San Leandro Reviews
Summary: Good, fresh-tasting food at a good price, smallish portions. Mostly a take-out business.
We had heard good things about Little Namking for a while. It's a favorite restaurant of our friends Eddie and Arthur but it was getting an e-mail recommending it from a reader of my website that finally pushed us to go on a Saturday night in April 2005.
The little restaurant is mostly a take-out place, though it has four tables or so in front of its open kitchen. When we went there we were the only people having dinner - though I hear the place is popular with the lunch crowd - but there were several others waiting for "to go" orders. Delivery is also available. The view of the kitchen confirmed what our taste buds would soon tell us: that the food is freshly prepared by enthusiastic cooks (who like to play with fire).
The menu features standard Chinese dishes, but they have a large vegetarian selection and I'm told they go out of their way to make special tofu dishes for their patrons (the sweet & sour tofu is especially recommended). We decided to go for three old favorites: chicken chow mein, beef with broccoli and sesame chicken. Everything was good and fresh tasting, it all tasted like it had been made right then rather than been sitting under a heat lamp for hours (and, indeed, that's the case), but the flavors weren't as balanced as those in typical Chinese restaurants, though that may be a matter of not using MSG.
We liked that the pieces of sesame chicken did not have the look or texture of reconstituted chicken. The breading, however, was a little too thick for my taste, but we enjoyed the not-too-sweet sauce. I'd definitely order it again.
The beef with broccoli was good, the broccoli was very fresh though the beef had that mushy beaten up consistency that is so common with Chinese food. The sauce tasted strongly of soy sauce, which at first was a bit disconcerting but I later grew to like.
The chicken chow mein was probably the least successful of the dishes. It consisted mostly of regular spaghetti-like noodles in a sauce that also tasted mostly of soy sauce. The noodles were too al dente for my taste, and in any case I prefer thinner rice noodles. There were few vegetables mixed with them, which of course is a plus for me. Still, I wouldn't order it again.
The portions were on the small side, though we ordered three dishes and we weren't extraordinarily hungry, we still only had a few noodles leftover to take home. But as Little Namking's prices are on par with other Chinese restaurants and the quality of the ingredients/cuisine is clearly superior, I still think it's a good deal.
Little Namking also delivers (limited area) and I'm sure we'll be ordering soon.
695 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA 94577