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San Dong House -- hand pulled noodles and more in the Inner Richmond [San Francisco]

In the last couple of years I've developed a passion for freshly hand-pulled noodles (la mian), mostly consumed in Shanghai and New York. I was ecstatic, therefore when gourmand buddy Al Cheng tipped me off to a new restaurant on Geary between Arguello and 2nd serving noodles hand pulled to order, and headed there at the first possible opportunity, which was lunch today.

The restaurant is San Dong House BBQ, (Lu Wei Wang in Chinese) in the space formerly occupied by a Korean BBQ restaurant. Sure enough, they offered 18 varieties of "San Dong Hand Pull Noodle" with the noodle chef doing his thing in plain sight of the dining area. The expansive menu also includes (as might be expected from the name) eight varieties of boiled dumplings (shui jiao) and a staggering 22 varieties of skewer sticks, including relatively exotic fare like duck gizzard, chicken heart, lamb kidney, and duck tongue skewers. The "family style" dishes sections of the menu also is well peppered with offal-based entrees, and the "vegetables" section of the menu includes two different stinky tofu dishes.

Despite all the many temptations, I was there to vet the noodles, and I selected the simply-named beef noodles for benchmarking puroses. The noodles were perfection, just the right thickness, bite, and chewyness to my taste. The broth was beefy, but monochromatic and a bit too salty; it benefited from a dash of chili paste. The beef was lean cubes, a little on the chewy side. I'd choose a fattier topping the next time. Overall, it was a very satisfying bowl, credit going to the noodles themselves, and I'll be back often to try more noodle dishes and other sections of the menu.

Other features: Drinks include draft beer by the glass or pitcher; open until 3:00 AM 7 Days

San Dong House BBQ
3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Avenue
SF CA 94118

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  1. Whew, when I saw Geary at 2nd I nearly had a heart attack thinking that To Hyang had closed, but they're actually replacing Teo, which never seems to have gotten much praise.

    Do you remember the price of your beef noodle bowl?

    To Hyang
    3815 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

    3741 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

    1 Reply
    1. re: bigwheel042

      It was $6.99, which seemed a little steep. That's a good $2.00 more than a similar bowl in NY, though I think the bowl was a bit larger at San Dong House. All the la mian dishes were priced the same, and I suspect the menu prices will go through some fine tuning.

    2. Hand-pulled only, or other handmade varieties like knife-shaved (dao xiao mien) as well? Thanks.

      1 Reply
      1. re: david kaplan

        Only hand-pulled on the menu at the moment, though the noodle chef may have other skills.

      2. went in for lunch today. I got the Zha jiang mian. I liked the noodles quite a bit. Definitely chewy. The meat sauce was a bit salty... but i think it almost always is and i've had it in a variety of restaurants and countries.
        i almost forgot, it came with a side of broth. Which was really strange tasting. I tasted almost no meat flavor at all. tasted more like the water that everything got blanched in. so it tasted mostly of bok choy, which is probably my least favorite vegetable. It had another unique flavor to it that I could not place.
        The previous review mentioned it being Beefy. well this was not.

        The menu has already changed. I got one in the morning, and apparently it was an old one, because a good 20 dishes had been removed in the menu at lunch including most of the offal selections.
        The waitress was really frazzled and spoke no more english than #'s... I wanted to ask about the missing dishes, but kept almost ordering stuff accidentally. I'll hopefully bring translation help next time.

        I got 1 order of the lamb skewer, as the guy next to me got a really good looking skewer. The waitress picked it up to bring to me, but apparently changed her mind and left it at the counter where i watched it a few minutes. I eventually went up and got it, as another customer suggested. Maybe she was hesitating because it was a mess-up, because it was not Lamb. it was really really oily pork. I think they brushed the meat with chili oil before grilling it. or maybe even after they grilled it. Next time i'll ask for no oil as there were other spices on it that would have been sufficient.

        The noodle man was yelling at the waitress at times and that was a bit awkward. Good amount of customers were in around 230pm today. Some of which seemed pretty anxious about the service, including lots of walking up to the counter to ask for checks and the occasional grabbing menus or food.

        I think the place has a lot of promise, though i'm sad about some of the menu omissions (chestnut with spare ribs for example).

        2 Replies
        1. re: kairo

          The broth you got as a side probably is served with all the "dry" noodles. It sounds like one I would have preferred with my noodles, a clear Lanzhou style that derives all of its flavor from the added ingredients. My beef noodle broth was so beefy and salty it was like a bouillon, and almost overwhelmed the noodles the way heavy-handed ramen broths do.

          Do you think the items excised from the menu are still available, just not on the English menu? If so, perhaps I'll scan and post the "uncensored" menu from yesterday.

          1. re: soupçon

            About the menus: That is what I am wondering. I wasn't able to get my question across... eventually when I pointed to the list of 19 pork items on 1 menu and 13 on the other the girl said "gone".
            Seems like the kind of place where, if they have the ingredients, and you ask nicely, they'll make it. They just might not have frog, stomach or broad beans on hand all the time.

        2. Thanks for the writeup! This place looks great, and offers an alternative to King of Noodles and San Tung which is way too crowded. Interesting that they are offering offal dishes in addition to what looks like Xinjiang style spicy skewers (lamb / yang rou chuan).

          I'm curious though how their beef noodle soup and boiled dumplings stack up with San Tung. As much as there is a lot of hate for ST (and love), it is still my golden standard. San Tung's beef noodles, the broth and beef/flank/tendons are marinated in 5 spice powder, and it sounds like San Dong House's version is not so?

          Do they have the spicy dried fried honey chicken wings here as well?

          King of Noodles
          1639 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA

          San Dong House BBQ
          3741 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

          2 Replies
          1. re: K K

            I ordered the "Beef Noodles Soup" (actually listed in Chinese as "red-cooked" beef noodle soup). They also list a "Beef Tendon Noodles Soup" which I didn't try, so I don't know how it compares to San Tung's version.

            The only chicken wings I found on the menu were under the skewers section. so I doubt that they're dry fried.

            Incidentally, I found out the owners of record are an LLC called "Lanzhou Noodles LLC" (registered back in January) so I assume that the hand-pulled noodles are the intended focus and the rest of the menu is subject to modification. Personally, I'd like to see them pare back the menu to just noodle dishes, dumplings and other small eats, with perhaps a few token "family style" dishes.

            1. re: K K

              I noticed chicken wings under the meat section, not sure if they're dry fried though. The house special chicken turned out to be Sichuan chicken wings with the dried chiles a la Spices.

              We got the pork with sour vegetable noodle soup and bean paste sauce pork noodles. The noodles were nice and chewy but the soup broth tasted like won ton base, not much acidity to the dish either. The bean paste was a little bit better, but I've had better.

              We tried the pork with napa cabbage dumplings, which were nice with the black vinegar. They were cooked fine, some of the dumplings had corn in them.

              We ordered shen jian bao (they also have xiao long bao), but were told they ran out so we ordered the fried "smelly" tofu. The tofu cubes are served up plain, fried nicely. Their version wasn't as pungent as I've had, and it's served with a sweetish dark sauce, with hints of ginger. This would be a good introduction to those who haven't this dish before.

              I also noticed spicy fried intestines on the menu, which we were curious about.

            2. Went back tonight to try some different items. The menu has changed for at least the 3rd time. Still more things removed, but some new ones added (Goat Stomach and intestine soup: so you know they aren't skimping on exotics).

              Got the "Dailu Noodles". little shrimps, pork, chicken in an egg drop type soup. We were pretty happy with it, but it is definitely nice and plane. Noodles still tasty.

              We also got lamb dumplings, which were really undercooked. We asked about them and were told they were fine, and very fresh. The table next to us had similarly cooked dumplings, so I am wondering if this is just a specific style? I've had lamb dumpling at a lot of places and never had them with the meat cooked rare. I'm a bit more squeemish than most about this, but they did taste pretty good.... very rich and kind of creamy.
              A lot of people were really over ordering, it was almost comical. It is fun to see people excited about a place.

              1. Two of us had a very nice experience here on a Monday evening. We arrived at 4:45 PM and were (of course) the only customers; when we left the place was filling up.

                It has been favorably reviewed in two places:

                We ordered a bowl of vegetable-soup (hand-pulled noodles) to share. On viewing other tables, we saw a one-to-one correspondence between diners and noodle soup bowls. Only after the waitress saw we wanted to share did she bring separate bowls and a pair of scissors. The soup and noodles were excellent; the plain broth had a good flavor, slightly spicy. The vegetables were mainly napa cabbage and tree-ear mushrooms.

                We were having a disagreement over whether to order the vegetable dumplings or the fish dumplings; the waitress overheard and gave us a split order. Interesting that the older staff spoke excellent English while the younger ones had very little English. All were very pleasant.

                We ordered three skewers (lamb, mushroom, sweet potato), and they were not so good (though only $1.50 each). Perhaps they are a take on street food; perhaps in the street they are char-broiled. Here they were barely cooked, and instead of a tasty glaze, they had a sprinkling of some dry spice. The lamb pieces were fatty.

                I ordered one more dish "to go": Lamb with Local Flavor. I don't know the locale of the "local". It was a huge amount, mostly meat, thin slices with good "wok-char", and ginger/green onion/garlic sauce. I ate it for four meals over the next two days.

                You will be happy to know that the Goat Stomach dish has been marked down in price.

                They do serve beer and wine, and the corkage fee is a reasonable $0.00.

                1. We went last night and had the dan dan noodles, along with green onion pancake (which we saw on every table) and the dry fried string beans. Wonderful! The noodle texture is really amazing, with a wonderful chewy texture. The dan dan flavor was great, with lots of peanuts, chili oil, sliced cucumbers, and the wonderful noodles that we watched pulled from our seats. It was also nicely spicy, though the waitress was initially dubious about our ordering it. It was well worth the $7. The pancake was a bit greasy but a nice foil to the spicy noodles. The green beans were also great, with a nice fresh snap and wok char. I am hoping to return very soon to try more.

                  1. Had the Spicy Beef Noodles Soup for lunch last THU. The broth was thin, lacking beef flavor. The noodles were, although hand-pulled, over cooked and lack the characteristic bounce. I especially did care for the ladle of red oil they put on the soup. Is this place going down hill already?

                    1. We really enjoyed our lunch at San Dong House BBQ this afternoon.

                      We had the Minced Pork with Bean Sauce hand pulled noodles. The pork seemed a little bland, but we loved the bean sauce and the noodles were great. I only wish there had been more noodles in the bowl.

                      The Lamb Dumplings were very good, though not as lamb-y as Beijing’s. The filling seemed a little airy, not as dense as some others I’ve had.

                      The Fungus and Cucumbers was a vinegary and very light stir fry of Tree Ear Fungus, with slices of cucumber thrown in just to heat through. I just noticed it is not on the takeout menu, so I’m not sure if I have the correct name of the dish. It was very refreshing and a definite reorder.

                      The Vegetable Dumplings were very fresh and delicate, if a little under seasoned.

                      Cash only.

                      San Dong House BBQ
                      3741 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

                      1. Been on a dan dan noodle kick lately, so I though I would head over to SDH on the way home from work. Although the different size and textures of the hand pulled noodles was interesting, the dish itself left something to be desired. Rather bland considering it had a chili pepper next to it on the menu.

                        We also had the combination wonton soup (not listed as war wonton) and the braised Lion's Head pork meatballs. Both were fresh, bright, and pleasant, but again a bit on the bland side.

                        Back to the dan dan noodles: I think I prefer Spice's version better despite the noodles not being hand pulled (at least I don't think they are). Are there any other places to try in the area (inner to mid-Richmond or inner Sunset) for good dan dan or tan tan noodles?

                        p.s. the service was super friendly.

                        1. Finally made it here today. Had the pork/preserved vegetable noodle soup.

                          From what I gathered from my conversation with the server, their noodle puller left some time ago for another job and they aren't currently offering hand-pulled noodles. "Maybe next month." Yelp reports suggest that the availability of hand-pulled noodles has been at least very spotty for quite a few months.

                          Even with the machine-made noodles, I thought this was a solid bowl. Not complex, but homey and filling in addition to being quite cheap ($6.25). It sounds like much of the original clientele may have deserted the restaurant though - true, it was Monday, but the place was completely empty.

                          1. Here's the update from soupçon, San Dong House has rebranded as Xi An Gourmet.