|Wo Hing General Store's steamed catfish with black bean sauce.|
It took me a few weeks to sort through my feelings about Charles Phan's new Wo Hing General Store
, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review in the paper
. The Slanted Door owner is nationally known for Vietnamese food, but here he's finally applying the Phan treatment -- simple food made with high-quality ingredients, plus great cocktails, wines, and teas -- to homestyle Cantonese cuisine. And by homey we're not just talking about steamed fish with black bean sauce, we're talking scrambled eggs and steamed pork patty.
Frankly, it's about time, considering how many of us in this city grew up eating Cantonese food and how many of us pay big money for fancy-pants meatloaf, pizza, and fried chicken. With great familiarity and higher prices, though, come great expectations, and a number of the dishes in my initial visits defied the Kauffman Rule of Upscaling: You're allowed to charge three times as much for a dish if it's twice as good than my favorite cheap version (hey, good service counts for something).
So my first visits were a little iffy. On each visit, though, the quality of Wo Hing's food grew more assured -- the dumpling skins more gossamer, the meats more succulent -- and the chef's palate more evident.
Sure, Wo Hing's stir-fried pork noodles, catfish in black bean sauce, and yellow-feather chicken are grand, but the dishes that I ended up liking the most, such as the red-cooked Sichuan lamb, the yuba salad, and the smoked spareribs with harissa, weren't just upscaled classics but something new.
584 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA