I left my heart in San Francisco

For those who know me, spontaneity is not my forte. I'm a planner. If we ever go on a trip together, be assured that I'll have a detailed itinerary and a colour-coded map at the ready. It's a serious problem I know.

So when my parents suggested going somewhere with me on my week off, with only two weeks notice (!!), naturally I panicked a little. LA was put on the table first, but I got overwhelmed by the mere thought. So I suggested San Francisco instead. Small. Hip. Techy. But most importantly, doable in a short time frame.

We started off our journey with an afternoon flight and a three-hour layover in Vancouver. Three hours is a long time, but we didn't feel it was enough to leave the airport and come back. So, we killed some time grabbing dinner at the only sit-down restaurant in the US terminal, which was the Canucks Bar & Grill (sorry Oilers!).

It was your typical sports bar, with typical chain restaurant food. We got an order of teriyaki chicken wings ($14.50) that came with a side of celery, carrots, and ranch dip. Over-fried, overpriced.  

We also shared the house burger ($18), a hand-pressed patty with cheddar, bacon, lemon aioli, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickle on a brioche bun. We opted for yam fries (+$2.00) seeing as how the fish & chips ($21.50) with tartar sauce, coleslaw, and lemon already came with regular fries.

The burger was really dry and overall, the food was very average. But when it's the only restaurant around, you do what you gotta do. 

Canucks Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I swear, I'm a magnet for babies on airplanes. Our flight also ended up being delayed another hour, so we arrived at our hotel in SF around midnight.

We stayed at the San Francisco Marriot Marquis because we got a good deal on Expedia but it was a great place to stay. Very central location (near Union Square) with lots of shopping and amenities closeby. Whenever we had some downtime, we would just walk around the area to explore and shop. Literally across the street, there was a Target and a Trader Joes. Heaven.

When we woke up the next morning, we did a quick Target run to stock up on water. Then it was off to our first destination of the day: dim sum at Dragon Beaux!

Dragon Beaux is a dim sum and hot pot restaurant located in SF's Richmond district. Similar to Vancouver's "Richmond", the Richmond district has almost become SF's second Chinatown. There's quite a few dim sum restaurants in the neighbourhood, but Dragon Beaux is certainly the flashiest one. 

I failed to realize that the States also had a holiday Monday (Family Day for us, Presidents' Day for them), so I was quite surprised to see the HUGE lineup outside the restaurant. I knew waiting in line was a typical SF thing, but this was pretty crazy. We even arrived a half hour early, thinking the restaurant opened at 11:00, but I guess because it was a holiday, they started letting people in right at 10:30. Unfortunately, we just missed the first seating (we were literally the cut-off point) so we had to wait 45 minutes for a table.

My dad is the impatient type, so I had to reassure him that food tastes better when you're hungry.

Dragon Beaux serves all the classic dim sum items, some with interesting and unique twists. Take the five guys xiao long bao ($9.99) for example. Each dumpling skin is coloured naturally and holds a soupy pork filling with a little extra something. The white dumpling is your regular xiao long bao, while the black dumpling has black truffle inside and the wrapper dyed with squid ink. The green one has spinach skin with kale, the yellow has crab roe in a turmeric skin, while the red is both flavoured and dyed with beets. It wasn't the best XLB I've had, but the colours and flavours were pretty interesting.

Another one of their special items is the sea bass dumpling ($7.50). Three to a basket, the filling consists mainly of shrimp and asparagus, with a bit of sea bass adorned on top.

The XO spinach dumpling ($6.50) is also pretty interesting with the wrapper dyed green with spinach. Like the sea bass dumpling, the filling is shrimp but the topping of XO sauce makes it flavourful and a bit spicy.

The abalone tart ($9.28) only came with two, so I let my parents have them since they were pretty excited about it. It's a flaky tart filled with mushrooms and topped off with a small abalone.

Can't go wrong with the classic shrimp dumpling ($6.50).

Or another one of my favourite dim sum dishes, stuffed eggplant ($6.50) with black bean sauce.

They also have your standard shui mai on the menu, but we decided to get the slightly upgraded version. The jumbo scallop shui mai comes in three instead of the typical four ($5.50) but it worked out since we were a table of three anyways.

Although you order dim sum off of a check-sheet menu, some of the servers still come around with items on a tray. Most were BBQ items like the roasted quail ($9.28) ...

... and the roasted duck ($7.50).

One of my favourite items that we ordered that day was the fish chip rose red rice crepe roll ($7.50). A long complicated name, but a delicious contrast in textures. Inside the silky rice roll was a fried piece of fish along with fried flakes, almost like tempura bits in a way.  

And last but not least, for dessert, we got the baked green tea egg custard bao ($6.50). There wasn't a strong green tea flavour, but the bun itself was the perfect marriage of two of my favourite Chinese buns: bo lo bao (pineapple bun) and liu shao bao (salted egg custard bun).

By the end, we stuffed ourselves silly with our first meal in SF. Although prices are higher than your average dim sum joint, the creativity and quality certainly justifies it. When we left, the line was still down the block so I'd highly recommend getting here early.

Dragon Beaux Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After catching an Uber, we were off to the next iconic SF landmark.

None other than the Golden Gate Bridge! You haven't really gone to San Francisco if you don't see the Golden Gate.

We were dropped off in the bridge's main parking lot, right beside the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Inside the center, there are relics and artifacts, but it's mainly a cool little souvenir shop.

Snow globes, magnets, books, postcards, and hoodies (for those who don't realize how windy it gets walking around the bay)!

We didn't want to trek the entire bridge (1.7 miles) and back, but we wanted to at least say that we walked on it.

View of the city from the bridge.

We walked all the way up to the first tower before turning back.

After calling another Uber, we went somewhere closeby, that being the Palace of Fine Arts.

The Palace of Fine Arts was originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Although today's structure is a reconstruction, it still stands on the original site.  

It's a popular attraction for both tourists and locals, and many events and art exhibitions are held on the grounds. I could see it being very popular for weddings and such.

Although very pretty, there wasn't much to do here besides taking pictures so we moved through it pretty quickly.

These were some of the houses surrounding the Palace. Imagine waking up every morning to that view! Real estate prices are astronomical in SF, so I definitely wonder how expensive these houses would be.

Since it was closeby, we ended up walking down to the Marina to do a little exploring.

I love the housing architecture in SF!

Around dinner time, we originally planned to go to PPQ Dungeness Island, a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in roasted crab and garlic noodles. It was high up on my list after watching a video by Mike Chen on Strictly Dumpling. We were dropped off at the restaurant by our Uber, until we were met with a closed sign. T_T *cries*

The restaurant said they were closed for the week, most likely because of Tết, or Lunar New Year. Good thing I had a plan B.

We called another Uber and headed straight to San Tung Chinese restaurant.

The restaurant is extremely popular, and waits are a given during lunch and dinner. What the restaurant is most known for is their original dry fried chicken wings. Seriously, these 'crack wings' have their own cult following.

My dad went in to put our name down but was told it would be about an hour wait. The hostess told him that we could go next door to their sister restaurant, 'San Tung #2,' if we didn't want to wait. She said it had the same owner, just a separate kitchen staff. It's a smart way to handle the overflow.

We didn't understand why more people didn't head over next door because there was literally no wait at the second restaurant. Could the food be not as good? We had nothing to compare to, so it didn't really matter for us. Although we were seated right away, there was only one server handling the front of the restaurant so service was a bit lacking. I felt bad because she was taking orders, running food, and cleaning tables while a second line started to build up front.

Apparently San Tung #2 has a smaller menu than next door, but it has all the most popular dishes. It's like they knew you only came for the chicken wings and cut out the rest of the filler.

The original dry fried chicken wings ($13.50) come with twelve to a plate, a combination of drums and wings. The wings are double-fried, resulting in a crispy skin that almost shatters when you bite into them. The sauce is more like a sticky glaze, a combination of soy, ginger, garlic, and chilis. I found them to be quite sweet though.

On the way back to the hotel, our Uber driver recommended getting the diced (boneless) version instead of the wings. For the same price, you get more meat and don't have to deal with pesky bones.

We also ordered a small hot and sour soup ($7.00), a mixture of shrimp, tofu, willow tree fungus, bamboo shoots, and egg in a peppery and tangy broth. I'm not a fan of hot and sour soup in general but both my parents and I didn't enjoy it. It was overly sour and lacking.

Another recommended dish at San Tung are the dry sautéed string beans ($11.50). The green beans are flash fried in a garlicky sauce with Chinese pickles. They were quite sweet but missing a bit of wok hei.

To round out our meal, we got the honey walnut prawns ($18.00), America's equivalent to peach prawns here. Deep fried shrimp is mixed with a creamy mayo sauce and comes adorned with honey glazed walnuts. The sauce and batter actually reminded me of a bit of the peach prawns at my favourite Chinese restaurant growing up called Wok King. (They've closed a long time ago when the owner retired, and with them, took a piece of my heart.)

We also ordered seafood fried rice ($13.00), a large portion with shrimp, calamari, scallops, and plenty of egg.

While the food at San Tung #2 didn't quite live up to the hype of San Tung, we were still quite satisfied after the meal. The food leans more towards the Americanized spectrum but there's nothing wrong with that. And if you order a plate of dry fried chicken wings for yourself, well, there's nothing wrong with that too.

 San Tung Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
(There is no Zomato listing for San Tung #2, so the above link is for the original San Tung restaurant.)

After finishing dinner, we took an Uber back to the hotel. Instead of going up right away, we walked around to digest and do some shopping around Union Square. Let me say, I'll be the first in line for whenever UNIQLO decides to open in Edmonton.

- CT 


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CT is a 20-something Edmontonian who started blogging as an excuse for taking pictures of her food.

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf