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Dong Bei Mama Chowdown

Twenty hounds hit the Richmond for a Dong Bei feast. I found a parking spot right around the corner on the first pass - good omen.

Our table had:
Assorted Cold Dishes

Sliced Beef Pancake - we had to get this after seeing it delivered to another table. Pan fried pancake stuffed with meat. Crunchy, savory and very yummy

Spicy Crispy Pork Intestine - seemed like a straightforward Sichuan preparation. Good heat and the intestines were cooked nicely

Braised Pork w/ Yam Noodles and Corn Cake - very good. In fact, you could stick with the soups here and be very happy. Golf ball size corn cakes and a nice, rich broth.

Dong Bei Pork Liver - not so great. The sauce had too much starch and the liver didn't excite

Bean Sheets with Noodles in Special Sauce - Interesting due to its surprising heat. We puzzled over the heat source for a while. Chili oil? Cayenne?

Bean Noodle w/ Sour Cabbage and Pork - came to the table late. Just out of the kitchen it was too sour for me. Once it cooled down the vinegar mellowed and the richness of the pork came through better. Eyes closed this could have been served at a German restaurant

Bamboo skin with Okra - Good texture on the okra. Liked this

Simmered Lamb - another good hot pot selection. Rich lamb broth with plenty of tender chunks of lamb. Chinese dates, too.

Chicken & Mushroom Hot Pot - very good. Probably my fave of the night. Tender chicken, mushrooms, and a broth that got more intense as it sat. Yum.

We paid $18 per person for all of the above - a great value. Would I drive out of my way to eat here? No, but if you stick with the soups/hot pots you'll be very happy. Another fun night with the hounds.

Dong Bei Mama
4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

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  1. Here were the whiteboard specials

    1 Reply
    1. re: vliang

      Cheers V! I'm not great with shorthand character reading but managed to make them out...

      1. Tung Por Zo Zi - Tung Po pork shoulder (maybe their take on Hangzhou style Tong Po braised pork). The one I had at Dong Bei House in San Mateo before the chef got deported was excellent.

      2. Hung Mun Yang Rou - Stewed lamb

      3. Tsui Pi Yang - crispy skin lamb (maybe deep fried lamb chops with cumin and spices, like Chef Xiu in Mountain View?)

      4. Xiao Ji Duan Muo Goo - (Little) chicken stewed with mushrooms

      5. Yi Guo Tsu - the "happy family" hot pot miniwok with corncakes as seen in the Kauff's writeup.

    2. Thanks for starting the thread, ChewChew!

      I think we ordered more judiciously than the other table -- certainly we had enough food for the ridiculous amount of $18/person (including tax and a 20 percent tip).

      Two dishes that I would definitely order here again were the simmered lamb and the sliced beef pancake. The chicken and mushroom hot pot was soulful but didn't light up my mouth.

      The most disappointing dish was the Bean Sheets with Noodles in Special sauce (aka "double skin") which looked terrific but lacked the pungent, sinus-clearing mustard heat of other versions I've had.

      The restaurant filled up while we were there and the staff was running to keep up. Our main waitress spoke almost no English, but she was willing to send over someone who did to answer our questions.

      Thanks to vliang for organizing!

      1. I'll reply for the non-judicious table, the one where we cast restraint to the winds and ran up a final bill that reached the dizzying heights of $23/person.

        Here were the highlights for me:

        I thought the initial appetizers remarkable. Some were merely competent, like a solid version of the Shanhai "smoked fish" dish -- but too often, this dish is too sweet, or the fish not meaty enough or too dry so I'm prepared to award points for a competent version. But I was also enthralled by the new-to-me "headcheese" slices, and the terrine with salted duck egg and century egg slices, surrounded by, what, pork and pork fat? It seemed a great combination.

        The crunchy, spicy dry-fried intestines, and a sister dish of dry-fried chicken, which I think the other table skipped, were for me special -- not greasy, crisp, nice spice bite, great texture, and very good flavor shining through.

        The sour cabbage, bean noodle, and pork dish was also a pleasure. Yes, the first impression was German, Haxenfleish revisited, but over time the impression changed, and I wound up regarding this as a more savory and subtle thing than the German version, with more of a creamy appeal than the let's wallow-in-meat German experience, and it made me keep wanting more.

        The cumin-spiced dish (lamb?) made little impression on me. Probably I was not adequately prepared to encounter such Indian-seeming flavors in the context of the remainder of the meal.

        I was quite fond of the pork liver -- it, and one other stir-fry dish were combined with big chunks of some sort of large, spicy green pepper I could not place, seeds intact, which I thought perfectly complemented and offset the strong flavors of the liver.

        We also had a perfectly-executed Shanghai stewed pork leg section, beautifully presented, just right in both texture and flavor.

        I will admit we did over-order. I had no room for the dumplings, for the beef pancake, for the glass noodles with assorted cold toppings, or rather I chose to try other things and ran out of room. I regret that now, especially with reference to the pancake and the lamb dumplings, but that's only because I'm not as full as I got last night.

        Would I drive out of my way to eat here again? Yeah, I would. There were some dishes in there that I can easily work up a powerful craving for. Only drawback for me was that the dishes arrived so fast I could not keep up.

        Thanks to vliang. Great event.

        8 Replies
        1. re: SoupNoodles

          I was a member of Soupnoodles table. Yes we over ordered but what is a chowdown anyway.

          What impressed me about Dong Bei Mama is that the kitchen was able to produce dishes from at least three regions of China, Dong Bei, Shanghai and Szechuan with equal skill.

          The Pork Shank and Smoked Fish from Shanghai, the Pork Intestines and Chili Chicken Wings from Szechuan.

          The rest of the meal from Dong Bei.

          In the past I would stick with the fact the Chef cooked the food in the area he is from or train in. I am please to find this not the case in this kitchen. Maybe there is the more than one chef in the kitchen.

          I will post again when Marlon and vliang post the list of dishes. I was really pleased in the fact the food came fast and at never ending speed.

          We had six cold started.

          Cold Cucumber with Spicy Sauce, a great chef once told me that something simple is hardest thing to present well. This was something that refresh my mouth for the feast to come.

          Next two were terrines one of pork one shoulders and the other was made from the head of the pig head cheese Dong Bei style. Both were clean in taste.

          Then there was roll with Chicken meat wrapping preserved egg and salted egg yolks.

          Last was a Seafood roll with fish and shrimp meat.

          This was the first time for me to have these dishes I was impressed with both and need to have it again for closer study. I liked both a lot.

          Lastly was the Smoked Fish in a Sweet sauce. Shanghai style offering. One the best I have had. The fish had a wonderful balance of flesh (not being over boney) and sweetness.

          I think what I like about this Chowdown was that I was able to sit back like someone with better food knowledge do the ordering and balance the flavor.

          Thanks vliang for doing all the work.

          Dong Bei Mama
          4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

          1. re: SoupNoodles

            Our table had the luck to order an amazing variety of dishes thanks to V...here is the list I wrote down:

            Lamb dumplings, steamed
            pork and shrimp dumplings, boiled
            pork with preserved egg
            cucumber with garlic, cold
            head cheese of pork
            smoked fish appetizer
            pork shoulder
            pork with salted egg
            pork and bean sheet
            pork bacon with sour cabbage soup
            corn dumplings for the soup
            pork liver
            tripe with chilies
            mung bean sheets (double skin)
            chicken with potatoes
            sweet and sour pork
            cumin lamb
            chung king chicken
            mung bean thread

            In short...for $23 we had a true banquet!!

            1. re: marlon

              It was not tripe but pork intestine chilies.

              Only two dishes that I would not order again Cumin Lamb (way to bland) and the Double Skin. Either dish was something that was done well. I will wait for others before I add my two cents.

            2. re: SoupNoodles

              Table # 2 Cold Appetizers
              In order from left to right, first row then second
              Cold smoked fish
              Seafood roll
              Cucumber salad
              Terrine of pork shoulder
              Chicken roll with preserved egg and duck egg
              Terrine of head cheese

              Dong Bei Mama
              4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

              1. re: vliang

                Some of the hot dishes (In order from left to right, first row then second)%3

                pork belly with tofu knots

                sour cabbage with bacon pot (yi guo tsu) with corn cakes

                mung bean sheets (double skin)

                pork liver

                1. re: vliang

                  More hot dishes (In order from left to right, first row then second)%3

                  ry fried intestines with chillies

                  Chicken with potato and mushroom

                  Beef roll

                  Sauteed pea shoots

                  ongbei pork (sweet and sour pork)

                  1. re: vliang

                    Last of the hot dishes (In order from left to right, first row then second)%3

                    Cumin lamb on iron platter

                    Chonqing chciken wings

                    Steamed lamb dumplings

                    Boiled pork, shrimp, and chive dumplings

                    But oops forgot to take the dong po braised pork leg pic

              2. re: SoupNoodles

                Okay, now that I have all the pics up, I can give my take on the meal our table (Table 2) had.

                First off, I did the ordering for our table while accomodating specific requests. While it may seem we ordered a lot, it's a Chowdown so the point is to sample as much as possible that one may not get to in an ordinary, smaller group setting. I will say that by the end, our table was able to polish off most of what we ordered and all of it came to only $23pp with tip. All the dishes, even the ones o nthe whiteboard, are included in the main menu and translated (albeit sometimes not very descriptively) into English. The ladies that served us did not seem to be very fluent in English and their Mandarin is very Dongbei accented so I would say even for a non-Northerner Mandarin speaker, communication isn't exactly flowing. Lots of pointing to things, patience, and back and forth (verbal and non-verbal) was needed.

                In general, we tried to stick with Dongbei style food. We ordered some Sichuan and Northwestern dishes to accomodate some people's specific requests and seeing the chef was at Little Sichuan before. But I really didn't have high hopes for things like mung bean sheets being good at a Dongbei spot. Also, while lamb would be featured in this cuisine due to the Mongolian influence, Dongbei families, I know, celebrate CNY by whold hog cuisine and have restaurants specializing in this, so we felt when in doubt, PORK.

                My fav's for the evening were the sour cabbage and bacon pot, the sweet and sour pork (a far cry from what the American version has morphed this dish into), the steamed lamb dumplings, the dongpo pork leg, all the cold apps except for the seafood roll, and the beef roll. I thought the intestines to be over fried and the chicken dish was blah for me.

                I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and will be back to revisit some favourites...

                Little Sichuan
                168 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

              3. Many thanks to vliang for bringing us together at Dong Bei Mama, and also to ChewChew for running interference with the servers for us at Table Numero Uno. Despite his Chinese-ish sounding handle, ChewChew is a pale-faced 'hound and did a terrific job in asking questions of the staff to help us navigate the menu. Even the ones who don't speak English . . . he should give lessons in facial expression, gestures, and short English phrases for getting the job done.

                I gotta run and will post more later. But for now, here's a link to the photos for what we ordered at our table. (click on "slideshow" and then "show info" for captions)

                Dong Bei Mama
                4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

                1. I thought I posted yesterday, so apologies if I have a nearly-identical thing floating around here somewhere.

                  ChewChew is right on. I wasn't wild about the liver or sour cabbage either, but my girlfriend (who couldn't come but critiqued the leftovers) loved both.

                  While I wouldn't go far out of the way for anything I had there, I think I'll get another beef roll next time I pass through the Richmond, and considering the competing options, I consider that high praise. I had one about as good in San Gabriel a while ago which made me feel sick for a day, but it was good enough that I didn't mind too much.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: tpc

                      that's the place. it's been two years since i was at 101NE, so maybe i shouldn't have been so quick to say the one at DBM is its equal. but definitely very good.

                  1. On a hot day like today in SF, the cold dishes we ordered at ChewChew’s Table Numero Uno would hit the spot. They’re on display in a cold case at the back of the restaurant, making it easy to just point to order and guaranteeing fast service of a first appetizer. Only one or two of each type were in the case at prime dinner hour so they’re freshly plated and not sitting around for a long time. Can someone who saw the bill tell us about how much the charge is per dish?

                    Our table selected: 5 spice head cheese, doufu gansi (tofu noodle salad), seaweed strips, pig trotter terrine, and pork and salted egg terrine. I read in the other DBM thread that Joel found this bland, and yes, it could have used a bit more acidic zestiness, but I was really impressed by the texture of the tofu strips. Not too soft and not too firm. The seaweed salad (dark green) was dressed more to my liking, yet I’d get both again. I tried the terrine made from pig head, but missed the one made from the trotter (pork shoulder), can anyone offer a comparison?

                    Here’s the close-up of the salted egg yolk and pork terrine on my plate. Or at least I think it was paired with ground pork. One of my favorites.

                    Later we ordered the “duck roll”, and it looked almost identical. However, the meat portion was solid rather than ground meat.

                    The hot appetizer, beef roll, was another favorite. Really nice and flakey onion pancake wrapped around well-seasoned, not stringy beef with a smear of hoisin, just enough to flavor and not dominate the taste.

                    Tofu sheets with singua (Chinese okra or loofah) was done nicely. Some might say bland, but the flavor of the sweet squash showed through nicely. Too little tofu skin though.

                    One of the classic dishes mentioned in this piece in the NY Times is the chicken and mushroom hot pot. DBM’s lighter in color than the one shown in the NYT slideshow.

                    An end-of-dinner add-on, the Chicken and mushroom hot pot with glass noodles and potatoes still managed to impress. The ivory-colored strips are julienne of king oyster mushrooms. I especially liked the chunks of potatoes that soaked in the flavorful juices. This was less heavy on the cassia and star anise than the lamb version we’d tried earlier and I appreciated the contrast. Also the kitchen kept sending out refills of the corn cakes, really nice as I’ve to beg for them at other places, and we didn’t order any rice for our table.

                    I agree with others that the double skins was a miss. Despite its lovely presentation, the sauce was monotonal and did not unite the many beautifully julienned ingredients. I believe there were two version listed on the menu, this is the seafood version. Wondering if the other one might be more flavorful. That said, I’ve had the what Chef Liu calls Dongbei style at his Fresno restaurant, and I much prefer his Shandong version of this dish.

                    Thank you to Soupnoodles for sharing his old German Riesling Spätlese with me. I liked it best with the simmered lamb hot pot.

                    Again, many thanks to vliang for organizing this dinner, really great to cut such a big swathe through the menu. Great to meet chowdown newcomers too, hope to hear from them on the boards.

                    Dong Bei Mama, formerly Panda Country Kitchen




                    Dong Bei Mama
                    4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

                    1. I was at table #2, and while i'm perfectly fine with the huge amount of food we ordered, the speed at which the dishes arrived made it difficult for me to keep up, and some of my impressions of the meal are fleeting.

                      of the cold appetizers, i really enjoyed the headcheese and the shoulder terrines. i have textural issues with cooked egg yolks, salted or no, so the ones featuring the salted eggs and the century eggs appealed to me less. the cold cucumber dish was a simple thing done really well.

                      my favorite dishes of the meal were the spicy intestines, the sour cabbage and pork, the dongpo pork leg, the lamb dumplings, and the chongqing chicken wings were super addictive. i have little experience with intestines but this dish was fantastic. i heard vliang and someone else mention that they didn't like it that crispy, but i loved it. guess i'll have to sample less crispy versions to see how i feel about that. the sour cabbage and pork definitely was a surprise, as when i closed my eyes i thought i was eating something germanic as others have mentioned. the thin slices of pork were tender and rich, cut with the tang of the 'kraut, so to speak. the stewed pork leg was just the handsomest thing ever, alchemically delicious with the sweet meat and luscious skin.

                      i much preferred the juicy lamb dumplings to the pork, shrimp, and chive version. and from the sichuan specialities, the chongqing chicken kept beckoning, distracting me from the other dishes. when this and the intestines came out, you could hear the sharp inhalation of breath through teeth to cool tongues singing with heat.

                      the chicken with mushrooms pot disappointed on my first go round. i think it was competing with the more vibrant and louder flavors of the dishes mentioned above. but when i tried it again, i thought the braising liquid was delicious, and i loved the texture of the shredded mushrooms. the potatoes were great, the perfect conveyance of those rather subtle flavors. i did not really like the corn cakes, however. even after dunking them in sauce or soup, they seemed dense and mealy.

                      i didn't feel strongly either way about the pork with the tofu knots. the sweet and sour pork was good, wish i had grabbed a second bite. i was disappointed in the cumin lamb, which was overly greasy and dull. i have a fondness for the cumin lamb at beijing restaurant, so i'll stick with that there. i never tasted the double skin, and it sounds like i didn't miss much.

                      overall i loved the cold-plates selection station, and much of what we ordered from there. the hearty stews and soups appeal, and i have to go back for that intestines dish. i'm very grateful to vliang for organizing this and for adding the second table. it was a wonderful meal.