I believe is an expectation for the Western appetite. Nonetheless, with so many years of successful operation through good times and bad, this is a restaurant that's built to last with a legacy and tradition of serving hearty meals at affordable prices.
House of Chin Fe is open weekdays from 11am-11pm, and 8am-12 midnight on weekends. Breakfast is served anytime. For take-out, call 472-6135. One thing I noticed is that people were coming in to the House of Chin Fe to dine-in, not to take-out. The new location has that "new car" look and feel, and families and friends just like coming into a place clean and comfortable. It's a place where they can feel better from just being there, and I consider that to be a really good thing!