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Mr. K and I drove to Xiao Long Bao Kitchen in South San Francisco last Sunday for brunch with a gathering of friends. I visited last fall with a smaller group where we focused on the dumplings (you can read about that here), but this time we had Frank whose family is from Taiwan who did the majority of ordering which made for an adventurous meal! There were also a gaggle of kids so we ordered a few simpler dishes especially for them. The kitchen and register is enclosed in a shiny facade with a bright green roof that looks like a teahouse in the center of the room.
Our group of 14 were crowded into a large round table with a really big lazy susan that seemed to take forever to turn around to get to the teapots or food. We had several orders of the specialty of the house, Xiao Long Bao or Shanghai soup dumplings, which are wrapped little meatballs with a sip of rich soup wrapped up in a thin pleated dough. In fact, they had a thinner wrapper than we remembered from before but were still almost too large to fit into the mandatory spoon lest you miss any of the soup that can spill out. The dumplings were flavorful and juicy and really good drizzled with the accompanying ginger infused soy sauce.
We had Salted Soy Milk xian doujiang ($2.25), an interesting dish which Frank said is a typical breakfast dish and goes really well with the fried donut below. It was light and flavorful, full of pickled vegetables, green onion, thin slices of fungus and drizzled with red chili oil. This came in a biggish bowl that we shared.
Here is the Fried Donut (youtiaou), which was piping hot and fresh from the fryer. It’s tender and fluffy inside and the crust is delicately crisp and chewy and it is absolutely delicious plain or dunked into the savory soy milk. The kids loved these.
We also had the Lions Head Meatball Casserole ($11.95), which was full of oversized meatballs that represent lion’s heads and cabbage leaves, which represent the mane. At first glance the meatballs looked dry, but they were tender and fragrant, infused with the aroma of five spices and each bite was as soothing as a mother’s caress.
We had several orders of the Stir Fried Noodles in Shanghai Style ($6.95), thick chewy noodles infused with the savory flavor of soy and oyster sauces mixed with a good amount of sugar, blended with crunchy greens and thin slices of pork that warms the stomach and the heart.
Pork Preserved Vegetable Fried Rice Cakes ($7.95) were deliciously sticky slices of rice cake that are tossed with piquant crunchy bits of salty preserved mustard greens and tender slices of pork.
We gobbled up two orders of Potstickers ($5.95/order) which were served with a sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar and chili infused sesame oil. I loved the crunchy bottom that develops while they are cooked.
The Beijing Style Boiled with Chives Dumplings ($5.95) had thick chewy wrappers and were filled with a pungent garlicky filling which were lovely drizzled with one of the zesty soy sauces on the table.
I really liked the Spicy Wontons ($5.95), garlic infused meaty wontons drizzled with a rich nutty sesame paste, which are drizzled with chili oil and sprinkled with green onion and toasted sesame seeds. So flavorful and a wonderful compliment to the other dumplings.
Ma Po Tofu ($6.95) a Sichuan style dish made with cubes of soft custardy tofu cubes in a spicy chile laced sauce of minced pork, sichuan peppercorns, chili bean paste, and fermented black beans. The silken tofu evaporates, leaving a lovely rich and spicy mala burn that is quenched with a few bites of plain steamed white rice.
We all lovedhe Eggplant with Garlic Sauce ($6.95) which was caramelized and garlicky, tossed with a sweet and spicy sauce that was so good over the steamed rice.
Daisy’s parents who were sitting at a nearby table ordered the Chicken Egg foo Yung ($7.95), which I have never had at a restaurant before. It was surprisingly good, juicy and tender, topped with a delectable oyster sauce and green onions. They over-ordered too so we helped them finish off the dish.
We enjoyed our meal, which came out to $15 a person, quite a deal for such a feast! I am jealous of Daisy and P who live in this neighborhood, walking distance to so many interesting restaurants…