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Feb 21, 2010 06:00 PM

Jai Yun - Major Question

I am coming to SF from NYC for a conference this week. I called to book Jai Yun for dinner Thursday evening. When I said I'd be only one for dinner, they said they are closed on Thursdays, can I come on Wednesday or Friday? They finally asked that I leave my phone number and they'll call me back if there is availability. While I have never been to the restaurant, I am certainly aware of their menu policy. Has anyone ever heard of this? Am i being refused service because I am a solo diner? If so, I find this infuriating.

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  1. Their website states that they are indeed closed on Thursdays.

    1 Reply
    1. Even if they were open Thursdays, I could actually see them turning away a solo diner as it is reservations only, and that was the only booking for the night, I can see them not wanting to open for a party of one.


      13 Replies
      1. re: waldrons

        I would disagree. They seem to want all the business I can get. Yesterday I walked by at 6:15 and saw the chef sitting in there with his assistants, and at 6:45, the entire place had closed. As they are not open for lunch on Saturday, my conclusion would be that he was hoping someone would make a reservation for the night, didn't, and hten closed.

        1. re: vulber

          I was there a while back - before business got worse and when I asked if I could come as a single diner (I was with a large group at the time) - I was told no. Of course things could have changed

          1. re: estnet

            I think it's probably very difficult to scale the dishes for one person -- Chinese food just isn't intended to be eaten that way.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              On another thread, it was claimed that they accept single diners.
              I guess the only way to find out for sure is to call the restaurant to make a reservation for one and see if they will accept it.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                My guess is their policy is flexible. If they have a party of 2 or 3 ordering the same level menu at the same time already on the books, I'm sure they'd say yes because they could course the dishes together and plate them separately. They do routinely turn away walk ins at dinner.

                Bottom line: the chef is an excellent cook, but a very poor and inconsistent restaurant manager.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Yes I know, but I eat Chinese as a single all the time ;)
                  That said Jai Yun's style would make it difficult for a single I know, but I would have been happy if the answer was - well if you'd order the same menu as a larger table at the same time (and forgo the stuff they can't do for one - a whole fish, etc). Perhaps now the situation is different so I may actually be able to go back :D

                  1. re: estnet

                    I wonder from reading about this special restaurant whether that level of communication is possible in English. Are you Chinese fluent?

                    1. re: wolfe

                      The language ability is much better now. There are several people who speak some English and also Cantonese.

                      When did anyone get a whole fish? My minor peeve is that the ingredients in his dishes are generally not that rich, in contrast to the price. I also wish he would offer a few choices. He's a fine chef, but I don't go that often simply because the menu doesn't change that much and the end of the meal is kind of heavy.

                      1. re: sfbing

                        A few years back at the old location, we got a fantastic whole fish cut in a criss-cross pattern and fried in such a way that it looked sort of like a dragon. I don't remember what price level we ordered, but it was at least 3 steps above the lowest. It probably helped that my Shanghainese MIL made the reservation and we were a party of 4.

                      2. re: wolfe

                        Just FYI, I'm fluent in Cantonese and they still didn't understand me. I think they speak a village dialect closer to Mandarin.

                          1. re: SteveG

                            The chef is from Nanjing and does not speak Shanghainese.

                      3. re: estnet

                        I should mention that my comment about the difficulty of scaling dishes was based in part on the fact that at least in the early days of Jai Yun, he had trouble scaling his dishes for various sized parties. There was some consensus that parties of 4-6 got the right amount of food, while smaller parties sometimes didn't get all the dishes other tables got and larger parties tended to not quite get enough food.

              2. While lunching with friends, we observed a single diner served - it was not a problem.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Cynsa

                  Maybe lunch is different than dinner?

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I think that's it. I asked them once at lunchtime when I was by myself whether they had take out--they said no, but that I could eat in.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      Now I just have to try this place and see what all the fuss is about. We stepped in a few nights ago without a reservation when we were local. I thought there was a range of dinner options and number of plates you could get. Instead we got a little booklet explaining why it was $55 a piece but that no menu items could be listed. It was justified that they were all based on freshness, availability and the chefs creativity.

                      We did not stay to take the plunge.

                      Then I read these threads:
                      Do they take singles?
                      The high pre-fix menu , the previous threads citing canned corn and peas.
                      Hounds claiming Shanghainese perfection...

                      Maybe I should just try a lunch first?

                      This place is always empty when I go by, that worries me.

                      1. re: roster

                        It's been usually empty for years. Eccentric place. Definitely worth trying.

                        1. re: roster

                          "canned corn and peas" -- That was me, and those were 2 of 3 ingredients used in our 20-30 dish meal that I had complaints about, so please just understand that the context is amazing food in an eccentric restaurant. I don't understand the use of the corn and peas, but it was such a small part of a much larger and absolutely delicious complex meal that it would be ridiculous to write it off over such a small nit.

                          1. re: roster

                            Try lunch, or see if you can get a certificate from (the current coupon code is SAVOR, which will get you a $50 certificate for $4, good on a minimum purchase of $100 -- in other words, the $55 prix fixe for 2 people would be $64 after coupon) to offset some of the cost of dinner.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Thanks Steve G and Ruth. Context appreciated.

                              The tip is a good one. I will check it out. That would most definitely sweeten the deal. We'll give it a go.

                            2. re: roster

                              Nothing like it anywhere else in the USA. Try lunch--you can spend as little as $9.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                not anymore, they took that away, now the lowest is $18 (Still a good deal)

                                1. re: vulber

                                  $25 was the lowest price mentioned when I recently visited Jai Yun for lunch. We went for $50 (or was it $55) and had no regrets. Fantastic place.

                                  Jai Yun
                                  680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      2. Wow, I had no idea my little booking kafuffle would create such a response. Kudos to the SF hounds, and thanks. Just when I thought it was safe, I received a call tonight from Jai Yun confirming my Thursday single diner reservation. Oy vey, I've already booked another top eatery. I won't name names, but now I'm stuck. Contemp SF cuisine or my first time at Jai Yun? Assuming the storm allows me to get out of NYC in the am...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Chuck Lawrence

                          Considering that they're probably going to open the restaurant just for you, I would go with Jai Yun.

                        2. Happy to report back - had an awesome single dining experience at Jai Yun. The dishes were uniformly excellent. I seemed to utter the word "beautiful" a lot, and "compliments to the chef" repeatedly. Clean delicious tastes, and somewhat exquisite technique. My only regret - no abalone! When I asked, the response was "too hard for one person" although it seemed my dishes were happening concurrently with another table of four. That said, after receiving the check ( a bit pricey, I went for the $65 menu plus a couple of glasses of wine, and had a $25 certificate), out came a delicious piece of pork belly. I assume it was a response to my abalone query. All in all, a pretty extraordinary meal. I did feel like I'd died and gone to chinese food heaven.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Chuck Lawrence

                            Thanks for reporting back! What kind of wine by the glass were they offering? I would have assumed I would have to bring something.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              It was all very quaint - I was asked to view the bottles in a cabinet and the fridge, some were available by the glass. I wanted white and went for a Fume Blanc, $10 a glass, pretty good, decent pairing. I forgot the vintner. All the bottles had prices written on them. Sweet.