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Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Exterior

Having reached the trough in terms of Chinese restaurant suggestions in San Francisco, we went out scouting for opinions when we were in Chinatown. The lady at Eastern Bakery came up with Far East Cafe for three reasons: cost, cleanliness, and taste. Although the entrance did not reveal much, we took the suggestion and walked in.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Interior
Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Chandeliers
Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Tea
(oolong tea)

The outside did not represent the inside at all, if any. Inside, a dark, antiquated interior that had many details greeted us, including intricate chandeliers and moldings, dark woods, and large paintings. It was something different from the usual Chinese restaurant and was definitely something to take note of.

At first, nothing on the menu stood out to us; there were plenty of traditional Chinese dishes mixed with some Chinese-American dishes. Not sure about what to choose from, we just randomly picked off items from the menu.

Luckily the service was amicable and so we were able to have longer conversations with the waiters; all were especially friendly and respectful, and made constant checkups during the meal to ensure that we were having a great experience. One waiter, whose name was Wilson, was very friendly to us and answered our questions about the fish tank we could see from the table with confidence. Talking to him we also found out the chefs were from Hong Kong and Tai Shan.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: West Lake Minced Beef Soup

Westlake Beef Soup (8.75 USD) arrived first and was an impressive rendition. The beef was unadulterated from baking soda, and as a result had that rougher texture that ground beef cooked in soup would have.  Brightened up with cilantro, the soup was very smooth in the mouth but with plenty of beef flavors; some vinegar made the soup taste even better.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Mixed Seafood Tofu Hot Pot

The Seafood Combination Hot Pot (13.50 USD) was another strong rendition. It consisted of a variety of perfectly cooked seafood (fish, shrimp, scallops, and squid), fragrant mushrooms, garlic, scallions, carrots, and  fried tofu, mixed in a light oyster sauce (a mix of water, oyster sauce, and other seasonings). This was perfect to go along with some steamed rice.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Mushrooms and bok Choy

Likewise, the Black Mushrooms with Tender Greens (in this case bok choy, 13.50 USD) was tasty. The crisp vegetables and fresh shittakes were covered with the same oyster sauce mixture for the Seafood Combination Hot Pot.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Black Bean and Tofu Steamed Big Mouth Bass

The shining star of the visit though, was a freshly steamed black bass (we paid 27 USD, market price). Server Wilson provided the additional black bean sauce and bean curd that you see in the picture for no charge-- otherwise it would have been an additional three dollars. The additional upgrade was definitely worth it; the black bean sauce, which had orange rind, complimented perfectly with the tender and firm fleshed black bass and flavored the soft tofu nicely. Only drawback to this dish was that one small section of the fish was a tad undercooked and that the fish was seasoned with a tad much salt, but still it was a memorable dish. In fact, my companions and I even look for black bass at the market and have prepared it in this style several times at home.

Far East Cafe- Chinatown, San Francisco, CA: Fortune Cookies

Dinner ended with fortune cookies, an appropriate dessert considering it was Chinatown; what made them even more special was that they were not packaged.These had a special crisp and fragrance that I have not seen in other fortune cookies.

We were very satisfied with our meal, and we have the person at Eastern Bakery to thank for introducing us to Far East Cafe; this meal probably was the best of the meals we had during this trip. Although our first meal at Koi Palace was also quite excellent, this experience was very memorable with the friendly waiters, great food, and special atmosphere. Plus, we spent less money here compared to the 100+ dollars we spent at most of the other places like Bistro Boudin; in this case, less money equated to a better outcome!

Go to Far East Cafe, and try the authentic Chinese cuisine. I think you'll be in for a great time.

Far East Cafe
631 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108
TEL: (415) 982-3245
Far East Cafe on Urbanspoon

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX