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Wo Hing General Store (SF Mission) report

Wo Hing General Store is Charles Phan's latest addition to the Slanted Door group, and it opened Friday night (10/28/11) in the original Slanted Door location on Valencia near 17th. I went on its second night.

The concept is traditional Chinese street/snack/comfort food, and our server stressed (without our asking, and almost defensively) that the goal is authenticity, not fusion or creativity. The menu is mostly Cantonese, plus some Sichuanese chili-bean-paste dishes, lamb skewers from the north, and xiao long bao and red-braised pork from Shanghai. The authenticity is reflected in the menu items and ingredients, and my hopes were raised seeing jook, tendon, salted fish, and bitter melon on the menu.

We tried three dishes.

An oyster-egg crepe starter was rubbery and bland -- except for sparks of black pepper -- and left a greasy film in my mouth. Under-oystered, too: one of the four quartered pieces lacked an oyster. "Hand-made wheat noodles with pork and napa cabbage” -- i.e. chow mien -- was no better than average steam-table fare: heavy with oil and no wok char on the noodles, cabbage, or pork. Steamed ground pork patty with salted fish was the best of the three, though this, too, was bland and would have benefited from more ginger and scallion; also, there was less fish meat on the little salted fish bits than in other versions I’ve tried.

I asked for a side of the chili bean paste to taste because we didn’t order any of the dishes it’s used in. Although too garlicky, it had the hot fruitiness of fresh peppers alongside dried peppers. Nice touch.

All in all, a disappointing meal. If you’re going to pitch a restaurant as authentic Chinese in San Francisco and charge 2 people $60 for dinner, it should stand up to Koi Palace, Great Eastern, R&G, or Z&Y. Wo Hing falls far short. If I had to eat at a Charles Phan restaurant again, I’d much rather return to the Slanted Door or Heaven’s Dog, even though I’m not a huge fan of either, and at least get some creativity and lighter, bolder flavors.

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Wo Hing General Store
584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

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      1. Damn, i had high hopes as well. do you think any of it might be opening jitters?

        1. $30pp for "street/snack/comfort food"--particularly if as poorly executed as you describe--is absurd, although the ingredients and dishes (esp. ground pork with salged fish) are certainly authentic home-cooked fare. When chef Syhabout (Commis) created the Hawker Fare menu to recall the street/snack/comfort food of his youth, he priced the dishes accordingly.

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          Hawker Fare
          2300 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612

          2 Replies
          1. Thanks for the report....doesn't really surprise me since the relocation of something started by Phan back in its old location is more of a sentimental thing for him and the fans.

            "the goal is authenticity, not fusion or creativity" - perhaps the waitstaff meant that in terms of the menu lineup attempting traditional style dishes. I agree, there's no fusion or creativity in xiao long bao or the Sichuan stuff they offer, or the stir fried noodles which are prevalent across town.

            Your description of the oyster crepe may have been drawn from the original version that is Chiu Chow style oyster pan fried omlette/pancake (that is also seen in some parts of Fujianese street snack types)...and there are Vietnamese Chinese who are of Chiu Chow Chinese descent (not sure if Charles is CC Vietnamese himself)...but it sounds like WH's rendition is nothing more than a gentrified and simplified version.

            The "general store" theme reminds me of these stuck in the 50s and 60s era general convenience stores in Hong Kong, perhaps Macau, and maybe there are places like this in Chinese communities in Malaysia, where they sell random things but mostly ice cold drinks, trinkets, ice cream, candy etc but sometimes has a secret weapon where the store owner specializes in some rustic traditional lost receipe handed down the generations (could be a sweet or savory snack item, maybe made with sticky rice) or perhaps some cheap quick bites or plates. Wo Hing seems way too fancy to be a general store of this description.

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            Wo Hing General Store
            584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

            2 Replies
            1. re: K K

              Yes, the oyster crepe probably was supposed to be Chiu Chow style, which I tried once at a Chiu Chow restaurant in Hong Kong. The Wo Hing version wasn't even gentrified -- it was just plain badly executed.

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              Wo Hing General Store
              584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              1. re: K K

                You don't mean a kopitiam, do you?