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Jai Yun overpriced, overhyped [San Francisco]

m
meinNYC Oct 16, 2013 09:31 AM

I listened to you folks and booked a reservation for 2 for Jai Yun. When
associates wanted to join in we increased the reservation to 8. When we walked into the empty restaurant at 7 PM on a Wednesday the young lady at the desk rudely demanded to know if we had a reservation. We said yes. As the rest of the party trickled in, they in turn were again rudely interrogated as to whether they had a reservation. No one else came to the restaurant the whole night. We were there in an empty place. The host chose the highest price $120 per person and the meal started. All repetitious and boring. Had the famed abalone mixed with egg white, couldn't tell which was which. The same ingredients were used over and over in different preparations, but the taste buds were not excited. For $120 a head I really expected some fireworks. We like Chinese food from all regions and this was a disappointment on all counts. The decor was really kitchy and the lightening glaring. Shame on you all for recommending this dive!! Was this a case of Chinese restaurant schadenfreude or are all you relatives of the chef?

  1. Scott M Oct 22, 2013 06:03 PM

    "When we walked into the empty restaurant at 7 PM on a Wednesday the young lady at the desk rudely demanded to know if we had a reservation. We said yes. As the rest of the party trickled in, they in turn were again rudely interrogated as to whether they had a reservation. No one else came to the restaurant the whole night"

    Sounds like no reservation on the books for the night so the chef took the night off. Then your party shows up and they scramble to make some dishes for you. Did you notice the young lady at the desk slip into the kitchen to start cooking?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Scott M
      Robert Lauriston Oct 22, 2013 06:31 PM

      That's their normal behavior. People walk in not realizing that it's by reservation only. The chef buys only enough food for the number of people with reservations.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        Scott M Oct 22, 2013 06:57 PM

        If the chef buys only enough food for the number of people with reservations then how does he know which price point will be selected? It sounds like the diners get to select the meal price point on the spot. So regardless of what price is selected you get the same ingredients?

        1. re: Scott M
          Robert Lauriston Oct 22, 2013 07:29 PM

          I presume that some of the ingredients don't have to be purchased daily.

          If you're going to go for a higher price, it's probably smart to tell them that when you reserve.

      2. re: Scott M
        c
        Chandavkl Oct 22, 2013 06:45 PM

        At least there's a hostess. When the place opened up the chef also waited the tables.

        1. re: Chandavkl
          Robert Lauriston Oct 22, 2013 06:50 PM

          How long ago was that? I first went in 2002 and have always had a server.

        2. re: Scott M
          d
          Dustin_E Oct 22, 2013 07:26 PM

          more likely there is one reservation for 8. the waitress (wrongly) assumes everyone is going to arrive together.

          "rude" waitstaff is a testament to how authentic the place is.

        3. c
          Chandavkl Oct 20, 2013 10:47 PM

          Clearly Jai Yun is not for everybody. It's quirky but the chef is a master. There's no other Chinese restaurant in North America like it. That's why I put it in my infamous Top 10 Chinese restaurants in the US listing, though with slight reservation. But because you don't know what you're getting, Jai Yun is going to get a higher degree of negative comment than other similarly rated restaurants.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl
            Cynsa Nov 18, 2013 06:10 AM

            http://justonecookbook.com/blog/recip...

            1. re: Cynsa
              grayelf Nov 18, 2013 05:54 PM

              Great linkage to the video of Chef Nei, cynsa!

              1. re: Cynsa
                Robert Lauriston Nov 18, 2013 05:59 PM

                Current prices from a photo on there:

                $65 (parties of 5-10 only), $80 (3-10 only), $98, $128, $168

            2. p
              pauliface Oct 19, 2013 10:04 AM

              Well I think there has been rudeness on both sides and apologies might be in order.

              However this thread has been very beneficial to me.

              I have not followed previous reviews. But now I am curious, and will be able to try Jai Yun with my eyes open to the potential problems. It's good to try a well-loved place without entering in rose-colored glasses.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pauliface
                d
                Dustin_E Oct 21, 2013 11:03 AM

                >> Well I think there has been rudeness on both sides and
                >> apologies might be in order.

                my sense was that the OP were thick-skinned new yorkers who can take it just as well as they can dish it out. I certainly would consider myself to be this type of poster, and am not the least bit offended.

              2. ipsedixit Oct 18, 2013 09:42 PM

                You're entitled to criticize Jai Yun, or any other SF establishment. You're entitled to your opinion.

                Criticizing other 'Hounds for giving advice? You're not entitled to be a lout. Especially as a visitor in a local board.

                You don't like something, you don't like something. So be it. But don't go blaming others for it.

                1. m
                  meinNYC Oct 18, 2013 09:11 PM

                  Chowhounders were right on the money in recommending Gary Danko. The meal was great, the service professional and pleasant. It was worth every penny. ( though at $92 for 4 courses, to us it was worlds better than Jai Yun at $120) Yes, I know you're going to say it is a different kind of place, etc.etc. Still a memorable meal is a memorable meal. Wish DK would move to NYC.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: meinNYC
                    mariacarmen Oct 18, 2013 09:56 PM

                    well, this maybe says something. gary danko is kinda dull, to me....after all these years. but, to each his own. glad you enjoyed one meal here!

                    1. re: meinNYC
                      Robert Lauriston Oct 19, 2013 10:37 AM

                      Where on this board did you find a recommendation of Gary Danko? The general consensus here is that it's good but you can get a similar meal in any major city, and that it's a mystery how it always tops the Zagat poll.

                      1. re: meinNYC
                        t
                        tjinsf Oct 19, 2013 04:43 PM

                        It seems as if the service is more important than the food for you. Those kinds of things are important to mention when you are asking for recommendations. Gary Danko is an excellent place for a business dinner or a folks who prefer more formal dining but not some where I would recommend for more curious diners.

                        1. re: meinNYC
                          d
                          Dustin_E Oct 20, 2013 07:38 PM

                          glad you enjoyed gary danko. i like gary danko and jai yun both -- but for very different reasons.

                          i always welcome an opportunity to display my layman's knowledge ob/gyn topics. what can i say? nothing beats first-hand experience.

                          agree strongly that dissenting opinions are underrepresented on this board.

                          1. re: Dustin_E
                            Robert Lauriston Oct 21, 2013 11:12 AM

                            "dissenting opinions are underrepresented on this board"

                            Depends on the restaurant. Some places are pretty controversial. Others have something of a consensus with minority opinions.

                            Jai Yun gets recommended regularly on terse lists of where to go, but if you look at the topics with detailed reports and discussion, there's quite a mix of opinion, e.g.:

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/681893
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785242
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864582
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/917176

                        2. m
                          meinNYC Oct 18, 2013 12:22 PM

                          First of all, we are not culinary rubes, and the post was merely my opinion of Jai Yun. Yes,I read all former reviews and decided to go with the positives. Since you did not eat the dinner we did, you can't say the flavors were not repetitious. I stand by my review and warn others that there is much room for disappointment here. The diners that night were all sophisticated,well traveled people and 8 people can't be all wrong. It was a subpar experience and meal. There were no language problems, the only server spoke decent English. Spend your dining dollars wisely, this place did not deliver the goods. Sorry about the misspelling of lighting. Glad someone got to point our their superior knowledge of ob/byn.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: meinNYC
                            Robert Lauriston Oct 18, 2013 12:27 PM

                            We have only your word for it that the other seven people also couldn't tell the abalone from the egg white.

                            1. re: meinNYC
                              bobabear Oct 18, 2013 12:43 PM

                              Did you try any of the other restaurants recommended to you in the thread where you asked for SF's best? Robert has good recs and perhaps shaming all of the SF board for one meal you didn't like isn't fair! Especially when the Jai Yun reviews on CH are 50/50 love/hate. Those aren't the best odds to gamble.

                              1. re: meinNYC
                                eatzalot Oct 18, 2013 12:47 PM

                                I did not read the responses as seriously characterizing anyone as culinary rubes* but rather, as reactions to "Shame on you all for recommending this dive!! Was this a case of Chinese restaurant schadenfreude or are all you relatives of the chef?" in a critique that did not reveal recognition either of the context of this genre of restaurant internationally (as some mentioned above), nor the particular experience contexts of individual posters who'd recommended Jai Yun. Restaurant comments are not just opinion but also factual reporting and contextual information. And of course, there's meal-to-meal variation, especially in rest's with changing menus, which is why it's so hard to get their measure from just one meal.

                                *That said, I seldom have seen any online poster consider themself a culinary rube, in 30 years of reading them, even when it was evident to many people. A case in point is one New Yorker full of opinions who started another restaurant comment site 10 years ago -- some people here experienced it or him. He'd made some money, and his idea of culinary expertise was then to go out and try all the obvious famous restaurants lauded by obvious guidebooks. That, by his own claims, made him an expert, even though mention of many culinary or cuisine basics, personalities, history, etc. brought the online equivalent of a blank look.

                                1. re: meinNYC
                                  c
                                  calumin Oct 18, 2013 01:05 PM

                                  I just want to make sure that you actually went to the right restaurant.

                                  You probably did, but the vehemence of your dislike of the restaurant is so much in contrast to my experiences there I don't know what to say.

                                  With all of these reviews people need to judge for themselves, but I will keep recommending the restaurant to others. I'm not sure how to process an inability to distinguish abalone from egg whites.

                                  As for repetition, I think it does start to get repetitive after a number of visits, but within a single visit I don't understand the comment.

                                  1. re: calumin
                                    c
                                    calumin Oct 18, 2013 01:37 PM

                                    Actually, having thought through the initial post a bit more I have some sympathy for the poster. I don't doubt the experience that group had, and sometimes I wonder when the reactions of one group differ so much from what the consensus view of a restaurant is.

                                    I have that same reaction about Sushi Aka Tombo. There are a lot of people on this board who think it's among the best sushi restaurants in the Bay Area. I've been eating sushi 1-2 times per week since I was a teenager, and I've been there 4 times. Each time I think I might be at the wrong place, and wonder why anyone would think it's any better than any random place one might find on any street corner.

                                    It's just the way that it goes sometimes.

                                    1. re: calumin
                                      bbulkow Oct 18, 2013 03:54 PM

                                      I'll agree with this 100%

                                      I can't get how people are so much behind Lers Ros. I've eaten there 3 times now, and it might be pretty good for SF, but my meals were marginal on a global scale. Thai is infinitely better in greater DC (toward virginia), NYC, LA, and if someone sent me to Lers Ros on a trip, I'd be right miffed.

                                      90% of my knowledge from this board is great, but 10% ... I wonder. Compare that to Yelp ... 90% "I wonder" ! Chowhound FTW.

                                      I can't comment on Jai Yun, haven't been.

                                      1. re: bbulkow
                                        grayelf Oct 18, 2013 09:31 PM

                                        One thing I've noticed as a gastrotourist using this board is how often the local Hounds will ask where a poster is from. This makes such a difference in getting good reccos. The Lers Ros example is an excellent one for me, because I come from a place with almost uniformly terrible Thai restaurants. Lers Ros is orders of magnitude better than anything I can get in Vancouver, though even so you do have to order carefully and I find after half a dozen visits that I do best sticking to their excellent appetizers.

                                        Conversely, we have so much good sushi up here and it is so much more economical that my couple of forays into that cuisine in the Bay Area have been disappointing.

                                        1. re: grayelf
                                          t
                                          tjinsf Oct 19, 2013 04:40 PM

                                          agree so much on the sushi comment. I feel like I can eat excellent sushi every day in Vancouver for half the price of average sushi here.

                                      2. re: calumin
                                        t
                                        tjinsf Oct 19, 2013 04:39 PM

                                        I feel the same way about Bodega Bistro. Keep trying it over the last few years but have had nothing but average to horrible food. I'm quite familiar with French and Vietnamese food so it's not a lack of knowledge.

                                        As for Jai Yun, I went and thought it was good, not great, more than what I'm used to paying in SF but not in HK.

                                    2. re: meinNYC
                                      scoopG Oct 19, 2013 03:49 AM

                                      I would hardly call this a review. You wrote about only one dish:

                                      "Had the famed abalone mixed with egg white, couldn't tell which was which."
                                      ____________________
                                      Are there any other specific details from the other dishes you had?

                                      1. re: scoopG
                                        m
                                        meinNYC Oct 22, 2013 01:57 PM

                                        The cold dishes were basically various dry cold meat thinly sliced, and with some vegetables in vinegar as a course. The greasy pork butt that came at the end was, well fatty and greasy. Yeah I know grease and pork are in. The sweet eggplant at the end was good and dessert like. Also remember gluten deep fried was good. I can imagine the shopping list of the rest of the meal, baby shrimp, tofu, red pepper, mushrooms (no not the exotic kind), celery, a bit of broccoli, some chicken. Now mix in various combinations and stir fry. Maybe famous chef was on vacation and we had a sub.....

                                        1. re: meinNYC
                                          d
                                          Dustin_E Oct 22, 2013 02:22 PM

                                          if you feel like it, i'd be interested to hear what you had at gary danko as well. the number of dishes on their menu that rarely change makes it more of a choose-your-own adventure type place.

                                          i recognize all those dishes at jai yun, so i doubt you had an un-representative experience.

                                          it's very possible you and the other diners were well-traveled and sophisticated to the point that whatever novelty and uniqueness jai yun presented simply didn't outweigh all the inconveniences involved in dining there.

                                          i've noticed that a lot of people who grew up in, or travel to china all the time hate jai yun.

                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                            Robert Lauriston Oct 22, 2013 02:30 PM

                                            Here's a report from somebody from Shanghai who thought half the dishes were amazing and the other half very good, though not a great value compared with eating at mom's.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785242

                                    3. d
                                      Dustin_E Oct 17, 2013 10:17 AM

                                      despite the unfortunately bad experience of the OP, i'd actually rather double-down:

                                      chowhound is not idiot-proof the same way tripadvisor or yelp is.

                                      and i mean this in the nicest possible way; that is, just to say that some of the recommendations you find on this site are going to be harder to appreciate, or have other trade-offs: being expensive, having bad decor/service, or be unconventional in some other way. So without real guidance, if you ask the board for "what's best", without looking at the hundreds of threads before that have asked the same question, i'm just going to recommend my favorites.

                                      Anyway, here's why i think jai yun is important:

                                      Around 25 years ago (when i was 8 and living on a cherry orchard in the countryside), very authentic japanese places like ino and kappa started opening up in the us to cater to wealthy japanese business people at the height of the (japanese) bubble. the bubble burst, but japanese food and raw fish remained somewhat of a status symbol for americans to try. 5 to 10 years later, really high-end places like masa and sawa started serving rich white people raw fish that was roughly the same quality there was to be had in tokyo. To do this, they charged roughly 4x what it costs in tokyo to cover transport/marketing/risk of local market not accepting it / etc. Gradually it became embedded in mainstream american's psyche that high quality japanese food and sushi / raw fish is really expensive, but worth it.

                                      it is not currently embedded in mainstream american's psyche that top quality chinese food is really expensive, but worth it.

                                      Why this disconnect? I don't know. but jai yun is unique in that it brings authentic, no-compromise, high quality chinese food to americans in a relatively easy (ie you don't have to fly to china) way.

                                      Yes, i wish it was half the price like it was 5 years ago, and i wish they still served good-value lunches. Hopefully in 5 or 10 years it won't be the case for either SF or NYC that jai yun is a great pick despite the cost, service, and decor issues. it seems to me that new-found chinese wealth will change this, like it did for japanese food during and after their economic boom. but we'll see.

                                      so with jai yun you get a taste of a cuisine that is every bit as sophisticated / interesting / developed / complex / gourmet as japanese food (perhaps more so), but isn't yet appreciated as such.

                                      ps -- normally i wouldn't get a kick out of making bombastic statements to a visitor, but i think they more than "brought it".

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                        bobabear Oct 17, 2013 10:32 AM

                                        Thoughtful response, Dustin!

                                        I would take a stab at the disconnect by saying that perhaps it is because Japanese food's (specifically sushi) origins in the US were more high grade, whereas Chinese food has had early roots in cheap, late night take out or Panda express type places. It's hard to break off the belief that Chinese food should be cheap. I'm Chinese and grew up eating at more Chinese banquet type places for family events, but now as an adult I can't imagine spending more than $30/pp on a Chinese meal! I hunker down and tell my husband, "No way Chinese food should be that expensive!" which is one of the reasons why I haven't gone to Jai Yun.

                                        1. re: Dustin_E
                                          bbulkow Oct 17, 2013 12:43 PM

                                          Good post.

                                          My hint from 'meinNYC' is "we expected some fireworks". Although they claim to understand chinese food from multiple regions, they might have been expecting bold spice combinations. "All repetitious and boring" also suggests suggests the disconnect.

                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                            m
                                            Missmoo Oct 25, 2013 11:20 AM

                                            Off topic, but I just have to say Yelp is not "idiot proof?" That made me laugh.

                                          2. ckshen Oct 16, 2013 11:59 PM

                                            So you followed others' well intended recommendations and didn't like it, but it was your choice to follow. You are always welcome to invest your own time and money to discover your own gems.

                                            I have not been to Jaiyun, and I have liked many places recommended by hounders and not liked some, but it's always my responsibility to interpret the context of the posts and determine if the my tastes are compatible with that of the posters.

                                            1. K K Oct 16, 2013 11:41 PM

                                              There is controversy in any well known Asian or Chinese establishment in town, even Japanese and sushi. Most approaches to these cuisines are interpretive and have their own schools of fans and haters.

                                              Understand the culture (as well as the criteria by critics both amateur/hobbyist vs professional), the subtleties, as well as the quirks and kinks of the restaurant quickly (hopefully by doing really extensive research even outside of this board, including blogs and media reports) to get a well rounded opinion, or to follow trusted knowledgeable reviewers who not only know what they are talking about, but make you learn something new when they share information, will hopefully enlighten you and make you appreciate a restaurant's offerings a little more as well as set the right expectations.

                                              For me I appreciate what this restaurant is trying to do, but will not go there (not even once) for my own personal reasons and would prefer to spend that money elsewhere for more satisfying experiences. I see this restaurant as a place where you would need multiple visits to get a broader understanding of the chef's capabilities, and the fact he has no menu except the prices, you really have no say as to what you will get...unless you make advanced arrangements and talk to the chef directly to put in some special requests, and even then it may or may not be possible.

                                              Regarding the preordering of banquets, there are quite a few restaurants in the Bay Area that will do this, and there are some random restaurants out there that have a separate menu of pre-order ahead of time only dishes that would work great for this. If you know the chef and/or manager personally, you could pre-order your entire meal or do a mix of preorder + letting the chef decide. I don't recommend doing this unless you know exactly what the kitchen (and chef) are capable of, as well as understanding what works in terms of balance.

                                              And then there are restaurant(s) that have capitalized on this "private kitchen dining"/pre ordering special dishes trend, because it is also a money maker. Of Cantonese cuisine alone there are tons of labor and time intensive dishes but the ingredients are not expensive...however the prices tend to be high (where most of the cost go towards labor). Some are willing to pay, and some are not.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: K K
                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 17, 2013 09:53 AM

                                                "I see this restaurant as a place where you would need multiple visits to get a broader understanding of the chef's capabilities"

                                                Not true in my experience. I go back occasionally because I like his food and it's unique, but I pretty much got it on the first visit.

                                              2. mariacarmen Oct 16, 2013 11:11 PM

                                                happily, i feel no shame at all. i'd gladly recommend Jai Yun again to anyone. no schadenfreude, no relation to the chef. i am not extremely well-versed in all kinds of chinese regional cooking, but i loved this food. certainly the opposite of boring. found it fresh, inventive (new to me), exciting and satisfying. i knew about the decor, i knew what to expect re service. price - yeah, it's pricey. but well worth it. (though in full disclosure, my friends picked up the bigger part of the tab last time i was there.) i'm still looking forward to the next time i can go back with a group of 4-6 people.

                                                this seems to be a new disturbing trend - i didn't like my dinner, so - "how dare you ignorant aholes make me try this place - you're all lying posers with no taste!" sorry you didn't like it, but there's no reason to lash out at people who willingly and in good cheer gave you their honest opinions.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: mariacarmen
                                                  eatzalot Oct 19, 2013 08:39 AM

                                                  "this seems to be a new disturbing trend - i didn't like my dinner, so - "how dare you ignorant aholes make me try this place - you're all lying posers with no taste!""

                                                  On that point, maria, I've noticed the same instinctive response to people's disappointing restaurant experiences (or their own expectations) literally for decades, so I take it as part of human nature. Like blaming the person who answers after dialing a wrong number.

                                                  One of the first cases I heard was part of what a national magazine later documented as a regular syndrome: 30 years ago when Chez Panisse (the restaurant) was in its "French Laundry" phase, reservations impossible, distant buzz: Well-to-do New Yorkers arriving, being disappointed by the low-key service, lack of cocktails, or whatever they'd personally expected for Fine Dining; concluding vocally that the local provincials must just be clueless.

                                                  1. re: eatzalot
                                                    bbulkow Oct 19, 2013 09:17 AM

                                                    Let them eat Gary Danko!

                                                2. moto Oct 16, 2013 04:37 PM

                                                  all of the opinions posted on this board should be ingested with large doses of skepticism, unless -- you know the writer personally ; a writer posts frequently and you've had a chance to verify by trying two or more places that your tastes do or do not align with his/her preferences. in other words, out of town visitors who lack any familiarity with the eateries here should not rely on this board alone, particularly for higher cost or special occasion meals. we can't trust any professional restaurant reviewer unless we've verified degrees of compatibility in tastes, and why should the folks who share their experiences here be so different ?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: moto
                                                    grayelf Oct 16, 2013 05:48 PM

                                                    Fellow tourist here, albeit from the Left Coast of Canada. I've eaten twice at Jai Yun for lunch before the rules changed to having to have a larger party (ten?) at midday.

                                                    Bearing in mind that these lunches were several years ago and obviously at a much lower price, both meals stand out in my mind -- and my SO's -- as being some of the best Chinese food we've ever had. The presentation of the plates was also quite striking, reminding me a little of fine Japanese plating.

                                                    Shanghainese happens to be a favourite and it seems to me to share with Cantonese a subtlety when done at the higher end that can be mistaken for a lack of excitement.

                                                    Agree Jai Yun is not going to win any décor awards, and surmise it might look worse at night. Service for us ranged from shy to a bit brusque but was never rude -- I agree with previous commenters who ascribe that range to a lack of confidence in English. It did not detract from the experience for us either time. We were one of two tables once, and the only table the other time.

                                                    Part of my decision not to try dinner there was in fact based on cost -- I am a bit cheap and will often choose a lower priced option which lunch certainly was. We also chose the least expensive lunch option at the time because I had read that repetition could occur with the more expensive/more courses options. The second time, we had a coupon that upgraded us to the second level and included abalone, which was fun but not life altering. Then again, abalone is not new to me.

                                                    I gleaned all of these things going in from reading reports on Chowhound which I have used for all of our trips except the first one back in 2007, with the odd supplemental foray onto tablehopper, eater sf or the local rags.

                                                    Sad that the poster didn't enjoy the meal or find the value proposition to be worthy but in looking back, only one person actually recommended Jai Yun to the OP. There are many more threads talking about the potential for emperor's-new-clothes-syndrome at Jai Yun for the reading, and it does seem a bit harsh to blame fellow Hounds... but I still appreciate hearing another recent perspective.

                                                    1. re: grayelf
                                                      moto Oct 16, 2013 10:55 PM

                                                      the impression you leave me with your posts, is that you read this board fairly regularly and thoroughly. and my impression from reading fairly numerous posts on Jai Yun, it's definitely not for everyone. we've yet to try it, and we enjoy Shang Hai cooking, which can be more subtle and low key/minimalist than even (less-amerikanized)Cantonese food. personally, would not recommend any Chinese restaurant in this area without first ascertaining, 'what are your favorite dishes when you eat at a Chinese restaurant ?'

                                                      in general, when a reviewer states how amazing or transcendent or unique a meal was, particularly for more expensive eateries, my expectations are actually lowered in terms of what my own experience is likely to be. would rather hear about the nuts and bolts of knife work, ingredients, sauces, textures, und so weiter. trying any place for the first time in an unfamiliar town, would have to be prepared to accept a disaster or degrees of disappointment, which of course is much more difficult when the tariff is dear.

                                                      1. re: moto
                                                        eatzalot Oct 17, 2013 09:57 AM

                                                        "Thank you, Mr. Moto." (Marquand, 1936)

                                                  2. d
                                                    Dustin_E Oct 16, 2013 03:39 PM

                                                    >> rudely demanded to know if we had a reservation.
                                                    >> We like Chinese food from all regions and this was a disappointment on all counts.

                                                    I suspect if you aren't used to rude waitresses your experience with chinese food is pretty limited.

                                                    >> No one else came to the restaurant the whole night. We were there in an empty place.

                                                    That's how it usually is. sort of a private banquet type place. some high-end places in hong kong are almost like this as well (tien heung lau, yung kee 4th floor), though admittedly at jai yun it is an extreme.

                                                    >> The decor was really kitchy and the lightening glaring.

                                                    yep, decor is kitchy. i've never noticed the lighting being too bright, and this is something i'm pretty sensitive to (and is very common in chinese restaurants in china.)

                                                    also, "lightening" means "the descent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity, occurring toward the end of pregnancy."

                                                    >> Shame on you all for recommending this dive!!

                                                    You clearly have no idea how high-end dining works. at least not in the "expensive, tiny, weird" category where jai yun falls. if that's how you felt about jai yun, i'd pretty strongly recommend you avoid high-end food in tokyo, where most of the authentic local restaurants are 2x the price, half the number courses, and all some variation on raw white fish, or gently flavored vegetables. but there is brilliance and deep complexity in the subtle differences.... which clearly did nothing for you.

                                                    >> want great meals and good value, but price not really
                                                    >> a consideration . let's just say we get grumpy if it's
                                                    >> all show and snoot.

                                                    if you ask an online source for advice again, you may want to think of something that describes your tastes a little better than this -- which tells us almost nothing.

                                                    until then, i'd suggest aiming for house of nanking with the rest of the tourists.

                                                    i must add, though, that i do appreciate you posting back. i think meals that are board favorites but that visitors don't like are too often simply not mentioned again by the visitor.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                                      bbulkow Oct 17, 2013 12:47 AM

                                                      "
                                                      >> Shame on you all for recommending this dive!!

                                                      You clearly have no idea how high-end dining works. at least not in the "expensive, tiny, weird" category where jai yun falls. if that's how you felt about jai yun, i'd pretty strongly recommend you avoid high-end food in tokyo, where most of the authentic local restaurants are 2x the price, "

                                                      Although slightly bombastically stated, and I have not been to Jai Yun, I can emphatically agree with that statement about Tokyo. I was taken to dinner in a place that looked like a hollowed out log or possibly an abandoned squatter's shack, the only seating was perched at the bar, there were exactly 3 people in the place all night (myself, my host, and another guy), there were no prices mentioned up front and we were simply told how much to pay at the end - no negotiation, no itemization - and about 2x what was described by the OP. The food was delectable and uncomplicated, the evening sublime, and I now have a much treasured namecard (given only at the end of the meal when they decided I deserved it) that will allow me to dine there again - the place is invitation only - if I can ever find the place, since the card has only caligraphy and no obvious address.

                                                      That being said, sending someone to the house of nanking is a bit much. You should apologize for that. Not the rest, just that.

                                                      1. re: bbulkow
                                                        Tripeler Oct 17, 2013 04:14 AM

                                                        BB -- the place in Tokyo you have the card for -- it is likely the address is in the calligraphy. Have someone who reads Japanese decipher it for you. Or, send a scan of it to the address on my profile and I'll translate it for you. Sounds like you had the evening of a lifetime there. Tokyo is a lot like that.

                                                        1. re: Tripeler
                                                          bbulkow Oct 17, 2013 12:39 PM

                                                          Thank you for the offer. My host who took me the first time can either translate or explain. There's also the language barrier of making a reservation there, and the fact that I'm doing less business travel to tokyo (even though they have that nice non-stop from SJ to Tokyo now).

                                                          1. re: bbulkow
                                                            k
                                                            klyeoh Oct 22, 2013 06:46 PM

                                                            One of my enduring impressions of Tokyo - amazing eateries hidden in back alleys. It's almost as if they are challenging would-be diners to find them.

                                                            1. re: klyeoh
                                                              Tripeler Oct 22, 2013 07:57 PM

                                                              Being essentially a pedestrian scale city, people will always find them. But the places that deliberately stay hidden and keep their signage minimal want to remain places which are publicized by word of mouth.

                                                    2. w
                                                      W42 Oct 16, 2013 12:43 PM

                                                      Uh, ok, you need to vent and blame someone else for making a recommendation that you feel bad about. But I have to agree with bobabear and ask, did you really read much about Jai Yun on this board, or do your homework elsewhere?

                                                      I can't check every post here about Jai Yun, but I'm pretty sure all of them, including the ones I have written, are all clear about the fact that the decor and service are bare bones at best. I think others have also written about the fact that the longest tasting menu does include some duplication of flavors and sauces. I know I have stated that while it is some of the highest quality Chinese food, Jai Yun may struggle in comparison to the competition of the high-end places in the Bay Area.

                                                      I also have to wonder whether your bad experience with the food was biased by your initial interaction with the hostess and your shock at the decor. There are plenty of psychology studies that go into how a bad mood can change your perceptions, and I know I've had several meals ruined by what was going through my head beforehand or at the start (if anything my first meal at Alinea was even more impressive given the argument I had been having with my guests all day).

                                                      Again, for $120 I know I might recommend other places before Jai Yun, but I certainly remember a lot of the dishes for being savory with sauces and combinations that are a class above other well-known Chinese places in the Bay Area (and yes, I've been to Hong Kong, Singapore etc. and my grandfather was a Chinese chef and the investor behind the first high-end Chinese place in Manhattan). While I wouldn't say Jai Yun's abalone was the best preparation in memory, but given the portion size and raw cost of abalone, it goes a long way to explaining the total price tag. Robert Lauriston is right about the price—$120 is definitely not the most expensive menu—so I'm guessing you went on a Monday-Wednesday, when they don't offer their longest menus (and arguably some of the better dishes, though, there is some confusion about what is offered when you pay more).

                                                      And yes, there is a reason why it is important to know if you have a reservation at Jai Yun even if the rest of the tables are empty: Chef Nei is a one man show so he only does prep work all day for just the people who have reservations.

                                                      Finally, I'm also going to go out on a limb and guess that you and probably most of your associates don't speak Mandarin, or even Cantonese. Unfortunately, as at many ethnic cheap eats and also really high end places in France and Japan, I do think that interactions with staff are at least friendlier, and that you can get overall better treatment when there is no language barrier. When I started speaking Mandarin to Chef Nei over the phone, he quickly suggested to me that I come on another day when he could do something more special and later took $100 off my bill. Not saying this is right or anything, but it's been discussed here before, and I think about Jai Yun in particular.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: W42
                                                        Robert Lauriston Oct 16, 2013 12:56 PM

                                                        I'd really like to get a detailed rundown on the current prices. I've read in recent reports of an $80 minimum and a $168 maximum, but also of a $98 minimum per person for a party of two.

                                                      2. bobabear Oct 16, 2013 11:47 AM

                                                        I haven't been to Jai Yun, but I've done my reading from the reports people have posted on Chowhound... Given all that information, I know Jai Yun is "divey" in that Chinatown sense - you're definitely not going for a fine dining experience. I've also seen the photo reports of the dishes people have had and think the cost isn't worth the size or "exoticness" of the dishes. I'd much prefer a banquet at "normal" Chinese restaurants.
                                                        Given all the info, I've decided I never need to try Jai Yun.

                                                        So perhaps this was a simple case of doing a bit more research to align your expectations with the reality. Most visitors either love or hate it and you definitely fell on the latter end of the scale :)

                                                        1. m
                                                          meinNYC Oct 16, 2013 11:38 AM

                                                          Changed reservation from 2 to 8 2 days before coming. Dined there just this month. The highest range on the sheet she passed around was $120. It was highway robbery.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: meinNYC
                                                            Robert Lauriston Oct 16, 2013 12:28 PM

                                                            Interesting. The price range must vary with the size of the group. I've seen recent reports of it topping out at $168.

                                                            Personally with a group that size I'd go elsewhere and pre-order a banquet. The unique thing about Jai Yun is that you can have a banquet-style meal without a big group.

                                                            I've had a bunch of meals there and never found significant repetition of ingredients.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              s
                                                              sundeck sue Oct 16, 2013 01:49 PM

                                                              May belong in its own thread. But where else would you go w/ a large group and pre-order a banquet?

                                                              1. re: sundeck sue
                                                                Robert Lauriston Oct 16, 2013 02:13 PM

                                                                Great China, Yum's Bistro.

                                                                For Shanghainese, other than Jai Yun, I'm not sure. Lots of places have closed. Maybe North China in SF or Shanghai in Cupertino?

                                                          2. Robert Lauriston Oct 16, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                            How far before the meal did you change the reservation?

                                                            I think the price range these days is $80 to $168.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              p
                                                              poot Oct 16, 2013 01:13 PM

                                                              News of the price hike is saddening. I love this restaurant, but at these prices I can't afford it.

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