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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

House of Nanking - San Francisco (Financial District)

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After a bit of shopping and walking around, we weren't particularly hungry, but wanted to take advantage of being in the city. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and wanted some Americanized Chinese food from House of Nanking.

Way back when I lived in the Bay, and before everything was readily available online, I bought a Zagat guide that was on clearance to discover new places to eat. House of Nanking was one of them. During peak dinner time, double lines would extend down the sidewalk. Mostly tourists and white people, who'd whisper about the anticipated rude service, almost as if to survive such an ordeal meant that the restaurant must be "authentically" Chinese indeed, a place that only locals or Asians knew about. My friends and I would get odd looks from the staff, as if they wondered what we were doing waiting in line too.

Honestly, I couldn't really remember loving anything in particular, and was more curious than anything else to see what had become of my old haunt.

We sat by the windows, which were open to let in breezes.

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The restaurant's bare bones decor was remodeled and replaced with dark wood paneling. The kitchen no longer sat in the middle, and the restaurant was noticeably more spacious and actually decorated.

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Perhaps the main draw of the restaurant were the celebrities who once dined there? Like Jamie Oliver.

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And Sean Penn.

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And a scruffy Keanu Reeves. I had to take this picture just for Lan of Angry Asian Creations. Keanu was here! And I guess there must be a good number of fans because this picture gets way more views than the rest of the photos I took at this restaurant.

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Anyway, we ordered the famous Nanking sesame chicken, $9.95. Crispy chicken tossed in signature Nanking honey sauce served with sweet potatoes. That signature Nanking honey sauce? Totally Xi Muoi (Vietnamese/Chinese preserved plums). With chayote too. I imagine if I weren't familiar with Chinese food, this would taste like an "exotic" sweet and sour dish to me. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but then I also like orange chicken and Mongolian beef and other Chinese-American dishes. And I totally want to try and replicate this at some point.

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The middle '87 ordered fried tofu in peanut sauce, $6.95, because she knew her oldest brother would appreciate the leftovers. The tofu was crisp and silky in the middle. We liked the green beans too.

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Fried Chinese eggplant, $5.95, with house chili black bean sauce surprisingly came with a bunch of vegetables, baby corn, napa cabbage, and chayote.

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I love eggplant and wish I could keep it that pretty shade of purple. But when I cook eggplant, it always turns dark and loses that lovely color.

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The house fried rice, $8.95, came with eggs, peas, zucchini, eggplant, shredded sweet potato, and savory spices.

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Actually, now that I think about it, I remember liking the fried rice quite a bit. Although, I think the old version of the fried rice was different. The portion also seems awfully stingy on that large plate.

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Actually, it's a little funny to me to think of such an Americanized Chinese restaurant doing so well in San Francisco. House of Nanking is located just a block from the Kearny Street parking garage, although it's supposedly in the Financial District, it's really still part of Chinatown.

While we were waiting for the bill, a white guy pulled up on his motorcycle. It was obvious he was a regular. He chatted easily with the waitress while waiting for his friends to arrive and told her he trusted whatever the chef wanted to send out. I wondered if he thought he was getting "authentic" Chinese food, or whether he knew it was Americanized and, like me, still liked it anyway.

We were ridiculously stuffed as this was third lunch after all. And I was meeting up with my high school friend for dinner too!

All Northern California posts can be found with the tag, Series: NorCal, but I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:
Persian Dill Rice
Chai Thai Noodles - Oakland
Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe - Oakland
Fentons Creamery & Restaurant - Oakland
Chinatown - San Francisco
Eastern Bakery - San Francisco (Chinatown)
House of Nanking - San Francisco (Financial District)
Banana Leaf Restaurant - Milpitas
Jovino - San Francisco (Marina/Cow Hollow (Closed)
Miette Patisserie (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero) 
Butterfly Restaurant (Pier 33) - San Francisco (Embarcadero)
Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero)
Sura Korean Cuisine - Oakland
Centennial Light (World's Longest Lasting Light Bulb) - Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department Station 6 - Livermore
Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant - Coalinga
Chao Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Rice Porridge)
Chinese Scallion Cilantro Dipping Sauce

House of Nanking
919 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday noon to 10 p.m.
Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

1 year ago today, Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) - Sweden: Beowulf and Burial Mounds.
2 years ago today, Perfectly "Peachy" Nectarine Pie.


  1. But does it really matter if its authentic Chinese or Chinese ran thru the filter of america? Nah, one likes what one likes, yeah?

  2. Biki,
    It does and it doesn't. I like Americanized Chinese food when I want certain dishes. But if I were in a mood for more authentic Chinese food and had Americanized food served to me, then I might be upset. But I'm like that with food in general when I get cravings and don't get those cravings satisfied. :P


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