Eleven of us went last night for a 7:30 reservation in honor of our own Grayelf, CHr from Vancouver (as well as hubby, her "auxilliary stomach"). It was my first time there. The place is tiny, and the three big round tables were still occupied, with no end in sight. There were at least a dozen people waiting for tables, too. We didn't get seated until well after 8, but Ruth had the great idea to order two rounds of juicy dumplings to eat as as we stood on the sidewalk. In no real order of appearance, we had:
64-Westlake Lamb Dumplings
63-Three Flavor Dumplings
7-Parsely Bean Curd
28-Extremely Hot Peppers (and white rice we ordered as an afterthought, feeling we'd need it with the chilis)
62-Peking Beef Pie
47-Hot Braised Beef Tendon
65-Vegetable Pie Peking Style
54-Sour Green Sliced Fish in Warm Pot
55-Stirred Flour Ball with Three Flavor
61-Stirred Shredded Pancakes with Vegetables
46-Fish Fillet with Special Sauce
156-Spinach with Garlic
39-Hot Braised Lamb Ribs (our server urged these on us.)
36-Stirred Potatoes with Chili
71-Peking Cold Noodles with Sesame Paste (we canceled these, as we'd [clearly] over-ordered.)
69-Fried Sweet Cake (I'm assuming this was what they brought us for dessert, on the house.)
My favorites were the lamb dumplings, the Extremely Hot Peppers, the Bean Curd with Parsely (cilantro), and the braised beef tendon. I also really liked, and would have again, the sour green fish, the stirred shredded pancakes, and the potatoes.
The bean curd was a cottage cheese-like mound of fluffiness, very light and refreshing. It went really well with a little chili flake oil stirred in, and when we got the peppers, it went even better with that. The chilis were a combo of dried and fresh, thai chilis and I don't know what else, maybe Habaneros, in a salty sauce. It was also a very pretty dish, with the bright green and red chilis. At first bite, I thought "this isn't that hot!" but the heat built, and i was glad for the rice and the Peking Beef Pie, which I slathered with the chilis. The pie was otherwise a bit bland but had nice texture, not greasy. After a few bites, I'd accustomed myself to the chilis and went back for 3rds and 4ths - they were addictive. I would not come back here without having those chilis!
The braised tendon was meltingly good, in a good thick braise. The sour fish was indeed sour, with an abundance of very thin cellophane noodles (i believe) in a clear broth, and chunks of tofu. Another refreshing dish to me.
The potatoes were undercooked (purposely, i'm told) matchstick slivers, quickly wokked so that they were crispy and light, again, grease-less, with chilis. I looked this up when I got home and the recipe (no idea if authentic) i found was very simple - rice vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, sesame oil and bell pepper. I loved these, although Grayelf said they were actually OVER-cooked, from her past experience with the dish.
When the Vegetable Pie Peking Style arrived I got a whiff of something moldy - like rotting vegetables. On closer inspection, it was the pie! I was told that was Chinese leeks, and were supposed to smell that way, but after the first bite (also moldy tasting), I put mine aside, as did a couple others.
The lamb ribs our server recommended were ok, i liked the chewy consistency of the meat, but the braise was kind of gloopy and one note, sweetish.
The fish fillet with special sauce was basa, which I like, but the sauce was sweet and sour, a bit boring.
The flour balls were like little dense gnocchi, and I couldn't figure out what the three flavors were supposed to be. Didn't love this dish.
The mandarin lamb was good, very cumin-y, but not outstanding to me.
I did like the stirred shredded pancakes, as they tasted like chopped up mu shu with vegetables, without the hoisin.
The spinach with garlic was what you'd expect - garlicky, green, good.
I didn't love the fried sweet cake, which had a bean paste in the middle and was sprinkled with sugar, finding it a bit doughy for my taste.
Some of us had been afraid (yes, i was fearful!) that there would be no alcohol served, being an Islamic establishment, but thankfully, they did have beer (and maybe other such beverages, though I didn't see them on the menu.) Funnily, Boris, upon being seated, found on the floor an empty bottle of brandy, so I guess BYOB is allowed.
The tab for all this excess was about $220, including 6 Tsing Taos. We were overstuffed, and my BF was the lucky recipient of the to go boxes. (speaking of which, there was practically a whole beef pie in one of the boxes - i guess we ordered two but only finished one?)
I'm going to try to attach all the pics but I've never had good luck at doing this, so cross your fingers.
It was good meeting new CHrs and seeing old ones. Thanks, Grayelf, for a) being such an intrepid CHr, (b) coming to our City so often and introducing me to places I might not normally try, and (c) just being you! Thanks to Ruth, also, for making the arrangements for us, and for having the brilliant idea to feed us during our wait, thereby keeping us from becoming cranky CHrs.
Old Mandarin Islamic
3132 Vicente Street
(betw. 42nd and 43rd Aves.)
Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116