The Other Critics

Kauffman Discovers Chinese Charcuterie at Dong Bei Mama; Reidinger Overcomes ‘Mallphobia’ to Enjoy Straits

Jonathan Kauffman, while pretty well versed in the cuisines of Asia, sounds sincerely surprised at the discoveries he made at Dong Bei Mama — the restaurant formerly known as Panda Country Kitchen at Geary and 11th Avenue. The cuisine comes from Dongbei (a.k.a. Manchuria), in northeastern China, and Kauffman writes, “The provinces bordered by Russia, Korea, and Mongolia, it turns out, have a more varied and interesting cuisine than outsiders like me thought.” He delights in the Dongbei-style charcuterie counter, which he says is “as varied as the salumi platter at Incanto.” He also loves a preserved Napa cabbage and lamb “stew soup,” and he calls the stir-fries “homey and competent,” drawing a funny comparison with one, musing that the “seasoning on the Dong Bei fish filet was as discreet as the Auto-Tuning on a Beyoncé song.” [SF Weekly]

Reidinger, meanwhile, stays downtown and heads to Straits, the modernized, mall-i-fied incarnation of what was once a modest Inner Richmond spot with a corrugated metal roof. He writes, “A move to a huge (and surely pricey) space in a mall in the city center would have to be a dim augury. But no! The food remains recognizable; it is vivid and it is excellent, and while prices have tended up from a decade ago, here as everywhere, they are surprisingly restrained.” He calls the mee goreng (egg noodles with prawns, tofu, and vegetables) “wonderful,” and he still loves the roli prata, (Indian bread served with dipping sauces). But, he can’t totally get over the Vegas-ing of the place, and concludes, “There’s nothing not to like except that I don’t like Las Vegas, and I did like the old place in its glorified shack, where the touch of the human hand was still palpable.” [SFBG]

Kauffman Discovers Chinese Charcuterie at Dong Bei Mama; Reidinger Overcomes