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Best of Chinatown restaurants [San Francisco]

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I have been reading about Great Eastern and it sounds really nice. What other places compare favorably?

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  1. Great Eastern serves good quality Cantonese dishes in an appealing setting. Larger parties tend to get seated downstairs. While there's nothing wrong with that, it's a bit more utilitarian (no windows).

    Z & Y Restaurant is on the same block if you want Sichuanese instead. I haven't been there in some time but it's been a reliable standby.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Calvinist

      I ate at Z&Y in April with a friend who went to acupuncture training in Sichuan. He insisted it was the best he's had outside of Sichuan. I thought it was quite good, and it wasn't really as hot (spicy) hot as I had expected.

      1. re: Tripeler

        That was my experience at Z&Y also (and at the Sichuan places I've tried at home). If you want crazy chile heat, Hunan seems to be the way to go, what with the pickling and all.

    2. Ummm...I don't know where you've been reading about Great Eastern, but, speaking as someone who grew up nearby, I must say it really just exploded with hype and tourists after Obama visited during his last campaign. Now it's not that I disagree with Obama's tastes—some of his favorites in Chicago are pretty good—but his takeout order really had more to do in this case with a photo op and satisfying a local politico boss.

      That's a long way of saying Great Eastern isn't great. In Chinatown proper, Lai Hong Lounge is better, though not as good as Hong Kong Lounge (same owners). For dim sum, Yank Sing, as everyone seems to agree, is the best and most expensive, but both locations are downtown.

      Bund, on Jackson St., does halfway decent Shanghainese food for a reasonable price. R&G Lounge is the usual Cantonese staple and well-known to tourists and concierges for the salt & pepper crab, but probably still the best place in Chinatown overall (full disclosure: I used to go to the same gym as the owner and am casually acquainted with his son, who works there too).

      1. Lai Hong Lounge, particularly for dim sum, far exceeds Great Eastern. Given how Chinese food evolves, a restaurant that has been around as long as Great Eastern has should be looked at skeptically. .

        3 Replies
        1. re: Chandavkl

          I wouldn't, as the French say, put my hand in fire, but I believe the Great Eastern changed after so many Chinese left HK and came here.

          I cannot recall the fish tanks from years ago.

          It certainly remains our go-to place, as late-evening diners; I rarely have had a disappointment.

          1. re: Fine

            Not saying that Great Eastern is bad--it's in the upper tier of SF Chinatown restaurants. However, my general rule of thumb is to avoid Chinese restaurants that have been around more than 20 years because Chinese food continues to evolve, and that evolution is generally introduced by new restaurants, rather than occurring in existing restaurants. Since I remember eating at Great Eastern more than 40 years ago I'm looking for something newer and better.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              I think most of the newer and better Chinese restaurants are now outside of the city.

        2. Are you asking for dim sum lunch or dinner time?

          Here's my dim sum comparison of two visits to Lai Hong Lounge vs. one at Great Eastern.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9023...

          For my tastes, Great Eastern wins. But it really depends on which style you like. For me, delicate steamed dumplings are what I'm looking for. Great Eastern has less oil, fresher ingredients, and cleaner proteins. Lai Hong Lounge gets a flavor boost from more oil, salt and an excess of MSG to add deeper savoriness . Comparing the two, I found GE to be more consistent in above average to very good quality across the board. LHL had a couple very good items, but also some that were really terrible, so be sure to study up on what to order there if you try it.

          1. There's a small restaurant on Stockton and Powell called Kam Po. Its a place where they serve won ton noodles, rcie plates and BBQ meats. Its not he best but the food is good and prices very decent.

            4 Replies
            1. re: superbigeater

              Kam Po is at Broadway and Powell. (Stockton and Powell intersect in a parallel universe).
              Kam PO Kitchen
              801 Broadway, San Francisco, CA ‎
              (415) 982-3516

              1. re: Joel

                Thanks for the correction. For the life of me I couldn't remember the streets.

                1. re: superbigeater

                  I like some of the items at Kam Po very much ( good beef stew and roast meats ) but just wanted to mention that it is very bare bones - when compared to Great Eastern, Lai Hong Lounge, Z&Y etc ...... not that these other places are swanky. just sayin' and try to avoid the main lunch hour - almost always SRO - LOL and working guys love this place.

                  1. re: gordon wing

                    Yeah, probably the best value in Chinatown, but you're really eating on the cheap here.