Da Lian was and remains one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. The service is friendly. The food menu is extensive, and includes a variety of dim sum items. I have liked most of the items I have tried. The wine list, although quite limited, offers most wines at under $20/bottle. This is a pleasant alternative to $10-$14 glasses of mediocre wines or overpriced cocktails at some other local establishments. Tables are nicely spaced/separated. You get a good dining value and dining experience.
There are several items on the menu that I have ordered repeatedly, such as the lamb or beef with cumin, and there are several that I tried during my most recent visit that I enjoyed and will likely reorder during future visits, such as the garlic noodles with pork brisket, and the lamb with pickled Chinese cabbage clay pot. I prefer the offerings here to those I have tried at Great China.
During our latest visit, we ordered one appetizer from the dim sum submenu, one from the regular appetizer submenu, the claypot (which is a soup), and four main courses to be shared among three people. We fully anticipated that we would have significant amounts of leftovers since the portions are quite generous. We got the soup, then within a very few minutes the dim sum and appetizer, and then within another two or three minutes the main courses started arriving on by one. We have never had this happen before, so perhaps it was a one-time glitch. The staff graciously added another table so that we would have room for all the platters. However, a nicer sequencing of food, with a delay between the appetizers and main courses would have been preferable. The main courses were getting cold as we finished our appetizers. Too much food arrived in too short a time. You might try asking the waiter/waitress to delay the arrival of your main courses. I will try this during my next visit, and it may work. If it doesn’t work, a more guaranteed way to space out the food delivery is to order appetizers, and then after they are delivered to the table, add the main courses you want to the order. This will give you time to enjoy the appetizers, and provide a break before the main courses arrive. As an additional note or suggestion, we found that the steamed shrimp dumplings were so fragile that they were difficult to get out of the steamer basket in one piece; the seams had opened. The pot stickers were large and had good flavor, but the pastry was a bit thick and tough. Again, I am not sure whether this was a typical or unusual experience. The remainder of the meal was very tasty. With a bottle of wine and tip, the bill was roughly $120. To put this into perspective, the dinner served three and we had enough leftovers for two additional meals for two people. That’s about $17/person per meal. Take out the wine, and you are under $15/person per meal. You can pretty much spend that on a single cocktail at some local places. In my book, it is a very good value.
Overall, I enjoy eating at Da Lian. I suspect that I will be trying a few more of their regional specialties, and a few more of the soups during future “winter” visits. I enjoyed the noodle dish more than I expected to. I do look forward to visiting again, but will do what I can to assure that one can enjoy the appetizers before the main courses arrive.
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