Excellent meal at Hakka in the Outer Richmond - Report [San Francisco]
7 of us descended on Hakka tonight, and had a great meal. This was the first visit for most of us, and we were able to sample several dishes.
The meal started off with a complimentary chicken soup - simple broth with some small pieces of chicken and some carrots and melon/squash. Nothing special, but it tasted clean and simple.
Mu-shu vegetables - not a bad version, though a bit on the greasy side. Served with pancakes and hoisin sauce. I only ended up trying one bite of this.
Stir-fried Chinese broccoli (I think it was actually a vegetable that has a thicker stalk, and less of a green top, but I forget the name) - this was good, vegetable stalks were cooked to a perfect tenderness. We didn't actually order this dish (and it was unclear from the bill whether we paid for it), but it somehow arrived and we definitely enjoyed eating it.
Pan-fried tofu - This was excellent - the dish matches the description of Ngiong Tew Foo (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka_cu...) and I really liked it. The pork/fish filling was salty and full of umami taste, and the tofu was tender inside with a slight crispness in certain places. Nice savory sauce, too. Really good.
Pumpkin strips w/ salted egg - This was excellent, and unlike anything I had ever eaten. The salted egg bits were mixed into a crisply fried batter, which surrounded the pumpkin. The resulting taste was almost buttery, and reminded me of a 'buttered popcorn' jellybean. Except way better, because I hate those jellybeans, and I liked this.
Chinese bacon and preserved greens - This was fantastic. A large serving of pork belly, tender enough to cut with chopsticks, served over salty/sweet preserved greens rich with the pork drippings. All of this was over some steamed cabbage, which was great as well as it soaked up everything. Really really good.
Salt-baked chicken - We ordered the half order, which was quite generous. Served with a salty sauce that I didn't love, the chicken had great flavor and was very moist.
Sauteed lily bulbs and fungus with greens - I wasn't a fan of this dish. I didn't really think the lily bulbs themselves were very exciting (didn't love the chewy texture, either), and I didn't like the choice of vegetables in the dish - green pepper, snap pea, large white mushrooms, fungus and zucchini.
Sauteed pea pod stems w/ garlic - Pretty standard, but good.
Braised fish filet and tofu clay pot - This was another outstanding dish - served sizzling in the claypot. The fish and tofu were both fried, with soft tender insides, crisp outsides, and coated in a savory sauce made w/ lots of ginger and garlic. Good winter comfort food.
Fried eggplant with bean curd - Chunks of deep fried eggplant and tofu. Pretty simple, and not super exciting, but very well executed. The tofu was soft on the inside and super crisp on the outside, as was the eggplant. The competent frying made me wonder what the fried oysters are like (this is listed on the appetizer menu)....I think they could be really good!
I think that was everything, although I'm perhaps forgetting something. Total bill before tip was $94 and this was a lot of food for 7 of us - we had a fair amount left over.
It's definitely a trek to 45th and Cabrillo, but I was glad I went. Food-wise, the best Chinese meal I've had in a long time! Hopefully some of my dining companions will voice their opinions as well!
I agree, on the whole, with what David says, except...I liked the sauteed lily bulbs. I thought the mixed veggies in the dish were cooked perfectly, with great snap, and not drowned in a goopy sauce, as you see too often in poorly prepared mixed veggie stir-frys. I also liked the texture of the lily bulb.
So just a personal taste thing on that one, but I'd second his mentions that the braised fish clay pot and pork belly dishes were both knock-outs.