A new chef, fresh from the Chinese Consulate, is on deck at Z & Y Garden, reports Xiao Yang, and a dinner there was most promising. The menu, unusual in Chinatown for offering Szechuanese specialties, has expanded to include Yunnanese ones as well.

Onion “crêpes” are excellent in the new chef’s hands, wrapped burrito-style around a filling of cured ham, cucumber, and possibly a touch of hoisin sauce. Szechuan duck, steamed to melt away the fat and then deep-fried, is a revelation, Xiao Yang says, with crisp skin and succulent but not fatty flesh. It is gently savory rather than aromatic in the Cantonese style.

Wontons in chile oil are excellent, and freshly made boiled dumplings (shui jiao) are very good too, better than the xiao long bao whose wrappers are too thick (though they get points for the filling).

Water-boiled fish tastes very fresh but isn’t as insanely spicy as this dish usually is. Beef in chile oil, on the other hand, packs plenty of heat.

Of the cold dishes, the mildly spicy crispy squid and moderately spicy fu qi fei pian (which means “couple’s lung,” but is actually sliced beef and organ meats) were favorites.

Z & Y Garden [Chinatown]
655 Jackson Street, San Francisco

Board Link: A Z&Y Garden run-through

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