Misson Street, between 1st and 2nd.
I had an enjoyable experience overall, and would highly recommend that any of you who work in the Financial District give it a try. I cant speak for the entire Bay Area, but Id be hard pressed to find better beef noodle soup (niu ro mien) within city limits. It beats Spices I and Shanghai Dumpling House but more on that later. I tried three things, in order of yumminess:
-Niu Ro Mien (Beef Noodle Soup)
-Gua Bao (steamed bread stuffed with soy sauce roast pork and Chinese pickles)
-Fan Tuan (glutinous rice stuffed with Chinese donut and dried shredded pork)
The beef noodle soup was wonderful after living two years in the city without ever tasting anything even close to being as good as in Taiwan (or even Los Angeles). The couple who owns the place said that the wife went back to Taiwan for a period to undergo beef noodle soup training. #1: the soup was piping hot, a big bonus in my book. The beef was cooked until soft and tender, and her knife skills showed in that there was a good balance of fatty and lean meat in every piece, with a good amount of tendon (but definitely more meat). The soup was flavorful and not overly salty, and there was no layer of oil on top (a recent complaint about Spices I). There were plenty of chopped green onions and spinach, although I did find it strange that the pink heads of the spinach were not cut off. The noodles were not quite al dente, but Chinese noodles usually arent. They certainly werent overcooked (as I found them to be at Shanghai Dumpling House); in fact, it took a minute or two for the noodles to really soak in the flavor of the beef broth, meaning the bowl of noodles only got better as I continued eating. $5.25
The Gua Bao was also a success. The steamed bread was fluffier than at most Chinatown places that claim to specialize in man tou. The skin was not chewy, speaking to the freshness of the bun. The real achievement, however, was the pork in the middle. It melted in my mouth, and then the pickled vegetables crunched and added a hint of tangy spiciness. They may have overloaded on the cilantro, but I like cilantro. The quality of the pork tells me that any pork over rice (ko ro fan) this place might offer would be very good indeed. $1.75
The one failure here was the fan tuan. The glutinous rice was completely overcooked. In fact, it was a soggy mess. I took one bite and put it away. Maybe Ill give it another chance when Im really hungry. But after the rest of that wonderful meal, Ill probably just throw it away. Ill definitely mention that to the owners the next time Im there. At least it was only $1.75.
The food menu is short and sweet. $4-4 gets you one of the following:
Beef Noodle Soup
Ground Pork Mixed Bean Past w/ Noodles
Ground Pork Noodle
Rice Noodle Soup
Taiwanese Pork Chop Over Rice
There are a few dozen boba selection in the $3 range, as well as a pot of tea eggs by the cashier and a bakery shelf of smaller items ($2-3):
Gua Bao (Stuffed Bread with Roast Pork)
Chives Pie (jiu chai he)
Pork Sandwich (jiang ro xao bing)
Custard filled dessert bread
The owner told me the bakery offerings change sometimes, and that it's best to call ahead if you want your food ready to eat/take away when you get there. It took about 5 minutes for them to prepare my meal, but I guess it would be nice to get there, sit down, and eat. Be aware that everything is served in a styrofoam to go bowl anyway.
Please help keep this little lunch spot in business! The owners are eager and affable, chatting up the customers and asking them what they thought of the food whether they were Chinese or not. More importantly, they are trying hard to do an excellent job on a dozen+ dishes, rather than a mediocre job on forty motley selections. For that, I applaud them.