Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EAT: Beijing Restaurant

Beijing Restaurant
1801 Alemany Blvd
(between Ocean Ave & Ruth St)
San Francisco, CA 94112
(415) 333-8182

I can navigate a Chinese takeout menu fairly well. I stay away from things that look gruesome (chicken feet), gelatinous (jellyfish), or just make me feel bad (shark’s fin). Fried rice and cha siu pork are things that I grew up with, thanks to my family’s Chinese restaurant in San Diego. But that wasn’t what we were looking for when my friend Ed suggested we head to Beijing Restaurant. It was all about noodles and dumplings – two things that, when done well, are like a party in your mouth. Seriously.

 Yao Ming and the owners

Beijing Restaurant is located in the “Mission Terrace” area of San Francisco, on the corner of Alemany & Ocean, in a little red building adorned with lanterns. Kind of out of the way for those of us that live closer to downtown SF, but hey, Yao Ming makes a stop here when he’s in town, so it must be good, right? I came, armed with my artillery of Chinese food “experts” (aka three of my friends of Chinese heritage who like to eat). We sat down and began the ordering process. Be warned, this place takes a little longer than your average Americanized Chinese food place, so if you’re starving (like we were), have a piece of fruit beforehand or something.

First up was the Beef Pancake. I love this dish – crispy layers of fried something on the outside and yummy, flavorful beef in the middle. Served piping hot. Then, they brought out the Zha Jiang Mian – Beijing style noodles. These is a cold noodle dish with fresh, hand-pulled noodles, cucumber, sprouts, and this wonderful hoisin(ish) sauce with bits of meat in it, mixed together. I really loved the cucumber added to the dish, as it made it taste so fresh and perfect for the muggy weather we were having. A word of advice – use the sauce sparingly, as it’s quite salty on its own.

The dishes were coming one at a time, which worked well because it made you enjoy your food (eat slowly!) and there was no way in hell we were gonna fit all the food on our table with drinks and elbows. Our next “course” was the lamb dumplings. I don’t know how to explain it, but when someone does a dumpling correctly, it makes me so happy. Delicate balance of dumpling skin, meat, and sauce. Freshly boiled. Beautiful.

I insisted that we order a vegetable to offset some of the carbs, so the only greens of the evening were the Spinach with Garlic. Then came the Lion's Head meatballs - served in  four pieces.  So tender, so delicious.  And finally…our Flour Balls with Three Flavors. Almost like a cross between a noodle dish and a dumpling dish, I’d had a version of this at Old Mandarin Islamic (another fantastic Chinese restaurant).  I don't really know the the "Three Flavors" is, but I'm guessing, Chicken, Pork, and Seafood.  Just eat it.  It's delicious.

All I can say is, I was so content after our meal. I wasn’t stuffed either, nor did I have that overly-MSG’ed feeling I usually get when I eat Chinese food. I would definitely make the trip out here again – and you should too!

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