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Best Chinese (Cantonese) San Francisco 2004 - Harbor Village

Harbor Village is well-known for its dim sum, which it offers daily for lunch in a glitzy but anonymous mirrored-and-gilded room that feels like an upscale hotel lobby. But that room becomes a temple to exquisite Hong Kong-style Cantonese cooking when you order off the dinner menu, an astonishing document indeed. You know right away you're in good hands when you see the list of what's fresh: shellfish (including pricey abalone and two kinds of lobster), fish, vegetables (if you're lucky, pea shoots, as well as three varieties of bok choy). There are some dauntingly high-ticket items (braised shark fin soup for $65 a person, braised whole abalone for $45 a person) and some slightly less daunting ones (stir-fried fillet of Atlantic fluke for $50, Nobleman's chicken for $80, both presumably designed for more than a single gourmand). But at the lower end of the menu ($16 to $18 per dish), we assembled an amazing dinner, including the best spicy ma-po tofu with minced beef we'd ever had, and a special of soft scrambled eggs with scallops and pea shoots. We finished with warm cream of walnut soup and chilled mango custard. Here's a place where those $80 dishes might actually be worth $80.

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