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Apr 5, 2010 09:43 PM

Best Mandarin Chinese?

Will be in SF w/ my in-laws in May and they are craving mandarin chinese - any suggestions?

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  1. Can you define for us what mandarin chinese is?

    7 Replies
    1. re: PeterL

      I'm guessing anything but Cantonese?

      1. re: vincentlo

        That's certainly how we used the expression 40 years ago. However, that was also before when anything non-Cantonese was any good, too. So are we talking about stuff at Old Mandarin Islamic, or instead, the less authentic dishes at Henry's Hunan?

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

      2. re: PeterL

        Well, it was my mother-in-law's word, so I asked her for clarification - turns out what she really wants is "good hot and sour soup" and peking duck...I guess that narrows it down some! Any thoughts?

        1. re: malibugrl

          Peking duck, Great China Berkeley.

          Great China Restaurant
          2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

          1. re: wolfe

            Yup agreed, just head over there.

            About "Mandarin Chinese", Mingabala in Burlingame advertises themselves as Burmese and Mandarin cuisine, which for some reason the Mandarin part of the menu includes beef chow fun (Cantonese) and Chinese Chicken Salad (American Chinese).

          2. re: malibugrl

            Five Happiness in SF for Peking Duck.

            Five Happiness
            4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

            1. re: malibugrl

              My favorite Peking Duck is the two-way at Daimo in Richmond. They bring out the skin and crunchy bits first, then later you get a stir-fry of the meat.

              Great China's is good but I like their tea-smoked duck better.

              Great China Restaurant
              1589 Farmers Ln, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

          3. You mean Peking / Beijing cuisine?

            Here's a long topic about non-Cantonese places:


            1. Here are my recommendations based upon ranking (top to bottom):
              - Hakka Restaurant (new restaurant that is not too oily, but yet flavorful) - see recent Chowdown report from others on good recs..
              - Old Mandarin (as mentioned by someone else)
              - Kingdom of Dumpling or Kingdom of Noodles

              And if you are willing to drive - Joy Restaurant in Foster City
              - Beijing Restaurant

              Kingdom of Dumpling
              1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

              4 Replies
              1. re: jlfoodie

                in a Chinese culturo-economic context, the Hakka ethnic group is only distantly connected to anything "Mandarin"--the mandarins were the bureaucrat/administrator class, often land owners; when the Hakka migrated to southeast China, whose cuisine clearly influenced what we now call Hakka cooking, they were essentially landless newcomers, and often in the lower economic strata. Their poverty is also an element in their cuisine--mandarin dishes often use fancier things--and motivated many to join the Tai Ping (T'ai P'ing) rebellion (the brother of christ who led the rebellion was Hakka), and in modern times, the Red Army (one of Mao's top generals was Hakka). If you want to go back a millennium or so, the Hakka's origins go back to the central plain not far from the old capital Loyang, quite far in distance and cooking style (it isn't based on rice cultivation that far north) than the southeast where they became known in recent centuries.

                The best trained chefs know how to prepare the highlights of every regional cuisine, which is also what mandarins would have had access to by virtue of their class, so associating the word mandarin with a specific regional style is somewhat of a non-sequitur. Certainly there were some regions that were better represented in the bureaucrat class of pre-1911 China, Zhejiang for example.

                1. re: moto

                  Thanks for the clarification. I wonder if people confuse Mandarin speaking areas with a specific regional cuisine. Growing up in DC Mandarin and Peking style cuisine were inter changeable. My understanding is that Beijing Style is also referred to as Mandarin.

                  1. re: chefj

                    Beijing style used in a generic sense is pretty interchangeable with 'mandarin' in its generic sense, but in a different context, Beijing regional cuisine isn't the same as the trans-regional mandarin style. You wouldn't expect all the variations of dumplings and noodles specific to Beijing regional cuisine (featured in the restaurant by that name in the outer Mission in SF, for example) on a generic mandarin menu. One restaurant in this area that does have a trans-regional highlights kind of selection is China Village in northern Berkeley. Great China in downtown Berkeley also has a mandarin-ish menu.

                    Great China Restaurant
                    2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    1. re: moto

                      In the distant past anything not Cantonese was called Mandarin. But now we are so lucky to have some many regional styles that Mandarin is no longer a term we can use to ID a type of food.

                      Hunan, Shanghai, Beijing, Szechuan, Sandong, and Dongbei are a few that comes to mind. I am sure that if I re-read this list I will come with a few more non-Cantonese and Southern Chinese food styles. Which is one reason I did reply this the OP because it was too wide a subject. But your Hakka food details was great.