Wo Hing General Store is Charles Phan's latest addition to the Slanted Door group, and it opened Friday night (10/28/11) in the original Slanted Door location on Valencia near 17th. I went on its second night.
The concept is traditional Chinese street/snack/comfort food, and our server stressed (without our asking, and almost defensively) that the goal is authenticity, not fusion or creativity. The menu is mostly Cantonese, plus some Sichuanese chili-bean-paste dishes, lamb skewers from the north, and xiao long bao and red-braised pork from Shanghai. The authenticity is reflected in the menu items and ingredients, and my hopes were raised seeing jook, tendon, salted fish, and bitter melon on the menu.
We tried three dishes.
An oyster-egg crepe starter was rubbery and bland -- except for sparks of black pepper -- and left a greasy film in my mouth. Under-oystered, too: one of the four quartered pieces lacked an oyster. "Hand-made wheat noodles with pork and napa cabbage” -- i.e. chow mien -- was no better than average steam-table fare: heavy with oil and no wok char on the noodles, cabbage, or pork. Steamed ground pork patty with salted fish was the best of the three, though this, too, was bland and would have benefited from more ginger and scallion; also, there was less fish meat on the little salted fish bits than in other versions I’ve tried.
I asked for a side of the chili bean paste to taste because we didn’t order any of the dishes it’s used in. Although too garlicky, it had the hot fruitiness of fresh peppers alongside dried peppers. Nice touch.
All in all, a disappointing meal. If you’re going to pitch a restaurant as authentic Chinese in San Francisco and charge 2 people $60 for dinner, it should stand up to Koi Palace, Great Eastern, R&G, or Z&Y. Wo Hing falls far short. If I had to eat at a Charles Phan restaurant again, I’d much rather return to the Slanted Door or Heaven’s Dog, even though I’m not a huge fan of either, and at least get some creativity and lighter, bolder flavors.
Wo Hing General Store
584 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103