HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Best Chinese, not dim sum, in entire Bay Area

I've had dim sum in Vancouver, Hong Kong, and New York and reading over the hundreds of posts here, perhaps I will just pass up dim sum here entirely.

What other Chinese is worth getting? Especially some of the more unusual varieties, e.g. not Cantonese.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I too would like to hear from whoever has tried all the Chinese restaurants in the nine-county region and can recommend the best of them.

    1. I think you should just pass up Chinese in the Bay Area altogether. If you already had the best HK and Vancouver has to offer, nothing in the Bay Area can top that. There are some good Chinese restaurants here, but nothing innovative or esp. outstanding, compared to HK and Vancouver.

      1. While there are tons of Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghainese, arguably Beijing style and what not types of the more well known cuisines in the countries you mentioned, I don't see or read a lot of Shandong style (Lu) restaurants in Hong Kong or Vancouver.

        If so then definitely San Tung on Irving in SF. Noodles, dumplings, appetizers are great. I would avoid things on the menu that are non Shandong in origin, like dan dan noodles (Sichuanese).

        Another very strong Chinese restaurant is Old Islamic Mandarin in SF, easily the best Islamic Chinese in the SF Bay Area. Another good one but different, is Chinjin Eastern House in San Jose.

        I'm going to think of more places. Too early to throw in the gauntlet just because some of our SF Bay's dim sum houses are perceived to the nittiest of picky not to be on par with the rest of the world (and thus scaring away the casual dim sum fans).

        1. Two places I am currently a fan of are Grand Sichuan in the East Bay and Beijing Restaurant on Alemany.

          If you are adventurous and want to eat something Cantonese that you can't get in HK or Vancouver, go to New Woey Loy Goey (right now, because they are seasonal) in Chinatown and get soong yue (Sacramento Blackfish) or local snails. My father's boyhood friend times his visits from HK so he can gorge on Dungeness and blackfish.

          Be aware that San Tung loves the MSG.

          I agree with KK that the casual dim sum eater is fine eating dim sum in SF. And the high end dim sum in the Bay Area is significantly better than NYC.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sfbing

            Is Grand Sichuan = Great Szechwan in the Pacific East Mall?

            If so, someone mentioned it was closed or had change of ownership papers in its windows.

            1. re: kc72

              Yeah, Great Szechwan is now Sichuan Fusion.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                I've been recently and the food (and the waiters) appear to be the same. The fish soup annoyingly is no longer on the menu, but they do make it upon request.

          2. Jai Yun's the one place that comes to mind immediately. Shanghai but not like anylace else. Lots of reports linked from the Places entry.

            Koi Palace for high-end Cantonese seafood like you'd get in Hong Kong.

            Little Sheep for Sichuan hot pot.

            Old Mandarin Islamic for Peking hot pot. I don't think much of their noodles and they don't make breads.

            Chinjin for Chinese Muslim noodle dishes.

            Chinjin or Fatima in San Jose for lamb warm pot and sesame bread.

            Probably not worth a special trip, but if you're nearby, Darda in Milpitas for Xinxiang cumin lamb.

            Koi Palace Restaurant
            365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

            Jai Yun
            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Little Sheep
            34396 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City, CA 94587

            Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
            3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

            Fatima Restaurant
            10125 Bandley Dr, Cupertino, CA 95014

            Darda Seafood Restaurant
            296 Barber Ct, Milpitas, CA 95035

            Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
            215 S Ellsworth Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

            Chinjin Eastern House
            1530 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

            7 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Does anyone have a recent report on Jai Yun? I walk past it periodically and it looks kind of closed.

              1. re: sfbing

                The place looks closed until it opens at 6:30, and if there are no reservations, it might not open then.

                I just called to check and he's still in business. And still doesn't speak much English.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Thanks! Since he is still there, I would have to add Jai Yun to the list. Pricey, but the chef is remarkably talented. Party of 4 is optimal, though. He has some sort of issue with portion sizes.

                  1. re: sfbing

                    What do you mean? My last meal there we weree a party of two and it was fine.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I've gone as a party of four and a party of eight. He basically puts down the same amount of food for 4 or 8. So we were pleasantly full as party of 4, while everyone only got a taste of everything as a party of 8.

                      I don't think he is being cheap--I suspect he subconsciously finds too much food on the plate is aesthetically unappealing.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                I believe Hong Kong does have official branches of LIttle Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (not sure about Vancouver off the top of my head). They are all ISO 9001 certified, so they should maintain some minimal standard across locations. The only differences would be sourcing local vegetables and to a small extent, meat (although the lamb supposedly all comes from inner Mongolia somewhere). This was the other place I was thinking of, but you beat me to the punch.

                I luckily never had MSG issues with San Tung. Then again I only stick with two things, pork and cabbage boiled dumplings and 5 spice beef noodle soup which is all the comfort food I need. And maybe a cold plate appetizer like tofu strips or pig's ear. I suppose the MSG if any, is left to the stir fry dishes where I've hesistated over 10+ years to venture into that side of the menu.

                Another place I thought of, but 1) is in the deep South Bay of Milpitas 2) requires advanced booking of the dishes 3) you'd need a bigger party to try all the specialties is Liou's House where I read other local Chinese/Taiwanese expat blogs that the chef used to cook for former VP and politician of Taiwan Lien Chan and opened up his own place. I'd link two blogs (primarily for their photos of the specialty dishes) but I know this site has issues and certain restrictions (especially since they are not my blogs) so to avoid this useful post being deleted I'll "ask" for permission first. All I can say is based on the pictures I've seen of the specialty advanced order dishes, the style (can't comment about the taste yet) is exactly like high end banquet dining in Taiwan, where the focus is Shanghainese, Sichuan, Shandong, and Northern Chinese. Except the cost here is much higher vs Taiwan.

                1. re: K K

                  I wasn't there, but here's a link to the report from the chowdown at Liou's House a little over a year ago.

                  Liou's House
                  1245 Jacklin Rd, Milpitas, CA 95035

              3. I should start getting paid to rep them, but my favorite is still Hunan Taste in San Jose.

                1. Lily's House might be of interest. Successful chef in Shanghai moves to culinarily forsaken Lafayette and now spends most of his time making broccoli beef, but can still pull out the specialties when requested.

                  For Sichuan, I like China Village a little more than Sichuan Fusion, although the latter's menu is more focused. Z&Y Garden is conveniently located in Chinatown and has some dishes from the rare (in the US) Yunnan cuisine, but from my limited experience I don't think it executes as well as CV or SF. There are plenty of acclaimed places further south I haven't tried (e.g. Little Sichuan in Newark), but in general I'd guess Bay Area Sichuan would be pleasing, rather than revelatory, to someone used to eating in cities with a reasonably large emigrant mainland Chinese community.

                  For (broadly defined) "northern", besides the essential Old Mandarin and the noodle places, Little Shen Yang might be fun. Not fancy at all, and likely not worth going out of your way for if your time is limited, but if you're nearby for some reason consider stopping for a Dongbei dish or two.

                  China Village
                  1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                  Lily's House
                  3555 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

                  Little Shen Yang
                  1749 Decoto Rd, Union City, CA 94587

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: bradluen

                    I don't think I'd order any of Z&Y's Yunnan dishes again. I'd go for Sichuan if I were in the neighborhood and craving it but I think China Village is better.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I had heard that some of the chefs from China Village had moved to Sichuan Fusion. Can anyone substantiate this?

                      For my part, I count on China Village's soups and stews, especially the thousand-chili fish stew and the fish/tofu stew.

                    2. re: bradluen

                      My friends and I found Lily's way below average. It was a boring meal. And almost tastless.

                      1. re: Janet

                        Wow, what did you order? Lily's is my favorite Shanghainese restaurant in the Bay Area.

                        1. re: bradluen

                          I am sorry Bay Area Chinese hounds, the truth hurts. All of these suggestions are fine, and if you live here they are good choices. But none of those answers the OP's question, which is, for someone who has experienced the finest Chinese dining in HK and Vancouver, where would you go in the Bay Area that one would not find in those cities. And the answer is, none. There are simply no Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area that would compete with the best HK or Vancouver has to offer.

                          So I reiterate my first reply to the OP, skip Chinese when you are here. Otherwise you'd sure to be disappointed.

                          1. re: PeterL

                            The reference to Vancouver, Hong Kong, and New York regards dim sum only.

                            The question at hand is, "What other Chinese is worth getting? Especially some of the more unusual varieties, e.g. not Cantonese."

                            Unless you *live* in China or maybe Vancouver, or spend lots of time there, there's plenty of Chinese food worth eating in the Bay Area. I think maybe redlantern lives in Austin.

                            1. re: PeterL

                              PeterL: "There are simply no Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area that would compete with the best HK or Vancouver has to offer."

                              Your experience might meet the criterion I posted above (immediately after the OP), Peter. With all that experience can you recommend particular Bay Area Chinese restaurants that you _do_ like, regardless of HK etc.?

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                With the breadth and depth of experience of Chowhounders such as PeterL, you're not going to hear anything different from that which has been pointed out on this board as representing top fare, e.g., Koi Palace, China Village, Zen Peninsula, Asian Pearl, Kitchen, Joy Luck, Jai Yun, Shanghai Kitchen etc. etc. While none of us have tried every Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area, I personally have been to several hundred, as I am sure have many others, and with word of mouth being particularly effective in the Chinese community, as well as on this board, I'm confident we've identified the best of the best out there.

                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  I would agree that the best have been listed more or less, barring "the best of the best", to be the kind of individual type of experience, where one develops a special relationship with a head or executive chef (as well as restaurant management) and gets off menu dishes prepared. In these special circumstances, no one else save folks like the VIP golfer spendy types and their friends, will get that kind of treatment and food that will be "as good as Hong Kong, Vancouver, etc".

                              2. re: PeterL

                                We had Chinese in Vancouver, and we must have gone to the wrong restaurant, because it was pretty awful. And overpriced. Certainly no where near what used to be the best Chinese restaurant in the world: O'Mei in Santa Cruz. It's still darn good.

                                1. re: Kim Cooper

                                  Well when people say Vancouver they really mean the suburb of Richmond, B.C., near the airport. Probably dozens of Chinese restaurants there are superior to the best that SF (and LA) have to offer.

                            2. Joy in Foster City is very good Taiwan style. Hits are the hand cut noodles, made to order pot-stickers (4-5 inch long torpedo shape with lovely ginger & pork flavor), lions head, salt & pepper shrimp, and more. They have several dishes with offal cuts and pig's blood, which they did not recommend to us, but many people seemed to be ordering. They are also known for their stinky tofu, which have yet to try.

                              Joy Restaurant
                              1489 Beach Park Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                              1. My vote for one of the best Sichuan places in the Bay Area is Little Sichuan, in Newark, CA. It has received a lot of very favorable reviews, and now I'm adding mine to the mix. Their crispy fried pork (gan bian zhu rou) and Chongqing spicy chicken (dried fried chicken wings with Sichuan peppercorn and chilis) are superlatory, along with their Xinjiang cumin lamb. I also like their water-boiled beef. Rice is also good, with satisfying tea.

                                The service is great, the lady in glasses is very sweet and welcoming. Good, mellow place to take company or friends for a real conversation.

                                Link to the blog post below:

                                Little Sichuan
                                35233 Newark Blvd Ste F, Newark, CA 94560