Got Hot Pot?

Dining's an adventure at S.F.'s only Muslim-style Chinese

Sautéed Napa cabbage with dried shrimp doesn't sound like much, but it's one of the best dishes here. The Napa is sliced thin, then sauteed with lots of tiny dried shrimp that reconstitute during cooking and come out tender. "Stirred potatoes with chili" is another surprise: julienned potatoes, very briefly sauteed in chili oil until al dente so that they end up more like a crunchy, spicy salad than a starch.

I tried several versions of the signature "stirred flour ball" dishes, chewy dumplings with diced water chestnuts, peanuts, bean sprouts, and baby corn, with a little sofrito-like seasoning of finely diced celery, carrot, zucchini, and ginger. All proved bland, greasy, and undersalted, overall like generic steam-table Chinese food. Same story for the Peking beef "pie" and the onion "pancake," fried stuffed flatbreads reminiscent of mediocre peroshki. These really need a drizzling of hot chili oil, or better yet a dollop of the extremely hot pepper.

After such heavy, rich food, dessert is overkill, and the fried sweet cake doubly so. Served warm, this was like a glob of half-baked cookie dough filled with red bean paste and dried fruit. It wasn't bad, but would make more sense as a midafternoon snack with tea.

No chef needed for this do-it-yourself cuisine.
James Sanders
No chef needed for this do-it-yourself cuisine.

Location Info

Map

Old Mandarin Islamic

3132 Vicente
San Francisco, CA 94116

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Sunset (Outer)

Details

Hot pot $15-20/person

Lamb with preserved vegetables warm pot $8.95

Lamb with green onion $8.95

West Lake lamb dumpling $6.95

Extremely hot pepper $8.95

Sautéed Napa cabbage with dry shrimp $7.50

Fried sweet cake $5.95

564-3481

Open Wednesday and Friday through Monday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: easy

Muni: 18, 23, 29, L

Noise level: moderate

3132 Vicente (between 42nd and 43rd aves.)

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Watch out for potential confusion on the menu. The hot pot menu in English is an insert that sometimes falls out, so if you don't see it, ask. The Muslim Chinese dishes all appear in the first couple of pages of the menu, items 1 through 73; the remainder consists of generic Chinese dishes that the few proficient English-speakers among the staff may warn you away from. On the other hand, with the exception of the extremely hot pepper, you may safely ignore warnings that certain dishes are very spicy.

Waiters often push the popular favorites hard, so if you want to try, say, sour green sliced fish in your warm pot, be insistent. And if you do try some of those mystery dishes I didn't get to, please, send me a note about it.

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