after some mild disappointment at the tea garden downtown, i was still a little frustrated at the sf northern/western chinese food situation. KK's posts on san tung stuck in the back of my mind, so i went back recently for a checkup.
the place was as crowded as ever with young chinese, but after the meal i began to suspect that like me, they are san franciscans seeking non-cantonese chinese chow in the city, and will take what they can get.
the kimchee they give you was welcome. i think they used regular cabbage instead of chinese white cabbage, and it was a tiny bit sweet and not terribly complex, but fresh, nicely hot, and appetizing.
my friend wanted to try the obligatory spicy chicken in the 'diced' format rather than on the bone. this was a disappointment. it wasn't spicy enough, it wasn't crisp enough, and something was just wrong about not having it off the bone. this is normally much better here.
the veggie potstickers were definitely a mistake. i knew this immediately when they arrived and i saw the blistery style of bottom crust, which is not satisfyingly crunchy at all. the filling was mostly cabbage and clear noodle, while i was expecting more flavorful black mushroom and maybe dried tofu. the poor bottom crust suggests that none of their potstickers are worth getting, and indeed, most patrons ordered steamed dumplings instead.
the redemption was the 5-spice beef noodle soup. as you might expect from a place called san tung, the noodles were the strength. long, thick, and handmade, they bounced with vibrance in my bowl and mouth. the beef wasn't bad, nor the broth, but both were just competent rather than notable. the broth was a bit cloudy and contained no bean bits that i could find. it was served with fresh spinach leaves.
finally, (pet peeve) only the potstickers came out hot.