Based on an a article in San Francisco Focus magazine some years ago, we started patronizing China First restaurant on Clement Street (two doors away from Fountain Court, on Clement near Fourth Avenue). It specialized in Sichuan and Shanghai food. The article contained clues on what to order; we liked the Catholic Chicken (a cold dish of boneless chicken in sesame paste sauce). Also there were some unusual things in the window -- in the place where a Hong-Kong style restaurant might have stewed pork parts, China First had some salad-type offerings which we ordered by pointing: a fava bean mixture, and a spicy mix that included teeny fried salted fish. Another winner was a fish dish served in a small chafing pot with a Sterno candle under it. We were there four or five times.
After getting used to the place I asked some friends to meet us there. We got there late, they had already ordered something, and suddenly I was in the midst of a hallucination. The place had mutated, although the name was the same! I found myself in a Hong-Kong style "Seafood" restaurant. Because my friends had already ordered, we sat down and had dinner instead of walking out. Naturally I asked the staff about the old place. They were not very forthcoming, but finally admitted that the new management had bought the name only, and the previous place had relocated -- but they could not (or would not) tell me where it had gone.
I was reeling with the discontinuity, but as things went along I found the dinner was delicious and very inexpensive. Then I noticed the place was completely packed with eager Asian chowdowners. We went back several times and had some very nice dishes: Hakka Wine Clams ($6.00), Seafood with Eggplant ($3.50), etc. (not a misprint -- many of the vegetable dishes are listed at $3.50). ANd some "rice plates" listed at $2.88.
They also had many tanks of live seafood but we did not order any. The menu I'm looking at is a year or two old.
So: two questions.
1. Is China First still a good place , still with the same inexpensive menu?
2. What happened to the previous China First Sichuan/Shanghai place?
336 Clement Street
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