Favorite Chinese restaurant in SF proper?

What is everyone’s favorite Chinese restaurant in SF proper?

No other criteria necessary. Anywhere in SF proper: Richmond, Sunset, Chinatown, wherever. Any price point. Any region of Chinese cuisine.

My brother-in-law is visiting next month and wanted me to make a reservation at China Live but upon further investigation (reports on the forum) I’m really not into the plan. I’d like to propose an alternative. I don’t care where or what it is. Just Chinese and accessible within SF limits.

I’m leaning away from exclusively dim sum focused menus just because I think we could do better and it would be nice to introduce more interesting flavors and dishes that he may not have come across - or may not have been as well executed, if he has - but it’s all still up in the air so feel free to suggest otherwise!

Please list off your top 3 favorite Chinese restaurants in SF!

Terra Cotta Warrior would be my top pick. In addition to cooking well, it has a relatively short menu. Things different from Americanized (Canadianized? :slight_smile: ) Chinese or stereotyped Cantonese include use of spices (chilis & cumin), lamb, cold acidic vegetable starters which add balance to the meal, hand pulled wide noodles. Also, not as oily as Sichuan food, which turns off some people, and good for vegetarians or people not as into offal or seafood.

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Thanks and good choice! I’ve ordered in from Postmates a few times but I don’t think that I’ve ever been in person, so that would be fun. I’m going to offer it as a suggestion.

I’m looking forward to other’s responses too—- we all talk about places we like, but you get real perspective when people are limited to what they think is best.

BTW, If you pick something in Chinatown, you can always go China Live after for desserts or cocktails. It’s a nice, not terribly crowded, space and your brother can pick up spices, fancy soy sauce, etc. if he’d be into that. I did that after a mixed meal at Z & Y last month, and it was a fun way to end the evening.

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You can do Dragon Beaux in the evening- and nail hotpot and dimsum at the same time.

If your BIL is coming from Toronto/ Vancouver, I’d suggest skipping Cantonese. I don’t really know how Chinese food is like in Montreal. If its anywhere else, then Cantonese/ dimsum may not be such a bad idea. Dimsum especially if you don’t have a large group of people.

I was trying to book Jai Yun a couple of months ago but was told that the chef was on vacation and that he would decide Jai Yun’s future when he returned. If the chef decided to keep going, then it may be an interesting option.

Or, maybe chain together a few restaurants for a full day Chinatown crawl?
Hon’s-Chongqing Xiao Mian- dimsum, GG Bakery, and finally back to Z&Y/ R&G for dinner.

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I’m with @hyperbowler on Terra Cotta Warrior, and @sck on Dragon Beaux for hotpot. Willy Ng has been putting out the best hotpot, especially seafood hotpot, I’ve experienced here or in China since his Happy Valley days. It’s a far cry from Little Sheep (which MTL had long before ST).

Z&Y or Chili House might be an option if your BIL likes spicy food; Chef Han has a pretty deft touch with the oil (as much as he can; oil is to Sichuan cuisine what soy sauce is to Shanghainese).

Speaking of Shanghainese, Bund Shanghai is decent, and the chef at Shanghai Cuisine on Balboa puts out excellent home-style Wuxi-inflected Shanghainese.

Personally, I think China Live would be a good option for lunch, if only for the novelty of the layout and the appetizers (get the pork buns). Another lunch option would be Chongqing Xiao Mian, for a single hit of super spicy fare if that’s what your BIL wants. An additional off-the-beaten-track (location-wise and cuisine-wise) for lunch option would be the Vietnamese/Teo Chiew noodle paradise Hai Ky Mi Gia. Get the duck leg with wide egg noodles.

Have you considered Mr. Jiu’s, or is it not Chinese enough?

For the record, when I think of Montreal chinatown, I think of three things: lobster, lobster, and lobster. :slight_smile:


I think walking in that store area would be great after Chinatown, but I heard good things from friends about the cocktails at Mister Jiui’s as well.

In reference to Chinatown, I suggest getting some egg custards at Golden Gate Bakery if you want a pastry in the evenings (usually less crowded than the afternoon). Another somewhat fun activity might be checking out the fortune cookie factory if you’re in the area. They also have a dragon beard’s candy maker on Grant ave so you can always just stare when they do a demonstration (not sure if that is weekend only though)

I ate a few times in the Chinatown corridor in Montreal. The Cantonese cuisine there does not compare at all to the ones you’d find in Toronto (or well… Richmond Hill/Markham). I’d say it feels like the 90s in terms of cooking. There were a few HK style cafes in Montreal as well, but I think the ones in SF Bay Area do a better job. If they are from Vancouver/Toronto… I’d probably go for more SF/West Coast dishes than Chinese.

Hmmm if you’re asking about favorite restaurants for what I would typically eat or if I’m showing people around? In any case, I have a heavy lean towards HK cuisine so I’m just going to rattle off those

For a typical weekend (when I’m usually around to eat in SF), I like to go to Ming Tai Wun-Tun Noodles for a more traditional Chinese breakfast. I think they do a good job on their congee and their wontons are pretty good (I’ve yet to find the trifecta of good broth, good wonton, and good noodles). They have a few HK-style breakfast items, however I’d usually go next door for that. Assuming Ming Tai is way too full or I want HK style breakfast, I’m going to Tak Kee Lee for their cha chan tang breakfast items (macaroni and ham in soup, etc.).

Regarding dim sum I tend to lean toward Dragon Beaux lately if I’m in SF. If I’m in Chinatown, I do prefer going towards Lai Hong Lounge. Broadway cafe branched out from just congee and they’re doing some dim sum items as well. However if your friend wants to see the larger, cart pushed types of dim sum I can only think of New Asia for that.

Dinner wise… huh that’s a good question. I mean if you want to see old school in Chinatown, there’s New Woey Loy Goey restaurant that’s down in the cellar area… but hmm… I’d lean towards like Hong Kong Lounge or HKL 2 for dinner (though I find them pricey). If within Chinatown, I’d go towards Lai Hong Lounge.

Actually, you haven’t really answered this question, but how many people will you be dining with?

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FWIW, Montreal’s Chinatown has had a dragon’s beard candy shop for more than 25 years as one of its top draws, so it wouldn’t be much of a novelty for the BIL,


Oh that makes sense. and… wait, where did he say his brother in law came from Montreal?

He didn’t. But @Oliverb is from Montreal and I assumed that his BIL at least was familiar with Montreal and Montreal’s Chinatown. You can blame brother @sck for planting that thought in my head. :slight_smile:

John Chinn’s dragon beard candy shop on R. De la Gauchetière, the main drag through the “Quartier Chinois” is as famous a Chinatown landmark in Montreal as (if not more so than) Grant Avenue’s Golden Gate Bakery is in San Francisco.

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Yeah perhaps hes not even a Canadian. Perhaps he’s from …Sacramento!

I agree that Z&Y has a deft touch with oil. Most of the issues I had with a recent meal involved toning down of spice heat, but the cooking was good overall. I need to return and specifically ask them to ramp up the heat.

I think you meant “Jiangnan Cuisine” rather than Shanghai Cuisine. That place deserves lines out the door.

Note that Mister Jiu’s bar is far more crowded than China Live’s. That’s a good or a bad thing depending on what kind of scene the OP’s BIL is interested in.

I like both that one, and the Shanghai Noodle House too on Geary that you wrote about.

Scene? Then you really can’t beat a place like New Woey Loy Goey or New Lun Ting. I haven’t been, but Kam Lok may be just as fine. The OP’s BIL may even pick up a swear word or two while eating.

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Correct, I meant Jiangnan Cuisine. The chef’s cooking style is so similar to my wife’s (she is Wuxiren by way of Shanghai) that it seems to epitomize home-style Shanghainese to me.

Mr. Jiu’s cocktails are TOO popular. While it’s theoretically possible to eat at the bar, it’s usually packed two deep with people waiting for their table and techies who could care less about the food enjoying their $15 cocktails.

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Nothing fancy but one of my favorite is the New Woey Luy Kee on the corner of Jackson and Grant in the basement. One of the oldest places in Chinatown.

Actually I quite like their steamed meat patty (I think… with duck liver sausage if I’m not mistaken) and their steamed catfish with black bean sauce.

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You are right about that. Its roots go back to 1903 or earlier. In the early 60’s Woey Loy Goey kept me alive with its 10 cent baked pork buns, and an occasional splurge for its mountainous platters of roast pork over rice.

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Sorry for the late response and thanks for all the great feedback!!!

I’ll just respond to everything in this post…

We love Dragon Beaux for dimsum (hands down favorite within city limits) but haven’t been for hotpot yet. We can only do lunch because my BIL is driving up north somewhere and just stopping in SF for a couple of hours, so dinner menus and dinner hours are not option.

BIL is from Orange County btw… My wife’s a California girl through & through!

The very first meal that I ever ate with my wife (before we were even dating!) was at Jai Yun. It was literally the night we met. I think it since moved locations but it would still be fun to go back sometime and see what it’s like. It’s not a lunch choice though.

As far as Chinatown crawl… it sounds like fun and my wife and I have done that before (we’re on Van Ness and Clay so it’s a stone’s throw) but I’m not so sure that would be my in laws speed; at least not for this quick visit.

I have to say that I probably won’t ever go back to R&G though. I had the house special crab last winter and I never got so immediately sick from eating out before. I couldn’t even make it home on the bus; we had to hop off because I was feeling too nauseous. I could still taste it, ugh. It could’ve just been the heavy fried batter and oil. Maybe I’d go back but I would never touch that crab again… or anything fried for that matter.

Z&Y is always good, we’re regulars although my wife thinks its gone downhill in the past couple of years. She likes spicy but tones it down. My one main hang up with Z&Y is the amount of cilantro they dump in everything, even when I request them not to. I know its part of Chinese food culture but its also public enemy number one in my culinary book. Anyhow, I find Z&Y, like most SF Chinese, can be really good if you order selectively and really bad if you don’t. Our last visit we had a really disappointing Peking duck.

Chili House - ordered lunch there the other day! I got tantanmen, prok mapo tofu, and their spicy + Beijing dumplings/potstickers. Everything was pretty good for a delivery order and I’d definitely like to try it in person.

Mr. Jiu pretty sure is dinner only and I could be mistaken but I was under the impression that it was pretty expensive/fancy… not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re going to be down in New Orleans next month, so I’d prefer to not splurge on this meal. I’ve heard good things about their cocktails though and I’ve been meaning to just swing by their bar w/ my wife on a Sunday evening when it’s not too busy.

BTW, I LOVE Cantonese Lobster w/ ginger shallots… it’s the only truly good thing about Chinese in Montreal! Well, that and late night dining!! My friends who now all live in Toronto --which I agree has far superior Chinese and Asian food in general compared to MTL-- used to have a loft space on St-Laurent and they’d screen 16mm films on weekends. We used to regularly stumble over to Keung Kee (Cantonese upstairs above Beijing Rest-old Chinatown institution) at 1:00 in the morning when it was just the staff lounging around the dining room and order lobsters and beer! :slight_smile:

There’s supposed to be a new hot spot for Chinese pancakes in MTL these days, although I’m not all that inclined to to go for Chinese when we visit. I was surprised to find that Ottawa actually has pretty good Chinese. My wife and I drove down for something a few years ago and had some really kickass dimsum in Ottawa’s one and a half block stretch of “Chinatown”. I forget the name of the place but it was a real cramped, greasy hole in the wall and some of the dishes rivaled the best we’ve had in SF!

OT but is there any place that does Cantonese lobster sauce (and does it well?) in this city? It could be served with shrimp or whatever.

Oh, I forgot to post the frustrating conclusion to this thread…

I sent many of these suggestions to my BIL the other day and he wrote back:

“I would rather go to a place that has a cool/hip/memorable environment.”


Is China Live a “hip” environment?? It’s no Empress!!

I guess he’s set on CL but c’mon, it’s a room you eat in, man!

What’s good other than the pork buns, deserts and cocktails?

See, my Sacramento guess is not that far off!

China Live then.

But then again, New Woey Loey Guey is pretty memorable to anyone who’s unfamiliar :smiley:

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