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Sep 19, 2008 02:03 PM

Chowdown Report - 09/19 - Z&Y Garden (formerly Sam Lok)

It was great to meet a few 'hounds at the chowdown, from which I just returned.
Melanie, Kim, Paul, Frank.

As a first time chowdown attendee, I was nominated to start the thread, I am sure pictures and elaborate descriptions will follow.

Here's what we ordered and made short work of:

Couple Delight (Beef Shank and Tripe)
Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Pancake with beef (Sweet)
Spicy fish with flaming Chili Oil
Chicken with explosive chili pepper
Tea Smoked Duck
Twice cooked pork
Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
Sauteed vegetable with ham in broth
Tan Tan Noodle
(Mung) Bean Jello with Chili Oil

My personal favourites were Couple Delight, Eggplant and the Jello.

Cheers and thanks for a brilliant Friday lunch, and great company to boot !

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  1. Thanks for kicking off this thread, osho. It was terrific to meet and chow with you. could you please elaborate on what about the jello found favor with you? I ask because things of that texture often don't have the same appeal to non-Chinese folks.

    Overall, I found the cooking quite competent. Nothing was the best example I'd had, but all prepared well and with a bit more refinement than under the Sam Lok banner. When I placed the order, our waitress queried me, shifting to Mandarin, to ask if the group could handle full spicy hot. I said to turn it on.

    The three dishes you mention were prepped particularly well. The fu qi fei pian had delectable spicy heat and complexity to the red oil seasoning. The slivers of beef shank were a bit hard, the only downside. I liked the fish-flavored eggplant, prepared here with a crunchy batter coating, and more of a pickley taste to the chili garlic sauce. The mung bean jello was cool and refreshing, the kind of spicy dish to eat on a hot day, although my preference is for a sour note.

    I also though the dan dan mian were good. The spicy fish (water boiled fish) had lovely texture, but not quite enough oomph and depth to the spicing. The chongqing chicken, requested on the bone, was a bit overcooked, turning into something more akin to jerky in texture. Tasty jerky though with lots of chilis and Sichuan peppercorns.

    I was particularly taken with the baby bok choi poached in chicken stock and topped with matchsticks of Virginia ham. This was more Cantonese-y to me, and a much better job than the previous regime did with vegetables. These were the tiny, fat hearts called choi dom in Cantonese. The clear, clean chicken stock was delicious and I drained the last drop. I imagine that the Yunnan chicken steampot is still very good here, if this is the same stock.

    The waitress pushed the pancake with beef, made with onion pancake (cong yu bing) rolled around thin slices of beef shank (same as in the couples delight) and slathered with way too much hoisin sauce. She said that it was very popular, but I found it much too sweet. I did think that the scallion pancake was quite good, very flaky and crisp, and I'd order it by itself.

    The tea smoked duck also fell down. Nice and moist, but not very smoky or flavorful.

    Our tab came to $27 per person and we had enough food to feed one or two more people, I think. The service was very good for the most part. For large parties, there are three round tables of eight, and I bet that they have bigger tabletops to up the seating space.

    Z&Y signs

    Z&Y water boiled fish

    * * * * Sichuan Chowdown Series * * * *

    Z & Y, San Francisco (September 2008

    Chili Garden, Milpitas (July 2008)

    Little Sichuan, San Mateo (July 2008)

    Great Szechuan, Richmond (June 2008

    Hunan Restaurant, Fresno (Chef Liu rediscovered, May 2008)

    China Village, Albany (November 2007)

    South Legend, Milpitas (July 2007)

    Zone 88, San Francisco (December 2006)

    Little Sichuan Express, Fremont (September 2005)

    FeldmanFest @ China Village, Albany (Chef Liu’s last night, September 2004)

    Spices! II, San Francisco (January 2004)

    Z & Y
    655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

    1. Thanks, osho, and welcome. There was a bounty of food on a pleasant day in San Francisco. I arrived just in time for the appetizers. This was my first time eating Yunnan food and all I can say is that in this case, my ignorance was bliss. Since I did not have a frame of reference, I thought many of the dishes were SUPPOSED to be that way.

      Perhaps the paper thin slices of beef shank in chili oil should have been meltingly tender, but mine weren't tough. Instead they had the texture of air dried meat like bresaola, which I like, and the chili oil was delightfully tingly. The sliced pork with garlic sauce was yummy though it had a more cooked texture than the shank. I agree that the beef pancake was quite sweet.

      The tiny chicken pieces were bacon-crunchy, a texture I enjoy. Given the size of each piece, I supposed that this was the intent, deep-fry them on the bone to concentrate the flavors, so it did not occur to me that they might have been overdone.

      I wasn't impressed with the duck and only now I come to find out that it was tea smoked. The piece I ate had no discernible tea smoke flavor. I did find the twice cooked pork to be interesting in that in that the color, texture and taste was so different from the usual fare you get at most restaurants. The other dish that comes to mind is the eggplant, which while tasty, was sweeter than I prefer. In fact it was sweeter than the pancake, to my recall.

      This is an interesting place and I think it deserves another visit. Those sensitive to peanuts, chilies or oil should proceed with caution.

      4 Replies
      1. re: nestorius

        About the jello - it was the combination of a faint taste of mung bean and the texture - which reminded me of a dish I have had in Hong Kong - many moons ago.

        How could I forget the aubergine ? It was absolutely yummy, perfectly seasoned with pepper, thin slivers of ginger and green onion.

        Anyone with peanut allergies should be extremely careful about this place though.

        1. re: osho

          Thanks, I've never focused on the mung bean flavor, it's always been about texture, temperature, and the sauce for me. I'll pay closer attention next time.

          Here's a link to Xiao Yang's report on dinner at Z & Y,
          I think his onion crepe was the same dish as the pancake with beef we had.

          * * * * * * * *
          Last chance to sign up for
          Chowing with the Hounds picnic, Sat, 9/27 in Berkeley's Tilden Park

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            You are right about the crepe, though the filling in ours appeared to be ham, by color and taste (though overwhelmed by the sauce). I agree with you about it being too sweet, though the dish was a consensus favorite of the table.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              It well may have been ham. The menu item is made with beef. If I'd not been told it was beef shank, the reddish appearance, firmish texture, and salty cured flavor could have convinced me it was ham. This curious shank meat first came out in the fu qi fei pian, and the same was used to make our rolled up pancake filling.

              The other dish that our waitress recommended is the Peking duck, served with pancakes. I think it was $32. Since it wasn't available as a half order, we went with the tea smoked duck instead and saved this for a future visit.