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Best all-around Chinese downtown

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terrycatch Sep 14, 2010 09:17 AM

Apologies in advance for such a simple request, but making a regrettably infrequent visit to SF next month and realized we had never had Chinese in what should be the capital of fine Chinese dining in the US. Will be staying downtown, so somewhere in that area is preferable. Don't want to say "price is no object," but we do want the best all-around experience, including the essentials of good service, fair prices, and varied menu. Have heard positives and negatives about R&G Lounge and Yank Sing. Thoughts on those two? Others? Many thanks.

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Yank Sing
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: terrycatch Sep 14, 2010 09:29 AM

    Yank Sing is dim sum at lunch only. I'd rank it tops for lunch.

    Jai Yun.

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    Jai Yun
    680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    Yank Sing
    49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      w
      walker RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 16, 2010 01:47 PM

      I love Yank Sing and the crab at R & G.

      I have not yet been to Jai Yun, but, if you're interested in going there, go to Restaurants.com and buy a coupon for very good discounted meal.

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      Jai Yun
      680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

      Yank Sing
      49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

    2. o
      OldTimer RE: terrycatch Sep 14, 2010 10:47 AM

      Don't be too discouraged by an occasional slam of a popular restaurant. Most good Chinese restaurants have off nights. Realize that Chinese cooking is very subjective, and if the prize cook is taking a deserved night off, the food may fall below par. The best guide is whether the place is crowded (depending on the time). If a place is almost empty at dinnertime, look out! Many diners will go to a place like R&G with overly high expectations...and feel let down. I think you will be safe in relying upon this board...usually spot on.

      6 Replies
      1. re: OldTimer
        v
        vulber RE: OldTimer Sep 14, 2010 03:04 PM

        One should also consider who crowds the restaurant......House of Nanking is constantly crowded not only for dinnertime, but many other times, but not by the people I would trust for good Chinese fooded

        1. re: OldTimer
          a
          abstractpoet RE: OldTimer Sep 14, 2010 08:40 PM

          Also, Chinese restaurants (especially in Chinatown) may be crowded because they are cheap rather than good.

          If price were not a consideration, then I would say that Jai Yun is the best I've had in the city. (Which, incidentally, is often quite empty because of the price point.) I haven't been for lunch, but I know that's a much more affordable option.

          Also, I don't know if anyone would really say that SF is the capital of fine Chinese cuisine in the U.S these days.--certainly not SF Chinatown. Many of the best Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area are down south on the Peninsula, say, in Millbrae. But again, for what it's worth, Jai Yun is definitely the best I've had in the US in its (rather unique) category.

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          Jai Yun
          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          1. re: abstractpoet
            Chandavkl RE: abstractpoet Sep 15, 2010 01:33 PM

            Actually your "cheap rather than good" assessment probably encompasses the majority of places in Chinatown, and when you throw in a few "neither cheap nor good" places, there's not a lot left. Agree about Jai Yun, with a caveat about the quirkiness, i.e., you don't choose what you eat and its location on the fringe of Chinatown. If one wants to eat in the middle of Chinatown, perhaps Great Eastern might be an alternative to R&G.

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            Jai Yun
            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Great Eastern Restaurant
            649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: Chandavkl
              o
              OldTimer RE: Chandavkl Sep 15, 2010 03:19 PM

              There is an interesting analysis to the "cheap v. good" dichotomy. From many years of eating Chinese food, I would say that very often, expensive Chinese meals result from beautiful presentation. A talented chef can do wonders in a hole in the wall. It may not even involve quality of ingredients, altho there are limits. That is why hype and advertising can be so disappointing. The only sure method is to rely upon the recommendation of a trusted foodie, and not be blinded by exaggerated advertising. Of course, there is no denying that an expensive restaurant that is always crowded must have something going.

              1. re: OldTimer
                Robert Lauriston RE: OldTimer Sep 15, 2010 08:44 PM

                There are expensive restaurants that are consistently crowded that nevertheless don't have good food.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  r
                  redrover RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 16, 2010 11:51 AM

                  People eat in some places for the "scene," or to be see and be scene, or because the restaurant functions as a kind of "clubhouse" or lunchroom for a particular group or business. It's not to say that a place can't have a scene and good food, but some just have the scene.

        2. m
          ML8000 RE: terrycatch Sep 16, 2010 12:49 PM

          To answer the question - best all-around is R&G. Yes, some people complain about it but I think it's a combo of expectations and not knowing what or how to order at a Canto restaurant. It's not cheap which brings up expectations but still very reasonable compared to "continental" places, like $60 per/person.

          Like many cuisines, there's a traditional and standard to order and a banquet is often the best way to eat experience Cantonese cuisine. If you're with a smaller group, you need to know how to order. You certainly can get an excellent meal with 4-6 people but you have to know how to order. Also if you get stuck on the stair case landing tables for two or similar..I think you're going to get punked and be disappointed.

          I had a meal there in July and honestly wasn't expecting much (after not going for 5 years) but everything was excellent. I've never had a bad meal or experience there but the staff can be terse since they're trying to turn over as many tables as possible (the food isn't as expensive as continential places for a reason) and they won't seat your party until the whole party is there. If you can deal with that, no problems.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ML8000
            Euonymous RE: ML8000 Sep 16, 2010 01:00 PM

            "Yes, some people complain about it but I think it's a combo of expectations and not knowing what or how to order at a Canto restaurant."

            So tell us what or how to order at a Cantonese restaurant, please.

            1. re: Euonymous
              m
              ML8000 RE: Euonymous Sep 16, 2010 01:07 PM

              Seafood first, whatever is fresh, seasonal veggies, look at the specials (do they line up with seasonal choices...or do you know where the product came from...example crab from WA) and ask questions, don't go for the family menu #A or moo shu pork/lemon chicken/general tsao's chicken, etc. If you don't like the answers you get, keep asking unitl you get what you want, don't let them fast talk you or rush...like any place, humor or charm them.

              1. re: ML8000
                Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Sep 16, 2010 01:22 PM

                At good Hong Kong seafood places where most of the customers are Chinese, the family menus are often good and good values, though they might include a dish or two that's not appealing to most Western palates, such as prawns and walnuts in mayo, or rare chicken.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  m
                  ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 16, 2010 01:58 PM

                  Set menus are usually just as good as anything else in the house...with the obligatory weird item. I was referring to 4 person egg roll special dinners, that should be avoided.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 16, 2010 02:20 PM

                    Often you can swap out a dish (or two, depending on how many dishes there are total) from the set menu if there's something that doesn't appeal to you. I'm surprised to read that prawns and walnuts in mayo don't appeal to Western palates. I haven't found that to be true (although I think it's one of those dishes where a good version is delicious and a bad version is inedible), and most people assume it's an Americanized Chinese dish!

                  2. re: ML8000
                    Ruth Lafler RE: ML8000 Sep 16, 2010 02:16 PM

                    Right. Seasonal veggies are often not on the menu because they're, well, seasonal. Ask what vegetables are good and how they recommend they be cooked. Now you've established some cred with the waiter, ask for other recommendations and/or look around and see what's on the tables of the Chinese diners.

                    I think of Cantonese cuisine as being the California cuisine of China, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, simply prepared (or deceptively simply prepared) so that the natural flavors shine through, so read the menu with that eye.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      m
                      ML8000 RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 16, 2010 04:21 PM

                      Spot on analogy. I've often thought the same thing - Cantonese and California cuisines share the fresh/seasonal approach.

                      Regarding seasonal veggies...ask if they have like or know of...ong toy or pea shoots, etc. and the waitstaff will either say yes or no. If they say no, you ask what they have...which will likely be the most seasonal. Then you ask how it's prepared, etc and if it sounds weird, ask for a different prep. If you're not sure what it is, then ask what it tastes like.

                      Another point is don't feel offended if they're terse. It's really not much different talking to the stereotypically rude pizza or deli guy in NYC.

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