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Annual SF trip- in with the old, and what's new?

I can't thank you all enough for your assistance on previous visits- I've followed up on those threads (it's an annoyance of mine when people don't), and I very much enjoyed my dungeness recommendations last January.

We will be in town for 5 days next month.

I love love love chinese, particularly Szechuan. I have little access to anything above sugary, syrupy chinese if I don't make it myself, which I do, but as an egg (coined by my korean friends), I'm still limited.

Places we've been and plan to visit again:
Yank Sing (went to Rincon, but is Stephenson comparable?) I have enjoyed dim sum all over, and
this was my favorite in the US.
Ozumo, mostly for the Tuna tartare. I know it's for the beautiful people, but that was a great dish.
Also, super sake offerings.
Mandalay. Mandalay, Mandalay. Tea leaf salad that I can't get out of my head. Might go twice.

Places we've been, but probably won't return:
Z&Y (liked, but is there something better?)
R & G (went for the crab- again, liked the experience, but wow- that's a lot of work for the reward.
City View- we found Yank Sing to be so much better.
Lers Ros (tenderloin). Loved it the first time, was meh the next few visits. Is the trick sitting at the
bar? We love the bar, and had the best time there.
Woodhouse: Market St. we loved it, but we went for the crab, we had it, loved the atmosphere, the
people, but with limited time, want to try something new.
Zuni Cafe: granted, we only went for wine and cheese after woodhouse, and that damned chicken
is fantastic, but I do make this at home often with the book.

Now, where I need you:
State Bird Provisions: Should we? My husband loves little birds and rabbits- how's the walk-in situation on a Tuesday in January, since reservations are not to be had. Is there a better option for this fare, and on the Muni?

So, given my predilections, what do you think I need to try on this trip? I'm looking for mostly great flavors, love holes-in-walls, and Asian foods are a priority.

Thanks!

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  1. Get out of the rut - there's a LOT of great restaurants outside the ones that get recommended here. Repeating is criminal.

    You like tea leaf salad? Sure, your Mandalay seemed to top all comers, but what about the rest...
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875767

    I like this list for generically good restaurants, including a nice mix of old and new
    http://sf.eater.com/archives/2012/10/...
    eater has other resources too, they're trustworthy

    Go do Dong Bei Mama or Spices II in the richmond. Go to Commis over in oakland. Skip Lers Ros if you've been there three times - I have trouble with the menu there, too. Go somewhere fancy like Atelier Crenn or Benu. Go to Nopa and AQ.

    "is there a better option for this fare" - you mean french/italian food served dim sum style on carts? I certainly haven't heard of it, and neither has Bon Appetit, which is why there are no res.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      And how about getting ahead of the fancy chinese curve with these two:
      http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

    2. The quality of the food's the same at both branches of Yank Sing. The Stevenson St. location is smaller and quieter and the decor is more generic modern than Chinese fancy. I think the Rincon location may have a wider selection of items.

      1. Thanks for the thoughts, both of you. I must admit to being curious about the 2 new fancy chinese joints opening up (near my hotel), and the bus out Geary will drop me conveniently near Spices II or Dong Bei Mama, so thanks for those.

        I've been following the Tea Leaf Salad thread jealously, and am considering other places, but I may be stuck on Mandalay.

        1. There isn't a place like SBP in SF. I think the comparable for food would be AQ but it totally different in terms of sizing, service and pricing. If you go when they first open you may get seat right away, if not they set aside tables for walk-ins so if you are willing to wait up to 45 minutes you will get a table.

          6 Replies
          1. re: tjinsf

            AQ takes reservations. Given how mixed reports on State Bird have been here, I think it might be a safer bet.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              AQ is my current favorite restaurant but I think if you visiting and try SBP, it's worth it. I eat at SBP pretty regularly and I haven't had any issues with the quality of food going down hill. I think the expectations of SBP have increased though.

            2. re: tjinsf

              I haven't been to AQ, but I would say that Commonwealth is also comparable to State Bird Provisions in some ways--shareable and eclectic, although the dishes at Commonwealth are larger, and of course there aren't any carts.

              I thought the food at State Bird was pretty good, and with the carts, the experience was more than the sum of its parts. It's not something I would line up for. If you do go, I would plan to arrive at 5 PM.

              1. re: tripit

                I haven't been there, but a friend was just raving about Rich Table, which is also in a similar vein.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I loved Rich Table, wasn't wild about SBP, but only went there once.

              2. re: tjinsf

                We were completely unimpressed with both AQ and State Bird.

              3. In my experience, state bird was nice, interesting concept, very friendly owners and food was good. having said that, overall, it was just ok and I'm not sure worthy of all the praise its been getting recently. I'd second mandalay for burmese. Personally I'd skip yank sing and drive down to koi palace in daly city. Yank sing's quality is good but way overpriced. If you aren't limited to the city, the asian food in the peninsula and especially in san jose is better than anything in the city.

                1. We come a couple of times a year to *eat* and face the same dilemma: revisit the sites of past loves, or discover all new places? What a great problem to have :-).

                  I am in the "Mandalay has the best tea leaf salad" camp based on my samplings over several trips. Side note: apparently Mingalaba in Burlingame is owned by the same people as Mandalay though I can't comment on any similarity in food as I haven't been yet. Overall, my top Burmese meal so far was in November at Little Yangon in Daly City.

                  Can't stay away from Lers Ros' TL outpost but the trick for us is to order exclusively from the appetizers portion of the menu. Those dishes really shine, especially the catfish "salad" which is deep-fried heaven. FWIW we always sit at a table.

                  I'm also addicted to the nam khao, the mok pa and the Lao sausages from Vientian, so much so that I would venture across the Bay to Oakland just to eat those dishes.

                  My all time fave shaking beef dish came from Bodega Bistro, if you like Vietnamese. Other forays have been less successful (Pagolac, Pho Garden, I'm looking at you) but we are admittedly spoiled for choice and cost at home.

                  Two lunches at Jai Yun stand out in my memory but alas he will only cater for groups of ten at midday now.

                  If you want to try a different kind of spicy, consider old Mandarin. It's a schlep but fulfills a number of your criteria. The extremely hot pepper dish is worth the price of admission alone.

                  And Canteen is a can't miss for us, even with the recent shift to prix fixe only.

                  SF beats my hometown of Vancouver six ways to Sunday on Italian, so that is a must when we visit. So far, La Ciccia for lunch and Cotogna for dinner have been the standouts and yes, we've repeated them. Bao Necci has some fine pizza pies, unlike any others I've tried in the Bay Area, and it's quite a mom-and-pop sort of place.

                  Have a wonderful trip -- I look forward to your writeup!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: grayelf

                    La Ciccia's not open for lunch. Cotogna is.

                    BaoNecci's pizza is Roman-style. Very thin crust. Maybe not quite Baffetto but exactly like what a typical good sit-down pizzeria in Rome serves.

                    To be clear, at dinner Jai Yun will seat any size party. Reservations required at least a day ahead, the chef shops and cooks based on how many customers he's expecting.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Ooops, reversed the two, should read "La Ciccia for dinner and Cotogna for lunch" of course.

                  2. Thanks all for the replies, I really do appreciate it. This board is probably #1 for "help me eat in ___", so I know you get innundated. I'm following those threads too.

                    I'm shifting my focus only a little. And, one clarification- when I asked about something like SBP, I meant a place that serves things like rabbits and little birds, and does it well. For now, I'm scratching SBP off the list.

                    On the list- definites:
                    Lai Hong Lounge for dim sum, based on another thread (never been!)
                    Mandalay- it stays on the list, I've been craving this for 6 months.
                    Mission Chinese- a request by the SO, and it'd be a new one for us.
                    Canteen- super close to the hotel, another new one
                    Bodega Bistro- great idea! thanks, another new one
                    Cotogna for lunch, also a new spot.

                    Maybes:
                    Old Mandarin. it's 45 minutes on the light rail, and it goes almost right there..... hmmm.
                    Another great suggestion, and expands my horizon a lot.
                    Yank Sing has dropped from definite to maybe. It depends on if I get my fix at Lai Hong.
                    Dong Bei Mama
                    Spices II

                    Probably nots that I was considering:
                    The new fancy pants Chinese joints. The reviews are not impressive, and I don't mind spending money, as long as it's good, interesting food. Sounds like these don't fit that bill.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                      Old Mandarin is great. The specialty is Peking-style hot pot.

                      Canteen has made some changes recently:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/846275

                      1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                        State Bird Provisions's dishes have strong Asian flavors, so you may like it there. It is pricey though.

                        Mission Chinese and Bodega Bistro are excellent asian restos. I like every dish I tried at Mission Chinese except for the Hainan chicken which came with small shredded pieces of chicken but hardly any chicken broth flavor.

                        Bodega Bistro is a northern Vietnamese place. Do get its quail, crab rolls, and beef jerky salad. Its crabs were pricey and weren't that unique.

                        Not an Asian place but you may want to check it is Saha. A middle eastern fusion resto down the street from Canteen. It eggplant humus is delicious. And if it still has duck as an entree, one of you should get it.