Three San Francisco Chinese Restaurants Worth Your Time & Money
Having just returned from a long weekend in SF and Napa, I thought I’d give readers the benefit of the good fortune we had in having three good Chinese meals while we were in SF. The first is inexpensive, seedy, and has what I call ‘Chinese comfort food.’ The second has some of the best, and most expensive, dim sum I’ve had in years. And the third is the best of all and worth you going out of your way to find.
Sam Wo’s, 813 Washington St., just off Grant St.
I wrote about this restaurant in an earlier posting (Click Here) but thought I’d mention it again as it continues to be a (sentimental) favorite.
You will have difficulty spending more than $10.00 a person, and you will leave this 11 foot wide 100+ year old restaurant full of simply satisfying Chinese food, Order at least one of the noodle dishes, either the chow fun or the chow mien. The fried rice dishes are good as is the pickled fish dish.
The menu is small, the ambiance is terrible, but the prices are great and what you get will taste good.
If you’re looking for simple, inexpensive, filling Chinese food in an place with ‘character’ and history, go to Sam Wo’s.
Yank Sing, One Rincon Center, 101 Spear St.
If you’re looking for terrific dim sum and don’t mind spending twice what you would in Chinatown for it, go to Yank Sing.
It’s fancier than it needs to be, but the range of offerings is excellent. Be sure to order the Peking Duck, which you can get as a single serving (with a bun, not a pancake), the Shanghai pork/ginger soup dumplings, the chicken in lettuce wrap, and end with the egg custard (maybe the best crust we’ve ever had).
Beyond that, you’re on your own, but every choice we made was satisfying. They also have a system of communication amongst the cart servers so you can always request something you’ve seen on another table or missed when the cart went by too quickly.
Yank Sing is only open weekdays from 11am-3pm and Sat, Sun, & Holidays from 10am-4pm. Reservations are a good idea. There is also a carryout facility next door, Yank Sing 2, that seems to do a lot of business. And there is a second location for their dim sum service at 49 Stevenson St.
Jai Yun, 680 Clay St, just off Kearny
Our best find and most different Chinese restaurant we’ve eaten at in many years.
Actually, we didn’t ‘find’ it, Jenny8Lee, a wonderful resource on Chinese restaurants around the country, directed us to this place (http://www.jennifer8lee.com/bio/).
There’s no menu at Jai Yun, and the only decision you really have to make is what price per person you’re willing to spend. The four of us chose the $60/person version (the cheapest), and the food seemed to just keep coming, probably at least 20 small dishes
You get what the chef has prepared, starting off with 12+ little dishes of cold appetizers, each one delicious. Then one by one a small plate of something you’ve probably never had before is brought to your table to share. A few that I remember include loofah melon (new to me), dry bean curd with celery, sea bass with corn and sweet red peppers, pork shoulder, curly, silky shrimp, an eggplant that everyone said was the best ever, crispy beef (a known dish), some kind of chicken that gives a new and good name to chicken, abalone, and fried, sizzling mushrooms.
That’s only a portion of what we had. But each dish was a discovery and a delight.
You have to make reservations as I think Chef Nei buys and prepares depending on what’s fresh and seasonal in the market and how many diners have reserved for that night. Nei is from the Nanjing area but prides himself on the variety of his dishes and cooking styles. I suspect if we returned two nights later the appetizers might be similar, but many of the dishes would be different. And if you’re looking for something very special, and are willing to spend a bit more money, Nei is quite willing to prepare even more special offerings.
Jai Yun is open 6:30-9:30 pm for dinners and only open for lunch for a group order of a minimum of 10 people (I’ll be glad to join your group if you need a 10th diner). Phone number for Jai Yun is 415-981-7438. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but please give me a day or two to arrange my transportation from Washington, DC.
Of the three restaurants mentioned above, the first two are certainly ones to which I would return. The third is one I think is worth you’re going out of your way to find. You will not be disappointed.
(Pictures to follow as soon as I finish with my grand parenting responsibilities. Check back to see a pix of Chef Nei and some of the dishes from each restaurant.)
*Please forgive the slightly misleading title to this post. I have wanted to write something with this title for many years, and this is the closest opportunity I think I’ll ever get to do so.