Cheap Chinese (for now) at King Sing Hong Kong Restaurant (SF)
Last Monday I tried to take my mom to Patisserie Philippe for lunch, but in the downpour, the garage was full and I couldn’t find a space on the street close enough to dash in without getting drenched. Next choice was closer to her afternoon appointment, Bay Fung Tong on Balboa, but we discovered that it was closed. Nearby I remembered King Sing, which I’d tried when it was a “Mandarin” and Korean-Chinese Shandong type place. It’s had a few changes of ownership and now sports a “grand opening” banner and a name change on the marquee to King Sing Hong Kong Restaurant. The interior is transformed too, now sleek and contemporary with dark woods and wine racking for what looks it will be a bar when the construction is complete.
The restaurant was still using the printed menus from the previous incarnation (King Sing Mandarin Restaurant) but has a supplementary page of Cantonese/Hong Kong-style dishes listed in Chinese available between 11am and 3pm, priced from $5.95 to $7.95. These lunch specials are also displayed in handwritten signs on the windows. Our waiter happily obliged when I asked him to read/translate them for us. He mentioned that King Sing changed hands three weeks ago.
We ordered three items to share, won ton soup noodles and two items from the specials menu. Soon two servings of the house soup came out. This day’s “old fire” soup had the long-simmered taste of the bones, plus some barley, carrots and bits of pork in it, a good start.
Our first dish, Yu xiang eggplant ("fish-flavored"), $5.95, featured perfectly cooked, slightly carmelized, velvety pieces of Chinese eggplant. But despite this dish’s textural lusciousness, the taste was decidedly bland. At least it wasn't too salty or sweet, which are common faults. When I asked our waiter why this was missing the traditional missed pork, he said this dish is popular with vegetarians and that’s why there’s no meat. When I then pointed out the absence of sufficient garlic and chilis, our server whisked it away to the kitchen before we could protest, and brought it back to us with a new red-colored chili sheen and some minced and sautéed garlic mixed in, making it much, much tastier. This dish was tastier still when we got the leftovers home and my mom reheated it with the fresh jalapeno and scallions from the pork chop dish. The eggplant was great with steamed rice.
Next was a big serving of salt and pepper pork chops for $5.95 from the Chinese menu. Artfully presented on modern white porcelain with the seasoned salt sprinkled on top (see crystals) and a cluster of the scallions and fresh chilis, but it would have tasted better if the seasonings had been tossed to combine with the meat. Breaded a bit too thickly, but otherwise prepared well with greaseless, succulent, juicy pork. Quite a satisfying dish, and excellent value of price to quality and quantity.
Now we were wondering what happened to our won tons. Checking with our waiter, he said, “I cancelled the order. Too much food for the two of you, so I cancelled it.” Then he turned tail and dashed off. Mom fumed, “Who does he think he is?”, but later she thought it was funny that a new restaurant didn’t jump on the opportunity to oversell us. We figured that the kitchen ran out of wonton wrappers or something that morning. In any case, with less food in front of us we made it to our appointment on time easily.
The dishes we ordered were good enough that we’d return to try more. Service at King Sing was still disjointed but well-meaning. Our waiter spoke excellent English, and didn’t hesitate to help us with the menu. There were never more than two other parties during our meal. Portion sizes are big at this point with above average quality. Some times this doesn’t last long beyond the opening weeks, so this is a near-term opportunity to enjoy clean and comfortable surroundings at relatively low prices.
King Sing Mandarin
501 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Geez, forgot all about China House (not China House Bistro). Use to be a go-to place when I lived in the Richmond. It was very good and inexpensive for what it was. I order a fair amount of take-out but also did a lot of dine in. Even had CNY with some friends there one year. It actually sounds similar from the dishes described. (the pork chop photos look very familar) The people who owned it were very nice...6-7 or so years ago. Parking is hell however. Thanks I'll have to check it out if I'm in the area.
p.s. a little triva...Sen. DiFi use to like the first China House Bistro.
Oh yeah, after I had the waiter read the Chinese menu to us (and it's much longer than the list of lunch specials on the English menu), Mom said to me, "I'll have the won tons with noodles." I felt like I had to pick at least two of the specials after the effort to find out what they were! I'd also asked the waiter if wontons with noodles was available, as it's listed only as won ton soup on the menu, and he said, "yes". So, it was crazy that we didn't get our order.
yes, that was many, many moons ago!
here's the wu choy menu for King Sing:
$28: serves 3
Seafood Tofu Soup
Honey Walnut Prawn (I'd ask to substitute Chili Shrimp)
Clams in Black Bean Sauce
Chicken with Tender Green
Deep Fried Large Sanddab
Fish w/soy sauce
$48 serves 5 to 6
Seafood Tofu soup
Honey Walnut Prawn
Crispy Deep-fried Chicken
Braised Pork Belly with Taro
Clams in Black Bean Sauce
Spicy Salt & Pepper Spareribs
Calamari with Tender Greens
Deep-fried Large Sanddab
Fish w/Soy Sauce
$88 serves 6 to 8
Fish Maw Seafood soup
Honey Walnut Prawn
Crab with Ginger & Green Onion
Dong Po Pork
Mushroom with Vegetable
Spicy Salt & Pepper Spareribs
Steamed Oyster (8) with Black Bean Sauce
Steamed Seasonal Fish
Dessert of the Day
Mom and I had a late lunch at King Sing on Thursday last week; our "lunch" soup was egg drop rich with chicken broth and diced carrots and peas - could that be frozen carrots/peas? The soup was very rich and just needed a shake of white pepper. The portions on the Lunch plate are generous and we'd also return to try other dishes. The fried chicken with sweet garlic sauce - just enough vinegar to avoid a cloying sweetness - was crispy and moist. Service was attentive; table of three construction workers, elderly lady and grandson, single guy, two young women... mom and me. Most tables had orders from the menu to share... I think only the single guy and our table had the $5.95 lunch plates. We'll return to order from the full menu.
Bay Fung Tong moved out of the Balboa location on Thursday and the sign on the door said moved to Empero Taste/4052 Balboa!
... lock, stock, and barrel...the truck was loaded with hot water tanks, even the stainless steel restaurant sinks...
Thanks a bunch for typing the wo choy menus!
Did you order the lunch specials from the bound menu printed in English or from the Chinese menu? I ask because I wonder if it makes a difference which type of soup you get. Also, there was a $2 charge on our bill, guess it was a buck apiece for rice or a cover charge, in addition to the $5.95 per dish. In any case, it was still a lot of food for the price and we made lots of fried rice with the leftovers rice we took home.
You only ordered the chicken? The fried chicken with garlic sauce sounds like a return to the "Mandarin" menu of the original King Sing. I will say that I thought the food was much better than i've had at Bay Fung Tong. Not perfect, but comparable in quality to say Ming's Diner on Taraval before it changed hands or the now departed Ocean on Clement. So, 'hounds should check it out while they're still trying to impress.
re: Melanie Wong
We ordered the lunch specials from the bound menu printed in English... the other dish was the fish fillet with spicy eggplant (it was more sweet than spicy) - the eggplant was cut beautifully and perfectly cooked - but the sauce was too much like the sweet garlic sauce on the fried chicken. Delicious, but too similar. Portions are generous and we had leftovers to take home for Mom's dinner.
Today we shared the bubbling Oyster and Roast Pork claypot with tofu. Excellent flavors and seven good-sized fat oysters were completely satisfying! no leftovers!
I like Empero Taste (has been the same as Best Panda, the name before.) Now, I worry that Empero Taste will change. What do you think?
Also, Melanie comment: I've had other Chinese restaurants tell me I'm ordering too much (I like to bring some home). If I owned a restaurant, I'd never try to talk people out of ordering stuff.
Empero is run by the same people (Best Panda and Bay Fung Tong). The son runs Empero and the father took over BFT. Now that BFT is gone, I've seen the father at Empero during dinner service.
Eating at Empero is such a crap shoot. You never know how the food turns out. Last month, I had dinner there and it was excellent (the lobster made my mouth water). Two weeks ago I came back from dinner and everything was drowned in salt. They are good but they are inconsistent!
Sounds like BFT! I was never impressed, but others would swear by it, and i figured it was just a really bad case of inconsistency in the kitchen.
And for "walker", I do appreciate it when a server tells me that I've ordered too much. But I want to make the call on cutting back myself and not have someone else decide.