5700 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94121
When I first found out that the owners of the venerable Koi Palace were opening a place in the city/county of San Francisco, I knew I had to go. Unfortunately, its location in the Richmond was not favorable to my busy late Spring/early Summer schedule of moving, settling into my new work position, and weddings. This delay, however, was a blessing in disguise because it made the choice of where to celebrate my birthday pretty easy.
I invited a few friends to eat hot pot with me at Dragon Beaux for my birthday. Now, while some of you may find it alarming that I would be eating hot pot in the summer, many Bay Area residents will tell you that the dense, cold fog that blankets the area at night in June and July is really the perfect weather for this. An added bonus was that Dragon Beaux serves Cantonese style hot pot, which is hard to find since most hot pot restaurants serve Sichuan or Taiwanese style hot pot.
My friends and I met up at about 7:30PM and I almost immediately took up the reins of ordering for the table. Since my goal was to experience Cantonese style hot pot, I immediately crossed the Sichuan style mala broth off the list. Of the four remaining broth bases, I chose the herbal chicken broth and the miso sake broth becacuse they were lighter and would help augment the flavor of the items we were cooking, instead of overpowering. To cook, we got the following ingredients:
- Geoduck – When a manager offered us their ‘special’ $28 plate of geoduck, I immediately took him up on the offer as it’s my favorite seafood. The geoduck was very fresh and with just 10-20 seconds in either broth they came out very nice and delicately chewy. The plate had different cuts of the geoduck meat too so one could eat parts of the trunk as well as the meat in between the shells.
- Prime Rib – The meat was nice and I felt went really well with the herbal broth. However I felt it could have been a little fattier.
- Pork Belly – Delicious in both broths and went perfectly with the scallion infused soy sauce
- Shiitake Mushroom – It was great to have fresh, instead of rehydrated, shiitakes and these were great with just a little soak in the boiling broth
- Watercress – Since it is a lighter vegetable, it helped balance the many heavier and protein rich items I ordered
- Organic Tofu – The medium firm tofu was pretty good, and the absorbency of the tofu meant it picked up the rich flavors of the broth and dipping sauces
- Lotus Root – These were probably the freshest lotus root I have ever had. I loved the nice crunch and mild flavor that helped balance the meal.
- Pea Shoots – Admittedly these are one of my favorite vegetables to eat, so I had no complaints about them. Like the other items, they came out really fresh as well.
- Taro Noodle – Similar to mung bean noodles, they came prepared in a knot. Unfortunately the knot presentation detracted as the noodles took longer to cook and the compactness of the center of the knot meant there was an uneven consistency. Honestly, I would rather have sweet potato/mung bean noodles that were sprawling out and occasionally lost in the hot pot broth.
- Miso Sake Broth – Great broth with a nice flavor, though I felt the sake might have made the broth a little too dry in the mouth.
- Chicken With Chinese Herb Broth – Felt like I was eating hot pot at home, including a liberal sprinkling of gogi berries. Unfortunately the broth, while it did get hot, never quite boiled.
All in all, I loved eating hot pot at Dragon Beaux. It was the closest experience I’ve had eating Cantonese hot pot (打邊爐) including the use of two chopsticks per person (one for raw food and one for cooked food) and scallion infused soy sauce. It was such a bonus to share something so ingrained in my childhood with some of my friends in the Bay Area for the birthday. Next time I go for hot pot, though, I definitely want to try their other broths, including the congee broth.
Hot pot, however, isn’t the only thing that Dragon Beaux has on the menu. During the lunch they also serve dim sum. I got to try their dim sum a few weeks later when some friends of mine from out of town were visiting. We met up at around 1:30PM on a Sunday a managed to get a table of 3 in only 15 minutes, which was pretty good given how long most waits are for dim sum in the Richmond on a Sunday.
We sat down and got to ordering from their menu, which included standard items like siu mai and more exotic items like an abalone egg tart. On the whole we stayed toward the tried and true side, ordering the following:
- Sugar Puff (白糖沙翁) – These egg puffs were delicious, albeit since it was one of the few items that were rolling out on trays and not totally fresh, they weren’t as hot as I’d like.
- Savory Daikon Custard (碗仔蘿蔔糕) – This was a nice twist to the standard pan fried daikon cake. This daikon cake was steamed and drizzled with sweet soy sauce, helping to enhance the flavors of the dried baby shrimp and minced chinese sausage in the cake.
- Roasted Pork Belly (明爐爆腩) – This was some of the best roasted pork I have ever had. Beautifully crisp skin with a little salt, fat that was tender but not overwhelming, and meat that was chewy but not tough came together very well.
- Honey Barbecue Pork (蜜汁叉燒) – The honey infused marinade provided a nicely sweet flavor for the barbecue pork. Underneath the pork were some boiled peanuts that became soft and delicious after being cooked and drenched in the marinade.
- Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce (蠔油芥蘭) – I was very thankful that the blanched chinese broccoli and the oyster sauce were presented separated. The broccoli were fresh and blanched perfectly and the side oyster sauce allowed me to dip just the right amount for my liking.
- Pot Sticker (生煎窩貼) – These potstickers were the most disappointing item of dim sum. While they weren’t bad, per se, the relative lack of meat in the potstickers and the blandness of the filling made these rather unexciting.
- Crab Roe Shiu Mai (姜汁蟹子燒賣) – The flavors of the wonton wrapper, pork filling, and crab roe matched well to create a great dumpling. However, I felt the pork might have been slightly overcooked.
- Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao (南翔小籠包) – The soup dumplings had excellent soup and a nice, fatty pork filling. While the soup spoons provided a nice presentation, the execution wasn’t the best with the ginger and black vinegar. The skin was also a little too thick, albeit tasty. While this sounds super critical, I will say that this is one of the best versions I have found at a Cantonese restaurant (as soup dumplings are a specialty from around Shanghai).
- Classic Shrimp Dumpling (經典蝦餃) – The shrimp filling was very fresh and lightly seasoned. The skin had a nice texture. The problem, like other American dim sum restaurants, is that they tried to put too much shrimp filling into a dumpling skin that is not that elastic. While it was tasty, my pursuit of a perfect shrimp dumpling in the United States continues.
For dim sum, Dragon Beaux does it pretty well. I would say that Hong Kong Lounge II is a little bit better, but Dragon Beaux provides another great option in an already dim sum crowded scene in the Richmond. Next time, however, I will have to try more adventurous items like the chilled honey bitter melon which is supposed to be pretty good and not at all like the bitter melon my parents would cook.
In total, Dragon Beaux is a very welcome addition to San Francisco’s Chinese food scene. It provides Bay Area people with the chance to try Cantonese hot pot as well as decently executed and innovative dim sum items you would not find elsewhere in the area. My first meals here tempt me to take more hour public commute treks from Oakland into the heart of San Francisco’s best area for Cantonese food; something which my friends in the city and my stomach are delighted to hear.