San Wang is a Chinese restaurant in the general vicinity of Japantown, in the Pacific Heights portion of San Francisco. My brother-in-law describes it as the food from a province of China close to Korea, so the food has Korean influences (i.e. Northeast Chinese cuisine). Others have described it as San Tung cuisine, Shandong cuisine, or a mix between Shandong cuisine and the hybrid cuisine Korean-Chinese. Whatever it may be, they serve kimchi as an appetizer (or is it suan cai?), and have a large exotic menu. They are also noted for making their own noodles, enough so they’ve been featured in the local newspapers.
We came on an evening when we needed to feed several people, and were soon seated at a circular table with a carousel. There was a lot of back and forth about what to eat, so most people were given the opportunity to suggest one dish. San Wang clams and dry fried chicken were evidently San Wang’s best known dishes, according to my relatives, so we did order the clams. We deleted one dish from the suggestions, because it seemed like too much food. As it turned it, it was too much food anyway, but to start, we had wonton soup.
We ordered San Wang clams, and we also ordered dry fried crab. My daughter and my niece ordered a shrimp curry – my niece is beyond picky, but curries are the one thing in Asian cuisines she’ll eat. There was San Wang’s version of pea leaves, beef with broccoli and a small serving of Peking duck. The rice we were originally given was some kind of fried rice I believe, but after a while my wife and my mother-in-law ordered plain steamed rice.
The Peking duck came with crepes, a dark hoisin sauce, and a pale green vegetable that you were supposed to combine (duck + veggie in crepes with sauce). It wasn’t bad, even if I had never had the dish before. No, I had no clue what I was doing so I improvised.
The crab would have been better if we could have gotten something to crack the shells with. The shells were already cracked but incompletely so. The meat was tasty when you could get to it. The clams were excellent, as good as their reputation, and most everything else fell into the “pretty good” category.
Service was a bit hit or miss. Like many Chinese restaurants they paid more attention to us before we had our food. Service afterwards was there when the staff had time. I felt as if there were one or two waitstaff that knew what they were doing and the rest were seemingly in training, and that must have affected quality in general.
In summary, Lolia S. of Yelp captured my thoughts when she said it was a three star restaurant with a couple five star dishes. Their portions are indeed generous. If I were to go back, I’d order less food in general and try to concentrate on the good stuff. I think I’d try to get a noodle dish as well, which seems to be part of their “good stuff”.
Other notes: when we initially arrived, almost everyone in the restaurant was Asian. That changed as we continued to eat, becoming an ethnic mix by the end of the meal.
Verdict: Good food in general, with a couple superior dishes. Service just okay. Recommended in general, highly recommended for the San Wang clams.
1682 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115