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In SF for two days - looking for Chinese for Lunch and Dinner!

Hey everyone:

Long time lurker, first time poster. My wife and I are going to be visiting relatives in San Francisco for two days on our way to Hawaii, and we're looking to get a mess of Chinese food while we're in the area. We will be in town this Wednesday and Thursday (12/2 and 12/3) and the sheer volume of reviews/recommendations on this board is overwhelming! I've grokked a bunch of ideas so far, so here's what I have! The groundwork:

1) Have car, will travel!

2) Wife is completely seafood avoidant, so if the specialty of your restaurant is Seafood, we'll take a pass (seafood can of course be part of the cuisine at the restaurant!)

3) We are a fan of the spice!

4) Looking for a sit-down restaurant!

Ok, here's what I have so far:

SFO Proper:
1) Panda Country Kitchen (4737 Geary Blvd Station) - SZ, order the Spicy Wontons

2) Jai Yun (680 Clay Street) Prix Fixe menu, a little worried that it might be too seafood heavy for the wife. Call ahead for reservations a day in advance if we want in here.

3) Citrus Club (1790 Haight Street) - Noodle house, fusion. Recommended by a cousin. Are there better Noodle Houses or Fusion restaurants in the city?

4) LIly's House (Lafayette - 3555 Mt Diablo) - Shang-Chi City Style

5) Happy Golden Bowl (El Cerrito - 10675 San Pablo) - SZ, DDM specialty

Additional Notes:
1) I am personally a fan of Spicy Beef Tendon (either as a soup, or as a course). Haven't found a place that has a stand-out Beef Tendon in my searches - any recommendations?

2) We are a big fan of Honey Toast. Yes, I know this is more of a Japanese desert dish, but if any places do Honey Toast, we'd be very interested in stopping by for desert.

3) Along the same lines - if there be no Honey Toast, yarrrr, recommendations for a stand-out desert would be great!

Thank you in advance! I've found some really stand-out restaurants through Chowhound in the past (Peach Farm in Boston, Payne's BBQ in Memphis, Sakura/Dim Sum Garden for Soup Dumplings in Philly, Woo Jung in Boxborough, MA), and I know y'all won't let me down :)

- Ben

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  1. That's an ecletic group of places you've noted which is devoid of Hong Kong/Cantonese style food, which for many people is the preferred Chinese regional cuisine. (Is this because of your preference for spicy food, which is largely foreign to Hong Kong/Cantonese menus?) Anyway, don't be scared off by the fact that many of the Hong Kong style restaurants call themselves seafood restaurants, because there's plenty of top notch non-seafood alternatives. In this regard I'd suggest Koi Palace Seafood in Daly City, probably the best Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area, and indeed the United States.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      This is 100% true. I've realized at Fu Lam Mum (not worth a drive from SF) - a Hong Kong style joint - that I love the Hong Kong style BBQ Pork. Big plate of pork, cooked just right, $8. Sure, they've got tanks of fish, don't worry - huge menus at these places.

      1. re: bbulkow

        Good point--every Hong Kong style seafood restaurant offers multiple choices in numerous food categories--soup, noodles, chicken, beef, vegetables etc., so the number of available non-seafood items really adds up. Contrast this to Jai Yun where you have to take what they give you, though I don't want to discourage the OP from going there, as it's the most unique Chinese restaurant I've ever been to.

    2. Daimo right off of Highway 80 at the Central Avenue exit, El Cerrito/Richmond border.

      1. Sorry, but the Citrus Club is awful. I sent my food back last time I was there, and left. You could do better with closed eyes wandering through the mall.

        1. So to update with what has been said so far:

          SFO Proper:
          1) Panda Country Kitchen (4737 Geary Blvd Station) - SZ, order the Spicy Wontons

          2) Jai Yun (680 Clay Street) Prix Fixe menu, a little worried that it might be too seafood heavy for the wife. Call ahead for reservations a day in advance if we want in here.

          OUTSIDE SFO:
          3) LIly's House (Lafayette - 3555 Mt Diablo) - Shang-Chi City Style

          4) Happy Golden Bowl (El Cerrito - 10675 San Pablo) - SZ, DDM specialty

          5) ADD: Koi Palace (Daly City - 365 Gelllert Ave) - Cantonese Style

          6) ADD: Daimo (Richmond - 3288A Pierce Street) - Cantonese Style

          Citrus Club (1790 Haight Street) - Noodle house, fusion. Recommended by a cousin. Are there better Noodle Houses or Fusion restaurants in the city?

          1) No particular bias for/against Cantonese, other than the wife's avoidance for seafood. Will probably try to his one Szechuan place, one Cantonese place, and an "other" - not sure what that might be yet :)

          2) Along those lines, Jai Yun will likely be the "other" if the menus that day are seafood "light" - but if not, all bets are off!

          Thanks again for all your help!

          1. For Shanghai, my favorite is Shanghai in Oakland. Total hole in the wall, but great cooking. There are half a dozen Asian dessert cafes nearby that might have "honey toast."


            My favorite spicy beef tendon is nearby, at Spices!3.


            Chinese-Korean / Shandong is pretty strong around here. Chef Yu's in Oakland, Great China in Berkeley.


            You never know what the menu will be at Jai Yun until the food comes out.

            Did you see the "Best Chinese, not dim sum, in entire Bay Area" topic?


            1. Maybe Beijing in SF for something a bit different? There's a long thread about it if you search.

              1. I would recommend Jai Yun for lunch. Less of a committment if you are worried about the seafood. Also, I don't think he does that much cooking with seafood and there should be plenty of things that your wife would enjoy.

                1. For SZ, I would recommend nearby Spices II over Panda Country Kitchen. PCK uses so much of the numbing oil on all of their dishes that it is difficult to taste anything else after the first bite or two. Even better would be China Village in Albany, which is my favorite Chinese restaurant regardless of region.

                  Spices II
                  291 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                  1. Hi Ben,
                    Here are my recs, all are in SF. Even with a car I'm not sure how much you want to be driving around the whole bay area.
                    Z & Y Restaurant - Spicy and a bit more upscale
                    Beijing Restaurant - Yao Ming approved! My favorite dish: beijing noodles w/ special sauce
                    Old Mandarin Islamic - favorite dishes: lamb w/green onion; water boiled fish (shui zhu yu)
                    Spices - There are 2 different locations in the inner richmond. Favorite dish: minced pork w/ vermicelli noodles
                    King of Noodles - Not spicy but good dumplings and hand-pulled noodles. Favorite dish: noodles w/ special sauce
                    You can search chowhound and go to yelp for more descriptions of dishes/photos.

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

                    294 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

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

                    Beijing Restaurant
                    1801 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94112

                    King of Noodles
                    1639 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Kaypel

                      I wouldn't call Z&Y (Sichuan) upscale. The decor's a little fanicier than you'd expect given the prices.

                      1. re: Kaypel

                        Second Beijing Restaurant. The food is authentic and SOLID! Get their "warm pot" (soup with pickled cabbage & ...) Flour products are good too... hand cut noodles, "flour balls," "pancakes/pies," etc.)

                        1. re: intomeat

                          I like Beijing Restaurant ...but I wouldn't go to King of Noodle and Beijing Restaurant on the same two day trip. The food is too similar.

                      2. Thank you so much to everyone for your wonderful input! I think we are firmed up for Jai Yun (which sounds too good NOT to try) and King of Noodles. Will have to throw darts to decide between Panda Country Kitchen, Z&Y, Beijing Restaurant, and Spices II. I will get a report up here later in the week! (We are spending two days in San Francisco, and then going on to Maui for ten days!)

                        - Ben

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: RoanokeBen

                          Ben, no postings on the Maui board? Try Bill Hunt's reviews.

                        2. Thank you so much to everyone! Here's how our experiences went!

                          Our first meal was going to be King of Noodles on Irving Street for lunch on Wednesday. When we got there - surprise! King of Noodles is not open for lunch on either Wednesday or Thursday. Drats! Our backup plan ended up being Spices II. We got Crispy Shredded Pork (which was good), Salt and Pepper Chicken (also good), Chinese Mushroom with Bok Choy (highlight of this meal) and Numbing Cucumber (which was actually pickle, and not cucumber - I liked this one, but my wife was not as big a fan).

                          Wednesday night was dinner with relatives so off we were on Thursday to hit up Z&Y. This was a most excellent meal, with five of us going and getting pretty much every recommended dish on the menu - Tantan noodles were the absolute highlight, and the bean stems in garlic sauce were a hit. The Chicken with Exploding Chili was worth seeing, but the chicken itself was eh, and mostly we ended up sending home three full takeout boxes worth of noodles with one of our dining companions. The flavor here we found to be much better than Spices II, which tended to drown dishes in hot oil.

                          For dinner, we ended up at Jai Yun. WOW! 5 Stars, would absolutely recommend going here to anyone in the area. We called a day ahead for reservations, and ended up getting the $65 Prix Fixe for four. We were literally the only people there on Thursday night - at least two other parties came in off the street and were turned away because they didn't have reservations (which was impressive!)

                          Here's what we ended up getting:
                          First Course: "Appetizers", consisting of, on separate plates - Blackened Fish (my favorite of this round), Spicy Beef, Lotus, Tofu, Noodles, Chinese Vegetables, Radish, and Ginger.
                          The other "main" courses consisted of the following (in no particular order):

                          1) Spicy Squid
                          2) Lightly buttered shrimp, each braided like a corkscrew
                          3) Abalone (melt-in-my-mouth fresh)
                          4) Spicy Gluten (a spicy-and-sweet bread dish)
                          5) Fish and Tofu (didn't specify which fish)
                          6) Noodles and Tofu
                          7) Pork Ribs and Tofu Balls
                          8) Crispy Orange Beef (unlike any other orange beef I've ever had before; this was my wife's favorite)
                          9) Spicy Mushrooms
                          10) Spicy Chickens with Chinese Vegetables

                          You'll have to forgive me for not being more descriptive, because as advertised, nobody in the restaurant spoke English :) I can assure that A) while each individual portion does look small for a group of four, we all felt well-satisfied (both portions and quality of food) by the end of the meal, and B) despite the language barrier, the waitress we had was excellent at anticipating our needs (drink refills, fresh plates when previous plates would get too sauced from previous dishes). All in all - lived up to the hype.

                          Thanks again to everyone for their recommendations! I'm now in Lahaina, Maui and we are spending the next week with my dad and his wife - last big vacation before my wife and I have our firstborn in May! If anyone is ever in the Roanoke area, message me up and I'll have a lot of good recommendations in my area :)

                          - Ben