“Reading the regular menu you would never know that this place had fantastic Taiwanese, Shanghai, and Northern Chinese food, but they sure do,” says Kmanlove of Five Happiness. It requires some investigation to find out about those specialties—make it clear you want to go beyond the usual Chinese-American fare.
Taiwanese squid soup has amped-up flavor from caramelized shallots and black vinegar, and is chock full of squid and veggies. Red-braised pork shoulder achieves greatness, Kmanlove says: “The jiggly layer of fat combined with the succulent, fork tender meat below.”
There is also a wonderful preparation of Dungeness crab, Shanghai style. It comes in a slightly spicy sauce with Shanghai rice cakes, which are good for mopping.
Noodle lovers should check out the Shanxi hand-cut noodles (#42 on the menu: Shansi mu shu chow mein). Stir-fried with thin slivers of pork, cabbage, carrots, scallions, and scrambled eggs for extra savory depth, the irregularly cut noodles are chewy and the cabbage is well-seared from the wok.
Peking duck is good, if not refined, adds david kaplan, with rich, meaty duck and “amazing” housemade pancakes. “The duck style seemed rustic in the sense of the skin and meat being cut in big, graceless slabs, and the pancakes were inelegantly thick, but neither was a problem since the thick pancakes, slabs of meat, and fatty skin were all in the right proportions when wrapped up together.”
The restaurant always does a good job with cold appetizers, like drunken chicken, smoked fish, vegetarian duck, and jellyfish salad, says Xiao Yang.
Five Happiness [Richmond District]
4142 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco