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Mar 20, 2007 04:54 PM

San Tung substitute?

Life is not fair. I just discovered San Tung (thanks CHers) and now they're closed until sometime in April. Argggggh! Is there another restaurant somewhere in the Richmond that comes close? Please help this desperate CH Librarian.

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  1. You could head to outer Richmond and go to Shanghai House or Shanghai Dumpling King, both on Balboa.

    Also, what types of food did you get at San Tung? Maybe certain other restaurants will make versions of what you liked at San Tung.

    Dave MP

    3 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP

      It serves Shandong (san tung) and Korean-Chinese style food.

      1. re: Dave MP

        Have the Dry Fried Flounder Filet at Shanghai House. Reminiscent of the dry fried chicken at San Tung, but even more delicious.

        1. re: Atomica

          They have dry fried flounder at San Tung too. I prefer it to the chicken.

      2. The second generation operates So on the other end of Irving, opposite side of the street. It has some of the same dishes in a more contemporary setting.

        So [Sunset]
        2240 Irving St
        San Francisco 94122

        1. This place is owned by the same family as San Tung and has a very similar menu (not as extensive as San Tung, though.) Here's a link to the menu:

          So Restaurant
          2240 Irving St- Btwn 23rd & 24th Ave
          San Francisco, CA 94122

          415 731-3143

          6 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Is the food prepared the same at So, or do they do a more healthy variation on the favorites? I love San Tung but my mom hates all the MSG and corn starch (though she still eats it).

              1. re: a_and_w

                The food at So is definitely not a healthy variation of San Tung. Noodles obviously, are their specialty as they compose half of the menu. Huge portions and pretty heavy. Pork with Hot Peppers Noodles and So Fish are bomb. Their batter is lighter and not as sweet as Sun Tung's. A bit of a warning though, their food is SPICY! They aren't kidding when they say spicy. I love it!

                1. re: specialja

                  Interesting...are they on the same open-closing schedule as San Tung?

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    When I walked by So on Monday afternoon (3/19), there was a sign up that it would be closed for a few days in late March. But not into April, iirc,

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Oh, I meant are they closed the same days during the week as San Tung. It seems like the latter is open less and less every time I visit.

          1. like dave said. go to shanghai house on balboa. i prefer it over dumpling king.

            the shanghai house dry fried chicken gets a split decision from my group of friends. not in a bad way. we split on whether its better than san tung's dry fried. i think its better, its a crispier skin and a more balanced (spicier) sauce, where as for me the san tung version is a bit overly sweet.

            i can't compare the dumplings as i haven't ordered them, but shanghai house is becoming a favorite rest of mine recently. i've been there at least 4 times in the past couple months, and have brought friends and family there who all give it high regards.

            try their smoked ham, tofu skin soup... its excellent and rich. you can tell its been cooked for quite a while.

            7 Replies
            1. re: spork

              Would anyone happen to have the address of Shanghai House? I tried searching for it on citysearch but nothing came up.

              1. re: DavidB

                Shanghai House
                3641 Balboa St
                San Francisco, CA


                1. re: DavidB

                  yelp is your source for all things local. citysearch sucks.

                  1. re: nianfong

                    Or go to Google and type in: "Shanghai House" +San Francisco

                2. re: spork

                  fully agreed, though I haven't been to shanghai house yet. The chicken at san tung is too sweet. shanghai house dry fried chicken is probably you lin ji (oil drizzled chicken), because that's more shanghai style.

                  1. re: nianfong

                    I just recently had the dry fried chicken at Shanghai House and it's also very sweet. Possibly even sweeter than San Tung, but definitely comparable. The sauce was very sticky (but good).

                    Dave MP

                3. san tung is passable chinese food... for good chinese food, go to spices.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: nianfong

                    the chef's knife work is very weak... not unlike a lazy teenager.

                    1. re: nianfong

                      I agree that ordinary Chinese at San Tung is good, not great, though I do love the way they put zucchini in the kung pao chicken. But they do excellent renditions of Korean-Chinese classics like tan soo yuk and dry fried chicken.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        kung pao chicken has no zucchini in it. no bell peppers. no carrots. none of that shite.

                        san tung's za jiang mian is strange. the sauce is right, but because of all the seafood and stuff they put in, the texture is all wrong, and it doesn't mix well with the noodles.

                        and the noodles themselves need more gluten. as do the dumpling skins.

                        1. re: nianfong

                          Hmmm... I've eaten the kung pao at San Tung many, many times, and I could swear it always comes with zucchini. Also, could the zha jiang mian taste different because of the korean influence? Ja jang myun is the korean version of the same dish, and is usually served with lots of seafood, as you describe.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            zucchini means the kung pao chicken is "teh fake"
                            very likely it's the korean influence. I get the impression san tung is more korean than chinese.

                            1. re: nianfong

                              You could be right about the Korean influence, which explains why I like it. Frankly, I prefer what tastes good to me over what others deem authentic.

                              PS: I'm pretty sure the owners speak Korean.

                              1. re: nianfong

                                Zucchini in Kung Pao is definitely Korean influence as there weren't much green pepper in Korea in the old days. When the Chinese Shandong chef in Korea emigrated to US, they brought the same recipe of using zucchini with them so that's what you'll see. It is normally also present in Zha Jiang sauce.

                                But then most Kung Pao chicken in America is "the fake" as the true Kung Pao chicken does not even have green pepper or spanish onion (or carrots as you mentioned). It should be just dry hot pepper and peanuts.

                                But then again, San Tung is a Shandong style restaurant, we should not expect great Sichuan dishes there. However, I remember it not even being great at the Shandong originals such as Gan Pong Chicken (dry fried chicken) because it is too sweet (also more Korean influence) and Liang Zhang Pi (double skin) or even the noodle dishes.

                                Zha Jiang Mian, another Shandong specialty, usually has two varieties, wet kind and dry kind. The one with softer ingredients and lots of sauce is the original Zha Jiang Mian. The other kind with firmer ingredients and less sauce is the dry version. I'm not sure which one San Tung serves. Either variety should mix with the noodles very well, unless it was not done right.

                                Last time I was at San Tung: (man that was long time ago)


                                1. re: tanspace

                                  Mr. Tan, I'm delighted to have you posting more again. When you have a chance, I'd love to hear about any Shandong or Korean-Chinese places you've tried lately. Maybe start a new thread. My own opinion, but I feel that San Tung gets far too much play on these boards for the so-so level of the cooking. I'd love to hear about other spots that you would recommend and give folks some alternatives.

                                  1. re: Gary Soup

                                    I never enjoyed the San Tung on Irving and 10th/11th for some reason. I always thought the hole in the wall place that they closed down around Irving and 25th was the better of the two. Always enjoyed their steamed chive dumplings, 3 deluxe seafood noodles, and the homemade kim chee with the hint of fresh ginger. Sadly, that store is long gone, having been replaced by the mediocre "SO" in its place on the same street.

                                    1. re: badbatzmaru

                                      I'm with you on that. We used to go to the westernmost location all the time, but somehow couldn't get it up for the 10th Ave one.

                                      1. re: badbatzmaru

                                        Walked past "So" today on my way to TC Pastry and noticed a sign posted on the door that it no longer serves potstickers or dumplings.

                                      2. re: tanspace

                                        I think it's a little odd that you acknowledge the Korean influence then judge it solely by Shandong standards. By Korean-Chinese standards they execute the fried dishes well (noodle dishes less so) which is why it's popular and well known among Koreans.

                                        PS: I agree that the old location on 25th was better but I still like the location at 10th, too.

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          Yeah, agree with a and w, kind of comparing a fuji apple to barlett or granny smith. It's Korean/Chinese/Shandong style, not strictly "shandong shandong" style. But at the same time, nice to know what the "authentic" version is supposed to be like if there really is an authentic version. What is something is not the authentic version but tastes even better than the authentic version? hm.........

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            I think the point is that the restaurant owners chose to name it "Shandong" (in both English and Chinese). If you talk the talk, you should also walk the walk, so to speak.

                                            1. re: Gary Soup

                                              What I'm saying was specifically for Gan Pong Chicken, I prefer the version where it is a combination of spicy/salty and slightly sweet, with just a bit of sauce. I think some of the versions have becoming overly sweet, and as someone else mentioned, almost KFC BBQ honey chicken like. There's nothing wrong with that if it tastes good but it's just not what I want when I eat Gan Pong.

                                              There are still Korean-Chinese restaurants that serve them like Chinese restaurants do in Korea, with Korean influence and all. Cafe Yulong in Mountain View makes an excellent version of Gan Pong Shrimp for instance without being too sweet.

                                              I think it's important to spread the knowledge so people know the origin of the dishes. So that someone who had the sweet version of Gan Pong chicken at San Tung doesn't think that it's what it's supposed to be. I would think that majority of the Korean-Chinese restaurants would serve them a little less sweet, and don't want these to be considered as not authentic simply because San Tung is more famous.

                                              1. re: tanspace

                                                I gotcha. I usually order my dry fried chicken dry, so I can't really comment on the sweetness of the sauce. But I agree -- the dish should not be overly sweet.

                                              2. re: Gary Soup

                                                I agree it's important to clarify the korean influence so people will have appropriate expectations. But many people seem to be criticizing San Tung because it departs from "authentic" Shandong cooking. I'm just noting that some of those criticisms (e.g., zucchini in the kung pao and seafood in the ja jang myun) are strengths from the perspective of someone looking for korean-chinese.

                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                  Definitely agreed there. Seafood in Zha Jiang Mian is in fact the right variety to order as it is considered the "best" version of that dish. I would go so far as to say that I would be wary of any place that does NOT offer the "3 deluxe seafood" version of the Zha Jiang Mian.

                                                  Similarly, for zucchini in Kung Pao, I think it is fine just as the Americanized version is also fine, as long as they taste good. I've eaten plenty of Kung Pao dishes with green pepper and onions and they tasted great - because the sauce makes the difference in this dish, not so much the veggies.