Chinese Restaurant Food (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
North America’s oldest Chinatown, measuring three blocks by eight blocks near Union Square, isn’t the only place to find the best Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. However, this year, all eyes will be on two new culinary projects in Chinatown. Mister Jiu’s at 731 Grant Ave. is planning to open in the former Four Seasons Restaurant space, and Live China is a collaborative effort in a 30,000-square-foot marketplace and gourmet food court said to include fine dining, bars and food retailers at 644 Broadway.
R & G Lounge
631 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
For 25 years, before Anthony Bourdain dug into the tasty salt and pepper crab in a 2010 segment for the Travel Channel, R & G Lounge enjoyed a loyal following and plenty of accolades for its authentic Cantonese Chinese dishes. Like Tony, you can wash your meal down with a vodka lychee martini. Come for a busy, buzzy lunchtime, because as wine guru Wilfred Wong says, “Sometimes one just needs a little beef chow fun in a black bean sauce to get through the day.” For dinner, make a reservation because you’re competing with visitors referred there by every guide book and hotel concierge in town. If you snag a table upstairs, the ambiance is more formal than the noisier, family-style downstairs dining room.
655 Jackson St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Most every San Francisco visitor wants to have an authentic Chinatown dining experience, including President Obama, who has stopped into Z & Y for a meal. Singled out by the San Francisco Chronicle’s food critic, Michael Bauer, as one of the top 10 places to take tourists, the destination restaurant has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand award for 2016. Z & Y is known for serving hot and spicy dishes, so this is your place if your taste buds are into chicken with explosive chili pepper and Szechuan chili pepper with pork. Dishes packed with Northern Chinese spice can be delivered to your home or office via TryCaviar.com.
101 Spear St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Known for delicious dim sum since 1958, the third generation of the Chan family runs two downtown locations of this notable restaurant. Typically packed with patrons pointing at dumplings on the rolling cart, tables spill out onto the atrium of the Rincon Center to accommodate more on the weekends. Sporting a host of awards from James Beard, Michelin, Zagat and the Chronicle’s “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants,” Sunset magazine chimes in, describing the “life-altering dim sum as “…warm, fluffy buns stuffed with nuggets of honey-glazed barbecued pork.” The smaller second location at 49 Stevenson St. is just a few steps off Market Street.
845 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
The initials in this restaurant’s name stand for Master Chef Martin Yan. In a dramatic setting under the historic dome of Westfield Shopping Centre, the longtime TV culinary star and author of 30 cookbooks presents a contemporary Chinese dining experience. Due to the full exhibition kitchen, patrons are treated to the sight of proficient chefs in action over the ancient art of the wok, plus the skill of noodle dancers who deftly pull giant balls of dough to create thousands of thin noodles. Martin Yan is a jovial, engaging, self-professed lover of Dungeness crab, and when it’s in season, he’s known to prepare it six different ways based on recipes collected from Chinese provinces.
Hong Kong Lounge II
3300 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Great dim sum and Chinese food where you might not expect it is served in a small red corner building in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. Diners are delighted to find an Asian Tapas option at dinner, best described as dim sum without the cart (try the honey glazed barbecue pork belly and Shanghai soup dumplings). Awarded a San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants accolade since opening in 2013, as well as a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2015 and 2016, this local gem has earned a reputation that reaches even beyond the Bay Area. The wait staff are said to move around the tables with athletic grace.