Xee Yoo 8614 North 107th Street

This did not look promising.

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But then again, Milwaukee’s culinary scene has its surprises.

Xee Yoo is one of them.

I entered with arrogant trepidation; as it turned out, such an attitude was uncalled for. The curried fried rice was superb. For many years I have been searching for a reputable version of the type of Americanized fried rice I grew up with (in the mid 60’s) at the long-gone New China Cafe on Colfax Avenue and Clarkson Street in Denver. The first forkful of this dish at Xee Yoo conjured up the ghost of the New China’s propriator, Mr Herbert Wong, and memories of the restaurant’s velveteen and tasseled menu that seemed, to my ten-year-old eyes, to be an artifact from Marco Polo’s luggage:

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This restaurant (and my initial unfounded attitude to it) reminds me of an embarrassing incident from my musical past.

Many years ago a friend came to a chamber music party mistakenly bringing, instead of the Haydn we had planned to play,  an edition of the complete string quartets of Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf.   I had a scene.  I have long since apologized  for how I behaved that night. “Ditters von Dittersdorf…how could you?  This will be miserable music. There is a reason why no one plays his stuff.” And on and on.

I was wrong. Dittersdorf’s music was superb. His quartets were like Xee Yoo’s fried rice. Damned good.

Its a long drive from Glendale to 107th Street, but not as long as it is to The New China Cafe on Colfax and Clarkson in Denver.  The New China is no longer there.  It was torn down in the 70’s and replaced  by a liquor store.  Mr. Wong is gone as well;  lovingly carried  off by a parliament of velveteen tasseled menus  to where Marco Polo is.   But Xee Yoo and the quartets of C. D. von Dittersdorf are very much still here.  The restaurant is across town; the music is, no doubt,  to be found somewhere on the internet.

I plan on revisiting both of them soon.

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3 thoughts on “Xee Yoo 8614 North 107th Street

  1. Hi Jonathan–

    I am Herb Wong’s granddaughter. Here are some fun facts for you:

    My grandfather’s first cooking job in America, as a teenager, long before he opened the New China, was in Milwaukee.

    Back in the day, there were only a few Asian restaurant suppliers which is why mid-century Chinese restaurants have such a consistent look, sometimes down to the typos on the menus.

    Although they are fast friends in the afterlife, Grandpa Wong thinks Mr. Polo overcooks the noodles.

    • Greetings to you Mr. Wong’s Granddaughter! My apologies for the late response. I had given up on my blog and thus hadn’t checked recently for any correspondence.

      Thank you many times over for you kind and witty note. But more than that…thank you for allowing me to write to a descendent of a person who was to me in turn fascinating and gracious. I know it is now an over-used word….but your grandfather was an “iconic ” figure in my childhood world. I adored the times we spent in the NEW CHINA CAFE. This was because of Herbert Wong. He never failed to amble over to our table and chat. Menu suggestions, of course, but an occasional nugget would season his conversation; an unexpected conversation detour that subtlety alluded (the gears of my young and provincial mind whirring ) to exotic and mysterious landscapes and histories; locations far away from that bleak part of Capitol Hill.

      Your grandfather’s shrimp friend rice was inimitable. I still haven’t (after half a century of searching) found anything to match it. But he gave me more than fried rice. He urged me, as I looked out upon the bleak and tawdry neighborhood of East Colfax Avenue, to see distant and alluring places. May he rest in peace.

      With gratitude,

      Jonathan

      P.S. The delicious serendipity that your grandfather started out his American life in Milwaukee is not lost on me. Since I myself am a resident of the place, my next project is to see if I can locate his old restaurant. If I have any luck, you will be the first know. If you have any information that would help my research, don’t hesitate to sent it on to this gastronomic detective.

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