All in the Family

Eight Immortals

The crispy skin chicken -- tender, juicy, still on the bone -- was likewise a hit, and while I wasn't too crazy about the steamed oysters in black bean sauce, my brother declared it one of his favorite dishes, and was in luck, because a second plate was on the way. The salt shrimp -- whole, deep-fried, crispy little buggers -- made a nice counterpart to the steamed flounder and catfish, each of which was bathed in shimmering broth. Though lacking the texture of Western-style preparations, the fish, in both cases, detached from the bone with an effortlessness I think even Lao Tzu would have appreciated, achingly tender flesh that was consumed, then forgotten, and so shall last forever.

Of course, it wasn't as methodical as that. As the plates were piled one atop the other, each member of our party sampled each dish, then revisited those that struck his or her fancy. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, salt, fats, oils, and, according to our waitress, just the tiniest smidgen of MSG (which can be withheld on request) harmonized themselves into a single, tablewide desire -- beer. So we ordered a round of Tsingtao ($2.50 each), which arrived just in time for our final entree, the dreaded Eight Immortals duck.

I'm not sure who the Caucasians were who misled our waitress as to the tastes of the palest race, but if you ask me, well, it's hard to complain about half a duck buried under cabbage, pork, chicken, beef, squid, shrimp, and a few quivering bits of sea cucumber, then bathed in a clear, brothy sauce. Dino -- or maybe one of the Richards -- declared it his favorite dish, in fact, and things continued, each of us taking a bite here, a nibble there, until hardly a scrap remained.

Location Info

Map

Eight Immortals

1433 Taraval
San Francisco, CA 94116

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Sunset (Outer)

Details

1433 Taraval (at 25th Avenue), 731-5515. Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations accepted for parties of seven or more. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: rather effortless. Muni: L Taraval. Noise level: loud

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During all this, our waitress kept asking if we'd received everything we ordered (we were, after all, one of a dozen or so large parties). And while I kept assuring her we had, a final glance at the menu revealed one item was missing -- the squid in XO sauce. She frowned -- the kitchen was closed by this time, the waitstaff picking up the literally hundreds of plates strewn over tables around the restaurant -- then came up with a brilliant solution: a double order of dragon's eye fruit over ice ($3.25 per order).

Sometimes, simple endings are the best, and this was such an occasion. The pale, sweet, fleshy longans made the rounds first by hand, then via Lazy Susan, which, by this time, my nephew had mastered as though he'd been using one all his life. I ate the second-to-last dragon's eye, he ate the last, his smile seeming to indicate this pure, unadorned delicacy was like the universe itself -- sacred, a thing that cannot be improved.

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