House of Nanking: The Experience
Before my first trip out to San Francisco, my dad who is an avid Food Network geek and foodie suggested I go to the House of Nanking. He’d seen it on a show and had gone himself with my mom, and was very impressed. I decided that it was definitely going to be on my first S.F. to-do list. Unlucky for me, I came down with a cold the day I got to San Francisco and was couch ridden for most of my trip. My sick comfort food is Chinese, and on my third day of what I thought was misery, my friend decided we should make the trip into San Francisco to get food from the one restaurant on my to-do list. Although he’d been living in the San Francisco area for a few years, he’d never heard of it and was curious to try it out. When we got to the restaurant it was super packed and we were sat at a tiny table next to an open window (don’t forget, I was still sick). I ordered an herbal tea with fruit flowers, hot and sour soup and their famous sesame chicken. I immediately thought the food had healing powers because I actually started feeling better, but that might have been attributed to the DayQuil I chugged just before we left the apartment. Regardless, the food was amazing. My first experience with House of Nanking was nothing short of miraculous and life-changing but that’s not where this story ends. Not by a long shot.
On my recent trip to S.F. I knew that I needed the House of Nanking back in my life. After participating in the Real Escape from AT&T Park, I was starving and managed to convince a small group to join me on my trek back to Chinese food heaven. When we arrived the restaurant was not busy at all. We were a group of five and were immediately sat at a big table. Now I want you to be aware that you will not be guaranteed good service; they say that all good things come to those who wait, and in this case they aren’t lying. Once we were sat, it took about 10 minutes for anyone to come get our drink order. I legitimately watched our waiter read a newspaper, check his phone, and eat before he came to take our order but again your patience will be rewarded. I decided to try a new tea and ordered the blossoming tea as did one other person at the table. Side note, whatever you do DO NOT order the lemonade, you will be very sad and extremely disappointed. When they brought out my tea, they brought out what looked like hot water with a weird flower bud in it. I am extremely open-minded but even I was a little hesitant to drink it, but I did anyway because YOLO. Meanwhile, the owner of the restaurant came by to take our food order. Being a big group we wanted to order a lot of things and eat family style, so after placing an order for the fourth appetizer the owner stopped us and told us that he would “fill in the gaps” and just bring us food. By the time he left I noticed that the bulb in my tea had since dropped to the bottom of the glass and started blooming. It looked neat. My friend’s bulb had yet to drop so he set up his iPhone to get a time lapse of his bulb blooming and it came out pretty good. After waiting probably another 5-10 minutes, I saw the first plates coming out of the kitchen towards our table. It was as if the pearly gates of Chinese food heaven were opening up. App after app was set down on our table, even one that wasn’t featured on the menu and every single appetizer was better than the one before it. By the time we scraped the last of the appetizers from the different plates, our entrees were being served. Again we were treated to an off-menu beef entree and it was amazing. We had a total of four appetizers and four entrees which was just the right amount of food to feed five hungry individuals. The best part was that we each only paid $20.
I want to stress that you may not like the service; for fun my friends and I Yelped the place to read reviews and lo and behold most complaints were about the service. If you’re not in a rush and willing to keep an open mind, I highly recommend trying this place out. It will be well worth it. My suggestion is to let them know you’ve never been and have them bring food out for you. It won’t be a decision you will regret. Just ask my four local friends I dragged to the restaurant, they now have this place on their radar to take friends from out of town to eat.