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Beijing Resturant (the Alemany location) - what is recommended? [San Francisco]

Hi.
My husband has decided that we should go out for valentines day dinner (something we never ever do) and that we should bring the family with us, and he has requested that we go to Beijing Restuarant

So, here is my slight predicament, i am NOT a huge super spicy food fan (at least not with chinese food, i am ok with indian, thai, bbq, etc but for some reason, not chinese i feel like the chinese version of "numbing this" and "exploding that" seem to really dull down the flavor of the ingredients and makes it hard to taste ANYTHING for my palate. I have had meals at Spices and Z&Y and i can usually make it through half of a dish before i need to start re-finding my taste buds with something plain like veg or rice or soup noodles)

anyway, he has requested that we try the general's chicken, but is there anything else we shouldn't miss? I have done a bit of research and the spicy potato tower fried thing looks great, as well as the eggplant with garlic sauce, egg surface tofu and preserved vegetable shredded pork noodle suop; but i have seen a lot of stuff written up about westernized chinese food on their menu and how to steer away from that. i am not sure if these three items are part of that calndestine group ;)
Any recommendations would be helpful.
Thanks in advance,
Jupiter

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  1. Two nice things about their menu are that it's picture heavy and that things are grouped into sections like "Beijing specials" and "Beijing dim sum." There are some spicy dishes, all of which are marked IIRC, but they're infrequent in comparison to the Sichuan style food you'll find at Spices or Z&Y.

    Worth getting are the dumplings and the noodles (they're hand cut and great, and listed on a different part of the menu than the chow mein). I really liked the intense and salty pork bits in their version of zha jiang mein, Beijing Style Noodles with Brown Paste.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hyperbowler

      Woops, I meant above to recommend the Beijing noodles with special sauce. The brown paste noodles are a different, more saucy, dish.

    2. Go for the noodles, pancakes, and dumplings - basically, anything made from flour. Shouldn't be hard to find non-spicy dishes in those categories. Northern food can be spicy, but it's nothing like Spices or Z&Y (completely different region of China).

      1. The cumin lamb is very good. It is heavily spiced, but I wouldn't call it spicy hot.

        The beef pancake is very good. I would get some version of Beijing dumplings.

        I have not had the noodles there but I imagine they would be good. Their warm pots are also good if you want soup -- I think I had sliced fish warm pot last time which I liked.

        There's nothing there spicy the way some Z&Y dishes are spicy.

        1. The Fish with Preserved Vegetable Warm Pot is excellent! Wide clear (mung bean?) noodles and good flavor. Not spicy.

          1. Had a good meal at Beijing restaurant last night. We had:

            Jian bing - I had been wanting to try this for a while, and I liked it quite a bit. It could have used a bit more bean paste in the middle, but otherwise it was a pretty good version. I am attaching a picture

            Eggplant with shrimp - This also seemed to contain chicken. This was basically a version of Eggplant with basil, which was on the sweet side, but good. The addition of shrimp and chicken seemed a bit unnecessary to me.

            Stir-fried Chinese pancake w/ pork - Pancake is cut into noodle-like pieces, and sauteed with pork. Not that far off in taste from pork chow mein. Good, but not that interesting.

            Chinese "hamburgers" - We ordered three of these....they're warm bread filled with a mild pork filling. Pretty tasty, but the flavor is subtle.

            Cold cucumber salad - Good version, and nice for the hot weather.

            The restaurant was filled with families on a Tuesday early evening, but the food still came out pretty quickly despite how busy it was. There are lots of interesting things to try on this menu, so I will be continuing to go back!

            Dave MP

             
            1. Lamb with sour preserved greens : a broth-less version of their preserved cabbage (essentially Chinese sauerkraut) soup with lamb/beef/or fish. Great acidity to cut through the gaminess of the lamb.

              Shredded potatoes with hot oil : The shredded potatoes have an almost radish-like crispiness, and are barely recognizable as a starch. They're a great vehicle for the hot oil.

              Family style pancake : This layered crispy pancake has no seasonings of its own, but is instead indented to sop up brothy/saucy elements of other dishes. It's pretty good, but for the money, I'd prefer to get one of their various flavored pancakes (e.g., green onion, beef, etc.).

              Some other dishes I like:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8880...

               
               
               
              1. Disgusted by Beijing Restaurant on Alemany & Ocean. Ever go to a restaurant with high expectations and feel like you've just been robbed because the food was so bad? And not even inexpensive?

                I was disappointed by the newly reopened China Village (Albany) and by Made In China (Taraval). But not half as much as by Beijing. It came to $40 without tip. I could have done better almost anywhere.

                A scruffy hole in the wall (good?) but definitely not hole in the wall prices. Told the waitress I wanted SPICY. Apparently no can do.

                Hot and sour cucumber: Slices of OK pickle sitting in half an inch of sweet and not at all hot chili oil and soy sauce. OK, but I could do better at home. $6.95.

                Fish filet with asparagus: Fresh rock cod (good). Nice black bean sauce mixed with their seemingly ubiquitous "brown sauce," slightly sweet. Nothing special. At $12.95. that would be a "no."

                Hunan fish: A pile of soggy battered rock cod drenched in a completely tasteless orange-colored oily sauce and a few snap peas. A gross pile of soggy batter and could not finish. $9.95.

                House Special Three Flavored Vegetables: Again,sweet (even though the waitress said this was a little spicy and I requested extra spicy). Pieces of borderline undercooked eggplant, potato, tomato and string beans in what appeared to be the same brown sauce with a bit of the same chili garlic sauce in the jar on the table mixed in. $8.95.

                I don't understand how this place is so highly recommended. I can see why it's somewhat "authentic" in that it's not the standard Americanized Cantonese menu. But it sucks, and big time at that!

                11 Replies
                1. re: davidg1

                  "I don't understand how this place is so highly recommended. "

                  It's baffling.

                  Much of the menu is available elsewhere now, so that doesn't even explain it.

                  1. re: davidg1

                    I don't think Beijing Restaurant is a good place to go if you're looking for spicy food. I think the best things there are Northern Chinese specialties, which aren't meant to be spicy at all...so it doesn't surprise me that you were disappointed in that regard.

                    I had the bing at Tianjin Dumplings in Oakland yesterday, and while it's very good, I still think Beijing Restaurant does it better. And like others say above, the noodles, pancakes and dumplings are the things to order here. It's disappointing that the fish dishes and the three-flavored vegetable dishes weren't good...but I can't say I'm that surprised.

                    As for prices, I agree it's a bit higher than some other places. But I don't remember the prices being unreasonable, either.

                    My current favorite for Northern Chinese food is House of Pancakes on Taraval. However, if you go there expecting spicy food, you'll also probably be disappointed. Stick to the dumplings, noodles and pancakes, with some veggie sides.

                    Dave MP

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      I agree with Dave MP that their specialties are/were heartier fare rather than spicy dishes. A few things I've not tried there that look spicy are the hotpot a few offal dishes. Chili Delights with House Special Sauce is very spicy, but it's more like something you eat after losing a bet than something to enjoy: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785368

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        Why is spicing or how someone ordered the issue if people find the overall food subpar to just okay?

                        The better the food, the less inclined anyone is to focus on price, or the divey factor, but when you're eating a second rate Chinese meal, priced high and you're sitting in a setting that somehow rivals Old Islamic Mandarin for funkiness, it becomes frustrating. I also had food from their Sunset location, which was nice enough, but the food was still lacking. Not the worst ever, but nothing anyone should be reading gushing reviews about.

                        Dumplings, noodles, and pancakes are not their specialties, in my opinion. I much prefer Shanghai Dumpling House. In general, including Pancake House, we're not talking about really skilled chefs making really standout versions, with these places. Their approaches are pretty crude.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Absolutely! The main problem was not the spicing. The main problem was the bad food they served me at a high price. In particular the Hunan fish, which was pretty disgusting (except for the fact that the fish inside was fresh).

                          I don't care about the decor, although it was surprising that their prices were so high given the location and the dive factor.

                          I'm still really pissed that I paid $40 for a disgusting pile of soggy batter.

                      2. re: davidg1

                        In the first few months of 2013, I had close to ten late-night meals here. The general advice throughout this thread held for me--- the pancakes and a few other dishes were repeatedly delicious and kept me returning. But there were lots of forgettable dishes, and the general lack of variety in cold vegetarian appetizers and non-oily hot vegetables made it difficult to have a balanced meal.

                        I'd eaten there a few times last summer ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8880... ), and noticed a decline in the quality of some dishes I'd regularly enjoyed earlier that year, including the Jian Bing, which you can't get elsewhere in SF. Since then, I've opted to spend time at some of the newer places in town instead and had much better success. House of Pancakes and Xian Gourmet, for example, don't do everything well, but I think it's easier to order random things there and have an enjoyable meal than at Beijing Restaurant. They're also cheaper.

                        I never ate the Hunan fish, but I agree that none of the other dishes you ordered were particularly special when I got them. The last Chowhound report was my report from August of 2013, so I dunno whether the food has generally declined, or if it's more that these dishes were always mediocre. FWIW, their Irving St. location closed around March 2013.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          Doesn't Z & Y and Chilli House make Jian Bing?

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Z & Y has a rolled beef pancake, a scallion pancake, and a pan-fried chive turnover... but no jian bing.

                            For more on pancakes:
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892914

                          2. re: hyperbowler

                            I eat fairly regularly at House of Pancakes and Xian Gourmet, both of which I think are very good - with some particular standout dishes (pancakes, noodles etc) and a generally very good quality for many random dishes that I've tried.

                            This was not even close. It was, quite frankly, the non-Cantonese equivalent of the worst sloppy crap you'd find in some out-of-the-way takeout dive in the Central Valley. "Not particularly special" doesn't even begin to describe it.

                            I dare say they can mix flour, salt and lard and fry it into a pancake of some sort that fills a certain late-night need.

                            Sorry to be so strident, but I was pretty horrified at what I was served after all the praise.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              I'm sorry to hear the jian bing aren't as good as they used to be. They are a bit difficult to find (we have a stellar version at one food court in Richmond at home) so I was planning on trying it one trip. Perhaps I missed the window...

                            2. re: davidg1

                              davidg1, I see what you mean. I got some takeout tonight and tried to play if safe with dishes I've had before.

                              Noodles for the chao bing didn't have as much body as the last time I had this and overall the dish looked and tasted like cheap and greasy chow mein.

                              Cumin lamb was ok, but despite whole cumin seeds, lacked the aggressive spicing that made them a standout in the past.

                              House special steamed meat ball. There are identical to what I've had there before. The tennis ball sized pork meatballs are cut with rice and are lightly seasoned. These are blander than your average lion's head meatball, but they're tender and uniformly cooked/colored.

                              Well, at least they have a parking lot.