House of Nanking

I must have walked past House of Nanking dozens of times in the last year, but I never paid it much attention. Located on the border of San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach, this colorful, slightly wacky restaurant attracts its fair share of tourists, so I tended to eschew it. That is, until a friend suggested we try it out for lunch one day.

Fried calamari

We began with the fried calamari, which was a welcome change from the greasy run-of-the-mill fried calamari dishes I’ve had so many times before. Lightly battered, velvety, and served with a light sauce that smacks of vinegar, I couldn’t stop nibbling these.

Nanking sesame chicken

Our next dish was the Nanking sesame chicken, which is touted as one of their specialties. Served with paper-thin sliced and glazed sweet potatoes, this decadent entree was rich, savory and perfect alongside rice. My only complaint is that the sauce coating the fried chicken was a little too sweet for my taste, and yet it was entirely complimentary with the potatoes.

Service is brisk and borderline curt at House of Nanking, but that’s because it’s so perpetually busy. Be prepared to share your table with other diners, as there is often a line. Dishes are served family style and the menu is pricier than comparable Chinese eateries, and it’s also less authentic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re looking for something a bit different without sacrificing flavor, then House of Nanking is your place.

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