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Regional Chinese Cuisine in San Diego

f
FrenziedPalate Apr 26, 2010 09:26 PM

Is there anywhere in San Diego to get authentic Hunan, Yunnan, Dongbei, or Sichuan cuisine? Something other than the generic Americanized Chinese food or Cantonese? In addition, does anyone know of any restaurants that specialize in Shanghainese xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and hong shou rou? Thanks!

  1. h
    hye Apr 26, 2010 11:47 PM

    Ba Ren (on Diane ave.) is a must (and a CH favorite) for Sichuan. Not sure about the other regions -- other people may have some ideas.

    There are places that claim to specialize in XLB (such as Dumpling Inn on Convoy st.), but nothing in San Diego really goes past the mediocre mark in my opinion. Shanghai City also makes some passable XLB, but it only does the bare minimum to stave off any cravings.

    I've never ordered hong shao rou in San Diego, but Sam Woo BBQ (located inside the Ranch 99 on Clairemont Mesa dr.) is a chain that supposedly makes good, if pricey, Chinese-style BBQ.

    For general asian cuisine, it may be worth checking out Kirk's blog, mmm-yoso:
    http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/

    He pops up on chowhound occasionally, but the information is better organized on his blog.

    -----
    Shanghai City Restaurant
    3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

    Dumpling Inn
    4619 Convoy St Ste F, San Diego, CA 92111

    6 Replies
    1. re: hye
      s
      steveprez Apr 27, 2010 05:27 AM

      Will second Ba Ren for authentic Sichuan cuisine. Best Sichuan I've had in SD. My (Chinese) wife claims it's the most authentic Chinese food she's had in SD.

      1. re: hye
        Captain Jack Apr 27, 2010 09:09 AM

        Ba Ren is a gem and we are lucky to have it.

        I enjoy the XLB at Shanghai City. They also offer a very good Niu Rou Mein.

        -----
        Shanghai City Restaurant
        3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

        1. re: Captain Jack
          d
          daantaat Apr 27, 2010 08:47 PM

          will 4th Ba Ren. It's probably the best SD has to offer.

          Dede's Tea Juice on Convoy also does Sichuan, although with a less extensive menu and a slightly "lighter" hand with the complexity of seasonings. The one thing they do better than Ba Ren is the deep fried chicken "nuggets" w/ dried chilis. Ba Ren's chicken pieces are very small and not very meaty--more batter than meat, IMO. Dede's uses slightly larger pieces that are easier to fish out from the dried chilis.

          I think for the other regional cuisines, you'll have to hit up the SGV or go to Vegas.

          CJ--I'll have to check out the niu rou mein at Shanghai City! One of my fave noodle soups!

          -----
          Shanghai City Restaurant
          3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

          1. re: daantaat
            h
            hye Apr 28, 2010 08:46 AM

            I think the price of the niu rou mein has gone up at Shanghai City quite significantly over the past few years. You may want to check them out during weekend brunch hours (10-3, I think) when prices are cheaper.

            -----
            Shanghai City Restaurant
            3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

            1. re: daantaat
              m
              mliew Apr 28, 2010 11:33 AM

              Spicy City also does Sichaun although I think their menu is a mishmosh of various regional dishes. They have a cold appetizer steam table similar to Ba Ren and Dede's with many of the same dishes. I've only tried a couple of them but their version of husband and wife sliced lung isn't as good as Ba Ren's.

              -----
              Spicy City
              4690 Convoy St, San Diego, CA

              1. re: daantaat
                j
                Jvsgabriel Sep 9, 2010 07:50 PM

                I will 5th Ba Ren. It is super authentic Sichuanese food, well actually Chongqing area. While traveling through China, I got to visit Chengdu and this is the closest thing to authentic Sichuan food in San Diego. My favorite dish is still the "chicken with peppers" and the sichuan cold noodles as well. I would also suggest something from the glass counter up front...dried beef, and the fish and peanuts are yummy together.

          2. m
            MrKrispy Apr 27, 2010 10:38 AM

            There was a place in Rancho Bernado back in the 90s called Hunan's (I think) that had two chefs; each chef cooked a regional specialty. I am not sure if it is still around or of the quality these days, I don't get up that far anymore unless I am going to a brewery haha.

            1. f
              FrenziedPalate Apr 29, 2010 07:42 AM

              Thanks for the rec for Ba Ren. Any word on their mapo dofu? Bull frog? Or yuxiang qiezi (fish-fragrant aubergine)? I'm assuming they would have that considering they are Sichuan.

              Are there Xinjiang places also?

              3 Replies
              1. re: FrenziedPalate
                h
                hye Apr 29, 2010 08:29 AM

                I think they put too much ginger into their mapo dofu, but that's just me. (It's chopped finely enough that it'd be difficult to pick it out, but it's not minced finely enough that you aren't biting into chunks of ginger.) I haven't tried the eggplant (really, Aubergine?) dishes, but will add that to my list.

                One thing to watch out for with Ba Ren is which day of the week you go. The head chef is only there on certain days of the week and is both better and faster than whoever is his/her replacement. Not sure what those days are, but maybe someone else will chime in.

                1. re: FrenziedPalate
                  Ed Dibble Apr 29, 2010 08:32 AM

                  They have an excellent fish-flavored eggplant. The Mapo tofu is good as well, and they do have some frog dishes also. You gotta try it - you will like it.

                  Also of interest to you (I would think) would be the Shanghai style weekend brunches at Chin's on Kearny Mesa Rd.

                  http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2...

                  1. re: FrenziedPalate
                    d
                    daantaat Apr 29, 2010 07:30 PM

                    No Xinjiang places in SD. The closest was Jamillah Gardens, which closed several years ago. It was ok--a little too heavy on the grease for me. The SGV has some Chinese-Muslim places.

                  2. SaltyRaisins Sep 10, 2010 08:07 AM

                    Not exactly sure if it should be lumped into the category of Chinese cuisine, but Chin's Taiwanese (Convoy location) weekend brunches are getting better.

                    Last time I was there, I was amazed by all the wonderfully flaky flatbreads that are used in this food. Called "roast beef in chinese pancake" on the brunch menu, I now consider it one of the top things to eat in anywhere in SD- star-anise stewed beef, served thinly sliced and chilled with fresh cilantro and pickled cucumber wrapped in that delicious bread. They also serve pretty good XLB- much better than Dumpling Inn, but no match for Din Tai Fung.

                    photos from Kirbie:

                    http://www.kirbiecravings.com/2010/04...

                    Cheers.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: SaltyRaisins
                      h
                      hye Sep 10, 2010 04:20 PM

                      Thanks for the heads up. I didn't realize that location was serving Taiwanese food, or I would have been out there earlier to try some dishes.

                      1. re: SaltyRaisins
                        k
                        KirkK Sep 15, 2010 08:59 AM

                        Just an update on some of the info here:

                        Shanghai City is no more. They have been replaced by a restaurant that seems to be a partnership between Spicy City and the former folks that ran Dede's. They have three chefs. They've kept the Shanghainese Chef, but have added a Sichuan Chef who I'm assuming is the former chef at Dede's. The Sichuan dishes there are reminiscent of Dede's, with minimal use of Sichuan peppercorn. They've also hired a Hunan Chef, though the Hunan dishes we've had have been kinda pale compared to Hunan in the SGV.
                        The place is now called Spicy House; and if that wasn't confusing enough, there's a banner below the Spicy House sign that reads "Shanghai City - Spicy City #2".

                        Dede's has ungone a change. I haven't been there since the change in management, but folks have told me that the dishes are very uneven.

                        Last I heard the chef at Chin's on Convoy was from Mandarin Garden in Mira Mesa. The menu slants toward Shanghai-Suzhou-Hangzhou. The Niu Rou Chuan (beef roll) is too heavy, sauce laden, and sometimes greasy. Here's a funny thing; the last time we went to Dean Sin World, we were told that there's a restaurant in San Diego that buys their XLB from DSW. The woman then brought us out a business card from Chin's on Convoy! Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of the XLB at DSW, and I haven't enjoyed the XLB at any Chin's.

                        I always thought that China Chef (In the restaurant, not the fast food side) on Mira Mesa had a few Sichuan dishes that weren't too bad.

                        If you're talking about some Taiwanese other than Soy Milk and Mantou, 168 serves various Potages and used to serve stuff like Kezai Jian. I've not really enjoyed the food there, though.

                        -----
                        Spicy City
                        4690 Convoy St, San Diego, CA

                        Shanghai City Restaurant
                        3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

                        China Chef
                        623 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037

                        Mandarin Garden Restaurant
                        8242 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126

                        1. re: KirkK
                          m
                          mliew Sep 15, 2010 09:48 AM

                          Thanks for the inside scoop on the chef changes. Interesting to know when a chef jumps between restaurants and how it affects the dishes they serve.

                          Have you tried the Niu Rou Mein at Spicy House since the ownership change? I'm wondering how the quality of their Shanghainese dishes has faired. Since they retained the original chef I'm hoping the quality will be the same but I have my doubts. The couple of times I've been there the place has been packed but everyone was ordering the Sichuan style dishes. I wouldn't be surprised to see them phase out the Shanghai dishes since they don't appear to be very popular.

                          Overall I haven't found anything outstanding at Spicy House. The Sichaun dishes lack the depth of flavor of Ba Ren (the couple I had were actually pretty bland) and tend to be mild on the spice.

                          1. re: mliew
                            h
                            hye Sep 26, 2010 10:18 PM

                            The NRM at Spicy House/Spicy City 2/formerly Shanghai City is very different from what it was before. It's a more watery broth loaded with hot peppers and with pea sprouts instead of bok choy. The noodles are much thinner, and the beef is ok (though one of my pieces was amazingly tender). I wouldn't recommend it.

                            The standard price is now $5.99, which is a drop from the NRM price at Shanghai City outside of the weekend lunching hours.

                            -----
                            Shanghai City Restaurant
                            3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

                            1. re: hye
                              m
                              mliew Sep 27, 2010 12:55 PM

                              That's really too bad. The NRM was the only dish at Shanghai City that I thought was outstanding over other restaurants in SD. Shame they had to change it.

                              -----
                              Shanghai City Restaurant
                              3860 Convoy St # 105, San Diego, CA

                              1. re: mliew
                                h
                                hye Nov 1, 2010 01:53 AM

                                Has anyone taken the plunge and tried the XLB at Spicy House? I don't have high hopes given my experience with the NRM, but am curious nonetheless...

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