About Little Shin Shin. First, I won’t make another trip to Piedmont just for Little Shin Shin. Was it good? Yes. Was it great? No. It’s a very average Chinese restaurant. They have some dishes I had never heard of, but are apparently classics from a Chinese restaurant in the 1970s. Dishes like Sizzling Rice Soup are sizzling platters of what are apparently Chinese fajitas. The pot stickers needed ginger and more seasoning while the hot and sour soup, which is raved about online, left me disappointed and wanting my mother’s rendition of the soup. The broccoli beef however was superb; it reminded me of the broccoli beef I used to eat two to three times a week at my favorite Chinese restaurant as a child. The chicken lollipops were crunchy and covered in a red sauce of some sort that made it look better than it tasted, not to say it wasn’t tasty, it just looks amazing. The chow mein was also very good with lots of little bits of shrimp, chicken, and Chinese sausage. It had the little bits of cabbage as well but no bean sprouts, which was great because I like my chow mein simple. The portions are very large especially when the dish is around $12; there were plenty of leftovers to take home. When we arrived the restaurant appeared full, but we were seated at a table next to the kitchen door, which was fine other than having to watch the servers constantly walk by. The food came out quickly, however the chicken lollipops took longer than the rest. Our server explained that they are fried twice to ensure they are extra crispy. It was loud but the restaurant was packed with people so that was to be expected. The atmosphere is like a time machine to the late seventies or early eighties with pink walls, brown carpets, classic Chinese restaurant paintings of feudal China, and standard restaurant chairs. You get what you pay for here; the food and beer is cheap, but so is the atmosphere.
Occupation: Journalist and Radio Host
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Canela Bistro and Wine Bar
Reviewed Little Shin Shin Restaurant: Saturday, April 13, 2013
I’d never heard of Little Shin Shin but when we showed up on a Saturday night it was clear many people had. They don’t take reservations for small parties and we were given a number when we showed up. It took about fifteen minutes to be seated, time we happily spent outside on Piedmont watching the lively street scene.
Like many Chinese restaurants, Little Shin Shin isn’t much on décor or ambience; but fortunately they more than make up for it with their food. Our very helpful and friendly waiter (who we also found out later is the manager) steered us in a great direction, making sure we had a variety of dishes – even pointing out when we ordered two dishes with a similar sauce so we could try something different.
We started out with a Chinese staple – won ton soup. Unlike some brothier varieties, this one was hearty with a nicely flavored stock and some fresh cooked vegetables (snow peas). Our dining companions were friends who live in the neighborhood. They said the won tons can be a little inconsistent but assured us this was a good night.
The entrees were stellar, especially the prawns. They were lightly breaded and fried and came in a hot and sour sauce that was so good I drained what was left at the end to eat over my rice! Very simple, but satisfying. The sizzling platter with chicken, beef and prawns also has a very rich flavor – spicy but not
overpowering. It was packed with vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, baby corn and carrots) and a delicious and flavorful sauce. My least favorite entrée was the asparagus chicken. It was a little bland and the chicken had a processed texture to it. It could have used some more punch – pepper or something. That said however, the asparagus was perfectly cooked. The dry-cooked green beans were also excellent – great taste and texture with a hot pepper finish that was not overpowering. Expertly cooked.
We could have eaten more of everything – although the portion sizes were fair, especially given the price. “Dessert” was simple and typical – oranges (very juicy) and fortune cookies. The restaurant was bustling – for good reason – but we were easily able to have a conversation without shouting. We were pleasantly surprised when the bill came -- $25 each including tip and beer.