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Input on Chinese Food 101 Itinerary

I solicited suggestions from folks in the fall, and I've finally started settling on an itinerary for my one week class (April 2-6). Please chime in with warnings and suggestions. If you think there are better places to go, or places where we're more likely to get someone willing to talk w/ the kids about the food still need a good Hunan candidate. I wouldn't mind making a pit stop for some Salt Baked chicken along the way. Current plan is to move South to North.

R & G Lounge
Lam Hoa Thuan

Koi Palace

Spices! 3 (focusing on Taiwanese stuff)
China Village

Lily's House (chosen over others at least in part because of Lily's enthusiasm about talking to the kids)
As yet unknown Hunan offering.

Great China

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  1. I'd be tempted to drop one of the HK/Cantonese places and add in a hot pot place like Zone 88.

    How about a HK cafe-style place that serves drinks and snacks for one lunch -- there are a couple in Oakland Chinatown (Shooting Star, Yummy Guide)? Maybe not traditional cuisine, but reflective of the current food trends in parts of Asia.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I like the hot pot idea to make it interactive for the children. Zone 88 or perhaps one of the "little sheep" clones for northern style that are springing up.

      Might check for posts on Everyday Beijing to learn about noodle and dumpling making. The owners are quite accessible.

    2. I've not been by there recently, but I'm under the impression that R & G is closed for renovations.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jillyju

        But I believe that it will be open again before April 2, when the OP will be starting his tour. According to Tablehopper.com, R & G will be open again on March 28.

        1. re: Nancy Berry

          Though that's cutting things close enough that I should probably come up w/ another plan. I wanted to do R & G for a chance to have both master cooked meats and other bbq stuff.

      2. I generally prefer Great Eastern's BBQ plate to R&G's though I have more other types of favorites at the latter. And, I'd suggest Joy in Foster City for Taiwanese, and you can take the kids for a beach walk afterwards. Lily's House is a great choice.

        1. After more thought and input from everyone, I'm thinking of the following itinerary. There are times where I have not chosen the best exemplar of a regional cuisine, simply because the one I chose made travel easier, was less likely to be a zoo during the lunch hour, etc.

          Monday, starting in the South:
          Great Eastern (SF) for BBQ and seafood
          Lam Hoa Thuan (SF)

          Tuesday, continuing in the South:
          Macau (Richmond)
          Spices! 3 (Oakland) for stinky tofu
          Legendary Palace (Oakland) for dim sum

          Wednesday, starting to move around a bit:
          Henry's Hunan (SF) for smoked ham, shredded beef
          Ton Kiang (SF) for salt baked chicken, pork belly w/ preserved greens
          Asian Restaurant Chifa Peruano (SF)

          Thursday, heading East & West:
          China Village (Albany)
          Lily's House (Lafayette)

          Friday, heading North:
          Darda (Milpitas)
          Lu Lai Garden (Milpitas)--not really northern, but I thought it would be nice to look at the influence of Buddhism on food at the same time we check out Islamic food.
          Great China (Berkeley) for Peking duck and double skin

          So...I would appreciate more input. Especially on the following:
          1. Is there a better Hunan option in SF (or Oakland/Berkeley)?
          2. Any not to be missed dishes at the places listed? Keep in mind that we're focusing on regional cooking, so it would be better not to confuse things by having a Sichuan dish at Ton Kiang, where our focus will be Hakka.
          3. Any dishes that should be missed?
          4. Beyond stinky tofu, what would you recommend as typically Taiwanese at Spices! 3?
          5. Should I try to squeeze in a hot pot interlude? If so, where and on which day?
          6. Most important of all, can anyone help me with this? http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381098 Sorry to make you click on the link, but my original mention of it was removed (for being off topic, I suspect). So please look at my link to the media board.

          Thank you for your help!

          15 Replies
          1. re: lexdevil

            Sounds great! Where do I sign up?

            People have said good things about the hot pot at Spices!3 if you wanted to work it in there.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Not sure if Spices is a cook-your-own hot pot though. . .

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The hot pot we've had (and enjoyed there) is not a cook-you-own. I was amazed at how tender everything remained, given that, but it's a different experience all together.

                1. re: bernalgirl

                  They do appear to have cook-your-own as an option now, though. I go often enough and see people ordering both versions. Call to check, though, I never order it myself.

            2. re: lexdevil

              Is there still a Coriya Hot Pot place in the Richmond mall - that was a do it yourself place.

              1. re: anli

                The problem w/ a DIY all-you-can-eat place is I'll get killed on price. They're priced by the head on the assumption that we'll be eating an enormous amount of food. We will, instead, be trying to squeeze 2-3 small lunch/snacks into each day.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  Here's a thread with updates on Union City to Milpitas hot pot options, not AYCE. You can try to negotiate ahead of time for just the amount of food you need for the class.


                  1. re: lexdevil

                    Asian American Food Co. a.k.a. King of Chinese Dumplings is now offering "family style" hot pot. It's priced per item (except for the dipping sauce).


                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      Has it become an eat-in facility and not just take-out? Haven't been there since the new owners took over.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I was there last weekend and it looked strictly take-out to me. They sell packaged hot-pot ingredients per item for cooking at home. The sliced lamb was gorgeous (the person working there, who seemed like an owner, was showing it off proudly).

                        1. re: david kaplan

                          Thanks! I like the concept of one-stop shopping for hot pot. Start with some dumplings, and you have instant dinner. Though at the posted prices, seems about the same as sitting down at a restaurant that provides the stock too, or are the portions much bigger?

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            The package of lamb I saw was maybe around 20 rolled thin strips of lamb meat. I don't remember the price, and I can't guess the weight. If their dumpling prices are any guide, their food is maybe 25% cheaper than the equivalent in a restaurant, so it's no bargain. But, man, I've never tasted dumplings as good as the pork-chive dumplings from there. I'm savoring my large purchase and haven't yet tried the chicken-cabbage, the pork-shrimp-chive, or the lamb-carrot-onion (he promised there's a touch of cumin in there when I asked) dumplings, or the pork wontons.

                            1. re: david kaplan

                              According to their website, lamb is $5.99 per order. Fish is $4.99, and the other meats are $3.99.


                          2. re: david kaplan

                            You are probably right. The sign in the front window (I think it said "Now serving....") made me wonder if they had a dining room for hot pot hidden away in the back. And their website has a picture of two people sitting at a chimney-style hot pot in a restaurant. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

                  2. re: lexdevil

                    I'm answering your question #4.
                    I've not been to Spices 3, but go to 1 & 2 frequently and I hear the menus are more or less the same. For some recommended Taiwanese dishes (they are VERY typical of TPE street food)
                    - beef noodle soup
                    - pork chop rice
                    Also, for a sampler hot pot that's not per head... try the bandit lamb hot pot.

                  3. As I was reading this post, I was thinking that your sense of California geography is really messed up. How would Richmond be in the south? But then I figured out that you were talking about Chinese geography :) Haha.

                    This class sounds great. How old are the students? What's the class? Is there a link to your post from the fall?

                    Dave MP

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: badbatzmaru

                      When Dave refers to Chinese geography, he means the location of regions in China: Canton, Hong Kong, Macau, Fujian, etc. to the South, as lexdevil indicates by the choice of restaurants on the schedule. West to Sichuan for China Village, East to Nanjing for Lily's, and so forth. Get it?

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          Dave, my reply was to someone else who hadn't figured it out and misunderstood your amusement. That post has been removed.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Oh yeah :) I misread the first part, didn't see that you were talking about me :)

                            What is this class though? Can I take it too?

                            Dave MP

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I don't know about kid-wranglers (they're in high school and reasonably well behaved), but I would be happy to have guests who have knowledge of a specific cuisine or relevant language skills.

                    2. So now to menu setting. Here's what I'm thinking. Please let me know if I'm missing something critical, smoking crack, or otherwise missing the boat.

                      Great Eastern (SF)
                      Possibly just do Pacific Delights menu out of laziness (and because it looks good). It includes the BBQ platter, dried scallop soup, spiced salt baked crab, fried squab, sauteed frog, sauteed conch & scallops, sauteed bean cakes, mushrooms & greens, steamed fish, and dessert. It is more dishes than we need to do, and having so many dishes would preclude doing 2x or 1.5x orders (which would be good, given that we'll have 14 people). If I order a la carte, I'm thinking: BBQ platter, dried scallop soup, sauteed crab w/ xo sauce, sauteed conch & scallops w/ yellow chives, steamed fish (perhaps black bass), beef chow fun w/ black bean sauce.

                      Lam Hoa Thuan (SF)
                      Pan fried oyster pancake, orange skin duck soup w/ ho fun, fried crispy shrimp cake

                      Macau (Richmond)
                      Baked chicken w/ rice, milk custard, egg custard, salted fish & pork on clay pot, baked seafood spaghetti

                      Spices! 3 (Oakland)
                      salt & pepper stinky tofu, pork chop over rice, rice stick w/ pork Taiwanese style

                      Legendary Palace (Oakland) for dim sum

                      Henry's Hunan (SF):
                      country style smoked ham, shredded beef, orange sauce chicken

                      Ton Kiang (SF):
                      salt baked chicken, pork belly w/ preserved greens, rock cod w/ dried tofu clay pot

                      Asian Restaurant Chifa Peruano (SF)
                      gotta see a menu

                      I'll cover Thursday and Friday later.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: lexdevil

                        The last time I was in Lam Hoa Thuan, the oyster pancake was no longer on the menu and the previous times it was never available. So, if you have your heart set on it, be sure to call ahead to order/confirm availability. An alternative for Viet/Chiu Chow might be Vien Huong in Oakland or VH Noodle in Richmond.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          It's currently on the on-line menu, but I'll check w/ them in advance. Thanks for the heads up.

                        2. re: lexdevil

                          Hi, my general observation is that:

                          (1) The SF Bay area is a good example Cantonese cuisine. Cantonese cuisine right now is not in fashion in the States nor on this board (which is fabulous for people like moi because there's less riff-raff in some of my favorite haunts. ;-) ) but a good example of banquet-style Cantonese cuisine like Koi palace (which you had in your original post) could easily replace Ton Kiang. While Ton Kiang has a more Hakka bent, the truth of the matter is that High-End Cantonese restaurants usually can do Hakka well enough as there is much demand for Hakka and Chiu-Chow dishes among "sophisticated" Cantonese diners as these cuisines are in-fashion for people who frequent such establishments. Pork-Belly especially.

                          (2) I would argue that a quick eats / lunch type of Cantonese place typified by Congee, Soup Noodles, etc should be on the menu as you can get a pretty strong rendition of what this is supposed to taste like in the bay area. While there are many poor examples of this cuisine all over Chinatown and SF in general, one of the strongest examples was Jook-n-Fun on Irving and 20th (now defunct) and also Porridge King @ 55 Skyline Plaza in Daly City. If you go to Porridge King, be sure to order the Salt-Water Chicken (Very different from salt baked chicken in that salt-water chicken is poached). This is an example of what typifies Cantonese cuisine in the sense that this chicken is all about (a) the natural goodness of the ingredient and (2) simple preparation meant to bring out the freshness of the ingredient. No gloppy sauces and over-excited 'tastes' to get in the way - which is what "Cantonese Food" has been bastardized to be here in the US.

                          1. re: jhleung

                            Thanks for the input. I think if I do Koi Palace I'd be more likely to substitute it for Great Eastern. We're only doing the Hakka dishes at Ton Kiang, and Koi Palace doesn't seem to have them on the menu. I'd like to know the consensus re: whether I can justify the higher prices. I'm working on a budget of about $25 per person per day.

                            1. re: lexdevil

                              For really good and authentic Hakka Cantonese dishes, look no further than Golden Mountain in Hayward that is only mere minutes right off the 92. While I haven't been in 2 years, there was a recent report on it and still positive. I doubt you'll be able to find a better salt baked chicken, truly baked, and not salt water steamed like many other places. TK is definitely non Chinese friendly but I wouldn't say they are a destination spot for Chinese expats.



                              to start

                              For Hakka Taiwanese, check out this thread:


                              1. re: K K

                                I was seriously considering Golden Mountain, but noticed a January 07 post mentioning that they had been sold. The menu posted at menuscan.com (a great source!) was updated in February. I don't see any Hakka items on the new menu. Bummer!


                                1. re: lexdevil

                                  Thanks for the link. Very useful! Perhaps a phone call might be in order to ask if the chef left (and if so I'd love to know where he went!) and whether they still do the Hakka dishes like salt baked chicken, basil stir fried clams, stuffed tofu. If that chef really left perhaps it isn't worth the bother. I will ask my uncle next week if he knows anything about this (since he knows the owners quite well).

                                  Otherwise that is a bloody shame they aren't offering that anymore :-(

                                  1. re: K K

                                    Yes it would be a shame! The new menu looks about as dull as any I've ever seen. I did just call, and the person I spoke to says the same chef is there, and that they still make the Hakka dishes (though she had to check w/ someone). I'm still feeling a little uncertain about it, so I'd really appreciate whatever information your uncle can gather.

                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                      Thanks for calling. I will post again once I see my uncle next weekend, hopefully he has some inside info. But given that he's been spending time at other Chinese restaurants like Chef Wai in San Mateo he might not know. I will let you know.

                                      The key is whether they kept the original chef who was responsible for those wicked dishes. If he is still there, great. I would call ahead and reserve those dishes in advance (especially salt baked chicken) and still check it out.

                                      On a lighter note, is Great China on your original itinerary the one in Berkeley on Kitteridge (spelling)? If so that place I'm told makes supposedly one of or the best Peking Duck, not sure about other dishes though.

                                      1. re: K K

                                        I was assuming that he meant that one, since he mentioned one of their signature dishes: double skin. They do indeed do one of the better Peking ducks in the area. They also do a killer dish of sauteed crab meat served with buns that I've never seen anywhere else. These dishes are on the page of chef's specials.

                                        1. re: K K

                                          Yes, the Great China on Kittredge.

                                          1. re: lexdevil

                                            Brandy Hos in San Francisco is the way to go for Hunan food.

                                            1. re: jdinsf

                                              I've heard the same mixed reviews for it and the Henry's on Sansome (which I used to frequent many many years ago). I'd love to hear more specific comparisons. I really wanted to do Hunan Taste in San Jose (which seems to get more consistently positive mentions), but it has a rep for being a zoo at lunch (which is when we'd be going). Regardless, the plan is to only do 2-3 representative dishes, as we'll be doing Hakka and Peruvian Chinese that day as well. We don't need the entire menu to be strong.

                                              1. re: lexdevil

                                                I was not too impressed with Hunan Taste last time I tried it


                                                I don't think it's worth it unless someone else had better ideas or dishes that I missed.

                                                1. re: lexdevil

                                                  To repeat myself from another thread: I go to Brandy Ho for their smoked ham and garlic dish. I used to get it at Henry's, but found it to be a far less greasy dish at the 'Ho--also the ham itself is smokier and tastier. It's been too long to address other dishes at either place.

                            2. After spending more time eating Chinese in the last few years, I find a great story is the "muslim" influences on Chinese food - ie, Hue cumin in x'ian. (I use Muslim in quotes because a Lebanese acquaintance took me to task - the influence is cultural, not religious, so you should use the ethnic names instead of the religions names - although the Chinese themselves refer to their two big Muslim ethnicities [uigur and hue] as simply "Muslim").

                              You can talk about the spice road, you can talk about the chinese west (the vast spaces similar to the american west, with cowboys) you can talk about clashes between Han and non-Han culture; you can bring in trade with rome, marco polo, the noodles; you can show pictures of the street skewer guys in the hats with the cumin skewers. Great story, very different from how we often think of china.

                              Of the resturants you've listed, the dish that tells this tale is Village Special Lamb at China Village - maybe there are others.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bbulkow

                                We're going to Darda on the Friday. We'll be doing the cumin lamb and sesame bread, also probably one of the warm pots.

                              2. I'd recommend, if you aren't too full, getting some snack food through out the day. The place that immediately comes to mind is ABC bakery (for variuos types of baked buns) and Golden Gate bakery (for egg custard tarts.) Both are located in Chinatown and, based on your itinerary, you'll be in the area on Monday

                                1. So how did it go? Report, please!!!!!!!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Fantastic. Once I have a moment to put the pics together, I'll post more. The kids' favorites were Great Eastern, Darda, and China Village. Everyone tried most things (though we had some seafood allergy issues). I did learn that trying to eat at three places in one day is really too much!

                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                      Hey, lexdevil! Did you ever post that report? If so, maybe you could link it to this thread.