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Feb 19, 2010 04:24 PM

Chowdown Report: Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco

Many thanks to “asianstamp” for alerting us to the newly opened Hakka Restaurant in the far Outer Richmond.

Today nine intrepid ‘hounds made the long "Journey to the West" and were rewarded with a very good Chinese New Year lunch ordering ala carte. The short version: delicious food, well-prepared, attractively presented, authentic, vibrant flavors, bargain prices, excellent service, easy to park. The chef here is the one who put Golden Mountain in Hayward on the map a few years ago when it was a destination for Hakka cuisine.

To kick off the discussion, I’ve listed the dishes we tried below. I’ll ask my dining companions to fill in the details and tell us about their favorites, and I’ll comment later.

Seafood and soft tofu soup
Crab with salted egg yolk (2+ lbs for $23)
Home style frog legs with basil
Arrowroot bulbs with roast pig
Bamboo pith and pea shoots (vegetarian)
Salt baked chicken served with ginger-scallion sauce and pan drippings
Sauteed lily bulbs with tree ears (vegetarian)
Stuffed tofu in supreme broth
Beef short ribs with black pepper and honey sauce
Pork bacon with preserved greens
Dried scallops and egg white fried rice steamed in lotus leaf

With the 10% grand opening discount and a generous tip, the tab per person was only $20 each.

Fig Newton’s photo set:
WARNING, Food Porn ahead.

Translating Chinese New Year's Menus, Part 5: Hakka Restaurant
By Jonathan Kauffman

Chowing down with the SF Bay Area chowhounds:

Hakka Restaurant
4401 Cabrillo St, San Francisco, CA 94121

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Melanie thank you for organizing a fun lunch! It was nice to try some of these uniquely Hakka style dishes, especially with expert commentary by Yimster. Overall I thought the food was well seasoned, balanced and clearly done with care. Let me start with the photos and I'll post specifics later.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wanderlust21

      Nice shots, thank you, and you're welcome! Looks like each of us rushed to upload our pix before continuing with friday night plans. Definitely fun to have three different cameras at the table and see various dishes from more than one angle. Seeing how well the food photographed in natural daylight, I was even more glad that we scheduled this as a lunch rather than dinner. For future reference, there is a private dining room upstairs that can seat 30.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I particularly enjoyed the Home Style Frog Legs with basil. I admit, I'm not a connoisseur of dishes made with amphibians, but I thought the meat was mild and succulent with a sauce flavorful yet subtle enough that it did not overwhelm the meat.

        The other standout for me was the supreme broth that accompanied the stuffed tofu. Fig Newton suggested I try the broth on its own, and I loved the pork, tofu and vegetable flavors of the broth.

        Other dishes I'd order again were the crab with salted egg yolk, the pork belly and salt baked chicken.

    2. I found the food prepared in true Hakka style. I had a long discussion with serve who was wonderful in answer many of my many questions. This will be gem as soon it has it kitchen in full operations. Many dishes I asked about will be on the menu as soon as the kitchen as time to make them. We can list them as soon as they are ready for the public.

      But back to the food all the dishes were prepare in a true Hakka presentation.

      The Salt Baked Chicken was a salt baked chicken not a salted water poached chicken.

      The Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable was another stand out.

      I found the food well prepared and the service to sharp and knowledgeable.

      I will let the other chime in before I add my two cents.

      Would go back again soon after the kitchen is in full operation.

      Good meeting new hounds and old hounds.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yimster

        What I like best at Hakka was that the chef was about to serve food which he framed to show the of the taste and freshest of ingredients.

        There were no misses and I would love to return and discuss with the staff ahead of time to see what would be available on the day of the visit. Someday soon.

      2. I enjoyed the crab clad in the golden armor of the salted egg yolk and especially the arrowroot bulb with roasted pork. I was pleased to see that that was one of the dishes that the restaurant staff was having for their own lunch. I may be establishing my credentials as being easy but there truly wasn't a clunker in the whole delicious lunch. Thanks again Melanie for the planning and yimster for the extra scallops in the soup.

        1. It was well worth the trip to the very outer Richmond! We had a wonderful variety of dishes that were distinguished by freshness and a light touch. There were no misses and a few dishes were extra special: The arrowroot pork was true Hakka comfort food, the rice had a nice scallop taste without being overwhelming and the lily bulbs one of my favorites (ask for it without bell peppers though!).

          Thanks to Melanie for organizing and to the other hounds that contributed much to the conversation about the food!

          Hakka Restaurant
          4401 Cabrillo St, San Francisco, CA 94121

          4 Replies
          1. re: marlon

            Special thanks to ChowFun_derek for the wonderful preprandial taste of the triangular whole grain and seeded bread from the European Market at 32nd and Clement.

            1. re: wolfe

              Your welcome...on the way home Marlon and I stopped at Cohen's for Purim baked goods, Campbells for egg custard tarts (I (big surprise!!!) I prefer Golden Gates' version. and the International/European/Russian Market on Geary (the large one..does anyone remember its' proper name? anyway THEY also had the triangle seeded whole grain bread!

              As for our wonderful banquet lunch, I really enjoyed the lightness and the freshness of the ingredients very ..."Cantonese" (Hakka) nothing was overly seasoned blocking the natural flavor of the ingredients,,,the vegetables were really great...arrowroot, bamboo pith, lily bulbs...had texture AND delicate flavor...I also loved the grainy egg yolk texture on the crab shells. The bright green ginger scallion sauce was piquant and a perfect accompaniment for the Salt baked Chicken. mmmm pork belly ..what Jewish boy wouldn't like-crave this! The soup was a delicate combo of soft tofu, pale scallops..gentle broth...perfect for a cool S.F. day near the beach. I would return tomorrow if another Chowdown was arranged..for this one I thank our Melanie...Lambert always gets the "dish", on the dishes and the chefs, and the group was a happy convivial one! A great Chowhound event!

              1. re: wolfe

                I started a new thread to post a photo and talk about the bread.

                wolfe, I hope you'll post your CNY joke you shared with us.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Due to an overwhelming # of requests, one, I will try it.
                  What do you call an obese non Jewish marine?
                  A gung ho fat goy.

            2. This is great news, thanks for the reports of everyone! The last time I had a spectacular Hakka Cantonese meal was 2005 at Golden Mountain in Hayward when they had a chef who knew what he was doing (real salt baked chicken, not saltwater steamed), but the owners and chef changed hands and nobody seems to know what happened to them.

              I'd be interested to know what dishes Yimster asked about that are to be offered in the near future. For those of you interested in Hakka Cantonese in general, check out LA CHer exilekiss's writeup of Bon Marche in SoCal's SGV.


              and watch this rare breed of a chef come up with authentic Hakka Cantonese dishes. If enough of you rally, I'm sure the chef at Hakka Restaurant will add any dishes you might like from Bon Marche to the menu or do something similar.

              Now if only this restaurant had a branch in the Peninsula....

              15 Replies
              1. re: K K

                I believe that the chef at Hakka Restaurant is the same chef who was at Golden Mountain in Hayward. I was also at the Chowhound lunch, yesterday, and really enjoyed the meal. I particularly liked the fried rice with dried scallops and egg whites that was then steamed in a lotus leaf. It was delicate and very delicious! I also loved the crab with salted egg and the pork belly with preserved vegetables. Other dishes that I liked were the salt-baked chicken with two sauces (I preferred the green sauce,) the short ribs with a honey glaze, the arrowroot, the pan-fried tofu clay pot, and the scallop, tofu and egg white soup. The meal was really excellent!


                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  The Golden Mountain chef's last name was printed in the old GM menu (forgot whether it was a Mr Lee, Mr Lau or something like that), but in addition to his bio, they also introduced four key dishes, including salt baked chicken, pan fried stuffed tofu (pork filling pressed on top of the tofu which I see got represented in a slightly different prep in the broth), basil stir fried clams, and hakka pork belly with preserved pickled veg. Are the other 2 dishes available at Hakka Restaurant?

                  Also GM's salt baked chicken only had one sauce on the side, two at HR is quite interesting. The outdated photo on of the GM restaurant listing of the chicken bears striking resemblance otherwise to the pic Melanie posted.

                  I do recall that GM's former owners (when GM was offering straight up Hakka Cantonese) lived in the Richmond District. Wonder if it is indeed them resurfacing or not.

                  Anyone got HR's to-go menu and can scan it, put it up?

                  1. re: K K

                    KK, when I called to make the res, I asked where the chef had worked before. The person who answered the phone said most recently at a restaurant in the Sunset and before that at a Hakka restaurant in Hayward. He said that the chef lives in the Outer Richmond very close to this new restaurant and got tired of commuting to Hayward. I asked if the place was Golden Mountain, and while he wasn't sure, he thought that might be it. Would you happen to know the Chinese name for Golden Mountain, as I don't think I heard him say gum san.

                    I was going to ask you if those presentations in the photos looked familiar to you. The dark browning on the stuffed tofu and the angularity are quite unique in my limited experience. Yimster had asked if the stuffed tofu could be served in soup, that is different from the prep on the menu, so the standard way might be as you remember.

                    Same story with the two sauces. Some people didn't like the salty pan drippings, so I asked if we could have some ginger-scallion sauce as well. What I really wanted was some of the Hakka style green chile pepper-vinegar sauce but the ginger sauce was very good and so fresh.

                    The menu has many different stir-fried basil dishes. I don't recall clams specifically but I bet it's there. We went with the frog legs.

                    The restaurant was out of to-go menus and said that more would be printed soon. My link above to the SF Weekly article shows the $168 and $198 banquet menus. I'd had an advance head's up that this article would go online some time on friday, which turned out to be just before our lunch. It was kind of cool to be able to pull it up on my phone and show our waiter. He was tickled to get press coverage so early in the game. He said he'd tell the chef to get ready with those items for the weekend.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I don't recall the exact Chinese name of GM, but it had nothing to do with Gum San, more like Wah Yu Saan Zhong (vs Hak Ka Saan Zhong for HR).

                      I do note a difference in the format of the Hakka pork belly bacon dish, in that at GM they always served it in a claypot (as seen on the old y3lp pic of the current listing), vs over lettuce and not in a claypot from your photos. But otherwise quite similar.

                      Great detective work! I think we can conclude that this indeed sounds like our guy. So happy to hear he's back...I wonder how we missed him in his previous Sunset venture...but perhaps he wasn't dishing out the good stuff.

                      How are the prices? Hayward GM in its day was also very appealing for unbeatable value.

                      What I missed dearly about Hayward GM was also their ability to pick the freshest and fattest clams (coupled with excellent stir fry skills). The basil stir fry clams were insanely addictive. Hope that is the case at HR.

                      Finally... SF gets back a proper Hakka Cantonese longer need to tell folks to settle for Ton Kiang!

                      1. re: K K

                        Close, the Chinese name for Golden mountain in Hayward (according to is 華苑山莊, or hua yuan shan zhuang

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Thanks, XY, happy new year! Can't be entirely sure, but that sounds similar to what the waiter said when Yimster asked the name of the Hayward restaurant.

                    2. re: K K

                      I have scanned Hakka Restaurant's take-out menu. 6 pages total. I have not scanned their dine-in menu with specials and prix fixe deals, one being a $19.99 3-item (from a list of 20+ dishes). Here are the scans (1 to 4) of 6 total:

                      1. re: wahdoy

                        Here are Hakka Restaurant's take-out menu's last pages, 5 to 6 (6 pages total).

                        1. re: wahdoy

                          Thanks so much for sharing those with us! And I'm happy to hear about the 3-for option.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Hi Melanie.

                            I just scanned the aforemention Specials from Hakka Restaurant. Side 1 features the $19.95 3-item deal (Economy Family Dinner), while Side B features Rice Plates (11a.m. to 3 p.m. $4.95 each) and Congee.

                            1. re: wahdoy

                              Hakka Restaurant's Dinner Menu - pages 1 & 2 of 4.

                              1. re: wahdoy

                                Hakka Restaurant's Dinner Menu - pages 3 & 4 of 4.

                                1. re: wahdoy

                                  Hakka Restaurant's Family Dinner Specials:

                    3. re: K K

                      The dishes I asked about were the fish, cuttle fish and meat balls that in Hakka style food can be wonderful. The chef needs time to get the feel of the new kitchen.

                      Another dish that was discuss was the stuffed boneless chicken and duck.

                      Lastly I want to know if they would do rice leftovers from making rice wine dishes.

                      All hopefully will be available soon.

                      I will be call up to see what the status of the new dishes.

                      The most expensive dish on the menu is their Buddha Jumps Over the Wall at $320. Recently had BJOTW at South Sea on Irving at a family dinner. Not really into dried seafood and shark fin. Since I did not pay for the do not know the price (since is was someone else treat I did not want to ask or check out the menus)>

                      1. re: yimster

                        Also the chicken stuffed inside a pig's stomach ala haggis.