Boiling Beijing recently opened in San Bruno. The name implies hot pot, and they've got that, but the two Beijing and Chengdu (Sichuan) chefs cook a full range of dishes worth seeking out, including hand-pulled noodles, knife-shaved noodles, jian bing and other Chinese pancakes http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892914
I've been seated early and late enough to chat with the helpful servers and a chef (owner?) during down times. The chef (owner?) is friendly and used to work at Old Mandarin. He said that they'll soon be importing traditional hotpots, the kind with the tall round thing in the center and ornate designs on the side. They gave good advice on what to order, both to me and the other tables that don't speak Mandarin.
Here's the deal with the menu. The current menu lists items that they're not yet preparing, but as business picks up, they'll become available. The "Chef's Specials" are more elaborate and expensive preparations (whole fish, hot pots, Beijing roast duck with duck soup), the "Specials" are traditional dishes (braised pork, Chonqing fried chicken), "Stews" seem Sichuan, "Clay pot" dishes hail from all over China, "Soups" are Cantonese or Chinese American, "Delicacys" are mostly cooked in a wok, starters and street food are in the "Cold dishes" and (hot) "Cuisine" sections, "Flour specials" list pancakes, noodles, and two types of boiled dumplings. Sections such as "Pork" and "Seafood" are Chinese-American food.
The dishes I've eaten on my two visits were carefully prepared and there was not a dud in the bunch:
= hand tossed lamb with bone : a generous amount of meat attached to hacked up bones. Tender and not gamey.The pleasant broth, lettuce, and goji berries gave off a healthy vibe, but there's potatoes and carrots to bulk it up. This must be cooked slowly to melt the collagen-- the leftover cooking liquid gelatinized in my refrigerator.
= special braised beef tongue : sliced, tender, eastern-European homey, in a meaty gravy.
= jian bing guo zi aka Beijing street pancake : mung-bean flour pancake filled with a chinese doughnut (you tiao), pink pate, hot sauce, and a fermented bean sauce. The doughnut was fried to order and crisp throughout. It gave a crunch as satisfying as the deep fried wafer used in Beijing Restaurant's jian bing.
= hand pulled noodles beef ramen (Lanzhou la mian) : beef slices and wheat noodles in a good broth and garnished with cilantro. The noodles have the same even round thickness as rice noodles in bun bo hue. A server showed me video of the chef making them--- he wraps them around his hands, pulls sideways, folds it in half, and repeats the process several times to make them thinner. Minus the spinning, it's similar to the technique used by MY China or Ark in Alameda (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8900... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/800801 ), Available in two soup dishes.
= sliced noodles (dao xiao mian, soup and fried versions) : excellent Shanxi hand-shaved noodles-- I got the fried version. Not charred, but crisp and flavorful, cabbage is put to good use as the bold ingredient here. The noodles are sliced thin, a couple of inches long, and their haphazard shape adds texture to the dish. Killer as leftover breakfast. There's another version of knife shave noodles available in the Bay Area, for example at Full House in Burlingame, that are thick, long, and asymmetric, with a smooth edge and a ragged edge, kind of like someone cleaved fluted lasagna down the center. Please chime in if you know how the technique differs-- I prefer the style at Boiling Beijing.
= pickled pepper fungus : house pickled chilies are vibrant and a little sweet. Wood ear mushrooms had a larger percentage of the flat than cup-like variety.
= spicy shredded potatoes : nailed it. Crisp, but not raw, more charred chili flavor than heat. Garlic adds savory flavors. No detectable use of MSG in this or other dishes.
= dessert, not on menu, deep fried mochi-like glutinous rice ball, stuffed with sweet lotus or red bean paste, something fruity, and peanuts. The crisp translucent skin is a bonus. Much better than their fortune cookies.
Next time I go, I'll forage through their Sichuan dishes:
- they said they don't use ya cai (a preserved vegetable) in their Sichuan green beans or dan dan noodles, so other dishes might be a better place to start.
- Sichuan Beer Duck with Taro is listed as the Chicken with Taro stew (they'll correct this in future menus)
- They began pickling their cabbage months ago to prepare for the opening.
- A dish that's listed on the menu, but not ready yet, is "Simmered yellow fish with pancake"--- it uses a tiebingzi (a baked corn cake).
- Beijing sweet and sour pork is on the bone. Sweet and sour pork is boneless.
- the menu has a Chinese American "mu shu" section. There's also a Beijing style mu shu pork, which is a more traditional preparation.
Shanghainese observations: a few dishes dishes historically from near Shanghai are listed, some as "Beijing" dishes (Dongpo pork shoulder in ginger sauce, Beijing braised lion's head, Beijing braised pork (belly, I think)). The chef showed me some of the seasonings he uses for the pork shoulder. He uses more spices than I've seen in Shanghainese recipes, but I don't know if that reflects a regional style or cookbook simplifications.
Some random observations:
- they've got the insanely hot dish, la si ni , http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785368 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9032...
- ground chicken soup requires one hour notice
- fresh soy milk
- they've got a few opening deals, such as a $5 coupon if you spend more than $50
649 San Mateo Ave (two blocks from Caltrain)
San Bruno, CA 94066