Shandong House rebrands itself as Xi'an Gourmet [San Francisco]
Shandong House Restaurant at Geary and 2nd recently underwent a makeover and re-emerged as Xi'an Gourmet. Their chef is from Xi'an, so it was an easy enough transition.
I've been a big fan of Xi'an food since first visiting Xi'an Famous Foods in New York five years ago, so I rushed down there as soon as I heard about the metamorphosis. I wasn't disappointed by the lamb roujiamo or the you po mian, the only two items I've tried so far. Next up, yangrou paomo, liang pi and saozi mian.
They've kept the Shandong dishes on the menu as well as the Chinese-American Golden Hits, so it's a big menu, but the Xi'an dishes can be found primarily under "House Special" and (partly) the "Hand Pull Noodle" sections.
I'ts great to have another regional Chinese food option in a convenient SF location, especially one as tasty as Xi'an cuisine.
3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave.
I popped in for my first lunch here.
The liang pi was a bit off --- the sauce didn't have as intense a flavor as previous visits and the cucumber was absent. Plenty of bean sprouts.
I'm not sure if it was the $10 spicy octopus wall special or the menu-listed $12 octopus legs, but the spicy fried octopus dish was okay. There was a very light dusting of some kind of flour that helped absorb flavor from chilies and the generous amount of whole sichuan peppercorns. A good portion of the pieces were overcooked and too tough.
Aside from a bunch of specialties also on the menu, they have a few wall specials not on the menu (written in Chinese and English):
- Winter melon with clam soup
- Big bones marinated in special sauce
- Shredded turnip with pork
- Fried fish copelin
- Ma po tofu with fish filet
They also keep some cold items in steamer trays in the rear of the restaurant, including cucmbers, bean curd sticks (tofu skin with celery), pig ears, cold shredded seaweed, and some others.
The shredded turnip with pork special was a ton of food. This didn't convert me to being a fan of sauteed turnips, but that isn't their fault.
The #1 House Special "bread in lamb soup," which people have commented on upthread, is excellent. The lamb broth is delicious and there were so much stuff in the soup that the server offered a broth refill half way through my meal. I don't yet understand dough cubes in stir fries, but they shine here--- the texture contrast between the chewy cubes, lamb slices, mung bean thread (?) noodles, and occasional pieces of scallion and wood ear mushrooms would make this a great dish to eat when you have a cold and can't taste anything.
Spicy charred stir fried cabbage was great too, though not as good as a similarly named dish at China Village. There wasn't any visible charring, and the pieces seemed to big for chopsticks, but the cabbage pieces were crisp and their flavor drawn out. They use a clear beef and lamb broth to flavor this, so vegetarians take note.
Tried this place on Sunday night and the place was half full.
Green chive turnovers
Steamed cold noodles (Liang Pi)
Pork chive dumplings
Lamb skewers (overcooked and dried out)
XLB (dry and no broth inside)
Hand Pulled Beef Soup noodles (tough meat and noodles too chewy)
Servers are inexperienced and slow.
The lamb Pao Mou is damn good. I dare say it's better than every bowl of noodle that I have had in the last two years, including my year of ramen in LA. I don't usually care about telling people about cheap good eats--because I'm selfish. But I wondering if they are busy enough. I walked in at 1pm on Wednesday, the place is empty. So I just want to make sure that the place stays open for my go to cheap eats. The dish to get as I mentioned is #1 on the house special, the three groups after me, all got at least one bowl.
Thanks will have to try that next; we just went again for a Friday lunch, early-side, and I'd say twice as full by noon as last time - so busy by the time we ended we had trouble getting the check. Two tables asked what I was having - so maybe word is getting around, they clearly weren't regulars.
Tried the cold steamed noodles with sesame sauce, very good; could use a little heat for balance. Lamb roujiamo seemed a little less hot than last time as well - hope they aren't "dumbing it down" with increasing popularity... and btw they may have listened to those complaining about the lamb skewers, these were more "normally cooked". Far less hard-crisped/covered in cumin, and quite tender and succulent. Though personally *I* was disappointed by that...
Wide Shaanxi noodles on my third visit were overcooked and lacked enough elasticity. They're much easier to serve when they've been snipped with scissors, but the weight of long strands is something you miss out on.
Cold steamed noodles were as good as ever
Tofu skin with celery was made of layered tofu skin pieces that I think are sold as "bean curd sticks", chilies, and thin celery slices. Fresh and light.
Cucumber with garlic used Persian cucumbers were great. Very salty, approaching new pickles.
Just got back from lunch here - thanks all for pointing to the newer Xi'an dishes to try (I will note for English-only-speakers that not being able to read Chinese characters, I wouldn't otherwise have had *any* idea which were the X'ian dishes.) You po mian/Shaanxi noodles were very good even on a slow, early Monday lunch - had a few qualms as to whether they'd really be fresh pulled when we were clearly well ahead of the crowd (and would it be chef's day off?); but so fresh and good I ordered a second to-go box for my wife who is downstairs slurping them now.
Personally I and my lunch partner really enjoyed the lamb kebabs as a starter; agreed it's a completely different style, so dry and crisp it was almost like eating cracklings drenched in cumin. But I thought this time the salt/spice balance was excellent, without any bitter or burnt-spice flavors which you might imagined given they look like they'd been in a bomb blast. Don't order these if you are expecting plump, juicy chunks of lamb!
Lamb dumplings were to me a little disappointing; clearly very well made, with a nice fresh and pliant chew to the wrapper, but well... to me the lamb filling was pleasant but unmemorable, very undifferentiated from dumplings I've had at innumerable mainstream Chinese places; most of the flavor came from the black vinegar dipping sauce. On the other hand I must be one of those heat-lovers who would and *did* really like the lamb roujiamo drenched in spicy hot peppers; I thought it was fantastic - not just hot but a very good balance of hot, sweet, meaty and toasted cumin-y. My lunchmate had come back just to have it again; his forehead was literally dripping sweat in a dozen places after half a sandwich. Agreed that a softer, thicker bread might be better - but then again the thin style they use *does* let the full force of the filling come to bear.
Very helpful service, server was helpful in navigating the menu, and quick to recommend and come back with scissors for our noodles, and checked back in multiple times to make sure we liked the dishes. I'll go back, especially to try more noodle dishes.
Noodles were awesome again my second time there, but we were more successful overall at ordering last week.
Stir fried beef with bread had kind of a funky pickled taste to it, and was served on glass noodles. It contained beef, little chewy 1/4" cubes (smaller than the flour balls at Beijing Restaurant) and some tofu. The flavor grew on me a little bit, but not enough to order it again. DCs didn't like it at all.
Beef noodle soup, ordered with wide noodles, had a nice meaty broth and wonderfully chewy noodles. The server approached us with scissors after she noticed us stuggling to serve it.
I didn't like the steamed cold noodle with sesame sauce as much as the version without the sesame sauce. Noodles were as good, but the white sesame sauce and chili oil didn't work for me. There were a few little pieces of gluten scattered about.
I ate here for the second time on Saturday night, and overall it was another good experience. We arrived around 8:30, and food came quickly after we ordered.
Lamb soup w/ bread was really interesting, like no dish I'd ever tried before. The "bread" is really little cubes of dough, so essentially small square noodles, and the soup had pieces of thinly sliced lamb, a clear and very peppery broth, and various pickled veggies. Definitely hit the spot for a chilly evening, though splitting it four ways was plenty. I couldn't eat a whole bowl myself.
Liang pi were good again, though the "noodles" were freshly made and therefore slightly worse. I prefer the dish colder and more incorporated flavor-wise.
Shaanxi hand-pulled noodles were great again. We attempted to order them wide, but this was lost in translation and we got regular. Asked for some scissors which helped us cut them.
Lamb dumplings, which are apparently made in house, were also really good. The flavor was slightly sweet and had some cumin notes, and they were good dipped in black vinegar.
Once again, tables next to us were eating big plate chicken. Looking forward to hearing whether others tried this yet!
Photos of liang pi, lamb dumplings and soup w bread
Jing and I tried it with the kids last night. It was a pleasant surprise that there was a Chowdown happening at the next table! (where's the report??)
As for us, we were a little underwhelmed. The lamb kebab was dry and way, way over salted. Jing like her soup noodles. I had mine dry, and these were bland and also over salted. I had also asked for the wide noodles and was given the thin ones. Jing, who is a native Mandarin speaker, ordered, so the hiccup was not a language problem. They apologized, but did not offer to change it.
The liang pi (double skin) was nice and spicy and chewy. My 10 year old liked her XLB, but I didn't try it. The green onion pancake was a little too oily for me.
I wanted the bananas with sugar strands (I think they called it "sugar coated bananas") for dessert. After ordering it, we waited almost 1/2 hour with 2 tired kids before they came back and told us their bananas were not ripe enough. Ugh.
It's great to see more places like this turning up in SF, but I think there are better choices. I'd take Shandong Deluxe over this place (but don't order the lamb kebabs there either).
I'm curious what the hounds at the next table thought?
re: Martin Strell
I was one of those at the next table. It was not an actual chowdown per se - more a dinner where two or three of the seven at the table were chowhounds :) It was good to see Martin and Jing and the family at the next table!!
We had a very similar underwhelmed reaction as Martin. We did get the big plate chicken. It had cut up pieces of bone-in chicken, potatoes and onions in a curry like gravy. It was also spicy, the waitperson warned us but it was mostly jalapenos and maybe black pepper? My favorite part of the dish was the noodles lurking below - really long ones that had soaked in the gravy.
Other things we had ordered included the beef skewers, a-choy with garlic, braised silver belt fish, cumin lamb, shaanxi noodle soup and green onion pancakes. Also the sugar glazed yams to finish.
I liked the beef skewers which I am guessing were possibly less dry than the lamb ones. Also the a-choy was really delicious. The soup noodles were good (and wide like we had requested) however the broth was oddly bland.The rest of the food was similar in that it was okay but the flavors were not that clear or compelling. The fish was too fishy for most of the table - but if you are used to fresh water bony fish, it may appeal to you.
The service was actually pretty good - we got fresh plates when we asked and fairly prompt in general. Very reasonably priced at 18 per head for seven of us.
Not a destination restaurant, but if I have to be in the area (to say go to the Indian consulate round the corner) this could be an interesting option.
Tried it last night with hyperbowler. I like this place!
Shaanxi Hand Made Noodle — Since the noodles are hand-pulled when you order, they can make them as narrow or wide as you want. We requested wider noodles, like the ones that would come with the Big Plate Chicken, and they did not disappoint. They were about 1 inch wide (so, not as wide as the belt noodles I've eaten at Henan Fengwei in Flushing, NY) and the texture was great with some nice chew. The sauce (all vegetarian) was simple but delicious. Mildly spicy, with lots of mung bean sprouts and some bok choi, the noodles came topped w/ chili powder that we mixed in. Highly recommend this.
#4 Shaanxi Sandwich w/ Cumin Lamb - This was my least favorite thing we tried, but it was still good. Very fragrant cumin, bits of lamb, and lots of fresh jalapeño on a thin bun. It was too spicy for me with all that jalapeno, but I can see how others would really like this.
#5 Steamed Cold Noodle - This may have been my favorite dish. The noodles were a bit confusing, because they had a texture of bean noodles (a bit jelly-like) but also looked more yellow and like they contained wheat flour. Could it have been a combo of the two? The sauce was vinegar/soy/chili and I think I sensed some Sichuan peppercorn, and a few veggies too. There were also some little pieces of fried gluten which we really liked. It appears that I forgot to take a picture of this.
Water Spinach w/ Garlic - This was a seasonal vegetable, and it was nice. It came out first as it was the quickest to make.
A table next to us ordered the Big Plate Chicken to share, and it looked awesome. They had the same size noodle we had, and the dish had a gravy-like consistency (not very soupy), and contained potatoes and LOTS of chicken. Need to try it soon.
re: Dave MP
I really enjoyed their food!
Shaanxi Hand Made Noodles are my ideal noodle--- thick, a bit uneven, and chewy. The server said they were not biang biang noodles, but as Dave mentioned above, said they could make them wide for us. A simple spicy sauce gave the noodles the attention they deserved. Mung bean sprouts were a lot more pleasant than regular bean sprouts. I can't wait to try their other preparations.
Shaanxi Sandwich w/ Cumin Lamb were pretty good. The bread wasn't exciting, but it seemed fresh and was better than the two versions I've had elsewhere in SF. Cumin tasted fresh and the level of spiciness of was just right, probably due to all the jalapenos being on DaveMP's half :)
Steamed Cold Noodle : Cool texture and great dish overall! The gluten isn't listed anywhere else on the menu, so if someone has it, please report about other dishes.
Water Spinach w/ Garlic : simple and nicely prepared. Top portion was bright green, and even the more pallid parts stayed crunchy throughout the meal.
The Xian specialities are listed in the pictures posted above by soupçon. The remainder of the menu has a mix of regional and Chinese dishes you can get elsewhere in SF.
I forgot to mention that a different neighboring table got the beef pancake, which Civil Bear also mentions, and it looked really good.
Also, I had leftovers of the steamed cold noodles and the water spinach today for lunch, and they were still both really good, especially the noodles.
I had the hand-pulled noodles, with vegetables (although I suspect the broth contained non-veg ingredients). Excellent chewy noodles and tasty condiments.
As I noted elsewhere, this has the same owner as my favorite Dong Bei Mama, on Geary btw 11th and 12th. They have both dongbei (far North Eastern food) and a Sichuan menu. Best Sichuan food in SF, in my opinion, which is the chef's original specialty. (Although the newly opened Grand Hot Pot, another Sichaun place on Geary, may be just as good, or better).
re: Dave MP
Stopped by for dinner tonight not realizing I had already been there when it was San Dong. Reading my review from last year I can now see why (bland). Tried the dan dan noodles again and came pretty much to the same verdict - bland for the dish.
That said, the sliced beef pancake was awesome, and the spicy cumin lamb sandwich makes my top 10 bite list for 2013. Loved that the toasted and kept the cumin seeds whole. Crispy fried bread full of cumin and spicy lamb goodness.
re: Civil Bear
I agree that the "Shaanxi Sandwich with Cumin Lamb" (ziyang jiamo) is almost as good as the one that launched a mini-empire for Xi'an Famous Foods in New York. I think the New York version's superiority lies in its softer bun, which absorbs the juices better, and in its price (only $3.25-$3.50, depending on location, versus Xi'an Gourmet's $5.95). The pork versions are also very similar (I found both to be overly salty and much less interesting than the lamb) at XG and at New York's XFF.
I compared the Xi'an Gourmet menu with the old San Dong House menu and basically everything in the "House Special" section of the menu and the first two items in the "Hand Pull Noodle" section are new. Everything else is a legacy from the San Dong House days.
I don't know if they make the wide noodle or not. I do love it, and hope they use it in their lamb noodle soup, which I haven't gotten to yet. The only flat had torn noodles I can recall having locally were made by a woman at Imperial Tea's Berkeley location. Shandong Deluxe on Taraval might also have them; the owner there used to cook in Xinjiang.
Shandong Deluxe on Taraval, which I tried first on soupcon's recommendation, had a special lamb noodle soup with wide flat noodles when I was last there a few weeks ago. It was listed on a piece of paper on the wall, perhaps with just the word lamb in English. I had to ask the waitress what it was. The noodles were nice and toothsome -- I believe soupçon taught me the term que que -- although the broth and lamb were nothing special. The special was a dollar or two more than their other noodle dishes -- $8.95, I believe.
re: Dave MP
I think just about everything on the "House Special" Menu may be new. I haven't yet figured out how many of them are bona fide Xi'an specialties.
The "you po mian" is the first item on the noodle section of the menu (just labeled "Shaanxi Hand Made Noodle" in English). I actually gave a whole post to the dish in my other blog.
Thanks for scouting this out!
In terms of dishes that you can get get elsewhere, at least in name, the house specials include:
Sour napa cabbage with lamb : available at various places including Beijing Restaurant
Xinjiang big plate chicken : available at Shandong Deluxe
Spicy boiled beef : "water boiled" beef at any Sichuan restaurant
There are roujiamo at a few places in the Bay Area, but none has been so appealing that I'd recommend them.
re: Dave MP
re: Dave MP