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Apr 15, 2001 02:59 AM

Lunch on Geary?

  • m

Outside my normal range, I'd appreciate a recommendation for an Asian lunch next week in the vicinity of Spruce and Geary in SF. Maybe as far as a few blocks west of 19th Ave.

Limster, how's the eat at every Chinese place on Geary Blvd. project coming along?

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  1. Alas, I haven't ventured much beyond Dragon River as I've been sidetracked by Chinatown (Gold Mountain and a so-so Hakka place just across the street from Yuet Lee that I don't remember the name of), Sunset Star (a new and pretty decent budget Sichuan place on 12th and Kirkham), as well as other places (Maki, Laghi, Galette, Yabbies, B-44 etc.). It's been hard to get a large enough group often enough for Chinese that I usually end up going for Western fare and getting away with an appetizer, entree and dessert, instead of 8-10 course spreads that I would otherwise get at Chinese places.

    There are a couple of decent Chinese places on Clement though. Fountain Court and Taiwan Restaurant have been reliable standbys. Taiwan is not a bad place to get savory soy milk with you2 tiao2 (fried crullers) and dumplings.

    I remember having a really good lunch at Yue4 Shang4 Hai3 - it's a Shanghainese place on Clement around 20th or so (give or a take a few blocks) and it's across the street from a Chinese vegetarian place. Sorry I don't remember the exact location and the English name - a bunch of Chinese friends took me there a while ago and we spoke in Mandarin the whole time, so I was not too conscious of the name and location.

    Elsewhere on Clement:

    King of Thai (around 5th, the original, not the branch) is also a good cheap bet for Thai noodles. There is Chinese dessert place close to Schubert's Bakery where you can get a subset of the flavors from Marco Polo Ice Cream.

    Le Soleil (@ 2nd Ave) has passable Vietnamese food, but I like the budget conscious and divey Mai's (near 4th Ave) more. New Golden Turtle (on 5th Ave and Clement) is also better IMHO.

    Some of my friends say decent things about Coriya on Clement for Taiwanese hotpot buffet but I've never been there. If you're in a more adventurous mood, I'd love to have someone check out Heavenly Hot on Geary (near Funston I think), another hotpot place but this one's Korean.

    On Geary:
    I had a good cheap Indonesian dinner at Bali Cafe (Geary and 3rd) sometime ago. Korean BBQ at either Brother's location is a good bet, but I haven't been there in ages. I used to go to a Vietnamese place on Geary around 5th or 6th for cheap basic Pho.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Limster

      Awesome, Limster, thank you! The Shang Hai place sounds promising if I can track it down. I'll be with a couple Shanghainese afficianados and maybe I can learn something about the cuisine from them. Ocean also looks like a very good prospect.

      Btw, the Hakka place on Broadway below Stockton is Mon Kiang. The salt-baked chicken is below average, but try the wine-flavored dishes. The best thing, not on the menu, is the oyster pancake (which doesn't hold up for take-out). I often get take-out here whenever there's a parking space on Broadway when I'm driving home. The noodles to go are a good bet and prices are rock bottom.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        If you go to the Shanghainese place (I think srf1 is right about it being Chinese Harvest - thank you so much!), do get an assortment of their appetizers or xiao3 chi1 ("little dishes"). These are little plates with portion sizes that approximate dim sum. You can get savory items like tripe, fried eel (very Shanghainese), vegetarian chicken (also rather Shanghainese) etc...

        1. re: Limster

          Did a drive by to check it out and yes, Chinese Harvest (1829 Clement, SF), it is. Among the few characters I can read are the ones for Shang Hai which are part of the Chinese name on the signage. I picked up the dinner and lunch menus and had a chance to talk with a satisfied customer who was waiting to pay. I asked him which dishes were good. He addressed me in Cantonese (not in Mandarin nor in Shanghainese) saying that everything was good and that the fish stomach sago soup (if I got that right) was his favorite. It's also an attractive place with widely spaced tables, soothing celadon color scheme, the back window overlooking a rock garden, and skylights.

          Seemed very promising, but we found out at lunch today that it's more of a mixed bag. This is the kind of place where you need to know what to order or maybe we were just unlucky. Especially because our server spoke only Mandarin and barely a couple words of English ("rice" and "water").

          First the hits - the Shanghai Fried Rice Cakes ($5.50) were my favorite. Good wok flavor, not too oily, bright green fresh spinach, bok choy stems, and shreds of pork, we polished off that one. Also very good was a dish called something like Shanghai Sichuan Vegetable (not on either of the menus they gave me but listed on the in-house menu) which turned out the be noodle-cut tofu strips with Sichuan preserved vegetable and soy beans (~$6.50). The tofu strips were very thin and had a nice textured surface and crisp mouthfeel. I also liked the baked sesame puff bread with braised beef slices ($3.00) which was a layered flat bread brushed with hoisin sauce and rolled around anise flavored beef and scallion shreds. The beef reminded me of something like shank meat with the line of chewy almost gooey cartilage running through it that Chinese are so fond of. The wrap was cut into 4 pieces. My first taste of this from a piece on the end was better than the one in the center section. The edges were fully cooked and crisper, whereas the center piece wasn't fully cooked and didn't have the croissant-like flakiness. A tasty mouthful though.

          In the middle ground - the jelly fish ($3.00) used good material, obviously freshly made with nice thickness and weight. However, the marinade was not as multi-dimensional and interesting as at a good Cantonese dim sum house. The steamed baby dumplings (12/$4.25) had reasonably thin wrappers (too doughy is my chief complaint about most versions). My friends criticized these as not having soup inside, although looking at the Chinese characters on the menu now, these are not identified as Shanghai style xiao long bao. They were as juicy as what I've had in Shanghai 18 years ago and in Taiwan. What I would criticize is that the bottom of the steamer wasn't fully lined with cabbage leaves. Therefore, two of mine got stuck to the bottom of the steamer basket, breaking open and losing their juice.

          Then in the inedible category, unfortunately, were two dishes - lions head meatball and the vegetarian "goose". The meatballs were crisp and verged on burnt around the edges and the brown sauce was incredibly gloppy and slimed around the plate. The baby bok choy rimming the plate, though, was sweet with freshness and of very good quality once you dripped off most of the sauce. The vegetarian goose had this petrified stale character - one bite was enough.

          So, I find this place a bit of a curiousity. I was happy to discover the tofu noodle cold dish and I think an order of xiao long bao would make a great lunch sometime when I'm dining solo. Puzzles me though that the clunkers could hit such lows.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thanks for the update - live close by and wanted to try it after the recent discussion, your guide will help avoid the clunkers.

            1. re: srf1

              Please report back if you find some other gems. I arrived late for lunch and the ordering was pretty much complete by then. I'd like to see how they do with sauteed eel, spicy tripe, and the pig's ears.

              It's still puzzling that there's so much uneveness in execution. The other thing that's a little odd is that the take-out dinner menu is a mix of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese and a few Shanghainese dishes, sorta your standard to-go Chinese. The menu they hand you in-house is far more weighted toward Shanghainese dishes.

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Bummer about the lion's head and vegetarian goose, which are my usual Shanghainese picks. I hope the eel will be up to par. I vaguely remember a fairly good steamed fish and lots of tasty little dishes - that was a lunch 2-3 years ago, when the place was newish. Sounds like it has slipped a bit. I did remember one of my friends asking for recommendations from the waiter. That might have made a difference.

              I didn't realize that the waiters did not speak much English, as I had slipped into Mandarin when I was there. Oops!

              1. re: Limster

                I don't think the place is a complete write-off. Maybe it's one of my own idiosyncracies, but I'm willing to tolerate a couple clunkers if there are dishes that shine.

                When I arrived, the waitress looked really relieved, probably expecting that I could be the translater for our party. Wrong! I never got past lesson 4 in Mandarin and that was 10 years ago. We established some basic communication but there was no hope of getting any recommendations.

                The woman who acted like the manager/owner when I first stopped by to get menus didn't appear until later in our meal. She speaks very good English. But she didn't appear until later in our lunch.

        2. re: Limster

          The place that I think you are referring to on Clement is Chinese Harvest - between 19th & 20th across the street from Bok Choy - Chinese Vegetarian rest.

        3. Melanie, please see my reply to Ken re: dim sum.....