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Great Chinese San Francisco


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I had Dim Sum at Koi Palace on Thursday on reccomendations of a co-worker -- really classy, clean dim sum restaurant, pretty much all the items we had were top notch. Pristine bathrooms, huge tanks of healthy looking fish and shellfish out in front. Long wait to get into the place (30 mins +) during lunchtime even though the place seats probably around 800 people -- and it was PACKED.

In my estimation probably the best Hong Kong style dim sum I have ever had. Definitely a place I will return to.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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OK - here's my rundown on Chinese places in San Fran:

Koi Palace: This is the place where Chinese families go for graduations, weddings, etc. - it is *quite* good (dim sum as well as seafood, from about 30,000 gallons worth of live fish tanks with exotic fish from all over the world - you pay by the pound and they make suggestions on how to prepare). It is also *quite* expensive - only for special occasions...

Brandy Ho - this place is for tourists in the chinatown/north beach area. If you want to do the tourist thing, be my guest, otherwise, there are better places to go -

House of Nanking - tourist of Nanking...

Here's a rule of thumb: if you look into a Chinese restaurant and only see white people in there, that's a good bet that it's a tourist trap, or a place that is designed for "Americanized" Chinese food -

Ton Kiang - good for dim sum, but there is better (and cheaper)

Lychee Garden - this place rocks! It's on Powell (near Broadway). I found out about it from a Chinese friend - her dad was in town and is into finding good places to eat. This is the real deal - down to the fact that no one really speaks English. Just point and eat. And don't be surprised when you spend less that $10 per person to stuff yourself silly...

Yank Sing - the place to go if you are intimidated by a place where no one speaks English - good - a standby

Shanghai Dumpling Shop - the best Shanghai dumplings I've had outside Shanghai. In the middle of nowhere, though, in a primarily residential neighborhood.

Jasmine Tea House - I thought this was going to be "my place" - they even have a photo of them standing with Bill Clinton (that's how they got on the map, by the way) - but unfortunately, they use MSG there. MSG is a neurotoxin, and I don't go anywhere that it's used. It gives me headaches. If you go to JTH and get a headache, don't complain to me...

R&G - never been there. But it sounds pretty good.

Due to the migration of Chinese people out of chinatown and out to the burbs, and other areas of the city, the best places are usually not in or near downtown. In the city, check Irving Street (west of 19th Ave), Clement St (tons of places there - all authentic), or Cupertino (about 40 miles south of San Fran) - on Wolfe Rd, just off of 280 is a shopping center with all Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. places. Good food.

That's my synopsis of the Chinese food scene here in San Francisco.

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stu@tasteecheese.com

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Brandy Ho - this place is for tourists in the chinatown/north beach area. If you want to do the tourist thing, be my guest, otherwise, there are better places to go

Perhaps, but I quite enjoy going there as a single diner. I wouldnt typify the cuisine as touristy though, its authentically Hunan, which is in short supply in SF.

Welcome to the site and thanks for supporting us!

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I get Ton Kiang delivered at home at least a couple of times a week. A decent range of dim sum is available 10 am to 10 pm -- and it's better of course if you go there. Their steamed dumplings of any kind are wonderful, as are their soups and housemade sauces.

Any of their whole fish dishes are fantastic, and their wine list is good (by my standards which are admittedly not the most sophisticated). My mother had an oyster clay pot dish there ten or more years ago that she still talks about.

I have heard for years that Koi Palace is the best for dim sum, but do plan to wait if you go.

For a more impromptu experience, take yourself out of the downtown area to Clement Street. The stretch between Arguello and 7th is chockful of cheap, good places that include Chinese, dim sum, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, you name it.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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We went to the R&G lounge for lunch. It was pretty good, though our ordering could have been a bit more imaginative.

The sweet and sour soup was the highlight. One of the best sweet/sour soups I've ever had. The highlight of the meal.

We also tried the R&G Beef and a Shrimp Chow Fun. Both were very tasty. I just wish that I'd been with a larger group so that I could have tried more dishes.

Thanks for the recommendation!!!

Blessed are those who engage in lively conversation with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called, "Dentists." (anonymous)

Life is too short for bad Caesar Salad. (Me)

Why would you poison yourself by eating a non-organic apple? (HL)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Went to R&G Lounge for my first time tonight, after a 6 hour plane ride from NYC. I was starving but I restrained myself from ordering too much food.

I got the Roast Pork appetizer -- this was excellent, with a nice sweet bbq glaze accompanied by fermented yellow beans, served cold. Nice and lean pork but still very juicy and a great marinade.

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Hot and sour soup -- probably one of the best examples I have had, with lots of mushrooms in it and not at all gloppy.

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House special Chow Mein (not shown) -- I was impressed that it had a lot of good seafood content in it, including nice big shrimps, squid and big scallops, with white meat chicken, pork, bokchoy and shittake mushrooms. That and a nice cold Tsingtao was just what I needed being completely famished after a long flight.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Glad you enjoyed the hot and sour soup! That's what I had meant to recommend--not sweet and sour.

Blessed are those who engage in lively conversation with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called, "Dentists." (anonymous)

Life is too short for bad Caesar Salad. (Me)

Why would you poison yourself by eating a non-organic apple? (HL)

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Glad you enjoyed the hot and sour soup!  That's what I had meant to recommend--not sweet and sour.

That's okay, we all knew what you meant. :rolleyes:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A new chinese restaurant called Big Lantern has opened up on 16th street between Valencia and Guerrero.

At first glance, it would seem to be a typical place, but it's not.

First, the chef is ex-Koi Palace.

Second, they have dim sum all day long, until 11pm every night.

Third, it's good.

I ate there a few days ago and at Koi Palace yesterday for lunch. Comparing them, Big Lantern wasn't quite up to Koi Palace standards, but I was happy with it. And it's in SF, not crowded and less expensive.

The main dishes I tried at Big Lantern are also nice. Flavorful pea shoots with garlic sauce, a quite credible Peiking duck served off the cuff at 10pm, etc.

They also have a good number of vegetarian dishes, such as mock duck and the like.

When you're looking for a low-key neighborhood place with interesting Chinese food, give them a try.

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A new chinese restaurant called Big Lantern has opened up on 16th street between Valencia and Guerrero.

At first glance, it would seem to be a typical place, but it's not.

First, the chef is ex-Koi Palace.

Second, they have dim sum all day long, until 11pm every night.

Third, it's good.

I ate there a few days ago and at Koi Palace yesterday for lunch. Comparing them, Big Lantern wasn't quite up to Koi Palace standards, but I was happy with it. And it's in SF, not crowded and less expensive.

The main dishes I tried at Big Lantern are also nice. Flavorful pea shoots with garlic sauce, a quite credible Peiking duck served off the cuff at 10pm, etc.

They also have a good number of vegetarian dishes, such as mock duck and the like.

When you're looking for a low-key neighborhood place with interesting Chinese food, give them a try.

Wow! Many thanks for this address. We'll give it a try very soon.

eGullet member #80.

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  • 2 months later...

Got to Jai Yun last night with some friends, and wasn't disappointed.

It isn't cheap, it is cash only, you must make reservations, and street parking is nearly impossible. However, the 15 minute walk up from Montgomery BART isn't bad at all, and gives you a chance to experience both San Francisco's North Beach and China Town neighborhoods.

Once you get inside Jai Yun, the only choices you are offered are beverages and how much you would like to pay for dinner. The per person cost ranges from $35-$150 (on the weekend, the minimum charge is $45).

We opted for $45 and were treated to a whirlwind tour of the tastes and textures of Chinese cuisine. I lost count of how many plates we were eventually offered, however, soon after being seated, as a first course, we were offered 8 different cold vegetable and meat plates.

The chef's artistry with textures, tastes, and the knife was evident in every dish from the Abalone with fluffy clouds of egg white to the amazingly unctuous and delicious pork.

One of my main complaints about a recent tasting menu at a well known restaurant, was it seemed as if it were nothing but a "parade of meats" with vegetables serving as nothing but plate garnishes. Not so at Jai Yun, where many of the dishes featured distinctive and vibrant vegetable flavors.

In any case, if you are at all enthusiastic about Chinese cuisine, you owe it to yourself to save up and give Jai Yun a try.

edited for spelling

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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  • 2 months later...
A new chinese restaurant called Big Lantern has opened up on 16th street between Valencia and Guerrero.

At first glance, it would seem to be a typical place, but it's not.

First, the chef is ex-Koi Palace.

Second, they have dim sum all day long, until 11pm every night.

Third, it's good.

I ate there a few days ago and at Koi Palace yesterday for lunch. Comparing them, Big Lantern wasn't quite up to Koi Palace standards, but I was happy with it. And it's in SF, not crowded and less expensive.

The main dishes I tried at Big Lantern are also nice. Flavorful pea shoots with garlic sauce, a quite credible Peiking duck served off the cuff at 10pm, etc.

They also have a good number of vegetarian dishes, such as mock duck and the like.

When you're looking for a low-key neighborhood place with interesting Chinese food, give them a try.

Wow. A friend gave me their menu this week and said, "Try it so I'll know if it's good." My office is close by so I, a true friend, got some stuff delivered for lunch. Oh boy oh boy! Didn't get anything too exciting but it was GOOD. And inexpensive. As a matter of fact, we ordered again the next day. As they say in the movies, "You had me at baked bbq pork buns."

So far I've tried the BBBQPB, steamed BBQPB, siu mai, shrimp dumplings, potstickers, crab/chicken/corn soup, and the garlic chicken and kung pao chicken lunch specials. (These come w/ soup of the day, chicken/egg soup, and hot/sour, both good.)

The menu's quite long with many dim sum choices. In addition to the very fresh/tasty dumplings, all of the broths in the soups were unusually flavorful. To me, that shows a serious kitchen.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Here's the deal:

The great Chinese restaurants are small and heavily patronized by Chinese. No true San Franciscan is going to tell you about them on the web, for fear that once the tourists figure it out they'll NEVER be able to get a table.

Either check with a friend from S.F. (BTW, "SFO" refers to the airport, not The City) or search out a small place in the avenues with a line of Chinese waiting to get in. That'll be the place for you. Just don't expect any more than one employee to speak any passable English!

Good luck!

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