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Restaurants & Bars 20

Jai Yun Recon

Mr. Jenniferfishwilson | Jul 12, 2002 11:23 AM

Jai Yun
923 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco
415-981-7438

Less is more seems to be the motto of this Eastern Chinese restaurant. The sauces were less thick and less abundant than I am used to which resulted in the individual ingredients showing off their flavors. The dishes seem to have been cooked a little bit less which preserved the textures and flavors instead of reducing everything to one big swamp. Even the red peppers were less intense so as to provide seasoning instead of explosions. The Chowhound recon team (although Jai Yun was discovered by Big Dog and Melanie earlier and the SF Chronicle magazine much later) consisted of:

Mabel and Yimster
Melanie
Derek
Chibi and Justin
Rochelle and Michael
Jennifer and Kurt

We paid $43 each (inc tip and tax) which may sound expensive until you hear what we had. We ate for almost three hours and enjoyed 21 dishes.

Thx to Chibi, Justin, Melanie, Yimster and Mabel for translations. If you can’t speak Mandarin, go with someone who can.

Thx to Yimster for serving us food and stories.

Thx to Rochelle and Michael for photographing each dish.

Thx to Yimster and Derek for Chinese pastries including OldWives cakes. According to Yimster “old” is a compliment among the Cantonese.

Thx to Melanie for providing the delicious wines (and wineglasses and corkscrew--Melanie: are you sure you weren't a Boy Scout? You are always SO prepared.):
97 Donnhoff Riesling
Chateau Neuf du Pape Domaine Du Vieux Telegraphe 96 Graacher Himmelreich Reisling—Spatlese

The real miracle of this place is that one man is the owner, cook and, until a few days ago, waiter. He has now hired two young women to wait tables. “Take your time eating—I have a lot to cook,” he told us. Later he modestly added “It could be better—I’m only one person”. How he can turn out so much and so diverse food by himself is a mystery.

Our dinner:
Duck
Mock chicken (tofu): Melanie: “good roasted flavor”
Saltwater duck
Jellyfish with surimi and cucumber
Pinenuts, tofu and snow cabbage
Thinly sliced 5 spice beef tendon (not as chewy as expected) ¨
Drunken chicken
“Wild plant”
Smoked fish (very good crisp exterior) ¨
Sichuan cabbage w/ red peppers ¨¨
FooYung abalone ¨¨¨
Kaofu: w/ tiger lily buds ¨
Shrimp w/ gingko nuts
Snow cabbage w/ tofu skin bean curd
Tangerine beef: w/ candied tangerine peel – very crisp, I called it “Chinese chittlins” ¨¨¨
Julienned stir fried vegetables
Pig trotter: fresh ham/braised pig leg with brown sauce w/ baby bok choy; seasoned w/ 5 spice; like pulled pork ¨¨
Freshwater eel w/ broccoli: the most universally disliked of all the dishes. As Rochelle said, “One out of twenty one isn’t bad.”
Baby mustard greens and tiger lily flowers and enoki mushrooms ¨
Sweet and sour (sauce was very light) whole fried boned rock cod. Chibi explained it is usually referred to as Westlake Fish because that’s where they catch the fish prepared in this style. A specialty of Eastern China ¨¨¨
Beerduck: A gift from the kitchen
The rankings above are my own, not based on polling everybody about every dish. If you go and disagree remember, I’m a foreign devil. KEEP THIS IN CONTEXT. A DISH THAT IS UNREMARKABLE IN THIS RESTAURANT WOULD BE THE BEST PART OF THE MEAL IN A LOT OF OTHER PLACES.

Décor is kitsch to the max; there are xmas wreaths and reindeer, a poster of a Flemish painting, a landscape that would embarrass Motel 6, and a large plastic Hershey Kiss. The Goddess of Mercy with fiberoptic halo sits on top the TV framed with green tinsel.

No rice, noodles, soy sauce or fortune cookies and none missed.

As Joe Bob Briggs would say, “Check it out.”

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