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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111
34396 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City, CA 94587
Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116
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
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.
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.