Update for Hot & Sour in S.F.??
For years now I've been trying to get the kind of hot and sour soup I got in Paris, at a small restaurant on the Left Bank just around the corner from St. Julien Le Pauvre - it was divine: very spicy, tangy, with a very reddish golden clear broth, not cloudy at all. My husband and I are coming down to SF from Seattle on 1/19/02 and hope to find better hot and sour soup and better Chinese restaurants in general than we have in Seattle (though I recommend the Mandarin Chef in the University District here - great kung pao, and hand-shaved noodles!) Anyone have any recommendations for good hot & sour in SF?
I really like the version at Nanking Road Bistro on 9th between Irving and Judah. A large bowl comes with the lunch special. I'm not sure if it's considered authentic but it has lots of delicious ingredients. Fresh slivers of carrots, white mushrooms (not shitake), tofu, and bamboo. It's pleasantly tangy but not too fiery (could be a little spicier) but after finishing the bowl, you definitely feel it in your mouth. The lunch specials are also fantastic here too. All $4.95-5.95.
I first got introduced to hot and sour soup in 1980 when I was trying to make it thru my usual winter bouts of colds. My sweetie took me out for soup to a very nice little Chinese restaurant on lower Solano (in the Berkeley/Albany border area) and I ordered this new item which looked like it might be just what I needed.
Well -- it was HOT!! And it was SOUR!! It was so spicy that it was more like an emotional experience than a culinary one. And it went right to work and roto-rootered out my clogged pipes. I decided that this was wonderful stuff -- like turbo-charged Jewish Penicillin -- and it became my standard cold remedy.
Then I began noticing over the years that it kept getting weaker and wimpier, to the point that I wouldn't order it unless I could see some hot oil or chile paste and a cruet of vinegar on the table.
Maybe everybody figures they have to neuter the challengingly hot recipes so the tourists from Wisconsin won't get alarmed? Gelded hot and sour soup. What a shame.
Thanks - I bet the restaurant on Solano was King Tsin, where I remember a killer hot & sour soup. Does anyone know if that's still a nice place to go for Chinese food? Recommendations for best dishes there? I used to go to King Tsin's in the late 60's, when I was in school at UC Berkeley (in between tear-gassings & protests...)It was my first introduction to basically decent Chinese food, too, after many years of my mom thinking that a opening a can of chop suey was the way to go. Ugh.
When I made my rant re the continuing decline in the character of Hot & Sour soup, I wasn't referring to the Solano restaurant. I meant everywhere. I haven't been back to the Solano restaurant in 20 years, and have no idea whether they've maintained their soup standards, or if they are even still there.
I had a hot and sour soup like the one you describe about 6 months ago at Suriya Thai, in the Mission neighborhood. The soup was mostly clear, and had suprisingly strong sour and spicy hot notes.
While I find it unlikely that any soup anywhere will live up to your memories of Paris, you might want to drop by this restaurant. The rest of the menu is also better than your average Thai place.
Thanks for the suggestions: we ended up staying late at a fine arts print show at Fort Mason & not getting over to Berkeley to try out King Tsin. Instead, ended up at Brandy Ho, which is Hunan, I think, and ordered hot & sour soup which is VERY different there, not what I'd hoped for, not like the northern variety. All in all I think Brandy Ho is a little overhyped -- the garlic chicken was certainly underwhelming.
Off topic: Molinari's Deli on Columbus - their hot salami is to die for (not the hot coppa, but the hot salami) - and their midday sandwiches are a bargain.
Also: Who ever goes to The Stinking Rose in North Beach twice? Worst service I have ever had at a restaurant. We promised our son we would give it a try - food, service, atmosphere -we tried the whole catastrophe. Waste of time & money.
One other note: fresh orange juice at that little cafe (Bellechi's???Something like that) on Chestnut west of Fillmore ) - terrific, ice cold.