Shandong style in San Diego
Chowhounds, I scoured the board for great ethnic restaurants to try in San Diego but never came across this one that my parents took me to in the Clairmont/Convoy area. It is called San Tong and it is owned by Koreans who cook in the Chinese style. If you're Korean this is super exciting because it means that they make Korean style black bean sauce noodles called chajangmyun. Chajangmyun is like everywhere in Korean, as ubiquitous as the pizza is in the US, but Korean style is difficult to find in the US because it is only made by Koreans who come from China.
We went there tonight and everything I had was excellent! They make the best Chajangmyun and exactly the way I like it with thick black bean sauce, fragrant from onions, slightly salty but never sweet with homemade noodles, and a small hill of shaved cucumber on top. It was so incredibly good. I wish I had a place like this in the SF Bay area! We also had champong which is a spicy version of ramen and it was delicous and not that spicy. They make the best wonton soup I have ever tasted; the vegetables were tender and crisp with a lovely color and the wontons tasted firm on the outside but juicy on the inside. We also had the sweet and sour pork (best I've ever had!) and three mushrooms with tofu which had a light sauce and a fresh taste to it. Mushu pork was also tasty, a little salty, but quite delicious.
I think this restaurant gets overlooked by people searching for Asian food in this minimall (all of Claremont/Convoy is a series of minimalls) because it's not as flashy as the restaurants around it (ooohhh glamorous sushi and Sichuan food....) and its menu looks boring. Don't be fooled! This place is awesome -- the couple who own it are very nice. They are very Korean so don't be put-off by the Koreanness of the service (ie. forgetting to bring bowls or not understanding what you say the first time.) You know you're on to something great when all the other customers are Korean around you.
San Tong -- 4690 Convoy (It's hard to find this place. We had to turn around a couple of times before clicking on the iphone and then making a turn onto Engineer off Convoy to get into the minimall.)
Thank you! I'm drooling. There's a place in SF on Irivine St. in the Richmond District called San Tung (spelling gets debated on the SF board). Have you been there? We went once but were not too impressed. Our experience did not match the glowing praise that place usually receives although our ignorance of the menu may have been the cause. I'm really intrigued by the "made by Koreans who come from China" identification; San Tong is now on my list.
I've been to San Tung three times now and it really is pretty fantastic... but I think my first visit was probably my worst. Ignorance about the menu is definitely a problem, because when they don't do something well (i.e. their potstickers and dumplings... yikes), they really don't do it well. Their jajangmyun is amazing... the rich almost-smoky black bean sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and crisp cucumber... I still dream about it. The sticky fried chicken is also a must and two surprisingly good dishes were the eggplant and the mushu pork (Mr. Geeky's favorite and he had a hankering, so we ordered it... and it turned out to be one of the best versions I've had in a long time).
I also hear that jajangmyun is featured at Noodle Town and is pretty good, although I have yet to try it. One place that has jajangmyun and it's tasty, although not at all like the Shandong version, is Dumpling Inn. Looking forward to trying San Tong Palace, because San Tung has me going through jajangmyun withdrawals.
I think the full name of this place is actually "San Tong Palace". I've been there a couple of times before but was never too impressed and the place is always pretty empty even on a Friday or Sat night. I will readily admit that I'm not exactly familiar with Chinese/Korean hybrid cuisine which is what they specialize in so I probably didn't order the right stuff. Maybe I'll go back and try the Chajangmyun.
Yes, I think it's important to order the Chinese/Korean hybrid dishes to get a good sense of the place although I found the typically Chinese items tasty too. They definitely have a loyal local following. I think the plastic food in the front window and bland looking menu turn a lot of non-Koreans off to the place. SDGirl, San Tung in SF is on my list now that you've mentioned it. I'd love to find some great chajangmyun in the Bay Area because I get such cravings for it watching Korean dramas (it's all they ever eat besides ramen!)
I'm not a big fan of the place, though I guess it now makes the best jajangmyeon, now that Lucky Dragon has closed. Stay away from the Jiaozi though, it's terrible.
One quick comment, to me this is not Shandong style, it's Jung Hwa Yori, Sino-Chinese, or Korean Chinese. My wife is from Qingdao in Shandong, right across from Korea.
I've been to a few pretty good Jung Hwa Yori places in Garden Grove and even one in Rowland Heights, so I didn't find the food to be particularly good.