Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Authentic Chinese at Fang in SOMA

There are few cities that evoke praise when it comes to authentic Chinese cuisine, and SF is one. The venerable House of Nanking in Chinatown has been an institution for over 22 years started by the Fang family. Diners have raved about the fresh, flavorful, and bold dishes created by Chef Fang. Recently, Chef Fang and his daughter opened up a more modern, inventive spot called Fang on Howard St in SOMA. The food remains a stalwart and Chef Fang personal touches keeps patrons coming back again and again. I went to Fang for the first time in Feb 2014 with my friend Chuck. We had met earlier in the evening to prep for his wedding, and decided to head out for a bit to eat afterwards. Fang had been on my culinary list for quite some time and we made it our destination.

The inside feels like 1920s Shanghai with large red paper lanterns, dark wood Asian furniture, and Chinese artifacts and decorations. Service and wait staff were very typical to that at House of Nanking - straightforward, quick, and void of explanations. Along with some other patrons we got a chuckle out of it. The menu has a combination of authentic and modern twist Chinese dishes, including many vegetarian items. Tables are situated very close to each other (think needed to move one to get seated) so you'll get you know your neighbors very well!

After being seated in the back corner just behind the reception desk, we were approached by a grey hair gentleman who we shortly after realized was Chef Fang himself. He looked at us for 5 seconds and  asked if we were vegetarian. I said "yes" and he amusingly took away our menus and proclaimed "Don't worry, I'll take care of you." Chuck and I looked at each other went along for the ride, not know what and how much food would make it's way to the table - the surprise was worth it!

Fried Onion Cake with Peanut Sauce - A chinese version of a quesadilla stuffed with caramelized green onions, peppers and and peanut sauce. The exterior was a spring roll wrapper perfectly crispy, the green onions were bold, fresh, and full of spicy Szechwan flavors like garlic and chili peppers. It didn't take long for us to finish this dish and we would order it again. $6 for dish.

Peking Tofu Buns - Steam buns stuffed with braised tofu, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. The tofu was tender, succulent and bursting with heat. The veggies tasted like there were marinated in black bean sauce and wok-fried quickly. The steam buns were moist and spongy. The balance of flavors were amazing and again this was a dish worth ordering again. $14 for dish.

Fried Veggie Potstickers - Stuffed pockets filled with bamboo shoots, tofu, onions, garlic, This dish had good flavors overall, but was not memorable. It might have been because of how much Chuck and I liked the onion cake and tofu buns. I personally enjoy steamed potstickers rather than those that are pan-fried and felt that the stuffing lacked depth, meaning it tasted like what was in the buns. $6 for dish.

Tofu and Veggies in Black Bean Curry - A flavorful broth of black bean paste (rice wine, soy sauce, fermented black beans), garlic, chili peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, broccoli, and onions. There was a noticeable heat that permeated through with each bite. The curry was not as thick as I would have expected, but remarkably balanced with flavor. Each of the veggies were lightly sauteed and cooked, yet still maintained their freshness. The bowl itself was plenty for us to share. $13 for dish.

All in all Fang hit the spot for authentic Chinese cuisine. The service was hit and miss, meaning we had to flag down a wait staff for water and the bill. But having the chef come out to take our order and then decide for us was a cool experience. I would certainly go back to Fang so that Sheila can experience it. Overall I give Fang a resounding 8 out of 10. 

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