SF Saturday dinner, one block of chinatown.
hoping to avoid the busiest peak hours on a Sat, we found a close by parking spot and reached Shanghai Bund (Jackson, a third of a block uphill from Kearny) just before 1900. one table was still available, but we chose to wait for a booth instead of sitting next to the front door (there's no feng shui partition screening their entry). in the next ten minutes the place went from no wait for a table to ten-fifteen minutes , but our booth was well worth letting three parties go ahead of us.
their operation is quite efficient, and not at all brusque ; we immediately had decent hot tea and tea-spiced skin-on roasted peanuts as a pre-app to peruse the menu, and within a few minutes after we were ready to order a waiter appeared. within 5-10 min. we had a steamer full of very good xiao long bao, within another 5-10 minutes 'doufu skin' Yangzhou style (light broth, spinach, chicken breast pieces, shitake slices, barely, properly that is, cooked shrimp), rice cakes with 'chinese spinach' and pork, sauteed pea sprouts with garlic, and rice appeared. the final course, braised bone-in pork shoulder, appeared within 20-25 minutes of the xiao long bao. the prep was spot on for every dish, textures delicate and fresh. their exclusion of msg in the kitchen was apparent in the clean flavours we weren't charged corkage(they provided nice crystal shot-sized glasses) for the delicious Jun Mai Daiginjyo sake "Mu" (the ideogram is identical to the chinese "Wu") we brought with us, and the bill was about $75 after a .20 tip -- a bargain for the quality in SF.
through the dinner rush the service turned over tables constantly from the combination of their efficiency and the alacrity of the kitchen in getting orders out. when we left there were about two or three parties waiting for a table, essentially the same as when we were seated. once we were outside, however, there was an semi-mob of a crowd waiting to get into 'Hunan's Home' (seemed to be all <40 and euro/euro-americain) and another slightly smaller crowd waiting around the corner on Kearny at the other favorite, is it Nanking something ? clear evidence that many folk prefer to wait in a noisy crowd when just in the block of Jackson between Kearny and Grant the options besides Shanghai Bund include Great Eastern, Z & Y, New Looey Woy Goey (? not positive of the spelling, but the old school hold out that's below street level). those two super popular spots are obviously doing things right in their fashion.
re: Ruth Lafler
Yeah, I think you can eat well at House of Nanking, but there are too many other less popular equally good or better places nearby to wait in line there (such as New Woey Loy Goey). Same goes for Hunan's Home aka Hunan Homes.
I would wait in line for Z&Y unless Bund Shanghai could seat us right away.