Second visit to Zone 88 - SF - Report
I hadn't been to Zone 88 since my first visit back in April....
...but tonight I was really in the mood for hot and sour soup close to home, so I made a guess (a good one, luckily) that Zone 88 might have good Hot and Sour Soup. Happily, the dinner outing ended up including 4 others, so we tried several dishes.
We started with hot and sour soup, which for $5.95 was a very big bowl....enough so each of us could have two servings. When we ordered, the waitress asked if we wanted pork in the soup, implying that there might be a seafood-only option...we chose the pork option, which had lots of soft tofu, shredded pork and mushrooms. The broth was peppery and had plenty of vinegar. Overall, very good hot and sour soup, and I'd definitely head there next time I have a craving. The soup makers know what they are doing.
The shanghai dumplings were good, but not amazing. They were boiled dumplings with a mainly pork filling, served w/ soy dipping sauce. They looked and tasted very homemade - the dough was cooked a bit unevenly; some dumplings were falling apart, other parts were a bit doughy. Not bad, but for me not a highlight.
Dry-fried string beans were excellent. We ordered this thanks to P. Punko's report....
...and they were great. The string beans were cooked perfectly, with a salty and slightly spicy coating.
Eggplant w/ garlic was good, but not as good as I had remembered. I found the sauce a bit sweet this time, but everyone still enjoyed it.
Hunan beef was unexciting, but fine. I only had a few bites, but it had good spice to it.
We ordered kung pao shrimp as the 4th main dish, but the waitress appeared with another dish explaining that they were out of kung pao so we were getting shrimp w/ snow peas instead. This was a little annoying (this seems to happen to me a lot lately) since we probably wouldn't have chosen this dish, but it ended up being very good. Both shrimp and snow peas were cooked perfectly, the snow peas were very crisp and fresh tasting. The vegetable cookers in the kitchen also know what they are doing.
Service was not great, but friendly. We were surprised to find the place relatively empty (less than half full) on a Friday evening at 7 PM. Sweet bean soup dessert w/ rainbow tapioca was complimentary (and tasty). The total bill was 56.60 before tip for the 5 of us. Once again, a pretty good bargain.
Overall, I think Zone 88 is a very reliable, good Chinese restaurant. Presentation of food is above average, and the decor is pretty nice as well. Most importantly, it seems like there are people in the kitchen who take the time to cook dishes correctly. I'll definitely return.
Zone 88 Inc
2428 San Bruno Ave, San Francisco, CA 94134
Just back from eating trip out of town and more recent dining has largely wiped out my memory of our dinner here---except that it was very much below par and not close to the standard of my first meal here a few months ago. There were six of us and what I remember is that the only really pleasurable dish was the cumin lamb. The vegetable dishes were acceptable but not memorable--pea shoots, string beans. The crispy duck tasted and had mouth feel as if it was crisped some time last year. One of my dining companions who is a great fan of Chinese food generally said this was the worst Chinese meal he had ever had; lucky, if so, I could add--it was not that bad. But I will not be returning to Zone 88.
Have to add footnote to my own posting as a dining companion reminded me of the worst part of our meal: the "Golden Scallops". As soon as one of us picked one off the platter, she said this smells really fishy. Then next of us said Has this turned? I took one which did not seem spoiled but had a very non-scallopy texture, stringy in fact, and seemed rather thin for a sea scallop. I wondered if it perhaps had been a skate-wing cut to masquerade as scallop. Anyone ever experienced that? I have read of its being done but this would be my first experience of it if so.
I stopped here last Friday night and it was about 1/2 full. The food was not as flavorful as in my previous 2 trips to Z-88. Our group of three had the spareribs in a pumpkin which was very bland. We also had spicy fish with vegetables which was decent. The spicy cold noodle dish was not spicy at all and was bland as well. I guess this time we ordered all the wrong dishes compared to our other meals here.
Chong Qing wings next time, D- I have such a craving right now.
Those green beans really are so simple and perfect. I like that Zone 88 is really clean and what may be lacking in service shows up in their friendliness and the care they take with the food. We also thought the dumplings were just pretty OK, but you could still tell they were well prepared, if that makes any sence
re: P. Punko
hubby and I stopped in for a late lunch on Friday: it was too nice out for me to be in a soup mood, ....but we did really enjoy the cumin lamb. I *was* in a leafy vegetable mood so instead of string beans we tried the vinegared bok choy. I thought it hit the spot, but hubby told me after eating his half that he really wasn't that fond of vinegar...sigh...for his sake at least should have gotten the string beans! Was interested to note that the green beans and a tofu dish were the staff dinner when they all sat down to eat just after we left (at about 2:30 p.m.). Portions are generous; prices are low, service was very friendly and for us, not at all slow...but there were only a few tables occupied.
We had a pretty amazing meal at Zone 88 a couple of weeks ago.
We had the following :
1. Hot and Sour Soup (with white meat - Chicken)
2. Sliced Fish in spicy hot sauce (this was superlative)
3. Chicken Chow Mein
4. Chicken with Snap Peas
And funnily enough, it was a craving for Hot and Sour soup that brought us here !
I could not find fault with any of the above, very slow but polite service.
This is one of our regular venues.
that's funny, I was in the mood for hot and sour soup tonight, partially to get the memory of the really not-good soup I had at Old Town Cafe out of my mind, and partially just because it was that type of night....We thought about Zone 88, but decided we wanted tried and true, so we went to Lotus Garden for their (Vietnamese) version with prawns....it was great as always...highly recommended. Will have to try the Zone 88 version soon too...thanks for the report!