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Best Cumin Lamb dish within a 60 mile radius of SF

Anyone had some excellent chinese style cumin lamb lately?

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  1. Oh man, how funny. I just drove by the Ark on Park St in Alameda thinking how awe-inspiring the cumin lamb had been two years ago.

    It opened as a really interesting northern Chinese place-- the cook had a lot of training and there were quite a few dishes that stretched the reigning Cantonese menu sensibility. That's when I went a time or two. Later there were some renaming issues, a banner or two proclaiming this or that, and my thought was that the menu had been too exploratory for the area.

    Today it seemed as if nothing had changed; the sign looked the same, no banners obscuring it. Had me wondering just what was going on there.

    Anyway, if you go. please report back.

    1. I haven't been in a few months, but I love the cumin lamb at China Village in Albany...

      4 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        I'll second China Village. That is one of my favorite dishes and they do it best at CV, IMO. I recently had the dish at Zone 88 on San Bruno Ave as well. It wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't not up to China Village standards either.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          I third China Village. I also liked the cumin lamb at Spices! 3 in Oakland's Chinatown.

          1. re: coolbean98

            I fourth(?) China Village. Run, do not walk, to try their Village Lamb...

            1. re: a_and_w

              I'll go for a fifth....
              Love it at China Village. Hmmmm.... maybe we'd better make a pilgrimage over there soon.....

      2. Spices I on Clement and 6th (the smaller of the two Spices; bigger one on Clement and 8th). I think they call it the nomadic lamb hot pot, but make sure with the waitress that it's the cumin lamb. Usually, you can smell it as soon as you walk into the restaurant because everyone's eating it. It's highly addictive.

        1. I've been back twice in the past week to try Ark's menu post- Jimmy Zhang. The menu has been expanded with more Cantonese dishes, but the northern dishes are still there, mostly under the Chef's Specials. The cumin lamb was very good and not so spicy that my daughter couldn't enjoy it. For those who like it hotter, be sure to tell the waitress to up the spice level. Other things that are still good--crispy chicken wing sauteed with special sauce (aka ganpeng chicken wings), truly addicting; and the prawns on a stick with cumin spice. The little fried dumplings are not as tasty as I remembered, still fine but the filling is missing something. There was a special salt & pepper crab for $14.95 this past weekend, but the crab was not fresh enough.

          There are also lots of vegetarian dishes and jook, haven't tried those yet.

          2 Replies
          1. re: anli

            Thanks for the info, anli. I figured that some kind of change had occurred there. I seem to remember that Chef Zhang had himself all over the place in there, bio in the menu and so forth. Do you know what happened?

            1. re: essvee

              Yes, Jimmy Zhang moved to Utah to open a new restaurant. I posted about it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/306439

          2. Try Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant it's a experience and very inexpensive. I have not been for a few years but had a great Lamb cumin dish and be sure to try their hot pot dishes.

            1. I like Darda's better than China Village's or Old Mandarin Islamic's.

              1. Does Spices I still serve the hotpots on weekdays only?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Deeg67

                  No, I had the Nomad pot on a Sat night recently.

                2. Spices III in Oakland has a nice "sizzling lamb w/ cumin spice" on their menu. They also have a "lamb w/ cumin spice 'nomad style'" hot pot that I haven't tried. I like Darda's version of the former a bit better (the flavors are brighter), but the Spices III rendition is still good, and less than two miles from home.

                  1. I've had the cumin lamb at both Ark and China Village, and the latter is vastly superior.

                    1. Not sure if it is the best, but Feng Nian in Sausalito has a good version...

                      1. As far as the stir-fried (rather than hotpot) version I can recommend Classic Sichuan in Millbrae, which is basically Little Sichuan's version. Robust, properly spicy and not dominated by cumin to the exclusion of all other flavors.

                        1. Has anyone had this dish (or a similar dish with a different name) at Zone 88 Restaurant on San Bruno Ave. in SF? I've liked their other Sichuan dishes and thought that they might also do a good job with this.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Nancy Berry

                            give a try in new open great szechwan inside 99rach market pacific east mall. they have that cumin lamb and beef too.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                It is a Uighur dish, but very commonly offered at Beijing or Sichuan restaurants. It's become part of the vernacular in those regional cuisines with their own twist on it.

                              2. re: Nancy Berry

                                I've tried Zone 88's Cumin Lamb as one of their "over rice" lunch specials. It's okay, but nothing close to China Village's version.

                              3. We were at Everyday Beijing in San Mateo today (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37456...
                                )Although we didn't try it, we noticed that Cumin Lamb was on the menu in Chinese (ziran yang rou), but the translation into English was strange indeed. I believe the menu calls it "Lamb with Pineapple and Preserved Ginger" in English! We asked about this, and they said it was just a mistake in the translation. They asked us to write down the proper translation for them, and we did, so I hope they will correct it.

                                We didn't order the cumin lamb, but I thought I'd post this for non-Chinese reading fans of cumin lamb who may want to check out Everyday Beijing's version. Judging from the quality of the other food, it may just be a contender.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Martin Strell

                                  That is a strange one. Also, I remember thinking it odd that there was little or no lamb on the menu for this place.

                                  Now you owe us a post on Everyday Beijing. (g)

                                  1. re: Martin Strell

                                    oh i suppose "ziran" is the chinese for "cumin"? they must have gotten than from
                                    the sanskrit via the Uighurs ... jira, or jeera for cumin in various indian language.
                                    about 30% of the time i get off a flight from asia at SFO i get asked explicitly
                                    "do you have any jeera?"

                                    BTW, i thought the cumin beef at SPICES off clement was pretty good.
                                    not as good as the chinese bacon with garleek, tho. i havent tried it enough
                                    places to offer up a "best" tho.

                                    1. re: psb

                                      I find it too "soggy" at spices. the beef is overmarinated. Also I just don't like the balance as much as Wok City Diner's.

                                      yes. ziran = cumin.

                                  2. hands down the best cumin lamb I've had in the bay is in Fremont, at WOK CITY DINER. Yes. That is the actual name. Don't order the crap for the white folks. Written in chinese on the menu by hand are a few awesome dishes, including zi ran yang. Most zi ran yang is brown, gravy covered, over-marinated, and soggy. The stuff here, is red, dry, stirfried to perfection, with fresh hot peppers, over a bed of cilantro, and it's simply amazing. Nothing else around is even close to as good.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: nianfong

                                      Is it made with the older, gristly mutton cuts specially imported from China?

                                      And, what else do you recommend at Wok City Diner?

                                      Wok City Diner
                                      46531 Mission Blvd
                                      Fremont, CA 94539
                                      (510) 490-3344

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        haha nope, not grisly at all. rather lean actually. It's quite spicey, and super tasty.

                                    2. Oh yeah wok city diner is at mission and warm springs, in the albertson's plaza.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: nianfong

                                        This thread made me want some .... so I went to Little Sichuan in San Mateo. I DO NOT plan to ever order this again here - tough almost inedible lamb, so hot and overspiced that I couldn't even taste the cumin.
                                        I was remembering the wonderful China Village version - but that was a 45 minute drive and this was a 4 minute walk - maybe next time I'll just make the drive. OTOH the pleasant surprise was the combo chow fun was tasty, not greasy with really fresh shrimp and tender pork (asked for no beef).