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Jai Yun conundrum

h
hedge_hog May 17, 2011 09:24 PM

So I finally went to Jai Yun for dinner after two years of yearning. It was a party of four, including both my parents. To clarify, all of us are Chinese, and more specifically, were born and grew up in Shanghai. I had some reservation about taking the parents to Jai Yun since I never quite got a good sense about the background of people who raved about Jai Yun and wonder if the "excitement" will transcends culture backgrounds. I am posting this simply to help anyone else who is in my shoes.

Simply put, the food was excellent, but nothing earth shattering. There were 11 cold appetizers, tasty but familiar to anyone who has been exposed to Jiangsu cuisine, i.e. Shanghai or food from the lower Yangtze region. Of the 11 hot dishes, the highlights, for me, were the white fish, shrimp, crispy beef and house special eggplant, maybe the pork shank. Again, top notch technique but not mind-blowing or revolutionary. If you've been to Shanghai or Nanjing, you probably had them, maybe just not quite as good.

For prix fix, I feel like if I go to some place like Quince or Danko, with each additional person, I can actually try more dishes. But at Jai Yun, it's still the same dishes more or less. I am wondering "out loud" on the hound board, "does my background, having been exposed to the cuisine, made the Jai Yun experience seems less special?" Perhaps if I am Italian, I would be less impressed by Quince or La Ciccia, and more with Jai Yun. In short, I am glad that I tried it, but probably won't be back.

Just wonder what others think.

-----
La Ciccia
291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

Jai Yun
680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

  1. scottca075 Jul 6, 2011 11:03 AM

    You are of course right and remarkably insightful for a hedge hog since most of the hedge hogs I know tend to be quite myopic.

    What people often fail to take into account when they go to a restaurant, or when they read reviews from others is how we each bring our own background and experience to the table.

    You obviously stomped on some toes here (unintentionally) of those who love Jai Yun and get defensive.

    Whether or not you've been back to Shanghai since you left, or it is the only place in the U.S. that serves this kind of food or what ever reason isn't really relevant, it didn't meet your expectations so you won't go back. That sounds very reasonable to me.

    Whether you like Quince or Gary Danko better, or even, heaven forbid, Cheesecake Factory better is your preference based on what you enjoy.

    -----
    Jai Yun
    680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    Gary Danko
    800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    1. c oliver May 20, 2011 02:25 PM

      "If you've been to Shanghai or Nanjing, you probably had them, maybe just not quite as good. "

      If the dishes at Jai Yun are better than one would get in Shanghai or Nanjing, isn't that reason enough to go - if the price is alright?

      12 Replies
      1. re: c oliver
        s
        sfwtchris May 24, 2011 12:30 PM

        Very interesting discussion here on Jai Yun. I counted the number of times I have been to Jai Yun, over 30 trips later, I still find pleasent surprises here and there. Enough to prompt me to peek my head there once in a while and when I have the means. Take for example, Chef Ni's paper-thin "Orange Beef" looks like it is coded with powered sugar and dried-tossed in a gentle vinegary sauce, how cool is that? Simple concepts with A+ results. When I eat this dish, I tend to close my eyes and savor it. When a dish is not working out, I can tell. I tend to be able follow Chef Ni's mood swings. He is a very perceptive chef. Will never forget the time he spent 7 hours steaming squab in a porcelain terrine. Defnitely a gem place to go. I have faith in Chef Ni!

        -----
        Jai Yun
        680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        1. re: sfwtchris
          d
          Dustin_E Jul 6, 2011 09:03 AM

          IMHO, The food at Jai Yun is great, but the service sucks and the place is overpriced. This limits my ability to bring large groups of friends here. Unfortunately, i think coming here in small groups is also limiting the number and variety of dishes i try on my visits.

          Three Questions:

          1. Does anyone have a feel for how many and which dishes you get with lots of people ordering the more expensive menus? I've visited many times, but only with small groups of people.

          2. Would anyone else be interested in a chowdown at jai yun, in order to try the dishes you can only get with large groups of people?

          3. Are there specific places in shanghai or beijing (or even hong kong or tokyo) anyone would recommend as being similar to jai yun, but strictly better?

          1. re: Dustin_E
            Robert Lauriston Jul 6, 2011 09:33 AM

            My observation is that the number of dishes you get has nothing to do with how many people are in your party, only with the price you choose. That's what's great about Jai Yun, you don't have to get a big group together to have a banquet-like progression of dishes.

            In my experience, the bigger the party, the less food per person we got in each dish. Though if you're still hungry at the end and complain, he'll send out more food.

            -----
            Jai Yun
            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              d
              Dustin_E Jul 6, 2011 09:38 AM

              excellent, thanks!

              i guess i'll just have to try at higher price points and see what i get.

              1. re: Dustin_E
                s
                sfbing Jul 6, 2011 10:14 AM

                I don't really think the higher price points are that worth it. In my observation, you usually get one extra dish, maybe two with each extra step you go up. They seem to be richer, heavier dishes. For me, they often are underwhelming. For example, I once went in a party of four and paid an extra $20pp and we got one extra dish of deep fried chunks of pork with pineapple. My aunt's damning verdict was that the pork was not fresh enough. We found the progression to heavier and fattier dishes kind of offputting, especially b/c they don't provide any sort of palate cleanser at the end of the meal.

                1. re: sfbing
                  d
                  Dustin_E Jul 6, 2011 10:57 AM

                  uuuggh. that's not good news.

                  perhaps i might have better luck if i request specific dishes i've seen mentioned on yelp, etc? (special slow braised duck, five spice pork, squid, etc)?

                  i really like his food, but i went two times, separated by a month or two, and was served the _exact_ same menu the second time. i'd like to have at least some variety...

                  or maybe the standard menu is what he does best, and i should look elsewhere for variety.

                  regardless, pork that isn't fresh enough sounds disgusting.

                  1. re: Dustin_E
                    Robert Lauriston Jul 6, 2011 11:05 AM

                    There's no a la carte at Jai Yun. You get what the chef makes that day.

                    -----
                    Jai Yun
                    680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      d
                      Dustin_E Jul 6, 2011 11:12 AM

                      i know there is no a la carte, but if i requested specific dishes a few days earlier when i made the reservation i thought i might have some luck. their 'website' mentions that, but i've never tried it.

                    2. re: Dustin_E
                      s
                      sfbing Jul 6, 2011 11:29 AM

                      I don't think the pork issue would have been that noticeable to most people. To me, the taste was a little flat, which is typical of most restaurant food. But Cantonese people can be really fussy about freshness, especially when they think they're paying an extra $80 for that dish. At that price, you can get half a freshly slaughtered piglet roasted to your spec at some Cantonese BBQ places.

                      The website may say you can request specific dishes, but a Mandarin speaker I know tried once (back when they had all these fascinating dishes posted only in Chinese) and just got the runaround. As I've said before, he has great technique but he's a terrible businessman.

                      1. re: sfbing
                        d
                        Dustin_E Jul 7, 2011 09:42 AM

                        thanks a lot -- you guys have saved me a lot of expensive jai yun experiments.

                        1. re: sfbing
                          d
                          Dustin_E Jul 8, 2011 03:19 PM

                          the last few times i've gone they've seemed pretty desperate for customers.

                          i'll see if my girlfriend (she speaks mandarin) can call ahead and request steamed live fish, crab and its roe, and duck with our meal, just to see what happens.

                          i expect we will not be successful, but perhaps we'll fail in an interesting and amusing way.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    d
                    Dustin_E Jul 6, 2011 09:51 AM

                    >> you don't have to get a big group together to have a banquet-like progression of dishes.

                    Do you know any high-end chinese restaurants in asia for which this is the case? On our trip to shanghai / beijing last fall, we were constantly over-ordering so we would have a chance to try everything...

            2. h
              hedge_hog May 18, 2011 09:02 PM

              Not surprisingly, most people have strong feelings about Jai Yun. My initial post was not to slam the food, but merely stating that the food is more traditional than pioneering. And as I am Chinese, eating chinese food, I don't really care much about the "atmosphere." In fact, I think the setting is quite appropriate for the food (I'm looking at you, Mission Street Food). I won't be a repeat customer because I don't think the value is there with the prix fix dinner, FOR someone who is from China, that's all. If the chef wants to practice his craft, withholding the a la carte option, and limit the traffic, that is up to him. The business model is clearly unique and profitable.

              -----
              Jai Yun
              680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              19 Replies
              1. re: hedge_hog
                Robert Lauriston May 19, 2011 09:48 AM

                So where do you go for Shanghai cuisine?

                1. re: hedge_hog
                  pilinut May 19, 2011 12:38 PM

                  Although I'm not Chinese, I you've expressed exactly how I feel about Jai Yun and why, despite the chef's obvious skill, I haven't been back.

                  -----
                  Jai Yun
                  680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. re: pilinut
                    Robert Lauriston May 19, 2011 01:35 PM

                    So where else do you prefer for Shanghai cuisine?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      h
                      hedge_hog May 19, 2011 02:22 PM

                      My mom's :)

                      1. re: hedge_hog
                        susancinsf May 20, 2011 11:12 PM

                        in that case, hopefully your mom lives nearby, as I *really* would not get your point of view if you couldn't get her cooking on a regular basis, but still would not return to Jai Yun.

                        If she is local, perhaps you could talk her into opening a restaurant. :-)

                        -----
                        Jai Yun
                        680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        1. re: susancinsf
                          ...tm... May 21, 2011 01:17 PM

                          I'm still entirely in agreement with you, OP. To pay a lot for food that is great but "normal" to you isn't very exciting, nor does it make you want to run back. Though what's normal to one person may be intriguing to another.

                          1. re: ...tm...
                            b
                            bladderdash May 22, 2011 02:25 PM

                            Totally agreed... actually, would you say this is ordinary Shanghai restaurant food, or ordinary like how your mom would make it? When I was living there for a short while, I noticed a distinction between your typical restaurant and "home style" places, that would be less greasy (sometimes), more plain and down-to-earth.

                            Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and try it once with the help of restaurant.com. Would be nice if I could be lucky enough to compare it to hedge_hog's mom :)

                            1. re: bladderdash
                              h
                              hedge_hog May 22, 2011 03:43 PM

                              Ok, just to clarify, you can't compare any home cook's food with that of a professional chef especially like that of Jai Yun. Of course my mom can't make the same dishes and she would be the first admit that. Like I said half of the hot dishes were amazing and the other half were really good. I was just commenting on the value, which varies from person to person, and affected by each's means and background.

                              P.S. I wouldn't say it's Shanghainese. I think the chef is from Nanking.

                              -----
                              Jai Yun
                              680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                              1. re: hedge_hog
                                Robert Lauriston May 23, 2011 09:33 AM

                                Years ago I asked Peter Fong what Nanking cuisine was, and he said it's the same as Shanghai, except for this one salted duck.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                        j
                        jman1 Jun 17, 2011 11:47 PM

                        It's been a while since I've been to JaiYun, I didn't recall that the style was similar to Shanghainese. I have been eating more Shanghai cuisine over the recent years (and converting as many friends as possible). It's kind of the Italian food of China; fresh ingredients, simply prepared.

                        There are actually very many Shanghai places in the area (especially down in the South Bay). Many are very simple and their English names are so similar that it's difficult to keep them straight in my mind. Doesn't help that I'm sometimes with Shanghai born people and let them do the leading. Some of the very simple places are very informal (order some dumplings and other hot foods than serve yourself some cold appetizers from the refrigerated case).

                        One place that I found on my own is Shanghai House in the outer Richmond (on Balboa). It's not fancy, but you don't serve yourself. Not in the same class as Jai Yun or other upscale place; it's simple. Worth a try, if you haven't been.

                        BTW, an appeal of JaiYun for non Chinese is that it's Westerner friendly. And, since you don't need to order, it's simple and fun. Most non-Chinese have trouble ordering in an Authentic Chinese restaurant. JaiYun is like being invited to your friend's family celebration banquet.

                        I haven't been to JaiYun since they moved, but when I did go, I always found more resistance from Chinese. A few loved it, but most had some resistance. This mostly centered on price. They thought that for the high cost, there should be expensive ingredients (as opposed to simpler ingredients, well prepared).

                        -----
                        Jai Yun
                        680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        Shanghai House
                        3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                        1. re: jman1
                          Windy Jun 18, 2011 12:02 PM

                          Thanks for a thoughtful response. I'm not sure why you believe banquets are hard for those who don't read Chinese to order though. A set menu is easily translated, and less challenging that looking at a huge a la carte menu and trying to discern what's good.

                          A banquet manager who isn't helpful to non-Chinese doesn't deserve the patronage. The service isn't likely to be significantly better at the actual event.

                          1. re: Windy
                            j
                            jman1 Jun 18, 2011 12:42 PM

                            I don't think that ordering off a set / banquet menu would be difficult, but it's not something that most non-Chinese regularly do (partially do to smaller size of dinning party). Well, sometimes the banquets are only listed in Chinese, but if one is OK picking only by price (as at Jai Yun), it shouldn't be a problem.

                            There may still be language issues when arranging a set menu, but I agree that it's a good alternative for a non-Chinese group. And, it does seem that most Chinese places don't go out of their way to encourage non-Chinese patrons.

                            Ordering a la carte, is more difficult.

                            1. re: jman1
                              Ruth Lafler Jun 18, 2011 07:16 PM

                              I think a lot of non-Chinese don't think to order from the set menu because they think of them in terms of being the set menus that are ubiquitous in American-Chinese restaurants. Having learned *not* to order from those, it's hard for them to realize that there are *good* set menus in more authentic Chinese menus.

                          2. re: jman1
                            h
                            hedge_hog Jun 18, 2011 09:27 PM

                            I disagree with the praise of Shanghai House. I've given it three tries, all uninspiring. I got a wheat glutten dish (Kao fu) that was obviously frozen, then incredulously was microwaved so it is piping hot outside (I prefer it as a cold appetizer) but still frozen with ice inside. The dumplings had hard skins and very little soup. I prefer Shanghai Dumpling King. However, I just went back to SDK to try the pan fried dumplings. They were barely browned on the bottom, soggy and stuck to the dish, and when I suggested they get fried again, the waiter tried to explain this is how it is supposed to be and people don't like them crispy! I have a feeling SDK's quality has slipped. It also doesn't inspire confidence when all I hear is Cantonese coming in and out of the kitchen.

                            -----
                            Shanghai House
                            3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                            Shanghai Dumpling King
                            3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                            1. re: hedge_hog
                              j
                              jman1 Jun 18, 2011 10:04 PM

                              I have seen mixed reviews about Shanghai House, so I'm not surprised to hear negatives. I'm not Chinese and not an expert, so accept being over ruled.

                              I don't believe that I've tried the Kao Fu dish. In fact, I had to look it up in order to see an image. At first, I thought you might have been talking about "flour balls", which I've ordered at Beijing Restaurant, but now I see that it's different.

                              BTW, obviously different cuisine, but I enjoy Beijing Restaurant as well. However, I've so far not tried their hot pot for fear of operator error. ;-)

                              -----
                              Shanghai House
                              3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                              1. re: hedge_hog
                                Windy Jun 18, 2011 10:10 PM

                                I've had radically different experiences at Shanghai House at both ends of the spectrum, and only a few weeks apart. One weekend lunch everything was amazing. We shared tastes with neighboring tables. Everyone was happy.

                                The second weekday lunch was disastrous including the same fried chicken and other dishes; so awful I couldn't believe it had been served (the sauce was burnt). The service the second time was also appalling, and despite a nearly empty restaurant, the server took forever to check on me, so long that I left rather than send my food back.

                                -----
                                Shanghai House
                                3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                1. re: Windy
                                  s
                                  sfbing Jun 18, 2011 10:51 PM

                                  I have a suspicion that who is cooking in the kitchen really affects the quality at Shanghai House. A friend told me to avoid dinner as the chef is old and doesn't work nights, which I thought was odd. I usually go for weekend brunch, which is generally good but slow--it feels like there is only one person cooking back there.

                                  -----
                                  Shanghai House
                                  3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                  1. re: sfbing
                                    grayelf Jun 18, 2011 11:08 PM

                                    I am sitting here dreaming about the salt and pepper pig knuckle and tea smoked duck at Shanghai House. We've had the former twice in two visits and the latter once. I would consider making the long trek from our Union Square base on the Geary bus again just to taste these two dishes once more. Both visits were for lunch which supports your friend's hypothesis, sfbing :-).

                                    -----
                                    Shanghai House
                                    3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                    1. re: grayelf
                                      v
                                      vulber Jun 19, 2011 11:29 PM

                                      for dumplings, Kingdom of Dumpling is incredible, but I haven't tried the [albeit limited] non-dumpling Shanghainese menu there.

                                      -----
                                      Kingdom of Dumpling
                                      1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

                      3. s
                        sfwork May 18, 2011 02:30 PM

                        I get your question -- and it's a legitimate one. My problem with the restaurant is not the food or the price -- it's with the location and the atmosphere.

                        For me, if this place were located in a city where you couldn't get SO MANY other great meals, I'd be here all the time and happily shelling out the dough, but we live in SF where a great meal in a great atmosphere is never more than a few steps away. So for that reason, we've been there (enjoyed the food very much) but have not been back.

                        35 Replies
                        1. re: sfwork
                          Robert Lauriston May 18, 2011 04:41 PM

                          Which Chinese restaurants do you think have nice atmosphere? I think Jai Yun's new location is fairly nice as Chinese restaurants go.

                          -----
                          Jai Yun
                          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            v
                            vulber May 18, 2011 05:04 PM

                            first, the problem is that at their prices, "fairly nice as far as chinese restaurants go" is not acceptable - it needs to be far better than your average chinese restaurant, which it is not.

                            and it's more the combination of atmosphere/service; the hostess reading her newspaper when she has nothing else better to do, the general inattentiveness.....

                            1. re: vulber
                              c
                              Chandavkl May 18, 2011 05:09 PM

                              At least they have a hostess now! In the beginning the chef waited tables, too.

                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                grayelf May 18, 2011 05:37 PM

                                We've been twice and loved it (visitors from Vancouver and a local Hound) but we went for lunch both times. Price is obviously lower and we felt we got great value FWIW. Would go back again in a trice.

                              2. re: vulber
                                Robert Lauriston May 19, 2011 09:47 AM

                                Are we on Chowhound here or what? If the place had upscale decor and service it wouldn't be the $55 bargain that is is. Who cares? There's nothing to order. The food comes out hot. It's delicious.

                                Jai Yun's a little run down, but the aesthetics of the decor are no different from Yank Sing or Koi Palace or Ton Kiang, and last time I was at the latter it seemed a little run down, too. It's hard for me to believe that the minor differences in decor would affect anyone's meal.

                                Alice's and Eric's make LAME Americanized Chinese food for yuppies. I can't believe anyone would hold those pandering pustules up as preferable to Jai Yun.

                                -----
                                Jai Yun
                                680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  v
                                  vulber May 19, 2011 11:04 AM

                                  i don't feel the dinner service is a bargain; i feel the lunch is

                                  1. re: vulber
                                    Robert Lauriston May 19, 2011 11:27 AM

                                    If I factor in the savings from bringing my own wine with no corkage, a meal at Jai Yun is cheaper than a similar meal at Great China (which is also a bargain), and I don't have to round up six or eight people to be able to order a bunch of courses.

                                    -----
                                    Jai Yun
                                    680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                    1. re: vulber
                                      l
                                      lrealml May 19, 2011 11:38 PM

                                      How much is lunch and when do they serve it? Also do you need lunch reservations?

                                      I really want to try this place, but I admit I am a bit intimidated...
                                      Also, is it possible with only two people to have a good experience?

                                      1. re: lrealml
                                        Robert Lauriston May 20, 2011 09:32 AM

                                        They recommend reservations for lunch.

                                        I've mostly gone with two people. There's no reason to go with more. In fact, I think you maybe get more food per person with two. Here's a good overview:

                                        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                        The only thing intimidating about the experience is trying to get a reservation, the difficulty varies depending on how much English the person who answers the phone speaks. Once you sit down they just start bringing the food, all you have to do is eat.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          a
                                          abstractpoet May 20, 2011 10:13 AM

                                          I would only add, since someone mentioned the restaurant.com certificates, that there have been a couple reports about the hostess (or someone) giving you a bit of a hard time when you present the certificate - not refusing to take it, but maybe trying to pressure you to go for a higher-level prix-fixe, etc.

                                          I know the one time I went (with a certificate), she told us we had to go to the higher price level in order to get, say, the abalone -- and then we didn't get any abalone anyway. Don't know if that's because we used a certificate, and I guess it's hard to really know, since there's no menu or anything.

                                          Also, with reservations, I think the chef often will try to get you to come at a specific time - that way he can serve out the same dish for the entire seating all at one time. That was my experience, anyway - I asked for one time, and he suggested another one, like a half-hour later or something.

                                        2. re: lrealml
                                          mariacarmen May 20, 2011 02:30 PM

                                          I went by myself and really enjoyed myself at lunch. I walked right in and there was one table leaving, one other table seated while i was there. This was early last year, so maybe it's popularity has grown a lot since then.

                                          1. re: lrealml
                                            l
                                            lrealml May 27, 2011 02:34 PM

                                            So we went to Jai Yun for lunch yesterday, and while the food was tasty, we felt it was a complete rip off...
                                            First of all, the prices were way more expensive than I thought they would be; the lunch prix fixe options were $28/$40/$60.

                                            I should mention that unlike the OP, we are both white Americans who have never been to China (at least not yet). However, that does not mean we are used to overly sweet, overly sauced, Americanized Chinese food (I can't stand this kind of food), and we are very adventurous eaters (I could take on Andrew Zimmern no problem). And while we are still learning about authentic Chinese food (there is so much to learn), we have made a point in the last year to try a lot of authentic places based on recommendations from this board and have never been disappointed until now.

                                            We were hungry, and I was looking forward to this place for a while (and didn't want to miss out), so we opted for the $40/pp menu. For this amount we got a bunch of very tiny cold appetizers (6 I believe) followed by small plates of sauteed shrimp, fried shimeji mushrooms, wheat gluten with asparagus & tied bamboo shoots, white fish and corn, pork belly and glass noodles, and soy beans with tofu skin (this last one was my favorite). Everything was quite tasty and more refined than most Chinese places, but nothing was exciting or mind blowing... No Chinese food revelations. Also, there was hardly and expensive ingredients used; none of the abalone or crisply beef I had read about. Our "luxury" ingredient was shrimp; the white fish was clearly a cheap one, and there was hardly any pork belly in the pork belly dish. Definitely not worth the $100 or so dollars we payed, maybe worth $50 at most.

                                            And then there was the server/host/busboy... Grrr! We are not picky about service... I have no problem tolerating mediocre to bad service for great food, but this was ridiculous. We were the only ones in the restaurant (now I understand why), and he sat us right next to the cashier stand where he stayed the whole time easily within ear shot of our conversations (I felt like I had to watch everything I said). To make things worse, he was on the computer playing a game with incessant clicking (either that or he was practicing to see how many times a minute we he could click the mouse). The only time the clicking stopped was when he brought us our next course or fixed his hair in the big mirror. It drove me mad.... I couldn't wait to leave.

                                            It is clear to me that they have to charge such asinine prices because you need to be making about 150% profit on your food if you have a completely empty restaurant. Also what restaurant in that price range has a bowl of cheap American candy on the counter (3-musketeers and twix)? Bizarre. For the same price, we could have eaten equally as tasty food at Little Shanghai in San Mateo 3-4 times with a ton of leftovers (they are always packed, and even though we are always the only white people we have gotten decent service). I am also upset because we only let ourselves spend this much on a meal once or twice a month, and there are so many other places in SF I would have loved to have tried instead (my list of restaurants in SF to try in this price range is getting very long).

                                            -----
                                            Jai Yun
                                            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                            1. re: lrealml
                                              c oliver May 27, 2011 02:46 PM

                                              It sounds like you didn't see this part of their website which probably accounts for your surprise at the prices.

                                              http://menuscan.com/jaiyun/message.html

                                              Obviously the quality of the meal you ate was nothing like the OPs who described the dishes as "amazing" and "very good." It's sad that your meal didn't measure up to those descriptions. Regarding seating, in a empty restaurant, why didn't you just move? That's the type of thing that the customer can control. But as you say, there are plenty of other places for you to spend your dining dollars. Hope you have better luck.

                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                Windy May 27, 2011 03:02 PM

                                                Honestly the contents of that link make it even worse. Why not just hire someone who speaks English and then think about taking diner frustration into account when revamping your menu?

                                                My only meal at Jai Yun was a fairly disastrous Chowdown when they first opened, similarly an expensive lunch I could not afford with very mixed reactions among those who sat at smaller tables and those of us at a big table who left hungry.

                                                As I recall, those of us complained that the lack of service, small portions, and quality of what we did eat did not warrant the high prices were accused on this forum of being racist...

                                                For what it's worth, I've never had any desire to return. And I've probably eaten more in Chinese restaurants than any other restaurants my entire life.

                                                Sorry lrealml's weekday city treat didn't turn out better; next time maybe lunch at Local Mission for $9 each with a stop at Mr and Mrs for candied violet or almond brittle. Or dim sum at S&T for $15 each.

                                                -----
                                                Jai Yun
                                                680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                1. re: Windy
                                                  pilinut May 28, 2011 01:56 AM

                                                  I think we might have been at the same table at the same chowdown at Jai Yun. It was around 8-9 years ago, and I spent $30 for that lunch and then had to go buy myself a lunch supplement. Yes, the food--what there was of it--was very good, Was it worth $30? No. Sounds like things haven't changed much.

                                                  -----
                                                  Jai Yun
                                                  680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                2. re: c oliver
                                                  l
                                                  lrealml May 27, 2011 03:12 PM

                                                  This link says that lunch starts at $9 not $28 which is why I was very surprized at the prices. Everything I read ahead of time said that lunch was $9/$18/$24 not $28/$40/$60. We would have been quite happy with the meal if it was $18/pp.

                                                  Also, I supposed we could have asked to move... you know sometimes it just seems awkward to ask (I couldn't think of a way to ask politely without mentioning that he was driving me crazy).

                                                  Windy, we did have a a lot of fun in the city despite the ripped off feeling.

                                                  We walked up to Coit tower (which we hadn't done in years) and explored a lovely part of Historic Telegraph Hill we had never wondered before. Then we finished up with some great drinks and snacks La Mar's Happy Hour (which was a great deal). It was a lovely day.

                                                  Mr. and Mrs. is at the top of my list for next time...

                                                  1. re: lrealml
                                                    Robert Lauriston May 27, 2011 03:16 PM

                                                    The last paragraph of that Web page says, "Please understand that price is subject to change without notice and the best way is to call ahead to confirm."

                                                    The place is not really run like a normal business.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      l
                                                      lrealml May 27, 2011 03:19 PM

                                                      Ha!, clearly not :)

                                                    2. re: lrealml
                                                      c oliver May 27, 2011 03:23 PM

                                                      For future reference, you can stand up and move to another table. They'll get the point, I'm sure :)

                                                      I guess I assume that $9 was an a la carte price and that the multi-course was significantly more than that. I know a Chow-friend told me about a restaurant.com coupon a year or more ago that pretty much told me what the prices were like.

                                                      I still want to go and description from a Chinese person of "great" and "very good" have not changed my mind.

                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                        h
                                                        hedge_hog May 27, 2011 03:41 PM

                                                        Actually, I found the dishes a little sweeter than I'm used to, which is why I suggested that it's not strictly Shanghainese. Shanghai cuisine evolved from Zhejiang and Jiangsu cuisines, but it's mostly known for it's home cook style and perhaps dim sum.

                                                        Regarding the price, I believe the prix fix depends on the number in the party. For example, for our party of four, it starts at $65 instead of $55. Last year when I was there for lunch alone, $18 was the starting point. And I was disappointed by the number of dishes and I clearly didn't get the dises the party of two got for the same price. My advice is to ignore the price and just judge the food. It's hard to do, when I am still not far removed from my student days and still get satisfies by a $5 bowl of pho.

                                                  2. re: lrealml
                                                    grayelf May 27, 2011 03:31 PM

                                                    That is a rather shocking increase, notwithstanding any notice they might give (and the link was to the dinner prices, not lunch). The two times we went -- both in the last year and a half -- the $18 option was definitely available. We opted for the $18 both times, using a coupon once to "go up" a rung ie get the $24 option for the same price the second time. That time our premium item was abalone.

                                                    1. re: grayelf
                                                      l
                                                      lrealml May 27, 2011 03:37 PM

                                                      There are no a la carte items.... No options cheaper than $28/pp. I guess we could have left when we saw the price increase.
                                                      The Restaurant.com coupon says "Dinner Only" so I didn't think we could use one (nor did I think we needed to) for lunch.
                                                      If I had to go back, I would get a $100 coupon from restaurant.com when they are 80 or 90% off and go for the cheapest dinner.... and I'm normally one to feel guilty about using coupons (but that is only at places I like).

                                                      1. re: lrealml
                                                        grayelf May 27, 2011 04:39 PM

                                                        We had a restaurant.com coupon too which was kindly donated to us by a local CH and meant (IIRC) that our $28 option worked out to approx $18 each once applied, so effectively we went down a tier in price with the coupon. I don't recal our saying Dinner Only but in any case we were able to use it with no fuss. And there were absolutely no a la carte options either time, it was a set meal or nothing. We loved both meals (I guess that's obvious or we wouldn't have gone back) and I'd still consider going again, though thanks to your post I'll be very careful to clarify cost before committing.

                                                    2. re: lrealml
                                                      a
                                                      abstractpoet May 27, 2011 04:44 PM

                                                      I think $28/$40/$60 for lunch is pretty expensive, any way you spin it - and that's despite the fact that I think the food is great.

                                                      I don't know if they're trying to adjust their prices to account for the fact that a lot of people are using the gift certificates now ... which would defeat the purpose.

                                                      1. re: abstractpoet
                                                        l
                                                        lrealml May 27, 2011 05:07 PM

                                                        Straight from the restaurant.com website:
                                                        Minimum purchase of $35. 18% Gratuity added prior to discount. Valid for Dinner ONLY. Reservation strongly recommended. Please read restaurant description before purchasing a certificate.

                                                        Notice the dinner only part...

                                                      2. re: lrealml
                                                        pilinut May 28, 2011 01:22 AM

                                                        I've been wondering how Jai Yun (which I visited once, many years ago) would compare with Little Shanghai, so thanks for your post! I, too, will happily vouch for Little Shanghai in San Mateo. We've been going there since soon after they opened, and they have been consistently very, very good. And, as you said, at 1/3 the price of Jai Yun.

                                                        Irealmi, how did the sautéed shrimp at Jai Yun compare with the Little Shanghai version? Any other dishes that both places make? Your mention of pork belly is making me crave the twice cooked pork at Little Shanghai. . .

                                                        -----
                                                        Jai Yun
                                                        680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                        Little Shanghai
                                                        17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                                        1. re: pilinut
                                                          l
                                                          lrealml May 28, 2011 12:36 PM

                                                          I haven't tried either of those dishes at Little Shanghai yet... They are a fairly recent discovery for us and with such a large menu, it will take us a while to try everything.
                                                          Every time we have gone so far, we have gotten the XLB and the radish pancake. I could never go there and not get the radish pancake... it is good beyond words.

                                                          I normally never order shrimp out because I find it to be over cooked more often than not... The shrimp at Jai Yun were not overcooked, I assume you recommend the shrimp at Little Shanghai? we will have to try them.
                                                          Also, I thought twice cooked pork was a Sichuan dish, so far we have been trying to order Shanghai dishes there and have going to Sichuan places (like Crouching Tiger or Spices 4) for Sichuan food... But if they have good twice cooked pork at Little Shanghai we will make a note to try it.
                                                          There is so much great Chinese food... not enough meals to try it all :)

                                                          1. re: lrealml
                                                            pilinut May 28, 2011 06:48 PM

                                                            We should probably start another thread about Little Shanghai. . . I've never tried the radish cake, but the sautéed shrimp is excellent. The pork knuckle in soy sauce is another big favorite of ours.

                                                            -----
                                                            Little Shanghai
                                                            17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                s
                                                sfwork May 18, 2011 07:45 PM

                                                I think Tong Kiang, Yank Sing, Koi Palace, and now All Seasons in Diamond Heights have nice atmospheres. None of those restaurant execute their dishes with the same artistry, but the other half of my point is that you can get really good Chinese food for cheaper (with decent technique and at least a few unusual choices) elsewhere: Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant in Outer Richmond, San Tung, Mayflower Lounge, and even Alice and Eric (in Noe) has food that quenches the Chinese cravings.

                                                1. re: sfwork
                                                  ChowFun_derek May 20, 2011 11:09 AM

                                                  SFWORK...
                                                  are you referring to
                                                  Hong Kong Lounge
                                                  Category: Dim Sum
                                                  Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
                                                  5322 Geary Blvd
                                                  San Francisco, CA 94121
                                                  which is definitely in the Richmond district, or...

                                                  1. S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
                                                  Categories: Seafood, Dim Sum
                                                  Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
                                                  2578 Noriega St
                                                  San Francisco, CA 94122
                                                  (415) 665-8338

                                                  or this one which has "Seafood" in the name but is actually in the "Sunset" district...are there any particular dishes that you enjoy?

                                                  Thanks

                                                  -----
                                                  S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
                                                  2578 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                  Hong Kong Lounge
                                                  5322 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                  1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                                    s
                                                    sfwork May 21, 2011 09:00 PM

                                                    both are good but I was referring to S&T Hong Kong Seafood in outer sunset. I can't remember the name of the dish but they make this silverfish with lotus stir fry that is really good. they also do frog dishes when frog is available -- we like ginger-green onion and it comes on one of those hot plates. and then of course there are all the usual Cantonese stuff -- great steamed chicken, pan fried noodles, crab, salt and pepper shrimp.

                                                    And hey Robert, what's with the mean-spirited attitude towards neighborhood restaurants like Eric's and Alice's? Just because a restaurant is frequented by Caucasians doesn't make the Chinese restaurant not authentic -- if you were to use that measurement on Jai Yun, then that place should be considered LAME. I'm Chinese, my husband is native SF Chinese (grew up near Clement Street) and NO CHINESE people we know go there.

                                                    -----
                                                    Jai Yun
                                                    680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                    S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
                                                    2578 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                    1. re: sfwork
                                                      Windy May 21, 2011 10:25 PM

                                                      There is nothing authentic about Eric's and Alice's, and Eric's has truly dreadful food. I have been served dishes at Eric's that should have been thrown out. And they have gotten deplorable scores from the health department inspections.

                                                      Alice's while bland is at least not thick gravies served over unsafe meats and seafoods.

                                                      If people in Noe Valley think that's Chinese food, they're welcome to it. I ate frequently at the original Eliza's, and while Americanized, they maintained a level of quality sorely lacking from these spinoffs.

                                                      I love S&T by the way, although I've only ever been for dim sum.

                                                  2. re: sfwork
                                                    c oliver May 27, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                    I didn't realize that the places you mention are Shanghainese. Isn't that what Jai Yun is? I'm confused.

                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                      Robert Lauriston May 27, 2011 03:11 PM

                                                      I don't believe any of those places are Shanghainese.

                                                      Comparing them with Jai Yun misses the point of what's special about Jai Yun, though obviously not everybody appreciates that.

                                                      -----
                                                      Jai Yun
                                                      680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        c oliver May 27, 2011 11:56 PM

                                                        Thank you.

                                              3. K K May 18, 2011 10:13 AM

                                                A friend whose tastes are in line with mine, whose father is from Northern China and has other family roots in Taiwan, feels the same way as you. I think the idea is that the price that you pay, versus what you get, is a huge difference between what you actually get in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan for that matter. This is especially true if you are heavily exposed to the cuisines over there (and you do a lot of traveling and eating).

                                                Of course it isn't a fair comparison. Local vs foreign ingredients, resulting in different flavors, whether it be vegetables or meat, or seasonings and spices. Chef may get the "freshest" stuff since Chinatown markets are all within walking distance, but he's certainly not using Pranther Ranch meats nor is he growing his own organic veg on the hillside a la Manresa and some Napa Valley type high end farm to table places.

                                                But we're in the USA...we're supposed to lower our standards and expectations a bit, simply because even if you import chef talent over, there will always be a limitation on local vs foreign ingredients (plus a number of other factors), and it won't taste the same. Supply and demand will once again dictate, and if the chef is the only game in town, he can charge whatever price he wants to pay for whatever rent he has to in Chinatown, even though he is essentially serving high end Chinese banquet type dishes in an informal setting (and without the Michelin star formal service to go with it). Is this place still cash only? If so, that certainly adds to the criticism...

                                                The fact that we have such talent in the SF Bay Area is quite a blessing. But it is certainly ok to feel the way you do with the perspective you have. I'm sure if the prices were much lower, it wouldn't be as bad.

                                                While on the subject of high end non Cantonese Chinese banquets....the chef at Liou House in Milpitas, assuming he's still there, used to be executive / private chef for former Taiwan VP Lien Chan, and the south bay Taiwanese expat community enjoy having his special high end banquet dishes (some requiring advanced order, a few $30 to $50 each like 8 treasures stuffed duck and the lot). But at the end of the meal, you're still paying x2 to x3 on average more than in Taiwan and maybe not quite tasting as good....such is life.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: K K
                                                  s
                                                  SteveG May 18, 2011 10:42 AM

                                                  Yeah, but per capita income in the USA is about 2.5x that of Taiwan, much higher multiple for the bay area. A lot of this is just the cost of living and doing business in the bay area.

                                                2. Robert Lauriston May 18, 2011 08:54 AM

                                                  What, do you go back to Shanghai several times a year? I always assumed there was better food of that style in Shanghai.

                                                  To me the appeal of Jai Yun is that the food's delicious and the best in that style around here. (The two other really good Shanghai places I knew, Fountain Court closed and Shanghai in Oakland went downhill after a chef change.) I also like that you don't have to have a crowd to have a banquet-like series of courses. Plus the entry-level menu is a great value. I haven't found it worthwhile to spend more.

                                                  I lived in Rome for several years. If i found a place here that made Roman food as well as an average good restaurant there, I wouldn't say, oh, this rigatoni alla carbonara is no better than we had at Pyramide. I'd say, damn, this is our lucky day.

                                                  -----
                                                  Jai Yun
                                                  680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                  1. susancinsf May 18, 2011 06:39 AM

                                                    I really must say that I don't understand this point of view, at least without more information. Are you fortunate enough to be able to travel frequently to Shanghai or Nanjing? When was the last time you were in one of those places? Can you execute the dishes as well at home? Is there somewhere else in the bay area that you think does them better? (If yes, please report!)

                                                    If the answer to the above questions (or even to a few of them) is 'no', than if I were in your shoes, I'd be *more* excited because I recognize that they do a 'top-notch' job, and with being able to get the cuisine done well even though far from home, not less. I might not feel that way if I were just visiting San Francisco for a month or so from one of those regions of China, but as resident far from home, I'd be there regularly, for my 'fix' as it were.

                                                    By the way, though I've never been to Sardinia or anywhere in Italy for that matter (a shameful omission I hope to rectify one of these days) my love for La Ciccia has made me very eager to go see it for myself. When hubby asks me where I'd like to go on our first trip to Italy together, the answer is always, "Sardinia, of course!".

                                                    Restaurants of that caliber can transport one, and that is a good thing.

                                                    -----
                                                    La Ciccia
                                                    291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: susancinsf
                                                      Robert Lauriston May 18, 2011 08:55 AM

                                                      I'm not sure you can get Sardinian food that good in Sardinia unless you get invited to someone's house.

                                                    2. a
                                                      abstractpoet May 18, 2011 02:11 AM

                                                      For me, the only problem with Jai Yun is the price point. I loved the one meal I had there, which compared favorably to, say, any number of formal banquet type meals I had when I lived in and visited Taiwan. But in spite of that positive experience, the steep price (at least for dinner) has kept me from rushing back.

                                                      If the cost were $15 or $20 less per person, would you still feel underwhelmed?

                                                      (My impression, too, is that the place is always struggling to attract customers. I wonder if it'd actually be a more profitable enterprise if they set the prices so the profit margin is a little less, but then turned a lot more tables than they do presently.)

                                                      -----
                                                      Jai Yun
                                                      680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: abstractpoet
                                                        v
                                                        vulber May 18, 2011 07:39 AM

                                                        i would agree; or, the other option would be to improve the decor, people are more willing to pay more money for the same food when the surroundings are nicer; even gary danko would have a hard time pushing his $100 tasting menu if he were serving it at jai yun

                                                        1. re: abstractpoet
                                                          d
                                                          dordogne May 18, 2011 10:13 AM

                                                          Prices are definitely a disincentive and raise expectataions considerable, but the site Restaurant.com frequently has coupons for Jai Yun, anywhere from $3-10 (depending upon proximity to the end of the month) for coupon worth $25.

                                                          -----
                                                          Jai Yun
                                                          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                        2. ...tm... May 18, 2011 01:02 AM

                                                          I haven't been to Jai Yun, but your review has pushed me much more in the direction of wanting to go. Your description of the food as well-executed, normal Jiangsu cuisine may seem unexciting to you, but to me it is quite interesting. It seems like something quite difficult for me to track down, even if I were to travel to Shanghai, as a tourist, especially one who does not speak the language, it can often be difficult to find the right experience.
                                                          It is interesting that you mention a couple of Italian places, as I think that it shows exactly the same issue from a different side. Italian food is notoriously "traditional", meaning that the emphasis is great execution of traditional dishes and showcasing great products like cheeses, cured meats, and produce. La Ciccia's menu is full of dishes Sardinians would recognize, executed extraordinarily well.
                                                          And I agree that familiarity makes me less excited. In fact, it took me a while to try some of the great Italian dishes at La Ciccia and Incanto because I can easily execute a lot of rustic Italian cuisine--slow cooked bolognese or sugo, wonderful salads, even a passable pizza, but it's great to see what the experts are doing once in a while, in case there is that regional dish you haven't heard of, or that shaved tuna heart you can't seem to source.

                                                          -----
                                                          La Ciccia
                                                          291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                                          Jai Yun
                                                          680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                          1. v
                                                            vulber May 17, 2011 10:02 PM

                                                            part of jai yun's appeal definitely is how radically different it is from not only the surrounding chinese restaurants in chinatown, but most of the chinese restaurants in the bay area. and while it's certainly not the only authentic chinese restaurant in the bay area, as far as i know, it's the only one serving this particular style of cuisine; as most people have not been exposed to it .

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: vulber
                                                              c
                                                              Chandavkl May 18, 2011 04:42 PM

                                                              Don't stop at the Bay Area--there's nothing like this anywhere else in the US. Part of the appeal of Jai Yun lies in the quirkiness of the owner/chef, so if that quirkiness creates some negative elements too, it's all part of the package.

                                                              -----
                                                              Jai Yun
                                                              680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

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