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authentic chinese restaurant with good ambience for a first date? [San Francisco]

as much as i love kingdom of dumpling, it's not quite what i'm looking for. have heard really good things about house of pancakes, and pictures look somewhat promising.

am still looking for a more out of the way/less popular place (i realize R&G fits the bill, but also not quite what i'm looking for).

maybe grand hotpot lounge?

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  1. What about Yank Sing? Too well known?

    5 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Yank Sing is only open at lunchtime, and not exactly the place for a romantic table for two then.

      1. re: soupçon

        Depends on the first date. I've had brunch type dates followed by walking/ the park/ice cream dates and they've worked quite well. But yes if night time and cozy table is the goal....I am a bit stumped. The Haakasan rec is solid in that it is upscale and sleek but I don't know if I'd find it romantic.

        1. re: soupçon

          In my opinion, dim sum is the worst format for a first date because of all the distractions and interruptions. Regardless of the decor or noise level, having a stranger come by every few minutes offering food is the opposite of intimate.

          And in response to hyperbowler's comment below about picky eaters and picking a safe place, I think you should pick a place you like and see if your date likes it too. At the very least you will learn something about your date's food preferences and vice versa.

          If you don't find a Chinese restaurant with enough ambience, consider going somewhere else afterward for dessert.

          1. re: felice

            I suppose on how well you know the person you're going on the first date with. If it were a blind date or something, I'd much prefer somewhere less intimate so that it's less painful if it isn't a good fit.

            1. re: mr_darcy

              Right. A quiet, white tablecloth type place can be rather stifling and intimidating for a first date. Interactions with other people can help provide topics of conversation (farmer's markets can be great for this)

              I wasn't sure whether the "out of the way" request is because he wants the first date to be something obscure/notwellknown or so that it won't be busy.

      2. One of my new favorites is Terra Cotta Warrior (Judah & 31st). It's a little "nicer" than House of Pancake but about the same price point.

        TCW specializes in Xi'an/Shaanxi cuisine and as such is noodle-centric, but the cold apps are good and they have a quite a few main dishes from Shaanxi and neighboring Sichuan (which they also do well).

        Owner David Deng is usually around (tall, thin man with glasses) and likes to educate people on his food, if you need any guidance.

        Here are some pics from my experiences there (mostly solo lunches, but the noodle dishes are all shareable).


        Terra Cotta Warrior
        2555 Judah St.

        1 Reply
          1. Those pictures of House of Pancakes must have been Photoshopped. Ambiance is definitely of the hole-in-the-wall variety.

            1. I haven't eaten at Grand Hotpot Lounge, but their menu contains photographs of dishes and that might make ordering less daunting. Of course, not everyone likes spicy and/or Sichuan food.

              Kingdom of Dumpling and House of Pancakes aren't very different ambience-wise.

              I like soupçon's suggestion of Terra Cotta Warrior. There are modern touches to the decor such as a piece of driftwood, the menu is short, you can balance the meal with cold small plates. Aside from the sourness and spiciness, there's not a lot on the menu to scare picky people off (e.g., minimal offal and seafoods), so it's safe for a first date, even if the food might be unfamiliar.


              2 Replies
              1. re: hyperbowler

                I've only been to TCW for lunch, but I agree that the ambience is good enough for a date, and both menu and staff are friendly. The place is small, though, and doesn't take reservations, so that might be an issue.

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  TCW definitely is several cuts above House of Pancakes.

                  Grand Hot Pot Lounge is nice too, but a bit cavernous and lacking an intimate feel.

                    1. re: davidg1

                      loosely...the chef's modern take on Chinese and other Asian dishes (soup dumpling, congee, salt & pepper squid, sharks fin (faux), tofu skin, 1000 yr egg, jellyfish...). But it's not traditional if that's what the OP is looking for.

                      1. re: davidg1

                        The chef is of Korean background, but the East Asian influences used are not super specific and overlap with Chinese cuisine.

                        It would be a rather intimidating first date. It's a rather quiet, minamalist room and tasting menus take a lot of time.

                      1. re: gumbolox

                        That's a good choice, actually. If the date goes well, there is a wine bar just a block over that's not bad (Internos), where you can continue the date.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          i liked made in china's food quite a lot, but the service is a little awkward, and there is very little english spoken

                          1. re: vulber

                            san wang in japantown i like.

                            z&y i'm sure you know about.

                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              I think Z&Y has a better atmosphere than San Wang.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                i agree.

                                though overall, i really only think hakkasan would be great for a first date if you actually care about impressing the person. and i wouldn't really call that "authentic".

                                while i love chinese places with so-so ambiance/service, i also once took a girl to shalimar because i was into the place and thought it would be funny. she was not impressed.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  Actually, that's a good way of weeding out the non-chowhounds before you waste too much time on them.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Hmm, my two cents is that it's a bit unfair to your date to deliberately place him/her in a potentially uncomfortable situation for the sake of a compatibility test. You may not end up growing old with this person, but there's no reason both of you can't still have a pleasant evening.

                                    As for finding out if the person is a Chowhound... I guess one could ask.

                                    1. re: dunstable

                                      I think modern technology makes it possible to avoid going on a first date with some loser who's not going to be into eating at a divey restaurant with great food.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        how does modern technology make this possible?

                                        1. re: barleywino

                                          You can screen prospective dates via email / SMS / Facebook / OKCupid or whatever.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            i dream of the day that I can find a place around here, dive or not, that makes san jian bao as good as that humble hole-in-the-wall Yang's in Shanghai. It redefined the dish for me, just like St Viateur in Montreal redefined the bagel for me.

                                            1. re: barleywino

                                              Yang's defines the entire dish, though. There can be only one that is the standard bearer. Just like St Viateur defines the montreal bagel.

                                              I would be happy with a SJB as good as the several I sampled in San Gabriel Valley.

                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      i think a divey restaurant is perfectly fine for later dates down teh line. it's more along the lines of when you have two people who are still trying to get to know each other, you want minimal distractions/interruptions/awkwardness