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Sep 17, 2013 12:19 PM

American Chinese in the Sunset or Richmond district [San Francisco]

Spoiled as the Sunset and Richmond district are with regional Chinese places, I'm having a tough time selecting a place that does Chinese American dishes well.

Where can I get good versions of the following under one roof:

- mu shu chicken with a thin wrapper (no tortillas)
- orange/general's/sesame chicken that isn't too gloopy
- mongolian beef (preferably with crispy noodles)
- vegetarian egg rolls

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  1. My neighbors order take-out from Melisa's Chinese Cuisine; I haven't braved the concept of Americanized Chinese foods here.
    450 Balboa Street at 6th Avenue in the Richmond district.

    I drive by Kathy's California Chinese Cuisine
    408 Dewey Blvd. between Laguna Honda Blvd & Pacheco Street near the Forest Hill station and Laguna Honda Hospital; have never stopped. It's near Chouchou.

    Adding to the list of never-tried restaurants:
    New Tsing Tao Restaurant
    811 Ulloa Street between Claremont Blvd. & West Portal Avenue

    Xiao Loong Restaurant
    250 W Portal Avenue

    hyperbowler, why? what brings you to this search?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cynsa

      Thanks for pointing out these places! New Tsing Tao Restaurant covers all the bases.

      Ah, I sometimes go out with friends who order these dishes when we go out, and I've had enough terrible versions lately that I wanted to query the boards and chose better places. Regional Chinese places don't necessarily put much effort into them.

      You know, I've actually been to Xiao Loong one time. It wasn't very good:

    2. Sometimes I use the search feature on yelp to look for mentions of specific dishes. For the dishes you listed, you might want to check out Nan King Road Bistro on 9th between Irving and Judah.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        view the pix on the yelp page, too and you'll find the orange chicken, Mongolian Beef, and veggie egg rolls

      2. I went on a binge of General Tso's, Sesame Chicken, Mongolian Beef, craving good versions of the sweet and goopy dishes, so I can share some hits and misses, but few specific to the neighborhoods you requested.

        Nan King Road - looked shockingly good in Yelp pictures, but the low rating reviews turned out accurate. Nothing had a lot of flavor. Sesame Chicken were thin noodle sized strips, which was as strange as it sounds. The Raspberry instead of orange flavoring didn't work for me.

        San Tung - It's about the wings of course, but their Americanized dishes are okay in an Andy's/Eric's kind of way.

        Xiao Loong - West Portal, so wrong area, and really, the house special dishes in Xiao Loong sauce are what to order here. The other dishes aren't memorable.

        Tsing Tao - Multiple locations, but the newest one at the end of West Portal, closest to Ulloa serves classic greasy food in large portions. It's a little too greasy, and syrupy but I could see how it would be good for large groups or a lunch special. It's the kind of place where a couple dishes are standouts, and the rest sort of mediocre, but nothing is consistently good.

        Out of your areas, Big Lantern, Crazy Pepper, Wild Pepper, and Jasmine Teahouse are all turning out good versions of the dishes you're after.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sugartoof

          Because there are regional dishes I'd like to get there as well, San Tung would be a good fit if their American dishes are good.

          Big Lantern etc. are on my way from work to the desire regions, so they're actually in scope. Thanks!

          1. re: hyperbowler

            I really like Big Lantern. I think it's underrated (or maybe just hasn't been on my radar) with some interesting dishes because the menu includes some Vietnamese influence. Then there's the obvious knock offs of nearby Mission Chinese Food, like the Pastrami friend rice.
            Meats are fresh, good quality, and they get the sweet sauces right without drowning the food in it. Food isn't generic in prep, so there are some unique versions of things. I've also done takeout, and none of the dishes had the usual drippy pools of oil/grease/sauce.

            I prefer it to San Tung (though I finally get why people are so addicted to the wings).

          2. re: sugartoof

            Thanks for the tip--- the Mongolian beef at Big Lantern hit the spot! The sauce wasn't too goopy and was a bit spicy. The red onions needed to be avoided--- they were so thick and raw that they burned my nasal cavity.

            Overall, the kung pao pastrami was a decent rendition of a Chinese American kung pao dish, and a far cry from the Mission Chinese Food dish that inspired it, at least in its heyday. The sauce and peanut toppings get thumbs up, and the dish wasn't at all greasy. The bulk of the dish was taken up by red and green bell pepper, button mushrooms, and zucchini, all of which were lightly cooked but still crisp. There were also some water chestnuts. The drawback of the dish was the pastrami itself-- unlike MCF's excellent greasy and smoky housemade pastrami, the pastrami cubes here were pretty lean and had an off-putting taste, a bit like low quality hot dogs. If they could get better pastrami, I could imagine it appealing to those who like vegetable heavy Kung Pao dishes.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              Glad you tried it and found it decent enough. The Americanized dishes are definitely their sweet spot.

              Like just about every Chinese place, there's some variation in quality every time you order. The last time I got a pastrami dish (I've been ordering the fried rice with it), I found it too fatty, but not in a"Make it Fatty" deli kind of way. Previously the quality was fairly close to MCF, and made me think they were using Robert's. Being the kind of place it is, I wouldn't be shocked if they were cubing up some Boar's Head instead to cut costs. None of my orders tasted like hot dogs, but it's obviously a poor man's knockoff either way. At least they spare us the crudely chopped 4" celery stocks filling up every plate, like at MCF.

              1. re: sugartoof

                Yeah, MCF's version is it's own thing and something I've really enjoyed in a few iterations, but not a recent one characterized by lousy knife skills and celery overload:

                The Big Lantern pastrami dishes aren't exactly new dishes, but more like adding another item to the list of "choice of meat: chicken, pork, etc.". Pastrami makes sense as an alternative to ham or pork belly--- I'd love to see its use spread.

          3. My satisfying lunch at Tsing Tao for comfort food is the rice plate with bittermelon:
            3107 Clement Street at 32nd Avenue and the menu has your four target dishes. It's near the Legion of Honor.

            Golden Chopsticks
            1650 Balboa Street at 17th Avenue

            Mongolian Beef is on the Lam Hoa Thuan's Chinese/Vietnamese menu:
            #83. Bo Xao Mongo mongolian beef

            2337 Irving Street at 25th Avenue
            Cash Only

            Your search results will be gleaned with interest.

            1. I haven't eaten there in a long time, but you might try Empero Taste in the Outer Richmond. Their menu includes all of the dishes you've mentioned.

              Back in 2008 when I would eat there, I remember trying the generic beef w/ broccoli, and it was quite good. We might have had mu shu at some point too.

              Here's one of my posts:

              1 Reply
              1. re: Dave MP

                Under new management in 2013, prices are higher; 3 dishes for 19.95 before 5 pm and rice plates for $5.50 at lunch. Service is helpful. Not busy at lunchtime and we parked in front of the restaurant's door last month at noon on a Monday. Lunch for 9.

                On the menu: Veggie egg rolls, Mongolian Beef, Sweet Orange Sauce with Chicken, Mushu Chicken.

                Empero Taste
                4052 Balboa Street
                (between 41st Ave & 42nd Ave)

                Another local lunch destination for my volunteers at the Legion of Honor:
                Kirin Restaurant
                6135 Geary Blvd. at 25th Avenue

                Parking is a challenge; restaurant is crowded. If you don't see your dish on the menu, ask if they'll make it. I've seen tables bring freshly caught fish for the kitchen to prepare.