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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the SF Chowhound community.

Little Sichuan Still Sizzles

Little Sichuan, formerly Little Sichuan Express in Fremont, has new digs in Newark. The food is as good as ever, the new location is bigger and nicer, and there’s no more Styrofoam or plastic forks, says hhc.

Xingjiang stir-fried roasted lamb is tender, with bell pepper, onions, and cumin powder. House special dry-cooked string beans are salty and crispy, and hhc’s favorite. And the hot noodles with spicy peanut sauce are pretty good, too: You get a huge bowl with tiny bits of meat in the spicy sauce.

DezzerSF is another longtime fan, and all his favorite dishes, including the dan dan mien and that stir-fried cumin lamb, are as good as before. Dry sautéed spicy chicken wings still have an “addictive numbing spiciness,” and may even be better than at the previous location. On weekends, brunch includes complimentary soy milk (sugar on the side), and the Chinese doughnuts are light and crisp.

The menu is huge, perhaps a little bigger than it was. Entrées are priced around $5 to $9, which is generally the same as the old location. DezzerSF notes that some fish dishes appear to have increased in cost, while a few others have been reduced.

Little Sichuan [East Bay]
35233 Newark Boulevard Suite F, Newark

Board Links: Little Sichuan Restaurant, Newark report w/ pics
Chowdown at Little Sichuan Express—Report

Alfresco Tamales

Just outside Discolandia Market, a new vendor is selling tamales that rworange says are some of the best she’s had. The masa is “moist, but not too lardy.” The chicken is “lovely, with lots of stewed meat and a nice jalapeño kick.” The above-ordinary pepper and cheese is “intensely hot, with a red sauce.” Weakest, but still pretty good, is the pork tamale, with ground pork in a “mouth-tingly” red sauce. The tamales are $1.50 each, and there is champurrado available, too.

Discolandia Market [East Bay]
787 23rd Street, Richmond

Board Link: Richmond–Discolandia Market and a tale of two tamales … it was the best of tamales … it was the worst of tamales

Chinese Seafood Barbecue

“Whoever is manning S&T’s barbecue station is a master of his/her craft,” says Melanie Wong after trying the roast squab. “Crispy mahogany skin, perfect doneness, and so moist, this was the best roast squab I’ve had in ages.”

She says you also shouldn’t miss the char siu–style pork neck, an off-menu special. It differs from regular char siu by being “much more unctuous (in a good way), and with less discernible fat,” says upvalley. The pieces of pork come on a bed of anise-scented soybeans.

The kitchen’s expertise isn’t limited to barbecue. Melanie says the baby bok choy is top-notch, simply prepared with garlic. Clear-steamed live striper fish is another winner: “The flesh barely pulled off the bones and had the firmness of a recently swimming fish. The fresh sweetness was concentrated in the steamer juices that were delicious enough to drink.”

S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant [Sunset]
2578 Noriega Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Another Dinner @ S & T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant, SF

King Won Ton Kicks It Really Old School

If you caught the Hong Kong episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, you saw jook sing noodles being made the old-fashioned way, with a giant bamboo pole. And based on the picture in the window, that’s how they’re made at the recently opened King Won Ton.

Bamboo or no, the house-made noodles are superlative, says Melanie Wong, who joined a lunchtime crowd with lots of Chinese expats, including a few Hong Kongers who vouched for the wontons. “Silky textured with fluttery tails, the dumplings were filled with coarsely chopped pork and two or three whole shrimp and lived up to their ‘swallowing clouds’ name,” says Melanie, who got shrimp wonton noodle in soup. The noodles, very fine and wiry, were perfectly cooked to a bouncy texture; but the broth was lackluster, tasting more of chicken bouillon than of the sea.

Soft pork-bone lai mein is like a riff on Japanese ramen, which itself is a riff on Chinese noodles, Melanie says. Rich, meaty broth with outstanding noodles—chewy and thick—gets jazzed up with psychedelic fishcake, bamboo shoots, red ginger shreds, half a soy egg, scallions, and wakame. The roasted-then-braised pork “had the smooth succulence and buttery tenderness I love about this cut of meat,” Melanie says; limster picked up “a tiny clovey hint of what I thought was star anise” in the pork, but reports getting mushy noodles.

Xiao Yang says the aromatic beef stew, with very tender meat, has better spicing than that bland broth, and passes on the floor manager’s observation that curry beef noodles are even more popular.

Caveats: the wait at lunch, the disorganized waitstaff, and the less than pristine silverware.

King Won Ton [Sunset]
1936 Irving Street, San Francisco

Board Links: “Bamboo” Noodles (jook sing mein) and Hand-pulled Noodles (lai mein) @ King Won Ton (SF)
Bourdain—No Reservations Hong Kong

Bengali Delights at Rangoli Sweets

Rangoli Sweets specializes in classic Bengali sweets such as chamcham, malai sandwich, sandesh, gulab jamun sandwich, and other hard-to-find delicacies. So far, all are excellent, raves losfelizhound: freshly made and not too sweet.

“Each and every one of the sweets i have tried so far is excellent. usually the problem with indian sweets at least in the us is they are too sweet, or are made from inferior ingredients, or the process lacks the detail of the old country. rangoli has certainly got the right formula—perfect sweetness accompanied with a freshness almost always lacking in most indian sweet stores. people, i kid you not, RUN to rangoli if you haven’t.”

Rangoli Sweets [South Bay]
1584 Halford Avenue, Santa Clara

Board Link: I dream of Rangoli Sweets

Smokin’ Peruvian Chicken

The Peruvian chicken at Fonzie’s is “[o]ne of the best rotisserie chickens I’ve ever had: lemony, dripping with juice, well-spiced and with the best fries—crisp and from Peruvian potatoes,” says rccola. It reportedly holds its own against the birds of Lima, but you definitely don’t want to do takeout: It would ruin the texture of the fries, and probably the chicken skin. Plus, you gotta check out the genuinely Peruvian atmosphere.

Also at Fonzie’s: salchipapa (sliced hot dog over french fries), lúcuma (a tropical fruit) ice cream, and Peruvian-style alfajores.

Fonzie’s Peruvian Chicken [East Bay]
2556 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

Board Link: Fonzie’s Peruvian Chicken

Vietnamese Crepe Greatness

Bánh xèo, the crisp and delicate Vietnamese rice-flour-and-coconut-milk crêpes, are consistently top-notch at Lotus Garden, hounds say. Though susancinsf finds them addictive, she notes that LG’s version is not quite as coco-licious as the formerly great rendition at Binh Minh Quan (sadly gone downhill). Yummy Yummy is her second favorite.

bigwheel042 likes Lotus Garden’s, but prefers the version at Ngoc Mai.

For a Cambodian spin on the dish, daveena recommends Battambang; Hunicsz adds that it’s a great restaurant all around.

Golden Era has surprisingly tasty vegan bánh xèo, says Windy (elsewhere, the filling often contains shrimp and pork).

And Bodega Bistro’s bánh xèo are good, says Robert Lauriston, if not great.

Lotus Garden [Bernal Heights]
3216 Mission Street, San Francisco

Binh Minh Quan [East Bay]
338 12th Street, Oakland

Yummy Yummy [Sunset]
1015 Irving Street, San Francisco

Ngoc Mai Restaurant [Tenderloin]
547 Hyde Street, San Francisco

Battambang [East Bay]
850 Broadway, Oakland

Golden Era Vegetarian [Tenderloin]
572 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco

Bodega Bistro [Tenderloin]
607 Larkin Street, San Francisco

Board Link: Great bánh xèo?

Szechuan Cuisine’s New Trend

Trend Restaurant recently opened in the location that was formerly Wynn’s Chinese restaurant. While its menu also offers Shanghainese and northern dishes, its true specialty is Szechuan food, says Melanie Wong. Apparently the chef previously worked at Great Szechuan in Richmond (at least, if that’s what the server meant by “the restaurant with Ranch 99, north of Berkeley”), and the menu looks quite similar.

Chongqing chicken, served with a pile of dry-toasted chiles and Szechuan peppercorns, is “really cleanly deep-fried and had a wonderful crispy coating and juicy meat,” says Nancy Berry. Melanie Wong notes that it’s worth letting the chicken sit a bit to really absorb the chile-infused oil.

Tasting the garlic A-vegetable, or A-cai, “you can tell this was cooked in a hot wok, smoky,” in the words of Melanie Wong’s brother William. The fresh crunch of the juicy stems and smooth tenderness of the leafy parts remain intact, Melanie says.

Handmade knife-cut noodles with seafood are thick and firm, she continues, and very tasty with the stir-fried caramelized veggies, and chunks of fish, shrimp, and squid. The complementary pickled vegetables in chile oil (pao cai) are also quite good, and there’s house-made chile oil for sale.

Trend Restaurant [Peninsula]
400 Moffett Boulevard, Mountain View

Board Link: Mountain View’s Trend Restaurant: Next Installment of “Find the Sichuan Chef”

Afghan Kebabs, Fresh Off the Grill

Kabob House, an alfresco eatery at San Jose’s Flea Market, makes a mean chapli kebab, says Melanie Wong. This Afghan/Pashtun specialty of grilled ground beef patties studded with scallions is cooked to order, so be prepared to wait. You get two broad, thin patties on a bed of basmati rice cooked with aromatic spices, alongside a tart and spicy mint chutney, fresh, warm Afghan flatbread, and a superfresh salad of sweet red onions, cilantro, and tomatoes.

She also gives due credit to Ken Hoffman, who originally posted about this place back in 2003, bigging up the paprika-laced chicken shawarma.

Kabob House [South Bay]
Corner of 12th and Q, San Jose Flea Market, 1590 Berryessa Road, San Jose
No phone number available

Board Links: Chabli Kabob @ San Jose Flea Market
San Jose Flea Market

Frozen Yogurt Favorites

According to hounds, one of the best places for frozen yogurt in the Bay Area is Clear Optometry. The name is no joke: You can actually have your eyes checked and buy prescription lenses along with your fro-yo. Melanie Wong reckons that the ubiquitous YoCream is used as a base here, but it tastes better somehow. There are just two flavors each day. The litchi that Melanie tasted was very natural and pure, she says. The frozen yogurt is not very tart, says kauz, and some toppings are layered in the middle as well as painstakingly packed on top. artemis was impressed by the generous servings (a small is plenty for two), the perfectly ripe fruit, and the eight flavors of mochi.

Hounds also rated both Fraîche and Harmony. jsaimd prefers the former, saying it’s less sweet and less tangy, but somehow more refreshing. Melanie Wong agrees with the characterization, but she prefers the weightier, tangier Harmony fro-yo above all others. meloncollie loves the fact that Fraîche uses organic, local ingredients, including the yogurt, made fresh each day.

Melanie Wong, who’s been reporting faithfully on frozen yogurt places for weeks, says her top five also includes Gelayo Gusto (which serves gelato too, from Fiorello’s in San Rafael), Snowbunny in Healdsburg (organic Straus yogurt and Clover milk, excels with flavored yogurt), and SoGreen in San Francisco (intense green tea flavor, blended in-house). “What they share … is that they’ve developed their own unique product and one that’s relatively unadulterated and tastes like natural yogurt,” she says. Frutti in Saratoga, she adds, formulates its natural flavor in-house and uses only pectin as an emulsifier.

Clear Optometry [Peninsula]
138 E. Third Avenue, San Mateo

Fraîche [Peninsula]
644 Emerson Street, Palo Alto

Harmony Frozen Yogurt [Peninsula]
1226 Arroyo Avenue, San Carlos

Gelayo Gusto [Peninsula]
856 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Snowbunny Frozen Yogurt [Sonoma]
312 Center Street, Healdsburg

SoGreen Yogurt [Financial District]
Crocker Galleria, 50 Post Street, San Francisco

Frutti Gelato & Yogurt [South Bay]
18562 Prospect Road, Saratoga

Board Link: Best Frozen Yogurt in Bay Area? (a.k.a. “Froyo”)