For today's installment I'm sharing my favorite San Francisco Chinese restaurants with you. (Yesterday I pointed you towards my favorite markets.) Growing up mostly in Hawaii, Chinese ingredients and cooking are a huge part of the culture and were a huge part of my upbringing. I grew up going to Chinese restaurants what seemed like once a week and have my favorite dishes: turnip cakes, pork hash with salt fish, jook/congee with pork and preserved duck egg, cold jellyfish salad, beef chow fun, ja jang mein, stir-fried ung choi (water spinach), Shanghai soup dumplings, salt and pepper squid, clams with black bean sauce, and crab. Oh, how I love crab prepared any which way.
In San Francisco, you go to different Chinese restaurants to get different things. One specializes in spicy noodles while another is the place to go for dumplings. Here are several of my favorite and some of the things I like to eat there.
Kirin. This restaurant in the outer Richmond is the place to go for rainbow raw fish salad (their specialty), chicken stuffed with Chinese sausage, ginger, and sticky rice, and drunken clam soup. Parking is scare here, so cab it or give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to find parking.
Old Mandarin Islamic Chinese Restaurant. If you've never had Islamic Chinese food, you have to give this restaurant a go. It helps if you like lamb because the dishes are wonderful! It's very small so it might be a place you want to check out for lunch or for an afternoon bite. Parking is a little more plentiful in this area than in other parts of the city.
San Tung. This Chinese restaurant has a Korean influence. This means that kimchi is served as an appetizer and they offer a wide range of spicy dishes. I like the spicy seafood noodle soup, ja jang mein, steamed chive and pork dumplings (SUBLIME) and the spicy hot and sweet chicken wings (addictive!). I've never had a bad meal here. Parking is tricky here, but you can easily take the N-Judah to 9th/Irving hop off and walk two blocks.
For the best dim sum in San Francisco, you have to leave San Francisco. Head just outside the city to Koi Palace in Daly City for an experience you'll never forget. They have an extensive dim sum selection feautring things you don't see in other dim sum restaurants. They also have an amazing tea list including organic selections. It would be fun to go here and then head over to Kukje Market. Field trip! Plenty of parking, and they take reservations.
Wing Lee Bakery. Is it the best dim sum in the city? No, but is it pretty darn good. So good in fact, that when my daughter was born, our first stop after we left the hospital-even before we went home-was to pick up dim sum from Wing Lee. It's solid, tasty dim sum and jook/congee in a no-frills setting at very reasonable prices. (Or get it to-go and head to Golden Gate Park for a picnic.) Three pieces are usually less than $2. I love the steamed chive and shrimp dumplings, pork buns, jook, and the peanut jung--it's the thing that looks like a ball wrapped in a leaf and tied with string.
R & G Lounge. Okay, I lied. I give you one Chinese restaurant in Chinatown and it's R & G Lounge. It was recently featured on No Reservations and I literally yelled, "NOooooOOOOoooOOo!" and shook my fists at my TV screen because now? Everyone is going to go there. This is the place to go if you want crab. Order a pile (My fave is the garlic and ginger crab) and just dig in. If you are still hungry order the fried pork hash. R & G also has a full bar which is nice.
Ah, okay, one more. Great Eastern. They also make delicious crab so if you can't get into R & G Lounge, go to Great Eastern. The conch with yellow chives is another dish there that is not to be missed. I would go for dinner rather than for dim sum.
So there you have it--my favorite Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. I would avoid eating at most places in Chinatown, especially if they look like they are filled with tourists. I would also avoid House of Nanking and Brandy Ho's—there is much better Chinese fare to be had if you get out of the tourist areas. If you have one to share, please feel free to comment below!