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Sep 16, 2013 04:15 PM

Jai Yun ???? [San Francisco]

Still in operation and still good ?

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  1. I haven't been since earlier this year, but I thought it was still impressive (we had the longest tasting menu). That said, at the highest price point, we did say afterwards that it wasn't significantly better than the other high-end options in the Bay Area, hence probably why I haven't been back more recently.

    24 Replies
    1. re: W42

      Was the tasting menu sashimi only with huge cuts of fish?

      1. re: vincentlo Maybe you have Jai Yun confused with another place? I don't think there was any sashimi or cuts of raw's not a Japanese place.

        Jai Yun is basically a one man show where Chef Nei himself produces a tasting menu series of courses (20-30 plates if you go for the most expensive menu). The first dishes are cold, but many are cooked with fairly elaborate combinations and ingredients. It's much more like a traditional Chinese version of Michelin starred tasting menu experience.

        Here's a decent recap with photos:

        1. re: W42

          i too was confused by vincent's response.

        2. re: vincentlo

          You must be thinking of some other place. Jai Yun is Shanghai cuisine served tasting-menu style. Basically it allows small parties to get the kind of meal that would normally require arranging a banquet for a large group.

          1. re: vincentlo

            "sashimi only with huge cuts of fish"

            sounds like sawa in sunnyvale, another obscure and expensive tasting-menu-only type place.

            both are very very good.

            1. re: Dustin_E

              do you happen to have any other details on sawa sushi or a link to a current, or slightly not so current review ????


              1. re: Dustin_E

                Ha that's embarrassing. Sorry I was reading another thread on this board about Japanese food in the South Bay, and of course I was thinking about Sawa. A former student of mine went there with her husband for the first time, and was surprised their dinner was all sashimi with different sauces, with no sushi or cooked dishes.

                I often lump Jai Yun and Sawa together in my mind. Both places have excellent food, and charge outrageous (to some) prices. Their reviews are super-polarized: Either one loves it or thinks the prices are insane.

                Is there a strategy for what/how to order at Jai Yun? I assume they are no longer open for lunch.

                1. re: vincentlo

                  no problem. i sometimes make similar mistakes.

                  I could easily see due to the idiosnyncratic nature of both joints in mixing up jai yun and sawa.

                  yeah, years ago, i also had a complete meal of just sashimi whereas his website dictates otherwise.

                  what ae your thoughtxs on Sawa ???? since you broached the topic.

                  thanks man.

                  1. re: kevin

                    don't know if you were asking me or vincentlo about sawa, but i'll answer anyway.

                    best fish in the bay area, served in very large portions. his saucing approach to the sashimi is unique, and good, but most meals have a course or two where i don't love the saucing.

                    80-90% of it will be sashimi. the rest will be cooked seafood or meat. after the meal you feel like you don't want to eat protein for the rest of your life.

                    i've never been served any rice or noodle there. perhaps for this reason the meal pairs very, very well with sake or beer, so i'd definitely suggest drinking with the meal... which makes it unfortunate it is located in the suburbs. sometimes there is a vegetable or pickle as a course. usually mochi from a box is for dessert.

                    after going a couple times, you are a "regular" and pricing seems somewhat unpredictable -- though he will give you the best types of fish (and first-timers will not be offered it, or given it if they ask.)

                    50% of the time there will be someone obnoxious sitting at the bar who knows very little about japanese food, and will talk very loudly about much of a transcendental experience the meal is.

                    i've also seen couples with young children come here (plenty of parking for their bentley) as well, and just sit at the tables. it has that "very expensive but still casual" vibe to it.

                    steve has a sense of humor that some people find off-putting for an expensive meal. but i get a kick out of it.

                    i've been ~5 times in the past few years, but not in the past 12 months.

                    1. re: Dustin_E

                      ... and by "sawa", clearly i meant "jai yun"

                  2. re: vincentlo

                    i think he'll (chef nei at jai yun) only serve lunch to groups of ~10 people, and only if they reserve ahead of time.

                    back when he used to serve solo diners, i tried a couple different menu prices -- the meals were identical, so i stopped experimenting.

                    i haven't been back to jai yun in a couple years, but have heard others on this board say you can make request a specific style of menu (can't remember what it is.)

                    i think it makes sense to lump jai yun and sawa together as similar styles of restaurant (with very different cuisines, of course)

                    1. re: Dustin_E

                      You can have a banquet meal for one person at Jai Yun ????

                      1. re: kevin

                        I believe the minimum party size is two these days. The chef isn't very business-oriented, so sometimes he does things for a while before he figures out they don't work.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          That's the sign of a true artist.

                          Dominic at DiFaras was the same way.

                          And I'm the happier for it when the chef's complete and utter devotion and dedication is to his food and chiefly creations.

                      2. re: vincentlo

                        "Is there a strategy for what/how to order at Jai Yun?"

                        You don't order at Jai Yun. You choose a price level and the chef decides what to serve.

                        The different price levels are not the same, I've seen other tables get dishes we didn't and vice-versa. I think after maybe the second tier you're paying for luxury ingredients that I'm not very interested in. The first tier might get fewer dishes in total.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Luxury like shark fins and braised abalone and conpoy and bird's nest ?????


                          1. re: kevin

                            The time I ordered the next-to-highest priced menu, there was abalone and some kind of eel or lamprey that a table nearby did not get.

                            There was a recent discussion of prices but the search doesn't find it. I think it might be $80 to $168 per person these days.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              do you remember how many people you were with when you ordered the next-to-highest menu?

                              i've been served his abalone in egg whites, and his shark-fin with enoki mushrooms several times -- and it didn't seem correlated to menu price. these two also have never been my favorite of his dishes.

                              i believe i've been served these even back when at $55 menu was not the least expensive. but i was with 4 people at that point.

                              i love his cooking. wishful thinking, but anyone know of a good chinese cookbook that details dishes similar to the ones he cooks?

                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                The only time I've gone with more than two or three people was the first time I went, over ten years ago, at the old location.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  i've been when the cheapest menu was $45

                                1. re: W42

                                  has anyone had abalone on a sawa visit?

                                  i'd wonder how it compares to the one at jai yun.

                      3. re: W42

                        I used to think one step up from the bottom was worth the extra $20 a head or whatever but past that it's diminishing returns.

                        Now that the bottom step is pretty expensive, maybe there's no reason to spend more.

                        1. We split a digression about dining at Sawa in Sunnyvale out into a separate thread, which you can find here:

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                            i think it would have been much more appropriate to change the title of this thread, than to split off (basically my responses) into a separate thread.

                            changing context changes meaning.

                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              Those posts made this topic very confusing since it was hard to tell whether you guys were talking about Jai Yun or Sawa.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                given they left half the content about sawa here in the jai yun thread, i sincerely doubt they made it any easier to follow.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  Yeah. I'm thoroughly confused too.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    if someone is lost, they can post and ask for clarification. letting the intern who hasn't been to any of these places twist the threads around does not contribute to readability.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                      In most of the split-off posts it was not clear to me that you weren't talking about Jai Yun. It was really confusing since they're both expensive and have tasting menus.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        well now it should be even less clear.

                                  2. re: Dustin_E

                                    We tried to improve the situation, but our tools for splitting threads are quite limited, and unfortunately, we can't glue them back together. Our apologies for making it worse.