SF Chinatown Lunch ?

I have been to both places before. I just don’t think Yee’s Restaurant is on the same level as King Tin. I put King Tin in the best of its class – far superior to Yang’s or Sam Wo. Sam Wo was not even good to be honest (my opinion). It was just cheap.

Assuming I didn’t mix up the names, I personally do not consider Hunan House to be best in its category. I like Hunan Home better. Overall, I just think the quality of SF Chinatown restaurants has gone down.

I have been to NY Flushing Chinatown occasionally and it is far less Cantonese-orientated than SF Chinatown, and I enjoyed its food scene very much. So, I don’t think it has anything to do me being partial to Cantonese cuisine.

I guess you and I just have different opinions on this.

Henry Hunan in north beach (grant ave) has a more traditional menu. I’m satisfied enough with wonderful and that place in parkside that I’ve been there. Has anyone tried it?

Hunan house is mediocre.

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Ah, but the discussion was about Chinatown. Henry’s Hunan on Grant is not in Chinatown. Neither is the mother ship on Sansome, technically, so I guess we’re comparing Hunan House with Hunan Home’s and the wretched Brandy Ho’s.

ICYMI, here’s the remnants of the website of the guy that ate his way through Henry’s entire menu and reviewed and rated each item.


I think the original conversation from the originally poster was indeed about SF Chinatown. However, you and I started to discuss about the overall quality of Chinatown restaurants. In this sense, we were talking about the Chinese restaurants in SF Chinatown in the larger picture. For example, I consider Hunan House not to be top of its own category. What it means is that it isn’t that great compared to other Hunan restaurants - in my opinion. So that is probably why hyperbowler made his comment.

Of course, this is just my opinion. Most other people may not share this idea. However, if you can entertain my logic for a second… This is why I think the overall quality of SF Chinatown restaurants has slipped a bit in the last 20 years.

Over the past 20 years the quality of Cantonese food in Chinatown may or may not have improved. That’s the time frame in which my palate has been retuned by being fed a steady diet of homestyle Shanghainese food.

If you compare today’s Cantonese food with that of 50 years ago, it has definitely improved, at least based on what my standbys were. I’m embarassed to think what high regard I had for Yee Jun, Universal, Sam Wo (though I probably never ate there sober), Sun Tai Sam Yuen and Woey Loy Goey (though its roast pork rice platters were epic).

I hope David Chan will weigh in on this. His opinions on this bear more weight than yours or mine, I’d vouchsafe.

The issue with Cantonese food in Chinatown, or Bay Area in general is that, over the last 20 years, Bay Area has not been a popular place that immigrants from Hong Kong and around migrate to. The richer citizens in Hong Kong left Hong Kong en masse after 6/4/1989 to Toronto, Vancouver, and to a lesser extent other English-speaking western countries because they lost confidence in the Chinese government with what happened at the Tiananman Square. They call Vancouver ‘Hongcouver’ because of the high number of HKers showing up. In the US, I think LA has been a more popular destination for immigrants from Hong Kong versus the Bay Area in recent years. Where the Bay Area receive HK immigrants, its not Chinatown but the burbs like the north end of the Peninsula. (To be fair cantonese food is not all HK, but HK has a major influence on this cuisine)

The Chinatown Cantonese food is ok. But its not at the forefront of Cantonese innovation and the restaurants are serving very standard Cantonese dishes. The place that I mentioned earlier- New Woey Loy Goey, I enjoy it because its classic Cantonese comfort food, the environment reminds me of old style cantonese restaurants, and I can enjoy on average a satisfying meal (to me) at a low price point if I work around there (and I have in the past). But there are restaurants of similar caliber in the Bay Area. But because Bbulkow’s working near Chinatown, its an interesting place to try.

Is there a place in sf chinatown where I can get this crispy pan fried rice noodle dish?

That’s a well-known argument, but is based on the fallacy that coming through Hong Kong makes the chefs or the tastes of the diners superior. Although Vancouver and Toronto have a lot of chefs from HK, San Francisco was, and is, a popular destination for chefs directly from Guangdong, including Shunde. Most of the Cantonese chefs and cooks in Chinatown learned to cook in their homeland (or at cooking school that existed in Chinatown in the 50s) and were never impacted by the tastes of Hong Kongers.

I spent three months working in HK in 1997, and to me it seemed to me that while the Chinese food there was very good at the lowest end (i.e. street food) and at the high end, there were was a lot of mediocre fare in the mid-range places. It’s a seller’s market over there, and at 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening people would be lined up at the neighborhood restaurants (in Kowloon, where I worked and stayed) that wouldn’t have attracted extraordinary notice in San Francisco’s Chinatowns.

Even if one accepts the notion that Hong Kong’s most celebrated chefs migrated to Canada, not the U. S., the argument for their food’s superiority is grounded in an auteur theory of cooking Chinese food which not all lovers of traditional Chinese food will accept. The word “innovation” is a smoking gun in that argument, if you ask me. Innovation isn’t necessarily improvement (just ask almost any Chinese who has eaten at Mission Chinese Food). Lettuce cups and walnut prawns do not represent the apex of Cantonese cuisine, and the Chinese did not invent mayonnaise.

My thoughts are best demonstrated by the fact that we visit San Francisco 3 or 4 times a year, always stay at the Royal Pacific Motor Inn in Chinatown (to be close to the shopping on Stockton St.) and never eat dinner in Chinatown. Indeed, the only meals we take in Chinatown are breakfast, plus lunch at whatever restaurant may have opened since our last visit to keep my streak of eating at every Chinese restaurant in Chinatown alive. . (If none, we lunch elsewhere.) Don’t consider this an indictment of San Francisco Chinatown food, though, since it’s the same story in other historic Chinatowns. Indeed, with two destination restaurants (in my opinion) in San Francisco Chinatown (Lai Hong Lounge dim sum and Z&Y), that exceeds the combined total of Los Angeles Chinatown (none) and Manhattan Chinatown (Cafe Hong Kong). The fact is that these Chinatowns serve the dual purpose of ethnic theme park and support a local Chinese community of lesser economic means than those who move to suburbia, and means relatively slim pickings from a Chinese culinary point of view. On an absolute scale I’d say that Chinese food in Chinatown is better than 20 years ago. But that’s because of the evolution of better dishes (e.g., 1990s Cantonese fillet steak vs. today’s French cut filet mignon). However, on a relative basis the gap between Chinatown and the suburbs has grown in that time period making Chinatown a less desirable option.

I think about the phenomenon differently. The waves of immigration in the 90’s to Canada were primarily because Canada allowed one to become citizen when one invested a certain number of dollar into the economy and hired certain number of Canadian citizens. Not everyone who went opened up restaurants of course, but those who did, in addition to Canadian citizens they hired for the business, hired also talented chefs from Hong Kong. It was said that there was a drain in cooking talent in HK

In the same time period Guangzhou province underwent a huge economic transformation. Talented chefs from that area got many opportunities in China as the populace had more disposable income and ate out more. The talents didn’t have to travel to SF.

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OP here - I was asking because I don’t think of Chinatown as an eating destination either, and other than R&G and X&Y and Bund Shanghai don’t have destinations on my eating list. Because I’ve done most of my Chinese eating in Millbrea and Milipitas and San Mateo… etc.

Nice following discussion, although irrelevant to me. I want to eat at a few of the best to build my own opinion — then I can chime in :smile:

I think SF Chinatown still has something nice and unique, but in my opinion, it isn’t as good as it once was, and if you are talking about higher end and more refined dining, then the suburban offers much better choices. This is not the case for other Chinatowns. I find Flushing (NY) Chinatown food quality to be quiet high. Flushing has much better non-Cantonese restaurants. Just the tiny Golden Mall alone houses 6-7 different and yet good quality low price Chinese regional cuisines:

You may like Washington Bakery. It isn’t anything which will blow your mind, but it is solid place. Good luck and have fun. :slight_smile:

While Flushing is hardly suburban, Flushing Chinatown is more akin to the suburban Chinatowns of the San Gabriel Valley and Bay Area. Historic Chinatowns like LA, SF. Manhattan, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, DC were founded in the 19th century by Toishanese/Cantonese immigrants. Flushing, on the other hand, is a post-1965 immigration reform act Chinatown with little Cantonese input, which explains the limited Cantonese food options there. Note, however, that even in Flushing your banquet facilities are Cantonese. (Whether they’re operated by Cantonese, or not, is a different matter.) It’s just that smaller Cantonese restaurants are hard to come by.

Love Bund Shanghai! Best XLB I’ve had in SF. Also many other super things. On Jackson a few storefronts off Grant.

I was actually a bit disappointed by the XLB and the other two types of dumplings we ordered. Now, I’ve not have XLB elsewhere in SF, but much better ones in Philly. At Bund, the skins were coming apart, and I didn’t find them as flavorful as other versions.

Also, the pork & chive dumplings as well as the shrimp and chive dumplings were kinda meh.

Fine for a hangover breakfast, but not a place to which I’d return. There’s got to be a better place for dumplings in SF (?).

Ooh, I’m so sorry about the XLB :frowning: I’ve only had them at one other place - Shanhai Dumpling King IIRC out in the Richmond. I make such a distinction between XLB (Shanghainese) and dim sum (Cantonese) that I’ve never considered ordering other dumpling at Bund Shanghainese. We had an insanely good pork shank once, dan dan noodles, pork belly with tofu knots and other things that I can’t recall right now. Attached are a couple of pix.

ETA: They’re not in the league with DTF but as good as what I’ve had in NYC

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17 posts were split to a new topic: Xiao Long Bao/ Tang Bao discussion

Have not had this dish in Chinatown but the closest is in Millbare at Tai Wu has it. You can ask if you have a favorite in Chinatown. It not that had to make. I have had home made ones before and was told it was easy to make.


Let me know if you find anything (restaurants) nice. I will likely visit SF Chinatown in a week or two.

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr