Last month I had lunch at General Tso Kitchen a couple times. The current owner, Ms. Cao, is from Chongqing and assumed this venue a little over a year ago. Her first chef had worked with her in Chongqing then moved here to start up this place. He left for another venture six months ago. The current chef is from Hubei, has been cooking Chongqing and Sichuan cuisine for 20+ years and worked at Z & Y for the past five years.
Though its website and illustrated menu might suggest otherwise, General Tso Kitchen is a low key, casual dining room with vinyl tablecloths.
Sichuan rattan pepper chicken, $10.95: Best of the items I've ordered here. On the Appetizer menu, this was about a halve's worth of a firm-fleshed yellow feather chicken, poached perfectly and hacked on the bone, dressed with a numbing oil infused with dried red chiles, fresh jalapeños, chopped raw garlic and very fragrant green Sichuan peppercorns (rattan pepper). By the third bite, my lips were anesthetized but i could still taste the thoroughly addictive interplay of salty, spicy and citrusy-floral elements.
Beef tendon noodle, $8.95: What originally lured me here was the prospect of handmade noodles. These were in the hand pulled style though I did not confirm the process with the kitchen. Slippery and a little softer than they should be as the soup in this bowl was scalding hot. And what glorious soup! The weighty beef stock was sticky with melted collagen and subtly seasoned with 5-spice and star anise to enhance but not dominate the meat flavors. Plenty of softened beef tendon cut into 1" cylinders still had a bit of resistance. A piece of yu choy and some fragrant cilantro leaves completed the bowl. It had me wishing that I could eat this every day.
My second visit I tried the Fried potato with wolf teeth shape, $6.95, from the Snacks & Dumplings section of the menu. Beforehand, I had asked the owner for more details and she described it as "very spicy, crispy potato chips". Her usage of "chips" might be more akin to British, as in "fish and chips", as these were thick slabs of potato and not the crisps I was expecting. A few pieces were browned enough to be crispy, but mostly this was a fiery prep of stir-fried steak-cut potatoes. Some were on the mealy side. And it was not overwhelmingly spicy for me.
Steam pear meatballs, $11.85: Eight meatballs had a thin ground pork base flavored with pear topped with a crown of rice and prettied up with brightly colored carrot and scallion. These were pretty bland, but I suppose provided a contrast for the lamb skewers.
Lamb skewers, 4/$6.95: The spicy cumin and garlic rub was too similar to the fried potatoes. These did not have much grill influence. The lamb was juicy and not tough or gristled.
The menu is not huge, focusing mostly on Sichuan and Chongqing dishes though it does offer General Tso's chicken. Given the chef's Hubei origins and experience at Z&Y, I'd be inclined to try the Peking duck and some of the Wuhan specialties.
The restaurant has wifi for customers. I could see myself getting some work done one afternoon over a bowl of noodles and small plates.
Anyone else tried it yet?
General Tso Kitchen
3741 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA