Chinese Cuisine/restaurant recommendations - breakdown needed!
Hello SF Chowhounds,
I grew up in SF but now live in LA. Recently, a chef friend of mine just moved to the bay area to work as a private chef to someone. His boss never mentioned that he loved Chinese food...until after he moved and took the job. The boss also loves all the non-Chinese things my chef friend is actually good at, but my friend is realizing that he needs to learn something about Chinese food and FAST. So he needs two things:
1) He needs to educate himself on Chinese food PRONTO and woul'd love to know which Chinese restaurants he must go to, and varying in cuisines. Price is no issue, nor is geography. Anywhere from SF to Berkeley to Palo Alto, he doesn't mind driving around to eat at various places.
2) He would love to meet other cooks/chefs of high end Chinese cuisine, and perhaps, even get a lesson or two.
Thanks for any help!!!
"Chinese food" is a broad category. It would help to know what type of Chinese food his boss likes. In fact, it might even help to know what restaurants his boss frequents. I'm not saying it wouldn't eventually be great for your friend to familiarize himself with all the different styles of Chinese cuisine, but if his boss has a preference that should be his starting point. That said, my favorite Chinese restaurants in and around SF are:
Koi Palace (Daly City: dim sum and set banquet dinners)
Hong Kong Lounge (dim sum, though dinner looks fantastic)
Spices I (Szechuan and Taiwanese street foods, esp stinky tofu, various Szechuan appetizers, "water cooked" meats, and cumin lamb hot pot)
Shanghai House (everything on the menu is good)
Old Beijing (lamb pots)
Panda Country Kitchen (Szechuan only, the other food is terrible)
Great China (Berkeley: peking duck and liang zhang pi)
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
Panda Country Kitchen
4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118
Great China Restaurant
2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704
3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121
Hong Kong Lounge
5322 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94121
Chef Chu's on the Los Altos/Palo Alto border is a decent place (and pretty much an institution) and they have a program this summer where the chef gives a few cooking classes if that's what your friend is looking for.
1067 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
Where is he based? There are a couple of different issues. As other posters have noted, there's really no such thing as "Chinese food" -- that's like saying "European food"! The other is that the techniques used in Chinese cooking are different from those your friend is trained to use, so just eating the food isn't necessarily going to help in cooking the food. And finally, cooking in a Chinese restaurant is not the same as cooking at home, where you don't have access to things like high BTU wok stations and the special ovens you need to make Peking duck.
If you drop me a line at the address in my profile I may be able to put you in touch with someone.
re: Ruth Lafler
Good point about restaurant and home cooking being quite different. So, in addition or instead of talking to restaurant chefs, I'd recommend looking at cookbooks geared toward the home cook. Kylie Kwong, Fuchsia Dunlop, and Grace Wong all have Chinese cookbooks that collectively span multiple regional cuisines and are quite accessible for a home cook new to Chinese cooking.
Restaurant Chinese food and home-cooked Chinese food are really two different things. Restaurant food is about lots of oil, smoking hot wok and a good amount of sauces. Home cooked Chinese food is mostly done with lots of fresh vegetables with a small amount of meat and is flavored simply (no sauce!). Your friend will have to find out what the boss likes, and if he would mind having his home kitchen filled with the cooking smell from a hot wok (I do).
As others pointed out, to do this FAST requires focus. The kind of chinese is critical. Get that answer and we can help.
You specifically mention "high end chinese" which might be code for Hong Kong not Bejing, which would turn your focus to Yank Sing / Koi Palace.
Since few actually respond, I third China Village. CV has a broad and unusual menu, focusing on Sichuan but covering some other related areas (like the Li River Duck dish) and their "classics". That restaurant has spun off a lot of cooks into other restaurants, so it's possible they'd take a guilo stagiere. I don't know if it's "high end" though.
Martin Yan gives group and private cooking lessons,mostly Hong Kong style.However,I'll bet your chef friend could teach himself some basic techniques with a bit of self researching and study/practice on his own.
3444 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549
For Sichuan cooking, Fuchsia Dunlop's book "land of plenty" has a lot of explanation of techniques, ingredients, and traditional dishes.
There are a lot of books on Cantonese cooking. One that I found instructive with photos of ingredients, techniques, and dishes that reminded me of traditional Cantonese fare was "wisdom of the Chinese kitchen" by Grace Young.
He can't go high end if he can't do the basics like soy braising (hong shao).
Those should be good primers while he hunts for a teacher.