Dinner at S&T Hong Kong Seafood (San Francisco)
Last night the last four of us to stagger out of the picnic grounds went in search of dumplings. We had hoped to pay another visit to San Tung, but with the bluegrass festival celebrants getting out at the same time there was a huge line outside the restaurant and many others on Irving Street. I suggested that we expand our horizons to a spot more distant from the park to get away from the crowds and we headed over to S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant on Noriega and 33rd. (larochelle said to be sure to call it "Hong Kong Seafood" 'cuz that's what the big sign outside reads). At 7pm, this restaurant was full too, but with only a short line. The female staff managing the walk-ins were no where to be seen and one of the waiters took down my name and said we'd have a 30-minute wait. That was fine with us, more time to study the live seafood tanks and the many menus: a glossy color photo illustrated multi-paged menu, a laminated front and back single sheet of chef's specials, a wo choy menu in Chinese starting at about $30 (that we soon learned was not available on weekends), and a banquet menu in Chinese with an entry level of $88 for 4. Looking at the reservation book, most of the tables had been prebooked for 6 to 7pm start times for larger size parties. Luckily we'd arrived a little ahead of the affluent, Hong Kong immigrant crowd trying to get tables here.
We ordered four dishes, plus steamed rice, which was too much food considering we weren't that hungry and because the portion size is quite large here. First up was the daily house soup, an old fire-style (lo faw tong) served in a covered, tallish tureen. It really hit the spot for those of us trying to fend off the nasty cold that's going around. Our waiter said that it's been simmering away since 11am, and it had the richness of long-cooked chicken bones, sweetness from carrots, and was more meaty than herbal in taste.
I had been admiring the lively spot prawns in the tank. On the small size, these were priced at $19 per pound. We got a pound, just poached or blanched bok cherk-style. The plain, blank preparation showed off the sweet and tender flesh and juices that accumulated in the heads. Due to the small size, they were kind of a pain to peel, but for me, so worth it, especially sucking on the tasty heads. The dipping sauce was light, steeped with fresh chilis and scallions, and didn't overwhelm the fresh, sweet flavors of the delicate shellfish. Alderete said he had observed the prawns being fished out of the tank and these were live when they hit the cooking pot.
Ruth Lafler and I had studied the menu carefully. Towards the back of the multi-paged glossy menu is a section of chef's specials. It has photos, but the descriptions for those dishes are in Chinese only (with the price in dollars clearly marked). We pointed to the ones that looked interesting, and appreciated our waiter's willingness to explain them to us. Earlier he had translated the $88 menu for us, which we decided to skip because of the sharks fin soup. We picked the crispy tofu with tender greens topped with a spicy meat sauce. The ground pork flecked with chopped garlic, pickled vegetables, and fresh jalapeño chilis was sooo tasty with a lively step of tart salty flavors jazzed up with spicy heat. This was great with the plain rice and larochelle's favorite.
Our fourth dish was stir-fried beef with lily bulbs. That was my idea and I wish I hadn't ordered it. The lily bulbs looked like white onions but with far less flavor and a starchy texture. The thinly sliced beef had a thin line of gristle through it, like the chi dei yuk cut similar to flatiron steak. The beef looked pasty and didn't have the fragrant qualities of a good stir-fry. Also, there was too much celery in the balance. While I enjoyed the leftovers reheated for lunch today (enhanced with a slug of oyster sauce), there wasn't anything special about this dish.
The complimentary dessert was red bean soup and fortune cookies. With a small order of the house soup to go, our tab was $76 with tax and tip. This was a good scouting trip, and we're looking forward to exploring more of the menu.
Previous post on S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant -
Last year's post-picnic dinner at San Tung -
I love the post-picnic dinner tradition -- so chowish to follow food with more food!
I wish we had been hungrier and could have delved a little more deeply into the menu. The spot prawns were delicious but rather monotonous -- I think a pound was too many for four people (three, really because Aldrete wasn't feeling well). Is it possible to order less than a pound, because half a pound plus maybe something else might have been more interesting.
I'd love to go back and try their dim sum and more live seafood, as the kitchen clearly has a lot of skill and a light hand.
re: Ruth Lafler
A typical order is a pound for six people or two pounds for a table of 10 as an appetizer. Once I was able to talk a restaurant into letting me get just half a pound when I was by myself, but that was at a time that it wasn't very busy and they probably wanted to move the live stuff however they could.
I enjoyed this place and would love to go back, probably on a weekend day so I can get a taste of their dim sum which I suspect is awesome.
I enjoyed the order of soup I got to go as much as I did in the restaurant. The crispy tofu was also quite good and I would definitely get it again...if I wasn't seduced by one of the many tempting items on the menu.
I liked the tender tasty shrimp but I think after all the good from the picnic they were just to delicate for my palate.
Their dim sum is excellent. Try the braised chicken feet, braised stuffed tofu skins, baked cha siu bao, steamed rice covered shrimp balls (you might have to ask for the steamed ones rather than the fried shrimp balls -- we like these better,) salt and pepper tofu, and the very large har gow. At night, they do eggplant really well -- we like the claypot preparations.
re: Melanie Wong
My husband really likes those flowing sand buns (I didn't know their name, but from the description, I think that I'm talking about the buns that you described) -- I don't like egg yolks quite that loose, but the bun itself was quite good -- nice moist bread that's a bit sweet. The chicken feet that I wrote about were the ones on the regular dim sum menu -- somewhat spicy in black bean sauce, but I'd really like to try the abalone chicken feet -- they sound great!
I had dim sum at S&T yesterday and was surprised at how good it was. We had four adults and two babies.
deep fried tofu stuffed with shrimp
steamed egg yolk bun
steamed bbq pork bun
shrimp and chive dumpling
My friends liked the sticky rice more than I did. The five-month-old and I loved the turnip cakes. Rice noodles with xo sauce were not as good as HK Flower Lounge. XLBs were poor. We also got sesame balls and har gow, and a deep fried lobster puff with mayo.
Service is competent but not esp attentive. We got there at 10 and ordered off the menu so everything was piping hot. By the time we left more trays were coming around.
We spent $56 including tip, which seemed like a fair price considering all the food. (Do you have to ask for the $1.79 menu, or is that a thing of the past? The cheapest dishes are now $2.30.)
I'd definitely go back to try more or return for dinner. Parking is easy. The dim sum was much better than recent visits to Mayflower and Hong Kong Lounge on Geary, and much less hassle.
I really enjoyed the dinner I had here this past Saturday evening. Thankfully we arrived early, as most tables were previously reserved for large parties. At 5:30 pm the waiter who seated us (a party of 3) said he was giving us the last free table, though he also said that to the next two small parties. I actually thought he was joking, as the restaurant was nearly empty at that point. Within twenty minutes it was clear he had not exaggerated.
We ordered the short rib beef in black pepper sauce, and the claypot crab with vermicelli. The waiter warned that the crab was spicy, but when I indicated that was fine with us he seemed pleased with our order. I asked about the fresh vegetable of the day, and as a result we also ordered fresh pea leaves.
The pea leaves arrived with whole cloves of roasted garlic, and was yummy. The leaves were tender, and the garlic fully roasted, so this was a great first dish. The beef came next, and while the on-the-bone slices of short rib meat were chewy (which is what I expect from this cut of meat, but wanted to give fair warning to anyone who might be bothered by it), this was a really wonderful combination of saltiness, mild spiciness from the black pepper, and a small amount of sweetness.
The crab was the sensation of our table. It was really not particularly spicy, but the vermicelli was so incredible, having soaked up the crab juices along with a small amount of jalapeno, garlic, black beans, and other flavors. The crab itself was small, cooked perfectly, and was slightly sweet (not like the peak of the season, but pretty good). I thought the price for the dish was very reasonable at $22, and one of my dining companion's only complaints was that he would have liked more vermicelli in the clay pot, simply because it was so delectable.
I have really enjoyed dim sum here on several occasions, but this was my first dinner. While the waitstaff were all brusque, they were efficient, switching out our plates twice, and bringing plenty of napkins. I could eat that crab dish every day, so I know I'll be back soon.