Even better was a platter of sea scallops ($8.95) stir-fried kung pao–style, with chunks of red and green bell pepper, chopped scallion, and a heavy showering of peanuts in a dark, thick, smoky-sweet sauce.
The sizzling-rice seafood soup ($5.95) didn't amount to much beyond its rafts of sizzling rice: just some sliced shiitake caps, bits of chopped scallion, and a few lonely dried shrimp bobbing in an OK broth. And the steamed prawns ($21.90), a platter-filling spectacle of finger-size crustaceans split in half and sprinkled with a garlic-shallot sauce that looked like couscous cooked in bleach, were distinctly disappointing, rubbery in the mouth and tasting of feebleness.
One of the best dishes — oh irony! — has nothing to do with the sea. This would be the minced squab lettuce cup ($11.95), a mu shu pork–like construct (complete with a side of hoisin sauce) in which pristine iceberg lettuce leaves are substituted for the pancakes and the meat mixture is scooped into them. If you've ever struggled with squab in a restaurant that served the little fowl on the bone — for flavor or authenticity's sake or due to the chef's busy schedule — you will sniffle in appreciation at the ease and pleasure of munching through this dish.
For a restaurant whose clientele appears to be overwhelmingly Chinese, service is Anglophone-friendly and quite gregarious, though I felt the Heinekens were pushed a little too keenly. Service with brio, meanwhile, does not necessarily mean efficiency: we went out of our way to order an item and it never appeared, except on the bill. So: celebrate, but verify. SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
4401 Balboa, SF