Back in June (which seems like a lifetime ago now), I went on a Golden West Tour of the US West Coast with Cosmos. And I had a ball!
As I have previously mentioned, one of the cities that we visited was San Francisco. San Francisco was one of my favourite cities on the trip - some might say that was because the June Gloom stayed away and we had gorgeous sunny warm weather the whole three days we were there, and admittedly, that helped, but San Francisco really is a fascinating place. Its personality reminded me of Melbourne, my adopted Australian home, and I loved its quirkiness and distinct areas. It was just prior to the gay and lesbian pride march when we visited, so there were vibrant rainbow flags throughout the City, adding to the Carnival atmosphere.
For now, I am going to share with you some images and thoughts from the tour banquet at Hunan Homes, a well known Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown. We travelled to Hunan Homes in style via a famed San Francisco cable car (pictured at the top of this post) - similar to a Melbourne tram, but powered differently, and with the grunt to scale some exceptionally steep streets. Here is my room mate, demonstrating how the locals ride the crowded cable cars:
On arrival at Hunan Homes, we were presented with the following banquet menu:
Now I love Asian food, and our tour director, Craig, had built up the Chinese banquet to be pretty special, so perhaps my expectations were too high - or perhaps Asian food is just different in the US to cater for US tastes. However, overall, the food was just OK, and the Peking duck was - hmm, different.
First up were appetizers:
a pot sticker (which we call a dumpling), egg roll (which we call a spring roll) and a fried prawn. I was curious as to what egg roll was, having seen the movie "With Six You Get Egg Roll", so I was a little surprised when I found out it is exactly what Aussies call a spring roll. The appetizers were actually pretty good, and typical of what we would be served in Australia.
Next was the sizzling rice soup:
It was very chicken-stock like, with vegetables and rice lurking in the depths. It was ok, but nothing to write home about.
The next dish, Peking duck, fell way below my expectations:
In Oz, Peking duck comprises sticks of shallot and crispy duck skin and tender duck meat with hoisin sauce inside a light crepe, which you normally roll yourself. At Hunan Homes, the Peking duck was ready rolled, had no shallots, fairly dry meat, soggy skin and was already rolled in what seemed to be a tortilla (not a crepe):
As Peking duck is one of my favourite dishes, this was a bit of a let down.
Next came the mains, which were, for the most part, quite good, starting with assorted vegetables served in stock-like sauce:
combination chow mein:
chicken in sizzling garlic sauce:
and the star dish, prawns with honey walnut:
The honeyed walnuts were devine - in fact, they were so good that a number of the non-seafood eaters at the table picked the walnuts out of the prawns!
As you can see, this was a lot of food, but there is always room for a fortune cookie:
and some fresh fruit to cleanse the palate and finish off the evening:
Verdict - overall, the food was tasty, and there was lots of it for the money, but it didn't knock my socks off. Hunan Homes gets very good reviews in Urban Spoon et al, so it may be that the banquet served en masse to coach tour groups is not as good as the fare that is served a la carte in the remainder of the restaurant. However, for now, Melbourne's Chinese food trumps my experience at Hunan Homes