Since the 1960s, the Bay Area's repertoire of Chinese dishes has continued to expand beyond its Cantonese roots. Just in the past three years, multiple restaurants specializing in underrepresented foods from Xinjiang and Shaanxi have opened, and dishes from Guangxi, Wuhan, and Jiangxi have become available. You could eat at Bay Area Chinese restaurants every night for a month, devoting each meal to a different region of China, ethnic group, or international community, and never repeat a restaurant or style.
To help make sense of the diversity of Chinese cuisine available in the Bay Area, this project aims to document restaurants that specialize in a regional, or ethnic-based, Chinese sub-cuisine, or at least have uncommon regional dishes. The list is a superficial treatment, but it will point you to over 300 restaurants whose specialities fall outside the general Cantonese or Chinese American umbrellas.
Regions of course don't live in a vacuum, and a chef's pedigree (or menu) says nothing of their skills at making regional dishes. Treat these categories as rough guidance, and be warned the list includes outstanding restaurants and real stinkers. For a more in-depth discussion of a restaurant or regional cuisine, and to help separate restaurant specialities from fool's gold, check out linked discussions on Hungry Onion or start a new discussion to get the ball rolling. I've also included links to Chowhound discussions and journalist reviews, and each restaurant is linked to Yelp for address and location info. For more background on cuisines/dishes, I recommend looking through Carolyn Phillips' website and book on regional Chinese cuisine, All Under Heaven. Her Vice article is an excellent primer. Also check out Clarissa Wei's regional Chinese guide to LA.
Some Cantonese sub-categories are included, but let's focus on Cantonese (i.e., Guangdong) and Hong Kong in other posts since they form the foundation of the Bay Area's Chinese cuisine, and have lots of specialty shops worthy of their own discussions (e.g., dim sum, desserts, meats, etc.).
Please add new discoveries and let us know if anything has been mis-characterized, especially if a place's menu doesn't reflect the purported region. This initial post is a wiki, so I can update it with your tips to keep things current. As of November, there have been 61 openings and 29 closings in 2016 and a few restaurants entered the list because they adopted a regional focus.
Version 2.0 of this list is on Chowhound.
Shaanxi / Xi'an 西安 (all have wide hand-ripped noodles, most have liang pi. See also the hand-pulled noodle primer)
Shaanxi wide ripped, biangbiang noodles, a few Shaanxi items but not a Shaanxi-focussed menu
Northwest 西北 / Uighur 维吾尔族 / Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region 新疆维吾尔自治区
See Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid's book, Beyond the Great Wall
Uyghur ئۇيغۇر تائاملىرى restaurants
Some Xinjiang dishes available at:
- See the hand-pulled noodle primer for places with Lagman aka Legman aka Xinjiang ban mian 拌面 aka Latiaozi 拉条子 aka Shou lamian 手拉麵.
Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles
Tibet Autonomous Region 西藏自治区
Northeast / Dongbei / 东北 / 東北
Full menu restaurants
Shao Kao (skewer) restaurants featuring Shenyang items
Shandong 山东 / 山東
Shandong owner and/or food, with no direct nod to Korea.
Shandong &/or Chinese Korean
Shandong dishes with Hangul on the menu. All have black zha jiang mian
Geographical usage here, but note that the terms "Mandarin Chinese" and "Northern Chinese" are sometimes used as all-inclusive terms to describe that which is not Cantonese or Cantonese-American.
Tan Family Cuisine / Tanjia Cai 譚家菜
See China Daily (article).
Royal Feast (Millbrae) Chef Liu was the executive chef at Beijing Grand Hotel, and Melanie Wong found him here after savoring his food at China Village and in Fresno. See CH thread and Chowdown report.
Islamic Chinese 清真 / Hui 回族
Inner Mongolia 内蒙古
Northern with noodle specialities, unknown or non-specific region (might actually be Shandong or Dongbei)
Other Northern and Jiaozi /dumplings (might actually be Shandong or Dongbei)
Other Northern, descendant/affiliated with restauranteur, Qinghe Li (h/t @souperman)
Shanghai 上海 / Jiangsu 江蘇 / Huaiyang 淮揚菜 / Zhejiang 浙江 / Jiangnan 江南
See Fuchsia Dunlop's book Land of Fish and Rice
Mix of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang
Jai Yun (SF Chinatown) Nanjing chef Nei Chia Ji offers a multi-course, reservation only meal. CH; Lucky Peach
Wuxi 無錫 and Suzhou 苏州
Skyview Noodle Tea (Pittsburg) HO has 安徽牛肉板面 Anhui Beef Plate Noodles. According to Melanie Wong's CH post, the dish is popular across China. They have owners from Shandong and a chef from Dongbei.
Wuhan 武汉 / Hubei 湖北
Guangxi / Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 广西壮族自治区
See also Fuchsia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.
Hunan dry pot
Sichuan 四川 and Chongqing 重慶
Sichuan dishes are popular on non-Cantonese menus, but these restaurants are more focussed. Many of these have dry pot options too. See also Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty and the Hungry Onion Sichuan/Chongqing noodles thread.
Ancient Szechuan (El Cerrito) CH, CH
Apple Green Bistro (Cupertino)
Boiling Beijing (San Bruno) CH, CH
CBI Chili BBQ Icedtea (Milpitas)
Chengdu Style Restaurant (Berkeley) HO; CH
- Chef Zhao Bistro (San Mateo, Mountain View) HO; CH, CH
Chef Z's (San Jose) CH Chef from Chongqing and Kunming (Yunnan)
Chili House (SF Inner Richmond) / Z&Y (SF Chinatown) HO; CH, CH, CH; Michael Bauer Owner/Chef Han Lijun formerly of Beijing International Hotel
Chili Pot (Cupertino) CH Former Chef Ma's chef
China Lounge (Pleasanton) CH
China Village (Albany) owner of Shandong heritage, Shandong dishes mainly by special order HO, HO; CH, CH
Da Sichuan (Palo Alto) HO; CH
Dongbei Mama (SF Inner Richmond) CH
Fang Yuan (SF Park Merced) HO
Fey Restaurant (Menlo Park) CH, CH
Grand Hot Pot Lounge (SF Inner Richmond) / Hunan House (SF Chinatown) CH, CH
Hong's Szechuan (Outer Sunset)
Hunan House (SF Chinatown) / Grand Hot Pot Lounge (SF Inner Richmond) CH, CH
JX Cuisine (Santa Clara) CH
Kung Fu Noodles some Sichuan-style noodles, sister restaurant to Chile Garden
Little Sichuan (San Mateo) CH
Little Sichuan Restaurant (Newark)
Little Szechuan (SF North Beach) CH
- Lulu's Kitchen (Concord, Dublin) CH
Mama Ji's (SF Castro, dinner menu) CH Hoodline. Profile of owner Lily Ji, who is from Chengdu, on SFGate
Maple Restaurant (Outer Mission SF) CH
New Cooking Style (Dublin)
New Ming's (SF SoMa) Steam-plate Cantonese/Chinese American w/ Sichuan menu items
Redwood Bistro (Redwood City) HO Scaled back menu compared the Leshan originating chef's time at 5-A's
Royal Feast (Millbrae) CH, CH
Sichuan Fortune House (Pleasant Hill) CH
Sichuan Fusion (Richmond) HO; CH
Sichuan Home (SF Inner Richmond) CH
Sichuan House (Walnut Creek) CH
South Legend Sichuan Restaurant (Milpitas) Chongqing owner, Chengdu chef
Sichuan Style formerly King Tsin (Berkeley) HO, HO; Luke Tsai
Spices (SF Inner Richmond) Hoodline also has stinky tofu
Spices III (Oakland) CH, CH and hot pot sister restaurant also has stinky tofu. Chef from Chengdu.
Spicy Garden Restaurant (SF SoMa) HO
Szechuan Chili (San Jose) aka Ba Shu Feng USA
Tofu Village (Inner Sunset) CH Chef from Chengdu
Yi Ping ( San Ramon)
Yi Yuan (Millbrae) / Yummy Szechuan (Millbrae) HO; CH, CH Chef Hu Wen Jun trained at Shijiazhuang Culinary Academy in Hebei
Yummy Szechuan (Millbrae) / Yi Yuan (Millbrae) HO; CH, CH Chef Hu Wen Jun trained at Shijiazhuang Culinary Academy in Hebei
Yu Palace (Milpitas)
Z&Y (SF Chinatown) / Chili House (SF Inner Richmond) HO, HO ; CH, CH, CH; Michael Bauer Owner/Chef Han Lijun formerly of Beijing International Hotel
Chongqing & Sichuan
These restaurants promote that their owners or chefs are trained in Chongqing, or refer to a large number of dishes as being Chongqing or 山城 ("mountain city") style.
Sichuan dry pot 干锅
Dry pot is available as a part of many Sichuan, Hunan, and other restaurant menus. These restaurants appear to specialize in dry pot.
Chongqing hot pot
Sichuan hot pot
Yunnan 雲南 / 云南
The following have no indicators of a Yunnan kitchen (I think they're all Cantonese/Hong Kong), but I'll list because they serve a few dishes containing Mixian noodles:
Teochew 潮洲 / Chiuchow / Chaozhou / Teo Chow / Chinjiew
See also The Cleaver Quarterly's article on Teoswa cuisine.
Teochew etc. / Vietnamese
My understanding is that these reflect the cuisine of Teochew speaking people who immigrated to the US from Southeast Asia.
See also the Hakka Cookbook.
Taiwanese 臺灣 / 台灣
See also bubble tea, shaved ice, Taiwanese fried chicken and various Taiwanese bakeries and desserts.
Taiwanese "military dependent's village cuisine"
See description of this cuisine on Chowhound
Cantonese 粵 / Guangdong 廣東 / 广东 subsets and offshoots
See KK's Regional Cantonese primer. Some scattered Shunde and Zhongshan Cantonese dishes in Millbrae at Gourmet Village, the Kitchen, Zhong Shan Restaurant (SF Parkside), and Champagne restaurant (San Mateo).
See also dim sum, Cantonese seafood, Chinese bakeries, Chinese BBQ or roast meats, wo choy, clay pot, banquet, congee / jook / porridge, Taishan / Toishan, Cha Chaan Teng, HK Cantonese, Hong Kong cafe, Hong Kong western cuisine, and restaurants Yum's Bistro and Cooking Papa.
Macanese 澳門 / 澳门
See also hot pot, dry pot, and Chinese hybrid cuisines such as Peranakan / Nonya (Singapore / Malaysian Chinese), and of course Chinese American, American Chinese, the elusive "NY Cantonese", Kosher Chinese, Chinese fusion.
Chinese Vegetarian (notables)
Indian / Desi Chinese
Chifa / Peruvian Chinese
Shao Kao 烧烤 / Chinese Skewers 串
See Chowhound and SF Chronicle coverage. Many of these have Dongbei side dishes and soups.
Hot pot, unknown or non-specific region
Please open a new thread if you have info on these places!
That's a lot of restaurants, but there's still room to grow, both in terms of diversity and quality. As of February 2017, there's only a Yunnan or Fujian/Hokkien dish here or there, and nothing from various other places. Many are excited about the recent opening of Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung in San Jose and two new options in SF Chinatown: Mister Jiu's, a Michelin one-star restaurant which serves a contemporary, seasonal California take on Cantonese cuisine, and George Chen's upcoming (2017) mixed use China Live.