Mild to wild - Page 2

The Mandarin comforts of Ah Lin

The bird carried a faint and unsurprising whiff of five-spice powder, but its real power lay in the combination of wonderfully crisp, cognac-colored skin and confitlike meat, juicy and tender. At the price, it's one of the best bargains going.
There is some spice to be had, mainly at lunch. Orange-peel beef ($5.75) is one of those cardiac-arrest dishes you know you shouldn't have but can't resist, and there's a good reason you can't resist: the knobbly shreds of meat are perfectly crisp and the dark-brown sauce intense with citrus and basil; this is just the kind of thing we might find Homer Simpson gorging on from a big paper bucket, if only it were a little dryer. Hunan fish ($5.75), meanwhile, featured a tangy-sweet sauce with a discreet hint of heat, but what was more striking was the fish itself — fish cakes, really, with a certain sponginess of texture the price of uniformity in size (for more reliable cooking) and the chance to mix seasonings with the flesh. The cakes aren't unmanageably rubbery, but they can't match the more usual cod or flounder filets for velvetiness. Lunches come with a cup of soup, a quite lively sweet-and-sour maybe, and rice — brown rice, if you prefer.
Although the restaurant is quite small, service can be stressed. The noontime crowd is sizable, and in the evening take-out orders pile up on the cashier's podium at the rear of the dining room. So: serenity now, and your order will be along soon enough. SFBG
Continuous service: Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sat., noon–9:30 p.m.; Sun., 4:30–9:30 p.m.
1634 Bush, SF
(415) 922-5279
Beer and wine
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible

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