1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12
San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.
What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.
We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.
Hot and Sour Soup shrimp, tofu, peas, willow tree fungus and bamboo shoots in a peppery and tangy broth with whipped eggs
We began with soup, a typical and satisfying variation on the popular classic.
Shrimp and Leek Dumplings dumplings filled with a savory mixture of ginger and garlic infused ground shrimp and chives
Pork Dumplings dumplings filled with ground pork, napa cabbage, and seasoned with fresh ginger and garlic
We orderd a duo of the steamed dumplings. The first order was packed with shrimp and balanced well with the leeks, while the skin held up a nice chew. The pork dumplings had a heartier flavor, with moist pork and cabbage bringing the bulk of the flavor.
Dried Sauteed String Beans fresh green beans flash fried and tossed in a garlic sauce
Our “healthy vegetable” dish came in the form of string beans, though doused with oil. I didn’t think there was a whole lot of other flavor from the garlic sauce.
Noodles with Peanut Sauce shrimp, scallops, water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions, peas in a spicy peanut sauce
Black Bean Sauce Noodles sliced beef, shrimp and calamari in a dark soybean sauce
In the first bowl of noodles, a rich, creamy peanut sauce brought a lot of flavor and a little bit of heat. I liked the texture of the noodles, while a medley of seafood provided some meatiness. Crunchy slivers of cucumber helped to add a crunchy fresh bite. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the black bean sauce noodles as interesting, thinking it a bit one-note.
Dry Fried Chicken Wings chicken deep fried in batter and sauteed in a spicy garlic sauce enhanced with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots
Our last dish was the pièce de résistance – fried chicken wings bathed in a sweet/savory sauce. They’re excellent chicken wings, with moist meat and a very crispy exterior. The sauce added a lot of depth, slightly sweet and very savory making for some pretty delicious bites. These are definitely messy but totally worthwhile.
San Tung provided some comforting noodles and dumplings, as well as expectantly good fried chicken. Living in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t say the dumplings and noodles here were anything outstanding compared to what can be found in the San Gabriel Valley, but I think they compare respectably. The dried fried chicken was much more unique, with its dynamic balance of flavors and textures not something you can find too often.
On a clear day, a trip up to Twin Peaks was an ideal way to work off a meal.