Wild Pepper - Page 2

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If there is a weakness on the menu, it lies in the hot appetizers and can be recognized by the alluring but somehow repulsive scent of the deep-fryer. The pork pot stickers ($4.50 for six) are an exception, being just pan-seared instead of dunked in a vat of hot oil. But they are an exception; also a bit floury. The combination plate ($6.25) gives the full oily effect; here we have egg roll and fried chicken wings (which consist of little more than deep-fried batter and some slender bones but are tasty!), along with a pair of pot stickers and a couple of disks of crab Rangoon: crab meat mixed with cream cheese and, yes, deep-fried. Good, but positively Homer Simpsonesque.

A better hot first course might be one of the soups. Hot and sour ($2.75 for a cup) is fine in a mainstream way, but a more enriching choice might be the ocean party ($6.95 for a large, and that means at least six cups' worth), an egg drop soup fortified almost beyond recognition. Emendations include seafood, of course (mainly scallops and chunks of white fish), along with shreds of bok choy, rounds of baby corn, panels of carrot, and slivers of shiitake mushroom. There is no obviously dominant ingredient in this soup, and its flavor is delicate easily obscured, say, by the bite and fire of the preceding cuke salad, if you had eaten that first, as we made the mistake of doing. But we found that once the cuke fireworks had ended, the soup quietly asserted itself until its mild flavor filled our mouths and we could not get enough of it. Pepper, you see, is nice, whether red, black, white, or Szechuan, but it is not the only way to go.

Wild Pepper

11 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.

3601 26th St., SF

(415) 695-7678

Beer and wine

MC/V

Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

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