I hadn't been to Zone 88 since my first visit back in April....
...but tonight I was really in the mood for hot and sour soup close to home, so I made a guess (a good one, luckily) that Zone 88 might have good Hot and Sour Soup. Happily, the dinner outing ended up including 4 others, so we tried several dishes.
We started with hot and sour soup, which for $5.95 was a very big bowl....enough so each of us could have two servings. When we ordered, the waitress asked if we wanted pork in the soup, implying that there might be a seafood-only option...we chose the pork option, which had lots of soft tofu, shredded pork and mushrooms. The broth was peppery and had plenty of vinegar. Overall, very good hot and sour soup, and I'd definitely head there next time I have a craving. The soup makers know what they are doing.
The shanghai dumplings were good, but not amazing. They were boiled dumplings with a mainly pork filling, served w/ soy dipping sauce. They looked and tasted very homemade - the dough was cooked a bit unevenly; some dumplings were falling apart, other parts were a bit doughy. Not bad, but for me not a highlight.
Dry-fried string beans were excellent. We ordered this thanks to P. Punko's report....
...and they were great. The string beans were cooked perfectly, with a salty and slightly spicy coating.
Eggplant w/ garlic was good, but not as good as I had remembered. I found the sauce a bit sweet this time, but everyone still enjoyed it.
Hunan beef was unexciting, but fine. I only had a few bites, but it had good spice to it.
We ordered kung pao shrimp as the 4th main dish, but the waitress appeared with another dish explaining that they were out of kung pao so we were getting shrimp w/ snow peas instead. This was a little annoying (this seems to happen to me a lot lately) since we probably wouldn't have chosen this dish, but it ended up being very good. Both shrimp and snow peas were cooked perfectly, the snow peas were very crisp and fresh tasting. The vegetable cookers in the kitchen also know what they are doing.
Service was not great, but friendly. We were surprised to find the place relatively empty (less than half full) on a Friday evening at 7 PM. Sweet bean soup dessert w/ rainbow tapioca was complimentary (and tasty). The total bill was 56.60 before tip for the 5 of us. Once again, a pretty good bargain.
Overall, I think Zone 88 is a very reliable, good Chinese restaurant. Presentation of food is above average, and the decor is pretty nice as well. Most importantly, it seems like there are people in the kitchen who take the time to cook dishes correctly. I'll definitely return.
Zone 88 Inc
2428 San Bruno Ave, San Francisco, CA 94134