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Jai Yun -- yea or nay? [San Francisco]

We have lived in Taipei, have visited the mainland several times over the past 20 years, eat various Chinese cuisines every week in NYC, and particularly love Jiangzhe food (Suzhou/Shanghai/Hangzhou area).
Have looked at threads here and reviews on Yelp of Jai Yun, and have seen everything from the most amazing Chinese food ever to might as well be airplane food. Not wanting to waste a meal in SF, should this place be on our list, or not? Any guidance would be appreciated.

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  1. My wife and I have been to China 15 or 16 times; we stay several weeks each visit. Hence we have eaten a lot of Chinese food. We think eating at Jai Yun is almost as good as eating in China.

    1. I'd like to know which airline serves food like Jai Yun. I haven't been to China but it's the best Shanghai food I've had.

      1. I think it would be wise to order the lower cost menu the first time and to reserve at least a day in advance. I think we went the same day as our reservation and opted for the costlier menu but to no appreciable effect. Reportedly he shops the same day so I don't think you get the full benefit unless he knows you're coming. I remember really enjoying the delicacy of the initial courses but we were a little disappointed in repeat ingredients and techniques in the later dishes.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rubadubgdub

          We reserved well in advance, so all should be well.
          And to Mr Lauriston, it was apparently someone very misinformed, to be unnecessarily kind.

        2. definitely go. and please please report back what you thought, and how it compares to other meals you've had in china.

          i've been to china a couple times, and jai yun meals are still in the top 10 chinese meals i've ever had. maybe top 5.

          the main downside to jai yun is the price (and you generally aren't served rare / luxury ingredients for this price), and the service can be weird / frustrating at times. but the food is fantastic.

          21 Replies
          1. re: Dustin_E

            Forr fantastic food price is not a concern. Thanks for the encouragement, really looking forward to it!

            1. re: Dustin_E

              I've never ordered the top-priced menu, I was afraid that might mean Chinese luxury ingredients like shark's fin that are more rare than delicious. I've read reports of abalone. The price is not low but few places have a better price:value ratio.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                i also haven't tried their higher-priced menus.

                the meals i've had have had a very small smount of shark fin in their enokitake mushroom dish, and very small some slices of abalone in the egg white dish. but these seemed to be more of supplementary than primary ingredients.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I've only been once, with a large group and the higher priced menu included whole fish and whole duck, but I don't recall shark's fin (which I avoid), a small amount of abalone and so many courses I couldn't eat as many as I wished :(
                  The main problem for me is that it is not a great place (and often not even possible) for a single.

                  1. re: estnet

                    >> not a great place (and often not even possible) for a single.

                    that is my problem as well. so sad.

                    1. re: estnet

                      how large was your group, and what price was the menu?

                      did anyone else notice that the menu price doubled over the course of like 3 years?

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        What is the entry-level menu price these days? Three years ago it was $45 and the max was $100. Their Web site is offline.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          iirc, for two people it is $80. for 3-4 people it is $65. max i've seen listed on the site was $165.

                          1. re: Dustin_E

                            Sort of makes sense, given that when I've gone with two people we got more food per person than when I've gone with larger groups.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              we did the $98 per person. it was perfect for 4 of us. One was a vegetarian, but she found plenty of things to eat.

                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                Your post was so inspiring that I'm trying to gather a group together for a visit! One of the people I've mentioned it to is vegetarian.A few questions regarding that--- did they feel their $100 was well spent? Did you let them know ahead of time that you were going to have a vegetarian diner, and how many of the dishes were fully vegetarian friendly (i.e., no fish and not animal broths)?

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  as far as i know, the restaurant wasn't informed that we would have a vegetarian diner with us. as far as value goes, the vegetarian diner was hosted by another member of our party (old friends.) i would say up to 40% of the dishes were vegetarian? there were a fare amount of dishes with tofu in them, or just vegetables. buttertart will have to confirm/deny all of this, however, as she has a much better memory of the dishes and knowledge of their ingredients, and she's also the one that made the reservation.

                                  but i hope you enjoy! i don't see how one cannot....

                        2. re: Dustin_E

                          I think there were 16-20 of us, anyway 2 large tables. Cost was around $80 and it was 3 or 4 years ago. The servings seemed so small in the beginning - like around a teaspoon each of the multiple appetizers, but if I had any idea how many courses were to follow and that some of the last ones were the most spectacular I might (but might not since everything was so good) have restrained myself a bit more early on :)

                        3. re: estnet

                          I'm sure you could easily round up dining companions by posting a note to the SF chowdown group.

                        4. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Are they accommodating of vegetarians?

                          1. re: Josh

                            I'm guessing not since you don't choose what you order and the menu varies depending on what' ingredients are available.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              if you read all the reports, there are many vegetarian options. we had a vegetarian dining with us and she found no problem being satisfied. she didn't get to sub out veggie dishes, but again, there was more than enough that she said she didn't feel slighted in the least.

                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                Good point. Depends if you have a mixed group or are only vegetarians.

                            2. re: Josh

                              They'll do a vegetarian menu with advance notice.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                They'll do an anything your heart desires menu with advance notice. I want to celebrate my next birthday there with an all-Jiangsu menu, chef is from Nanjing...

                              2. re: Josh

                                Yes. I've eaten several fantastic vegan meals there.

                          2. Anybody who cares about Chinese food must, must go to this restaurant. This man is a genius. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the cuisines. We had the best meal since Fu 1088 in Shanghai here. There is nothing like this in New York. Photos to follow.

                            4 Replies
                              1. re: buttertart

                                damn it, i only found out about this place after i had left SF...i really would've liked to have tried it and i dont go to SF very often

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Glad I had a chance to meet/chat with you, if much too briefly.

                                  Maybe you could convince the New Yorkers in this thread on the Food Media board to stop beating up David Chan "Chandavkl" for not naming a NY restaurant among his top 10 in the US. They can't seem to fathom that NY Chinese restaurants do not compare to Jai Yun though none of them seem to have eaten in SF or LA to compare for themselves. FWIW, Jai Yun was #10 of 10 on the list.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/854984