Sweet and savory
One of my favorite things about many forms of Asian cuisine is how well they work when you have more than a couple of people sharing a meal. You can nearly always find at least one item that will satisfy your dining companions, and SF Kitchen’s combination of Chinese and Vietnamese offerings didn’t disappoint.
Upon entry, I noticed how fragrant the place is, with a predominance of star anise and Thai basil wafting from the kitchen. My group got off to a good start with orders of spring rolls ($6), summer rolls ($6), and pot stickers ($7). The shrimp and pork spring rolls with peanut sauce were quite good, and the summer rolls—a nice combination of grilled beef and veg—were served with a mixture of citrus, spices and fish sauce. The fried pork dumplings were average in size and flavor, but they were only browned on one side. This left them a bit doughy, though still enjoyable.
Ample plates of sesame chicken and General’s pork ($10 each)—served with steamed broccoli—were crispy despite being tossed with plenty of sauce. The chicken’s sauce was sweet without being syrupy. The pork’s sweet and savory sauce had just the right amount of heat. Entrees are served with white rice. Fried rice is a couple of bucks extra.
A serving of walnut shrimp ($14) was a little disappointing. The sauce was creamy and lightly sweetened—with plenty of candied walnut halves—but the tempura coating didn’t hold up very well, and the shrimp was a bit overcooked and chewy. My wife and daughter said it was OK, but after a couple of squishy bites, I had to wave off and just let them enjoy it.
Much, much better was a big plate of Singapore mei fun ($11). This mix of rice vermicelli stir-fried with chicken, pork and shrimp in curry powder and other seasonings is one of my favorite things. This edition was the definition of umami—very savory—with garlic, scallion, fish sauce, five spice and heaven knows what else. It’s almost impossible to describe the flavor combination, because with each bite it seemed as though something else rang through. I’d eat this treat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A shared bowl of fried wor wonton soup ($9) was served piping hot with a simple broth, plenty of veggies and fluted, pork-filled wontons. I mention the appearance of the dumplings because I don’t know that I’ve seen them served that way in a bowl of soup, and the wrapper-to-meat ratio seemed a bit off. While perhaps not the best bowl of war wonton, it still had adequate flavor and was shared and enjoyed.
One menu item in particular caught my eye because I’ve only seen it once or twice at other places around town: oxtail pho ($10, when available). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but holy mother of beefy goodness, it was impressive. The bowl included all the usual pho components—noodles, veggies, broth—with the addition of at least eight oxtail bones loaded with plenty of meat. The broth’s flavor was extremely satisfying, and though nibbling the meat off the bones was a bit of a challenge, the extra effort was well worth the result.
The service was very efficient and friendly. The atmosphere comfortable. And we barely dented the menu on our first visit We’ll definitely be back for more.