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Jai Yun: What did I eat?

On a recent trip to SF, I joined a group of friends for an excellent meal at Jai Yun. While the food was great, there were a couple dishes we couldn't identify. Don't worry, it didn't stop us from enjoying them!

After some research, I've found photos and descriptions that cleared up most of the things we had questions on (abalone, wheat gluten, other ingredients in various salads). Most of the dishes appeared to be things that have been in rotation for a while. Can you help me figure out the last mystery?

It was something that looked like chicken knee joints, tasted like pork, and was clearly mostly cartilage... but a nice, chewable cartilage.

I've included photos of the mystery dish, but you can see everything that came with our $45 menu on flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericaamc...

All in all it was a wonderful experience. We were a little worried when we turned out to be the only diners in the restaurant (a truly eerie feeling), but once the food started coming, we stopped worrying! Everything was prepared meticulously, and there were many amazing dishes I had never had before. My favorites were the satisfying abalone, the crisp and tender fried eggplant and the rich pork knuckle.

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    1. I believe you are correct. Stir fried chicken knees. Not commonly served in the US, but I've had them in Hong Kong before.

      2 Replies
      1. re: zfalcon

        We have had that a couple of times in Vancouver.

        1. re: zfalcon

          Never saw chicken ankles (that's how they were described to me) prior to eating them in Vancouver about three years ago, but all of a sudden they're becoming quite common in the Los Angeles area, and I'd be surprised if they haven't already made their way to other Bay Area Chinese restaurants.

        2. nice images! thanks ..... which menu $$ did you order - if you don't mind me asking?
          you had quite a few dishes so it doesn't appear to be the $45 one ........

          1 Reply
          1. re: gordon wing

            oops! I didn't read your post very thoroughly - you did have the $45 menu. thanks.

          2. Definitely looks like chicken knees, which I've never seen on a Shanghainese menu. There's a restaurant in Monterey Park (L.A. area) that's famous for a chicken knee dish, which almost looks like it came from the same chef:


            1. thanks for the reminder about that wonderful eggplant!

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  You can pretty much judge from the photostream. They appeared to shared by six diners.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    To put it another way, by the end were you still hungry, stuffed, or somewhere in between?

                  2. I did a $55 menu but didn't get that dish. Looks interesting. Did you like it?

                    When we ate, we were the only table there too until a big table of 10 arrived and then they were just loud. I kind of like it when you're the only diners, it's like the chef is cooking just for you. ;-)

                    1. I am sorry I don't get it. OK the plates are nice and all. But $45 per person? For that I'd be dining on lobsters and whole steamed fish, not Shanghainese small plates (maybe medium plates).

                      I don't have to wonder why there was only one table there.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: PeterL

                        But do you get 20+ courses, all personally cooked for you by the head chef? I think a fairer comparison is with sushi, where you pay top dollar to have a talented chef essentially do just that.

                        And mind you, that $45 wouldn't cover 1/5 of a French Laundry meal. That's pretty cheap "haute" dining.

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          not to mention that you can't taste the pictures,,,I don't see how anyone can say they don't get it if they haven't actually tasted the food!

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            The food could be, and by all accounts, are very tasty. I just don't see paying beyond top dollars for those ingredients.

                          2. re: Xiao Yang

                            So you think Jai Yun is comparable to the French Laundry? That's some high praise. I would expect the waiting list to get into Jai Yun to be at least a couple of months. Why then when the OP was there they were the only table?

                            You don't get it done personally by the head chef even at French Laundry.

                            My objection is, just by looking at the dishes, I don't see how that's haute. In Chinese dining, haute would have ingredients such as shark fin, abalone, lobsters, whole steamed fish, etc. I am sure those dishes were all very tasty, but haute? I don't think so.

                            1. re: PeterL

                              There's probably not a waiting list at Jai Yun because too many people like you believe that the cost of the ingredients is the only measure of worth of the food in Chinese cuisine. This attitude belittles Chinese food, IMHO.

                              1. re: PeterL

                                Um, the OP did eat Abalone. When I was at Jai Yun, I had a whole fish prep done like a dragon that was stunning. Have you been? If not, I suggest giving it a try and reporting back, otherwise I don't know how much information is contributed by a cursory review of photos of the food.

                            2. re: PeterL

                              I consider $45 a person a bargain for Jai Yun's 10+-course tasting menu (or 20+ courses if you count the individual cold appetizers).

                              Western tasting menus and omakase dinners in SF around here start at twice that and go up to $200. The total bill at those places is typically much higher since unlike Jai Yun they have expensive wine and corkage fees up to $50.

                            3. Thanks everyone! Now I am wondering how they were cooked, and with what, to make them so rich-tasting and easy to chew - nothing at all like the knees on the chicken I make at home!

                              Yes, it was the $45 menu, and we were all very full and satisfied, although thanks to all the wine we brought with us (no corkage fee!), we went out and got dessert afterwards too.

                              I thought the price was completely reasonable. While I've paid a lot less for great Chinese food, I've also paid a lot more for western food that was nowhere near as delicious, unusual or detail-oriented as this meal. I don't think the photos can convey how amazing the eggplant was, or the abalone... mmmmmm

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: erican

                                We were extremely pleased with our meal at Jai Yun. Just really superb food, much of it stuff we'd never had before.