In a major win for SF’s central neighborhoods, a former Chili House chef is making Beijing style dumplings, buns, noodles, and sweet items in the former Lower Haight Wonderland space. You can see her (doh, I didn’t catch her name) making things by hand through a glass window en route to the bathrooms.
The beef button pies (men ding rou bing) had a bready dough dense enough to seal in meat and a spoonful of boiling hot juices— be careful, even after a few minutes of cooling! The “men ding” in the name refers to “a round headed metal decoration on the gate (of a palace, temple, etc.)” Fans of the no longer available fish buns at Royal Feast will find their construction familiar. The preparation is fresh and didn’t have the desiccated outsides like the frozen and pressed/grilled versions at Dim Sum USA (original Beijing chef at Chili House, Chef Wang, owned that and is now at the Beijing 49er pop-up in Chinatown restaurant).
The flattened cigar-shaped Beijing potstickers 褡裢火烧 had a similar bready rather than pasta-y dough as the button pies. The filling was juicy but not gushing, so more kid/user-friendly.
Beijing sauce noodles (zha jiang mian) were great— savory and salty, with plenty of chopped meat, sliced garlic, and cucumber strips to cling to the chewy 1 ft. plus long handmade noodles.
I’d also highly recommend the fish dumplings— wrappers cooked evenly and filling plump and not too salty.
I neglected to order a vegetable dish, and jealously eyed the generous portion of steamed broccoli that accompanied a neighboring table’s General Tso‘s.
Parking on a Friday afternoon was way easier than Mama Ji’s in the Castro, so I’ll return here again next time I’m at the Randall Museum. Another new nearby option on Haight is Purple Rice, which makes an impressive kim chi pancake.
The menu lost a few items from a soft opening menu I saw in on yelp, but I don’t know for sure they’re out of soft opening mode yet.
Yeah, so with her gone, how are the similar items at Chili House?