As San Francisco neighborhoods go, the Excelsior’s relatively inexpensive and under-the-radar. (It’s also, if you’re sympathetic to this line of thinking, still largely free of those f—-ing hipsters.) Sungari Dumpling House, a new and website-less Northeastern Chinese spot on the 4500 block of Mission, is a fun new spot for people forever in search of different regional variations on Chinese cooking. It’s just not, well, much of a proper dumpling house, as they’re but a small section of the overall menu.
[jump]The Shanghai noodles were neither the expected shape nor udon (the usual substitute), but rich and delicious all the same, with perfect chew. Bitter melon and pork was flawlessly prepared, with the melon shedding most of its bitterness in the cooking process and the pork picking up just enough of it to keep things complex. With the benefit of a bit of chili oil, the ma po tofu really came to life. And the portions on every platter were most generous.
It sounds culturally insensitive, if not altogether cruel, to mock a non-native speaker’s limited command of English. But the menu at Sungari is so replete with florid translations that it approaches Dada: “Sauce Obliterate Autumn,” “Braised Sea Infiltration Tendons,” “Northern Bloating.” (There are many more, although the separate to-go menu is much more straightforward and full of standard Chinese takeout dishes, irrespective of region.)
Service and ambience at Sungari are close to absolute zero — there was quite literally one menu floating from table to table — but that’s hardly the point. Quick: Name another restaurant you’ve eaten at where the chef was from Dongbei, the bitterly cold northeastern extremity of Manchuria. Exactly; grab some friends and go to town.
Sungari Dumpling House, 4543 Mission, 333-3681.