Hong Kong Flower Lounge

About

I have previously lived in Hong Kong where I would go for Dim Sum about once a week. Although the Flower Lounge’s Dim Sum here doesn’t quite match that, it is pretty close and is probably the best of all the Chinese Restaurants I have tried in the bay area. Unlike a lot of the restaurants around here, the Dim Sum is not swollen to suit American appetites and I feel this improves the quality.

The small, custard filled ‘bo loh Bau’ are really good, with a very crisp, still savoury topping. The golden, flaky pastry of the ‘cha siu sou’ melts in your mouth, with none of that all too common dryness. The ‘ha cheung fan’ (shrimp rolled in a rice wrapper) are free from the kind of doughy sloppiness which often puts me off eating them. The ‘cha siu bau’ (steamed bread with honeyed pork) always taste really fresh and have the right balance of sweetness and meatiness for me. The ‘siu long bau’ (shanghai dumplings holding soup and pork) are a little dissapointing, lacking any soup at all really. This restaurant is one of only a few places to serve ‘jung’ (flavoured rice cooked in large leaves, often served around the Dragon boat festivals) and these are well worth trying.

If you live in the city, its probably not worth making the trip out here specially however. The dim sum at Great Eastern is equally good and much closer to you.

Directions

51 Millbrae Ave
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 692-6666

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Sichuan Delight

About

I’ve eaten Sichuan food mostly in Hong Kong and part of the reason this doesn’t get 5 stars is because I compare it to there. For America, this really is very good chinese food. I like the way these have a seperate part of the menu – Sichuan Traditional A La Carte – with more authentic Chinese dishes, whilst still offering all the American standards like ‘sweet and sour’ and ‘general tso’s chicken’.

If you stick to the list of sichuan dishes, you will be rewarded with really good chonqing style spicy chicken ‘laaht zi gai’  $9.95 – golden chunks of chicken on the bone fried in an overhwelming amount of chilis. A lot of other restaurants just put a few chilis amongst the chicken, so the large numbers here are great! They give the chicken a really fiery flavour, although I couldn’t taste much of the sichuan pepper which also often features in this dish.

Also pretty good here is the Spicy boiled tender beef  (seui jyu ngauh yuhk) $9.95 which has a nicely spicy sauce. The shredded pork in garlic sauce, which is really ‘fish fragrant pork slivers’ or (yuh heung yuhk si) has a reasonable attempt at this distinctive flavour and costs $8.25. The hot noodles with spicy peanut sauce (daan daan mihn) were worth trying for $6.95. Also try the stir-fried bean threads with ground pork – lit ants climbing up bean threads (mah ngai seung syuh) for $8.95.

Directions

2525 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA 94061
(650) 701-0814

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Suppenkuche

About

Excellent! Really huge portions, with very well cooked steak, chicken, venison, and more (circa $18 for entree). You really have to be a meat lover to enjoy the food here, but if you are it is so much better than most meat heavy US restaurants. It is also accompanied by really good spatzle (small twists of potato pasta commonly eaten in Germany and Switzerland) and other great vegetables including delicious red cabbage. If all that isn’t enough, the restaurant also has an amazing range of German and Belgian beers – including some rare ones!. I’ve been to Germany a couple of times and I really believe that this place could hold its own against the restuarants there.

Directions

525 Laguna St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-9289

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Great Eastern

About

After an uninspiring trip to Gold Mountain Restaurant, did a scan of Yelp, Chowhound, Zagat et al and skeptically came down to this place for Dim Sum. Having lived in Hong Kong for two years, I’m fairly particular about my dim sum and compare what I get here to excellent experiences there.

Great Eastern’s dim sum is very impressive. The Cha Siu Bau (barbeque pork steamed buns) tasted freshly made with nice soft white bread around them. Rather than the gloopy, bright red pork which is often served here, and which has a too bold flavor for me, the filling was much subtler in flavor and slightly drier. The bau were a lot smaller than those in other restaurants which I often find overwhelming.

The Siu Mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) were different to ones I’ve had in Hong Kong, larger and slightly heavier on the meat. Again however, they tasted really freshly made and both the shrimp and the pork had an excellent flavor. 

The Xiu Long Bau (small dumplings with pork and soup inside) were some of the best I have had in San Francisco. They were small, unlike the crude offerings at some of the restaurants here, and they did not have thick wrappers. The soup had a warm, distinctive flavor – my only criticism is that there could be slightly more of it.

The glutinous rice wrapped in steamed bread was a surprise treat. As with the Cha Siu Bau, the bread was really soft and fresh, contrasting nicely with the sticky chewiness of the flavored rice inside, which is like the rice you often get in jung or leaf parcels.

We also had shrimp and snow pea dumplings. I was again struck by the freshness of these. They were small, but stuffed full of the different vegetables, demonstrating the real fresh, exciting mouthful which dumplings can give.

Although the waiter clattered down a pot of jasmine tea to begin with, he was happy to change it when we asked him what other teas the restaurant had. I was impressed that they offered black Bo leih, oolong, jasmine and sau Mei white tea. When went for the oolong, which was high quality and added to the general sense of authenticity given by this restaurant. 

Sitting downstairs, I also found the atmosphere in Great Eastern calmer than that of most Chinatown restaurants I’ve been too. When the check came, we were surprised at the reasonableness of the price considering how much we had eaten.

Directions

649 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-2500

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Pizzeria Delfina

About

Delfina’s is probably the best place I’ve been in the city for Italian style pizza. They keep their ingredients list and range of pizza’s simple. Their dough is nice and floury and homemade. They throw it out really thin in an authentic way, so that it isn’t spongy and doesn’t overwhelm the toppings at all. 

A lot of places get wood fired ovens, but don’t really know how to use them properly – under or overcooking the pizza so they’re too crisp or chewy. Delfina’s can’t be faulted on this. It pizza’s are cooked to the point where the dough bubbles up a little and gets slightly crisp, then they’re pulled out and whisked over to your table.

I like the way Italians stick to just a small list of ingredients on their pizza’s, using these to great effect. So, I had the Napoletana ($10), which came without cheese. It has just thick, bright red tomato sauce that tastes fresh and has a strong, earthy tomato flavor with hints of herbs. It important to have this, because otherwise the sauce would have been overwhelmed by the saltiness of the anchovies and capers, together with the soft fleshy black olives. All the ingredients tasted fresh and had strong flavors which made the whole pizza fairly striking. I would perhaps argue they could put a few less capers on to tone things down a bit, but that’s personal preference. Otherwise 8/10 with ten being the Italian benchmark.

Delfina’s also offers some slightly more unique toppings. My companion went with the Salsiccia ($13.25) which had really interesting tasting fennel sausage scattered across it. Although interesting to try, I didn’t really feel this produced such an exciting overall pizza. It went nicely with the soft, fresh taste of the bell peppers. I was also pleased to see the use of fresh mozzarella, kept in moderation so that it didn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. This, together with the sausage, made the pizza a little more watery than ideal but not so much that it was really damaging. Overall, the pizza was strikingly fresh and simple in a way I really liked. Probably around 7/10 for me.

I was pleased to hear the waiter explain to the table next to us that the couldn’t make a pizza with half one topping and half another. “This would affect the cooking time,” he explained politely. I’m all for chefs asserting their authority / wisdom over the food they prepare and this, for me, showed that Delfina takes its pizza seriously.

The service was always friendly and the waitress took the time to explain some of the different Italian wines on the menu even though the restaurant was pretty busy. The restaurant has a lively, fashionable atmosphere, but felt a little cramped to me. Why don’t I give the whole restaurant five stars? Largely because its still not (quite) as good as the pizza’s in Italy and I want to keep a star left to strive for.

Directions

3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 437-6800

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