Well...I took an out-of-town visitor to Yank Sing yesterday and was disappointed--almost to the point of being embarrassed for having recommended it. I hadn't been there in about a year. This time, the service was indifferent and rude. We had a reservation, yet had to wait 20 minutes to be seated.
Perhaps I am ignorant about the way the whole thing with the carts is supposed to work, but I don't remember similar problems in the past. The carts would come out of the kitchen in waves--all at once, and then long, uncomfortable of gaps ten, fifteen and even twenty minute gaps with no carts. I was there at 1:00pm, which, I expect to be busy enough that the kitchen should be working at peak efficiency, rather than us feeling like we had to load our table up every time a cart came by, lest we never saw one again and perished from starvation.
I assume the carts have a circuit, but somehow our table seemed to not be on it. Yet, someone came by our table three times with her notepad asking if we wanted to order any dim sum to go. I wanted to say, "How 'bout dim sum for HERE?" The third time she came by, we said "No, but we haven't seen a cart in about 20 minutes. Would you please send someone over?"
It was another five minutes before we saw anyone. And when we did, she rushed past faster than a Blue Angel doing a fly by. We had to bark out "Excuse me!" and flag her down. At that point, rather than backing the cart up, pulling it up to our table, and showing us what she had on the cart, the woman expected us to ask for what we wanted. "Do you have shu mai?" "Har gow?" We had to lean three feet into the aisle. It was really rude and, at that point, I was embarrassed.
This happened several times--the cart rushing by, us having to stop it, and the person expecting us to call out our selections from afar.
They were slow to remove the empty dishes from our table and to refill our iced tea. Also, a pet peeve of mine, but in a restaurant such as Yank Sing, I expect the refills on the Diet Coke to be complimentary. They charged us each time, so I switched to iced tea. Also, and perhaps this is not Yank Sing's fault, but we were seated too closely to the table next to us. Midway through our meal, they seated a man who smelled bad. Perhaps unfair of me to blame this on the restaurant, but his stench did interfere with my enjoyment of my meal, and I felt like it wouldn't have been a problem if they hadnt seated him so close.
For the most part, the food was wonderful. (Please forgive my spellings and amateurish food names).We especially enjoyed the shu mai--not overly spiced as it sometimes is at other places and very tender--, the Peking duck--crispy, flavorful skin and tender, moist meat--, and the sticky rice. We had the little egg custard pastries for dessert--wonderful flaky crusts and not too greasy. However, we had some chicken curry pastries that were bland and gummy.
For two people, the bill came to $80, before tip. I don't mind paying such a price when both food and service are wonderful, but I resented it when the service was unforgivingly poor.
I think it will be a long time before I'll be willing to give Yank Sing another shot. There are just too many places to get an exceptional $80 meal in San Francisco where you don't feel mistreated and like you have to dine among patrons who don't bathe.
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