My old blog friend, Eat, Drink, & Be Merry and Jeni from Oishii Eats visited San Francisco (and me) this past weekend, and I had a deliciously fantastic time with them.
This is my third meet-up of a fellow food blogger. Earlier on in June, I met with Rick James from the Random Burrito and he was everything I expected and more. He was sweet, laid-back, and most of all forgiving. What I mean by forgiving is that I showed up over half-an-hour late at a time and place (the Ferry Building) that I suggested! What made matters worse, is that all the stores were closed at my chosen meeting time and place, so essentially, we met at the equivalent of an abandoned warehouse. On top of that, Rick James generously bought me breakfast at the only open place--a place similar to Starbucks (his most hated place ever)--and when we were talking, crumbs were spewing from my mouth and debris was stuck all over my face and my pants. Like the gentleman he is, he never said a derogatory thing. Rick James is truly the sweetest thing out there.
As for this past week, Eat, Drink, & Be Merry and Jeni from Oishii Eats were going to be in San Francisco's Chinatown, so at my beau's suggestion, we decided to try the Zagat's rated dive of Yee's Restaurant. ("Zagat's" and "dive" in the same sentence? That is an awesome contradiction.)
According to its laminated menus and the yellowed newspaper clippings adorning its grease-smudged windows, Yee's Restaurant has a lunch special of three entrees for $15.00 and lunch-time "economy rice plates." Eat, Drink, & Be Merry jokingly remarked on how the name of "economy rice plates" made patrons feel cheap for ordering those rice plates. After his comment, I laughed nervously and decided to avoid the "economy rice plates," for fear of looking like a stingy miser.
As for ordering, I stepped back and allowed the Cantonese-speaking Eat, Drink, & Be Merry to work the "native speaker" magic. (Legend has it, that Cantonese speakers get better service, larger portions, and cheaper food at Chinese restaurants in San Francisco.) Our lunch proved that this "legend" is likely true.
No one bothered to snap pictures of the complimentary dishwater-flavored broth they served to us with the boiled and soggy carrot "floaties," but the food bloggers went camera-crazy on the rest of the meal.
Jeni from Oishii Eats is adorable! Her brother started helping himself to the meal and she quietly asked him, "Brother, please put that wonton back into the bowl so that I can take a picture." It was fun to watch the sibling dynamic and see him reluctantly and delicately place the wonton back in its original location. It seriously looked better after he had rearranged the wontons than it did originally.
Our favorite dish of the afternoon? The fluffy, cloud-like steamed breads (maantoes) which we filled with thin scallion wisps, sticky spoonfuls of hoisin sauce, and crisp, mahogany-colored duck skin and meat.
The rest of the dishes were made in the classic "San Francisco Chinatown" way: with tremendous amounts of oil, MSG, and cornstarch. Yea baby!
We ordered Chinese broccoli, and the broccoli proved to be so oily that my chopsticks barely had enough traction to grab onto the greasy stems that were even further slicked with a wild drizzling of oyster sauce.
Eat, Drink, & Be Merry helped me to order seafood chow mein (hi shen tsow mein) the right way. In the hi shen tsow mein, the cooked egg noodles had been pan-fried to yield a crisp paella-like crust, and the noodles were served with an overflowing abundance of seafood and a luscious, coagulated cornstarch sauce. My description of the consistency of the sauce may sound uber-nasty, but I'm tellin' you, achieving the perfect "coagulatedness" of the sauce in hi shen tsow mein is both an art and a science.
We also ordered the salted pork ribs that had just enough resistance to require me to pull and tug off the meat from the bones with my tightened teeth. The chewiness of the pork and the penetrating flavors of the salt and piquant jalapenos was everything that I knew this dish to be. Execution of this dish? Impeccably Chinese.
Finally, we sampled the walnut prawns, a dish that undoubtedly originated in the streets of Some-Chinatown, U.S.A. (Mayonnaise in Chinese food? Clearly from America.) The prawns were heavily drenched with abundance of mayonnaise, so much in fact, that the prawns had clumped together in a massive baseball of mayo. The prawns were accompanied with candied walnuts that were coated with a hard sugary shell.
As I polished off our family-style meal, I realized that the prices were reasonable and for being in the heart of Chinatown, Yee's Restaurant is a great place to get the full San Francisco-Chinatown effect: the heartburn and the window view of the colorful exported plastic merchandise lining the streets and alleyways.
It was great meeting and seeing you Jeni from Oishii Eats and Eat, Drink, & Be Merry! Stay tuned to their sites for more pictures of Chinatown and their visit to San Francisco. (Also, although I was unable to meet Best of L.A., she has a great series on her visit to San Francisco just a few weeks ago.)