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Visiting San Francisco and want to experience SF Chinese food

Especially Dim Sum. But here's the caveat: I am allergic to peanuts so I need a Chinese restaurant (with great food, of course!) that can understand my allergy. We are staying in Nob Hill but will have a car. Any restaurants fit the bill or do you think it's better for me not to risk it?

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  1. If I were you, I might stay away. One of my best friends is allergic to peanuts and the largest area of concern is usually the oil. Even though it is generally not peanut oil, it's hard to be sure. Her last venture into a high end Thai restaurant in New York ended in the emergency room. There were not visible peanuts, and she was assured peanut oil and peanuts were not used. Turned out there was a small amount of ground peanuts in a dipping sauce.

    1. I think it probably depends on how allergic you are to peanuts. If you are deathly allergic, then I agree with ptrefler that it's good to stay away. But I have a friend who is allergic, but not extremely, and he does fine in many Chinese places. If you are careful about what you order and explain your allergy, I think you'd do fine in most places. I think it's pretty easy to avoid ordering dishes that contain peanuts....the oil (or traces of it, like in the use of an ingredient that had previously been fried in oil) would probably be the bigger concern. This might be a good post for the General Topics board though, since I think this issue would be the same in SF as it would be for any other city with good, authentic Chinese restaurants. Maybe other people with peanut allergies have advice.

      Dave MP

      1. if you end up deciding to go for it, i would suggest yank sing for its english-friendly staff. unlike my favorite (koi palace), i would be more confident in the staff's ability to understand your allergy and work with it. The food is well regarded on this board.

        you may have a better idea of what you're dealing with if you call before your trip and discuss safe/unsafe menu choices with the staff.

        5 Replies
        1. re: artemis

          artemis, we really love yank sing, but plse tell us your favs at koi palace so we can go there too on our annual sf march pilgrimage.

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            i'll try, but to warn you, 1)i don't eat mammals and 2) i'm on a budget, so i haven't tried many dishes, including the fabulous-sounding whole lobster or crab dumplings. we usually stretch our budget by ordering a noodle dish (we like the enoki mushroom efu).

            i like to order several things off the checklist, and then see what's coming around on the trays. among the necessary orders are the sa yung (chinese donuts), which imo are only fabulous when freshly fried and so hot you can hardly touch them. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/342332. i also like the "duck shreds burrito," which is duck rolled up with scallions in a pancake, and then sliced. not really dim sum, but delicious, and only good hot. there's also a large block of fried tofu served with a dark-colored sauce that i find light and refreshing, but also only good hot. i always checklist order these. kp is so big that you can't be sure that you can snag these dishes soon enough after they exit the kitchen to be at their peak.

            among the actual bao, i like the har gao, the shrimp-and-chive, and the shrimp-and-scallop dumplings. i like the pea tips with garlic, unless the asian clientele all seem to be eating a different veggie that day, in which case i'll have what they're having :). the salt-and-pepper fried squid vary between good and great, but i like them too. once, it was salt-and-pepper fish, which was delicious.

            i have been unimpressed with the shrimp-and-mushroom dumplings. i think that shrimp-stuffed anything is one-dimensional and overpriced, whether it's stuffed crab claw or eggplant or sugar cane or whatever. also, i find the rice noodle rolls to be too thick, and usually stuck together.

            after my basics, i mostly just check out what everyone else is getting and ask for the same.

            happy eating!

            1. re: artemis

              Omnivores must try the coffee-glazed spareribs. Unconventional (especially with the whipped cream, which borders on wierd)--but brilliant!

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Yup. I haven't found it anywhere else. If it wasn't for that dish, I probably wouldn't even think of putting up with the purgatory that is Koi Palace at lunchtime.

        2. You should call ahead to ask if they use peanut oil in there cooking process. If so you should pass. Peanut oil what is used in many Chinese homes with closer roots to China.

          For your own protection call ahead. Other wise you only have to pass on Chew Chou dumpling since it is the only one off hand I know has peanuts.

          1. I second Yank Sing - but I would also call ahead and talk to them about your concerns. It can be very busy and the people with the carts can get rushed. I like the food there very much!

            1. Even if you call to check, or are careful to order non-peanut dishes, the risk of cross-contamination is very high. Most Chinese restaurants have so many different items cooking, that it's impossible to be sure a cook doesn't use the same spoon to stir a pot that was used to stir something with peanuts. Same goes for using pans that have trace peanut oil. If your allergy is mild that's one thing, but having worked in kitchens I'd say don't count on calling ahead or menu descriptions if your very sensitive.

              1. Thanks for your responses. I think I will call Yank Sing to see what oil they use. I may stay away although the temptation of dim sum is too great!

                1 Reply
                1. re: brooklynmasala

                  Please let us know what you find out. I have a mild peanut allergy, and am curious waht Yank Sing says. I eat dim sum here in KC, and have thus far not had any problems. I think it can be done, unless you're so allergic you'd have anaphlaxis. I knew someone who was so allergic to tree nuts that if they were in a bowl in front of him, just the smell would close up his airway.

                2. Eric's and Alice's might be trustworthy about food allergies, since they cater to a sort of yuppie, health-conscious clientele.

                  1. You probably meant Eliza's. I went to their California St location about a month ago and food was quite mediocre and lacking any sort of complexity. Service was pretty bad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Meatball

                      no, there's also an eric's. both are in noe valley, south side of cesear chavez. i wouldn't go to eric's/eliza's/alice's for outstanding chinese though.

                    2. we go to sf ev march and yank sing is our very fav. (not the one in rincon center)IF you go, do call ahead and make sure they are serving their sea bass rolled in a thin sweet potato slice and tempura fried. it is the single best dim sum i have ever had in my life. just amazing!! their web site has photos and descriptions of their usual dimsum.
                      oh how often i have wished we had a yank sing in boston.

                      1. I lived in SF for a few years. My co-workers and I liked going to City View for dim sum in the Financial District. Most dim sum is served in the afternoon. The one place I know serves it for dinner is Ton Kiang (sp?) in the Richmond. It's a little bit of a trek and if I recall a bit more expensive than other places. I think both of these places will be able to accomidate anyone with allergies to peanuts.

                        If your looking for Chinese other than dim sum. One of my favorites was R&G Lounge. It's been a few years since I've been. I drove by on a recent visit to SF, boy has that place evolved. I'm curious to find out if it's still delicious

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sugarNspice

                          R&G was still delicious when i was last there recently!

                        2. I concur that ton kiang and yank sing are both excellent. if you want to experience some very traditional chinese food that is typical of northern china (ie - Beijing and Xian), try Old Mandarin Oriental. You'll find very different kinds of food (most Chinese in the US is Cantonese - but the cuisine is really varied), with an emphasis on hot pot, lamb, and bread. this style of cooking uses far fewer nuts, and you might eve be able to order things that have no oil at all. much of the good stuff isn't on the menu - you should look around, see what the families are ordering and point for the staff. lots of parking since its way out in the sunset district.

                          Another option is House of Nanking in North Beach. Very touristy, but the food is still quite good. They are used to many special dietary requests and its the only place a good friend with a deadly shellfish allergy will eat Chinese in SF - the folks there can communicate.

                          A third option is the Henry's Hunan located on Sacramento between Montgomery and Kearney. But Only this location - the other locations aren't nearly as good 9this place is a hole in the wall...). Good luck!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: sfoperalover

                            I've never seen anyone eating anything at Old Mandarin that wasn't on the menu. Their Peking-style hot pot is great, the flatbreads and noodles aren't so hot. They don't do the thick bread or knife-cut noodles. Communication can be problematic unless one of the family's teenagers is available to translate.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              they have several variations on the hotpots that are not on the menu. if you can't communicate directly, you can tell the servers that you'll have what others are eating - which is either ordered verbally, or from a small number of menu inserts, in chinese.

                              1. re: sfoperalover

                                What hotpot variations aren't on the menu?

                                I've asked about a bunch of things I've seen on other tables and they were all on the menu. The hotpot section of the printed menu has been translated into English on an insert that is sometimes missing.

                                A few years ago, when hotpot was by special order only, things might have been different.

                          2. this was handled by a chinese speaking friend eating with us, who ordered several things off the menu, and explained that most of the chinese speaking patrons do the same. he explained that most chinese speaking regulars know what they want and order when they arrive - so they aren't very committed to capturing this on the menu as it has changed.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sfoperalover

                              You don't remember what you had? It's the kind of place where most of the menu is eh but a few good dishes make it worth a trip, so it would be nice to know of any hidden gems.

                              In my observation almost all of the Chinese customers at Old Mandarin get hot pot. So far as I've been able to determine there's nowhere else in the Bay Area that does Peking style.

                            2. i don't remember the chinese names of what we ate - but i remember the food. we had hot pot with a combination of meats (sliced beef, beef tendons,tripe) greens, and other veggies.

                              i agree - i haven't seen a place like this. i was recently in beijing and xian, and have to say that the food here was pretty authentic. for what its worth, the northern part of china isn't know for its food. folks i spoke with in china laughed at the idea of a reaturant that specialized in food from the north. they were all, of course, in Shanghai and Hong Kong - in the south.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sfoperalover

                                The English hot-pot menu currently includes all the items (I asked), though some of them are not translated very well, e.g. "lamb eggs" for salted testicles.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  great! thanks so much for sharing. it's impressive that you would spend so much time and effort to inform all of us chowhounds.

                              2. Just a thought: if you are staying at a hotel in Nob Hill with a decent concierge service, or if you have any friends who can write Chinese characters, you may want them to write out "Allergic to peanuts and peanut oil," or some such thing, so you can hand it to your server at the restaurant--just to be sure.