China Live Goes Live [San Francisco]

I recently had a similar “pineapple” hybrid at Peony in Oakland. I didn’t order, but I believe it was the baked black pepper beef buns, and they had a crinkly top (not too sweet, with scallions) and a light colored baked bao with beef inside. I wonder if this is a new trend, or something I hadn’t noticed until recently.

bbq pork pineapple buns have been around for a while (e.g. Dragon Beaux, Good Mon Kok, Hong Kong Lounge 2). We used to get them in Boston too (China Pearl).

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can we really call it pineapple bun? these are pineapple bun with the flaky crust

these are the baked char siu bao that e.g. Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong is known for (and popularize?):

The crust is a bit different.


I Googled images for “pineapple buns” and some looked like what China Live makes, so I’ll take the Yelp photo poster’s word for it. As I say, I don’t know from pastries.

Pineapple buns are so called because their crusts’ resemblance to pineapple skins and the grid patterns. I don’t eat pineapple buns much, though I’d personally find a ‘smoother-skinned’ pineapple bun a rather curious version.

I understand what you are saying. I’m just going on what the Yelper and Google suggest. China Live’s buns were definitely more pastry-like than bread-like and looked like the 7th picture down in this article:

Got it

Checked out China Live, it’s DINNER ONLY which is so weird to me, like we all gotta eat Lunch too you all. They have a main door that they open at 5pm but they don’t tell you that you need to check in with the Host like a restaurant. It looks like different stations you can just order at, but No!

Got a seat at the counter where they cooked the veggies & meats. Got iced water almost as soon as I sat down. Waited a while to order, then since it was just me I picked XLB and Veggie potstickers.

XLB took a while to make, they were 6 small XLB in the steamer $9. Hardly any juice in them. I didn’t think they were any good, but I ate all all.

Took a long time for my Vegan “Dongbei” potstickers and I got 4pcs for $9, menu said 3pcs so I guess I lucked out. They tasted good, I didn’t know I was getting vegan potstickers, I didn’t read it all, just seeing potstickers which I love. They were nicely pan-fried and hot, inside had lots of things I have no idea what was all in there.

One of the boss guy asked me after I ate my XLB and was waiting for my potstickers how things were and I mentioned it was taking long time for food, I said I know it’s a new place, he mentioned when I got my potstickers that It was a long time and took off $9 my bill. That was Great!

I got soy milk panna cotta $7 and it was tasty enough, some super crunchy puff thing I could barely eat because I have not strong teeth and didn’t want more dental work, the soft panna cotta was ok, which it was a bigger serving though.

I liked the store part - they carry Marou chocolates from Vietnam, not cheap, but rare to see in SF. Sweet Dragon brittle from SJ is really good and they carry that too. Other chocolates I haven’t heard about are there, will have to try some of them.

I can’t wait for Coffee/Tea Area near the main entrance to be open so I can try the teas/coffee, for now Tea is served only from the Dinner menu.

I’d go back, but only if hubby comes and pays for my dinner.

They said they plan to start lunch in a few weeks.

grass wrapped crispy cod (not my favorite, prefer the salt & pepper crispy sea bass at Yank sing which is much more moist/tender)

Doug C. wrote me on Yelp: “Please note will start serving lunch daily @11am starting on Tuesday, March 14.”


I returned to China Live tonight, intending to check out the Oolong Cafe. CL’s wesite indicates it as “open” during the evenings, but there is no separate service there as of yet. So I headed for the dining area again and found myself seated at the counter at the dumpling station.

Pro tip: if you want to watch the action and take pictures of the shengjian bao operation, sit at the side counter with your back to the bar, not at the “front” side with your back to the dining room as I did – the cooks tend to stand with their backs to the dining room and obscure the view from that angle.

What I had, in a nutshell:

Seafood Wontons in Lobster Broth – Tasty, but well over-priced for four smallish wontons in a half-bowl of broth for $18

Vegetarian Potstickers – Very tasty jumbo wontons with a meaty, er, savory filling (3 per order for $9)

Wontons in Chili Oil – Eight tiny wontons in a very spritely spicy, nutty, salty broth, though not nearly as spicy as I would have them. Added a dab of chili paste to each one. Also $9.

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer from Salzburg – Bargain of the night, $6 for a 0.5l can.

It was hard to sit there watching all the orders of shengjian bao sent out without ordering one for myself again, hoping that someday they will be as tasty as they look.

They assemble the beef noodle soup at the same station where I sat, and I was pleased to see that, as Doug Collister promised, they have indeed added measurably more broth to the dish in response to my opening night gripe to him and George Chen and my subsequent blog post and Yelp review.

“My job is done here,” I said to myself as I left.


CONFIRMED! You now get more soup in your soup at China Live. :slight_smile:

Those Portions look pretty paltry. Do you feel that quality made up for that?

My own felicific calculus says no. Others may have calibrated their own differently. I’m more and more convinced that the “Taipei” beef noodle soup is the biggest bargain in the place at $12, which is probably below the median price for a bowl of ramen these days.

Doug Collister asked me what I thought needed improving in the seafood wontons in lobster broth, and I told him “the price.”

Does the decor (if there is any) make up for the high price then?

Who am I, Michael Bauer?

Stripped down, much of it is what I’d call Third Wave Coffeehouse Modern. That’s not a dig, I like all the wood surfaces. But all the Chinoiserie and Kitchen apparatus accents tend to really make it beautiful in the eye of us beholders. If I were John Keats I would write an “Ode on a Shengjian Bao Pan.”

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Well, all I am saying is that one would probably expect to pay more for the same food here:

than here:

regardless of whether one cares for the decor.

But you can’t get wine pairings at Pork Chop House. (Though time was when we would sneak in a poorboy of Red Mountain Burgundy.)

I think the existence of a real cocktail program there leads one to expect higher prices (as with, say, Hakkasan or Mister Jiu). When I went back the other day, the bar area was packed, including people lounging drink in hand at a stand up counter. Surprisingly few Chinese restaurants seem to realize that a good bar can draw in customers to eat who might not otherwise come in to the restaurant, and vice versa. There is a potential synergy there, as with gastropubs.

I suppose they figure people who pay $15 for a cocktail can pay $9 for four shengjian bao or three potstickers. I suspect that restaurants like selling booze not only because it’s an important profit center, but also because it makes palates more forgiving.

Personally I never drink anything stronger than beer (“the wine that goes with everything”).

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold