All That Glitters

Eliza's elegance is often undercut by lackluster food and perfunctory service

We move on. Hunan fish is undistinguished: deep-fried rock cod, the batter a bit too thick, undeserving of its hot-and-spicy star on the menu. The chow mein -- glossy thick noodles, vegetables (broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms, and carrots), plus small pieces of beef and chicken -- is decent if somewhat greasy.

Now don't get me wrong. None of Eliza's food is bad (with the exception of that sorry crab rangoon). But it's not great in the tell-all-your-friends-about-it class. So what's with the crowds? Are they all suburbanites who don't have good Chinese in their neighborhoods? Or do orchids and stained glass make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? You tell me.

Eliza's Restaurant, 205 Oak, S.F., 621-4819; also at 1457 18th St, S.F., 648-9999. Open Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun (18th Street only) 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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