Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Alice's Restaurant

Alice's Restaurant, 1599 Sanchez Street, San Francisco.

A while back, my family's favorite sit-down Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, Eliza's, closed. Since then, we've been looking for a replacement.

A few family members have lately been going to Alice's in Noe Valley, and when invited to join the clan this weekend, I took advantage of the opportunity. I don't know if it's a full replacement for Eliza's, but Alice's certainly merited a return visit.

Alice's (1599 Sanchez Street, at the corner of 29th and Sanchez streets) is in a nice corner location, with big windows. The neon on the front sign seems a little out of place in the otherwise residential street, but makes for nice, clean lines. The simple decorations and straight tables inside suggest a good measure of organization.

Prices: Our party of 11 ordered an assortment of dishes, all between $7 and $10 on the fairly simple menu.

Pot Stickers, $5.25
Appetizers: We stuck with with pot stickers. They were nice and hot, brown in exactly the right places. Good quality meat and seasonings inside.

Main dishes: We tried a good assortment. Since we had four kids under 10 (five if you count Charlotte), we only got one spicy dish. Our choices included:

Kung Pao chicken $8.25
Kung Pao Chicken: Our one spicy dish. Flavorful, but too many peanuts (especially after we asked it to be customized with cashews instead).

Orange chicken: This dish was ordered a little mild for the kids. It had a strong marmalade-like orange flavor (which was good), and it was darker and with a bit more kick than the equivalent dish the young'uns usually get at Panda Express.

Sesame chicken, $8.50
Sesame chicken: Good texture, generous with the sesame seeds. Good, fresh shredded vegetables (carrots, squash, etc.). Chicken, however, was a bit bland.

Asparagus with black-bean sauce: Tame, but generous portion for a side dish.

Alice's Chow Mein: Good, but more flavorings (chicken, water chestnuts, peppers) than actual noodles.

Alice's Chow Fun, $6.95

Alice's Chow Fun: Also good, but opposite of the chow mein: far more noodles than flavorings, to the point where the noodles were almost all one tasted -- with the exception of a strong flavor of Thai basil, which made it taste fresh.

Service: Great service! The waiter personally rolled six helpings of mu-shu pork after seeing we had problems. The water refills came frequently and the food was brought out nice and hot and put directly on the table where the people who most hungrily eyed it were sitting.

Overall: It's location (out of Chinatown or other heavily Asian neighborhoods) might make its authenticity suspect, but the staff and food were both very good. The food flavor was a bit tame compared to some of the more-authentic Chinese restaurants I've been to, but the freshness of the Hunan menu and the good service were huge points in Alice's favor.

I don't think it will get on my list of most-visited restaurants, but I would happily return to Alice's.

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