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Shanghai, Yunnan, Szechuan, Vietnamese, and Cantonese OH MY!!

Mike Lee | Dec 9, 200503:33 AM

After the previous round of chowhoundish food, I decided I wanted to try more chinese food around the city before heading back.

So, my first stop for lunch was of course, back to Shanghai Dumpling house (I still refer to it as Sweet temptations). I actually agree with others that the quality of food has gone down hill. We ordered the usual xlb and shanghai rice cakes. The xlbs were not as delicate and soupy as I remembered. The rice cakes were very greasy and the chewiness was definitely lacking. I will no longer be back unless I hear reports vouching for them again.

Just to be fair, I decide to stop by Old Shanghai on Geary and tried to compare xlbs in San Francisco. Again, I was fairly disappointed. The skin was not as thin and delicate as I would have liked it and the soup was not as flavorful. I also decided to check out the Lion's head and Wuxi spareribs but both were also disappointments. Maybe SF is lacking in good quality Shanghai food now and that I would have to travel to East bay or Palo Alto...

The next day, I decided to give the popular Spices a try at lunch. I ordered the water boiled fish and Taiwanese soup noodles with duck. I'm not sure whether or not the chef was taking it easy on the spices because I ordered in cantonese. Regardless, I didn't think the chili oil and spices was hot enough in the water boiled fish. The Taiwanese soup noodle with duck was also not very special. Maybe I should have ordered some more hot and spicy food to test out the chef and his uses of peppercorns. With the disappointments mounting, I decide to try Z&Y restaurant in Chinatown. We ordered a lot of Yunnanese cuisines (personally, I think the chef was more of a sichuan chef that knows yunnan dishes since there was not as many traditional yunnan dishes on the menu as I hoped). Started off with the Lamb pot, which was decent. The soup based had a lot of salt and spices which I think was over kill and the lamb quality contained a lot of fat. However, I did enjoy the dish. Second, we had the "cross the bridge" noodle sticks. I didn't like this version as much as I liked some of the versions I tried in Los Angeles. Next, we tried the Steam pot Chicken. This was the highlight of the meal. The chicken essence tasted like it was boiled forever (probably 4-5 hours in the air pot). Next we tried the stir fry ear lobes and the waterboiled fish. Both of which again was a disappointment. Th earlobes (really just rice cakes), were not as chewy as I liked and the water boiled fish again lacked the strong spice that I longed for. Disclaimer: my companions thought it was spicy enough but I am use to traditional sichuan cooking so it definitely was not spicy enough.

From the nights of disappointments, I decided to check out Golden King for vietnamese for lunch. Located in chinatown, the line for Golden star was out the door and I decided to just grab a table at Golden King. I must say, this satisfied my pho craving. The soup was well balanced and not overly sweet or salty at all. The beef were of decently quality and they were not stingy on accompanied herbs. The piping hot broth was full of flavor that I missed out on and rivals probably my once favourite pho and bun store Pagalac. (I actually know the old owner of Pagalac and the new one that opened is not from the same chef or same management).

Remembering Melanie's recommendation on Zen Peninsula, I decided to give it a try. Though I cannot try it for dim sum, I decided to give the taste test during dinner time. We orderes many of the specialty seafood that we tried at Kois Palace so that I can give a good subjective opinion. Results? I think Kois wins hands down. The suckling pig was a definite clear winner for Kois as the thin slices of pig was displayed in front of us. Small slabs of suckling pig with very little fat. I didn't enjoy this dish at all. I then tried the crab meat over pea shoots (they did not have the exact same match). This dish again was a disappointment. The crab didn't taste as fresh and sweet as the one from Kois, and the sauce over the peashoots was more or less made up of very thick starch. I wasn't too thrilled with the dish. The steamed fish and shrimp however was very good. Sweet HK shrimps and fresh big mouth bass. Both seafood picks were excellent choice and it is difficult to compare steamed seafood amongst restaurants.

Finally, with all the recent talk about Lee Hou on Clement, I decided to sit in and try what the hounds in SF think is such a good deal. My overall impression is actually pretty bad. I didn't think it was anything special or even cheap at all. However, what I learned was that one of my friend at the dinner knows the owner of the restaurant and she was schilling for the restaurant that the chefs are more on the A game over the weekend vs the weekdays. I guess I should try it on a weekend... Regardless, the meal at Lee Hou would probably rank lower tha mediocre cantonese restaurant on the weekday. We tried the giant crab special which was 3lbs for 12 dollars. Ginger and scallion stlye. I think the sauce was too thick and the consistency of the sauce was too starchy. Next, we had the lotus leaf wrapped squab (steamed). The squab quality was very poor and there was absolutely no meat to be had in any of the pieces they chopped up. Next, we had the geoduck two ways. Not the best quality of geoduck served. It wasn't as sweet as I liked it to be. Finally, we had the garlic peashoots which was decent but nothing to rave about. The total bill was in no way cheap. 17 dollar per person. Maybe I am just missing something but I just don't get what all the fuzz this place recently produced.

Hopefully I can squeeze two to three more meals in before I leave. I will definitely report back on more food finds!

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