Sam Lok - SF Chinatown Chowdown Lunch Series #8 Report
Oh ma la!
On Friday, May 7th, a dozen ravenous hounds descended upon Sam Lok. With help from prior Chowhound posts, an email from yimster, Melanie, and our waiter who spoke decent English, we ordered up a storm of Sichuan dishes...
Fish and Preserved Vegetable Soup (2 Way, With Fried Fish)
Pickled Vegetable Salad
Pork with Garlic Paste
Dong Zi Kou Zhang Cold Rice Jello
Tiger Skin Jalapeños
Water Boiled Beef
Stir Fried Pork Kidney
Pork Sholder in Garlic and Ginger
Dry Fried Pork Stomach
Sichuan Green Beans
Total cost per person was $15.
A dessert of Golden Gate Bakery egg custard tarts and coconut macaroons were provided courtesy of ChowFun.
Your opinions, my fellow hounds?
655 Jackson Street
About the SF Chinatown Chowdown Lunch Series
Each week an ever changing group of hounds lunch at a Chinatown restaurant. We focus primarily but not exclusively on Chinese cuisines. All types of hounds are welcome to attend: veteran chowdowners or newcomers; experts in Chinese cuisines or those just starting to discover them. Seats for each lunch will be alloted on a first come, first serve basis to those on a mailing list being maintained especially for these lunches. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added to that list for future lunches in this series
The SFCCLS are private, volunteer assisted events. No agency relationship, express or implied exists between any parties and Chowhound, Inc. These are not Chowhound, Inc. sponsored events.
Many thanks again to Nick for organizing these weekly forays into Chinatown. It's redundant, but I'll say it again; it's always great to gather with the Hounds for some good Chow and conversation!
With the arrival of the first dish, Dong Zi Kou Zhang/Cold Rice Jello, I was happy; the taste of Sichuan peppercorns and chili! Next was the Pickled Vegetable Salad, I believe cabbage, broccoli stems, carrot, etc. in chili/sesame oil; yum! And it just got better (to me) from there.
The Couples Delight, thinly sliced tripe and tongue, and the Pork Belly with shreds of green onion were 2 of my favorites. The Pork Kidney with wood ears and bamboo shoots was tasty but I would have enjoyed it more if the pieces of kidney were larger. I couldn't detect any "off" flavors in the kidney (almost never do in an Asian restaurant).
Oh, I almost forgot, the Dry Fried Pork Stomach was very good; I would defy anyone who is anti-offal to not like this dish.
I liked my lunch; sure, I've had better Sichuan food, but this was tasty and a good time and they validate for 2 hrs free at Portsmouth Square! What more can you ask?
Lastly, here's to ChowFun for working on his chili tolerance and for once again providing Golden Gate egg tarts and macaroons!
re: RWCFoodie (Karen)
Any thoughts on how Sam Lok's Sichuan food compares to China Village's? The last time I was at CV, we ordered a bunch of things, including pork kidneys (fire-bursted pork loins - not actually loins), boiled-water beef. Where the heck are these people getting their hua jiao, that's what I want to know.
My opinion is that this was a very good lunch with very good food. There are so many Cantonese restaurants around here serving bland and uninteresting food, that it is a relief to find a Chinese place serving non-Cantonese; and if it is it is done competently, as it was at Sam Lok, that is an extra bonus. (I know that Cantonese is refined, elegant and the French Food of Asia, but most of the time around San Francisco, it must be too refined and elegant for me, because it is often just boring).
The meal started off on the right foot with the cool, crispy and spicy pickled vegetables served at the same time as the Dong Zi Kou Zhang Cold Rice Jello. The jello presented an interesting juxtaposition of tastes with the reserved coolness of the rice gelatin being offset with a very spicy sauce.
After munching on veggies and gelatin cubes for a while the dishes started arriving just about as fast as the waiter could bring them. The waiter, by the way, had a slightly maniac manner to him, he would bring a dish, announce it and laugh. It was sort of like he was saying Take that! Pow!, and waiting to see if the crazies sitting around the two tables would really eat it. Nick and I think he brought more food than we really ordered.
The Kunming Lamb was excellent with a marked taste of cumin to go along with the general spiciness. I also liked the Dry Fried Pork Stomach, which had a really interesting spicy kick to it.
The Water Boiled Beef is mis-named as it had a sauce with real spicy character. It could have been much better named as Chinese Chili con Bok Choy! When all of the meat was gone, I finished off the sauce by mixing rice with it. Yummy.
I also liked the spicy Sichuan Green Beans and the Tiger Skin Jalapenos served with soy sauce. (The Jalapenos were grilled and the dark grill marks are supposed to look like tiger stripes).
The only dish I wasnt crazy about was the Fish and Preserved Vegetable Soup (2 Way, With Fried Fish). Although it had a really nice vinegary, Thai-like broth, it was full of fish bones and Chinese mystery ingredients & I did't finish it.
As the meal went on, it seemed to get hotter and hotter. I managed to get about two-thirds of the ways through the meal without it, but eventually had to break down and drink some water.
Good place. Good lunch.
I really enjoyed this lunch -- a great pick-me-up spice kick on a Friday afternoon.
The starters were lovely -- the pickled vegetables were still-crunchy, unlike what I'm used to with kim chee or the Japanese equivalents. I also enjoyed the rice jello with the mystery topping -- it was some kind of minced black stuff and the whole thing was doused in chili oil.
Some of the dishes were new to me. I liked "couples delight" though I don't know what its name signifies? It had a wonderful light sauce (peppery with lots of peppercorns, chili oil, maybe a little vinegar?) that was delicious when mopped up with rice.
Another favorite was the cucumbers -- I've never had cooked cucumbers that were spicy. When I first saw the dish, I assumed it would be a cooling one, but it was fiery in its own way. Really enjoyed that.
I preferred the fried catfish to the fried chicken dish -- the chicken was bony and didn't taste as freshly-fried as the catfish. The catfish was pretty heavily battered but I still enjoyed it as a counterpoint to the peppers it came with.
I liked the pork shoulder -- it was probably one of the mildest dishes we sampled, but was interesting and falling off the bone tender. A huge portion too.
The boiled beef was good but I didn't like the gumminess of the meat itself. I LOVED the sauce though, and could eat it like soup.
A very fun lunch --thanks for the good company and good eats!
Once again, thanks to Nick for setting up another of these delicious events -- and the macaroons and egg custard tarts from Golden Gate as supplied by Derek were way over the top. Thanks for pulling out all the stops!
After wallking past this place numerous times, it was nice to finally give it a try -- and I'm glad I did. It is not particularly fancy nor expensive, but several dishes stood out as ones I would definitely order again on a repeated visit:
Pickled Veggie Salad: very similar to Korean kim chee's, but less vinegar flavor and crisp, fresh carrots and cabbage. Refreshing.
Tiger Skin Jalapenos: as one who is not too keen on spicy peppers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these are actually sweeter than hot, but still had a nice kick to them. Nice presentation with the "stripes", too. Not as intimidating as they appear.
Pork Shoulder in Garlic and Ginger: not spicy, but was not meant to be. Very tender pork with bok choy accompaniment, in a tasty sauce of oyster variety? A tasty and welcome break from the hot flavors of the other dishes.
Kunming Lamb: very thin sliced lamb, with green bell peppers and onions. Nice hot and soothing aroma as well. My favorite.
Garlic Eggplant: texture just right, and excellent hot taste, too.
Some dishes I probably would not order again: Fish and Preserved Veggie Soup (bland and not much else), and the Cold Rice Jello (nice sauce, but the rice jello lacked any discernable flavor).
The Sam Lok service was very attentive and dishes came "rapid fire" with very little time to waste -- lots of fun. As always, another very delightful time with a very friendly group of Hounds.
Reading these postings this morning has reminded me of a great lunch and set my mouth watering.
After thinking about it for a couple days, the most memorable dishes were the couple's delight, the pickled vegetable salad, the cold rice jello, and the kunming lamb.
The whole scene was hilarious. Paul was right that the staff was cracking up at us ... I got a big laugh from the waiter after I requested that the empty couple's delight plate be kept at the table so that I could eat the sauce with rice.
The cold rice jello goes on the list for me because the sauce was delicious as well. I would love to have more of that.
The kunming lamb had an interesting taste and a good spice that continued to build as I ate it.
I agree with beanbag about the water boiled beef. Give me some of that sauce over rice any day ...
Thanks to all for a great lunch.