Best Chinese San Francisco 2005 - Jai Yun
When you walk into this tiny, unlisted, six-table hole in the wall, there's no menu to peruse or decision to make except to settle in, put yourself in chef Nei Chia Ji's hands, and spend the next couple of hours eating a fabulous, often unusual multicourse meal. Every morning Nei visits the Chinatown fish markets, greengrocers, and butchers and decides what he'll whip up for his roomful of guests that evening: a warm morel-asparagus salad, perhaps, followed by al dente noodles with fava beans; jumbo prawns with gingko nuts; a nice abalone soufflé; whole steamed duck; poussin with taro balls; maybe sugary fried bananas for dessert. (The amount you spend -- $35 per person and up -- determines the size of your personal feast -- a dozen courses and up.) The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming (jai yun means "home" in the old country), and afterward Nei joins his family in the dining room to greet his guests. Of note: It's cash only; reservations are required at least a day in advance; and the place is closed on Thursday.