Shanghai Dilly

Generic decor masks fantastic food at this unconventional place

A simple stir-fry of celery and dried tofu was similar to the cilantro and dried tofu appetizer, and was a nice palate cleanser for the following rich dish of braised pork shank (often called honey ham on Shanghai menus). The sauce was incredible, and great with rice, though the meat might have benefited from cooking a bit longer.

Stir-fried eggplant had such intense wok hay (a Chinese term for the unique flavors created by expert wok cooking) that it almost tasted grilled. A pinch of sugar added to the caramel and crust, and was balanced with something sour so the dish didn't taste sweet.

The final dish was a scrumptious, stewlike hot pot of meaty eel (or perhaps lamprey), soft taro dumplings, whole garlic, and cilantro. With a fancier presentation, this dish could fit on the menu of the most expensive French-Asian fusion restaurant. It seemed an odd note to end on. Next time, when reserving I'll ask to end with a light dish and fresh fruit.

Off menu: Chef Nei (seen here with his son) decides what you will eat.
Jen Siska
Off menu: Chef Nei (seen here with his son) decides what you will eat.

Location Info

Map

Jai Yun

680 Clay
San Francisco, CA 94111

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: North Beach/ Chinatown

Details

Jai Yun, 680 Clay (at Kearny), 981-7438, www.menuscan.com/jaiyun. Dinner: Friday through Wednesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Reservations required at least one day in advance. Cash only. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: street in evening. Muni: 1, 10, 20, 30, 41, 45. Noise level: quiet.

Tasting menu $45, $55, $65, $80, or $100 per person

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Jai Yun has a small selection of beers, including Tsingtao, which would have been great with the cold appetizers. There's also a limited choice of wine, but you'd do better to take advantage of the no-corkage-charge policy and bring your own.

The price per person starts at $45. Pay more and you get more appetizers, additional courses, and fancier ingredients such as abalone and eel. The meal in this review was $80; I feared the top-priced $100 menu might substitute items such as shark's fin that are prized more for their rarity and expense than for their flavor.

Jai Yun isn't cheap, but few S.F. restaurants give as much value for your money. This is as good as Chinese food gets in this town, so get a group together and take a crack at making a reservation.

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