The menu looks — at first glance — pretty bleak for vegetarians.
“Looks like you’re having the fresh vegetables with bean curd,” I said to my friend Daniel, who sat across the table from me as we tried to pick our lunch entrees at Full Kee.
The Chinese restaurant in High Point came well recommended, albeit by strangers, who noted my occasional griping about the lack of good Chinese food in Greensboro and urged me to come to High Point. Full Kee, the two readers wrote in emails about a year apart, is where it’s at.
Daniel, a vegetarian who grew up in High Point, hadn’t been before either, but he said on our drive over that he’d checked online and the menu boasted a vegetarian section. When we arrived and he didn’t see it on the lunch menu, he asked for the full menu.
No luck there, either. I’m not sure where he checked, but when I did my own search, I didn’t see a menu online anywhere.
But Full Kee is actually full of vegetarian options; you just have to ask. Daniel ordered the chef’s special orange beef lunch but subbed in tofu, and when he picked fried rice to go with it, our server was with it enough to check that eggs were okay.
Full Kee predates my arrival in the Triad a decade ago — the restaurant opened its doors in 2005. It’s doubled in size since then, according to Full Kee’s Facebook page, which now has a full bar and offers “a humble atmosphere.”
But this is no hole-in-the-wall takeout joint — though you can order carryout if you’d like. There are a few of those worth hitting in the area, my favorite being Golden Wok off of West Wendover Avenue not far into Greensboro, but most Chinese restaurants in the Triad are underwhelming. Full Kee is a full-on restaurant, about equal in size to the worthwhile Sampan Chinese in Winston-Salem but with more natural lighting and more thought put into the décor.
Some of the tables at Full Kee are bright red, decorated with “traditional good fortune inscriptions,” according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Even if you can’t read the characters, it makes for a more photogenic Instagram pic. And most of the other, larger tables feature rotund lazy Susans, ideal for a communal dining experience.
Forget long, wooden community tables where you crowd in next to strangers. Give me a circular table with a variety of entrees on a turntable in the middle any day.
I opted for the Szechuan-style shrimp, which comes with sautéed zucchini, green pepper, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and water chestnuts. Despite a star next to the menu item, it was more sweet than anything, enjoyable mixed with the rice that comes as part of the lunch special.
You want heat? Dip your complementary veggie egg roll in the mustard. It sucker-punched both Daniel and I in the face pretty damn hard. Otherwise, ask for more heat if that’s your aim, or Beyoncé it and bring some of your own.
Full Kee operates off Samet Road, right by the intersection of Eastchester and Wendover, near Carter Brothers BBQ and Sammy G’s Tavern (Greensboro and Winston-Salem residents: You need to try both these spots). Chef George Yu, who used to operate the Blue Diamond Restaurant in DC a few decades ago, moved to High Point and launched this family business back around the time Barack Obama first saw a national stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
And I have to agree with our two readers who independently reached out to sing its praises — Full Kee makes the grade.
We enjoyed a tasty and relatively quiet lunch that Wednesday, as other patrons came and went, never taking up more than a quarter of the restaurant’s dining room. I imagine it gets busier for dinner, especially on the weekends, when some come for the bar and others to unwind after the workweek. Maybe a few people even walk in before or after hitting the Egyptian hookah bar next door, or after church around the corner of the shopping center.
Full Kee isn’t as glitzy as 98 Asian Bistro, the best Asian restaurant in High Point I’ve tried, and if I’m looking to try a spicy Chinese dish I’ve never had before, I’m going to Captain Chen’s in northwest Greensboro. But Full Kee can hold its own, most closely matching Sampan or Greensboro’s Chinese Kitchen, and that’s a compliment.
Whether you’re looking for more common American Chinese restaurant fare like lo mein, egg drop soup and General Tso’s chicken or something harder to find such as ma po tofu, Szechuan-style pork and Hunan fish, it’s all here.
Visit Full Kee Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 3792 Samet Drive (HP) or find it on Facebook.