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Aug 18, 2001 01:40 AM

Revelations at Beijing on Irving..

  • p

As I continue my quest to find genuine northern Chinese cuisine in the Bay area I am diligently following through with all the recommendations which have been made to me from generous chowhounds. I thought, given its name, that Beijing on Irving may prove promising so I headed down, with fiance in hand, this evening. As I entered I noted the absence of neighbourhood Chinese patronage (whilst San Tung across the road was full!) ...not a good sign that the place had something authentic to offer.I sat down and read a disappointing English menu which didn't suggest anything more than the usual local Chinese fare. Suspecting that a second menu existed, I engaged the waitress in Mandarin and discovered a few interesting facts about the so called Beijing on Irving. She winced when I mentioned that I was homesick for some traditional dishes and asked whether the cook could arrange a special banquet menu for me....finally admitting that no-one involved with the restaurant was actually from Beijing...nor could they make any Beijing favorites save a few which were outlined on the menu. She told me that the people in the restaurant, including herself, all came from Guan dong and had simply chosen the restaurant's name to make themselves appear distinctive.I must admit that I was irritated with this revelation but as I was already there I thought I may as well try the cuisine. I ordered bei jing shui jiao(dumplings) -they came full of cabbage and no garlic chives, then jia xiang dou fu (family fragrant tofu)- this is usually served as a combination of finely shredded pork and veggies but arrived in large cantonese style pieces, the same goes for the chao rou fen ci (bean thread noodles with shredded pork).My opinion: it was passable as cantonese food but just wasn't authentic northern Chinese...I don't have a problem with people from other places or countries rendering northern Chinese dishes as long as they do it properly.This was not the case at Beijing on Irving.

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  1. Panpan, too bad you didn't join us for Korean bbq a few blocks away. From the sounds of it, you would have had a better dinner.

    May I suggest a new tactic? Maybe you should call ahead and see if you like the accent of the staff and the owner's CV? You're really good at getting this info out of them, but unfortunately, you're having to sacrifice a precious eating opportunity each time to do so.

    At least you now know where to get a good get a good beef tinga taco... (g)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Melanie, thanks for the suggestion but I have already tried this route. I dont have much success obtaining information from restaurant personnel over the phone. Their main intent is on trying to get me to their restaurant first in the hope that I will stay and order anyway, after I have discovered the truth, which is what usually happens!Next on the list is San Tung 2 on Irving St, then Shan dong in Oakland, San Wang in Japantown and Little Sichuan in San Mateo.

      1. re: panpan

        I was at Little Sichuan only once, and the food was pretty bad! It may have been foolhardy on my part to invite 4 people to a Chinese dinner on Valentine's day, or we may have ordered all the wrong things (even the cold noodles were less than average), but those are 4 people who have refused to return to Little Sichuan since.

        If you're willing to come down to San Mateo, Sun Tung would be a better choice. It's a much smaller place on B Street (near the corner of 2nd Ave.) that has some pretty good dishes. The shao long bao (sorry, I don't speak Chinese, and haven't figured out the system used on this message board), which they call "little juicy steamed buns" is the best of the 4 or 5 versions I tried in the Bay Area, as is the fried string bean dish, the cold szechuan noodles, and the pig's ears.

        1. re: Pia R

          I'm surprised you had a bad experience at Little Sichuan. It's my favorite Sichuan place in the area - great for complex ultra-spicy dishes littered with peppercorns, chilli oils and the like. I've only ordered the Sichuan dishes there, so I cannot atest to their renditions of Cantonese dishes. For example, their hong2 you2 chao2 shou3 (a Sichuan dish - dumplings in hot sauce) is good, their xiao3 long2 bao1 (juicy steamed dumplings - a Shanghainese dish), apparently isn't so good. Folow the thread that starts with Melanie's posts about the place from a few months ago (link below).


          1. re: Pia R

            Pia, I hope you'll take Limster's advice and try Little Sichuan again. I had a much better meal my second time around.

          2. re: panpan

            Well, then soldier on, Panpan. You are very brave. At least at San Wang and Little Sichuan, you'll be able to find something delicious to eat, even if they can't make the exact dish you're looking for.