Our Jewish Christmas

My family has never really been the typical Jewish “let’s have Chinese and go to the movies on Christmas” kind of family. But since Nathan had the day off and we have so much to explore, we figured we might as well take advantage! I had the whole day planned.. and when I say the whole day, I mean where we were eating 😉

First stop, Chinatown! Yelp is huge in San Francisco [maybe more of California too?] so I really looked to that to figure out where we wanted to go. When we visited last year, we went to Yank Sing for dim sum. It was our first dim sum experience and we both absolutely loved it but we wanted to try a new place. Thanks to Yelp, we ended up at Lai Hong Lounge.

Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

Not even half of the crowd that was there when we first arrived!

It was nuts! I had to fight the crowds to make my way up and get a number for a table. She told me it would be about a 2 hour wait.. good thing we weren’t hungry! I grabbed a ticket and we went for a walk; it was such a gorgeous day, we were happy to find a park.

Washington Square Park San Francisco California CA

Christmas day in sunny San Francisco!

As we explored, we grabbed a little appetizer of some coffee and a baked bbq pork puff and made our way to Washington Square Park. I have to say, the sun in California is definitely more intense than in Maryland. I actually took my jacket off and it was only in the 50s at that point.. that never happens! When we started to get antsy [and hungry], we made our way back in hopes that it was time to sit down! Only another 20 minutes or so went by before they called our number.

Time to feast!

Garlic Pea Shoots Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

Sauteed Garlic Pea Shoots

Baked BBQ Pork Bun Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

Baked BBQ Pork Buns

Baked BBQ Pork Buns Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

The delicious pork bun filling. YUM!

First to the table were the pea shoots and pork buns. They were both recommendations from Yelp-ers and they were fabulous! The pea shoots were crunchy with a nice, light garlic flavor and we were happy to find that they weren’t very oily. The pork buns were something special; we’ve only ever had steamed pork buns but these were baked which gave them a nice crunch on the outside. I also really enjoyed the ratio of filling to bun. I often find that there is too much bun for the amount of filling but this was perfect. Both were repeat dishes, for sure!

Pan Fried Mixed Mushroom Bun Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

Pan-Fried Mixed Mushroom Buns

Next up were the pan-fried mixed mushroom buns and the pork and mushroom noodle roll. Again, having only had steamed buns before, this was a nice change. The pan-fry with the sesame seeds on the bottom gave it an awesome crunchy texture and flavor; we’d get it again just for that crunch! Unfortunately my picture of the noodle roll was too blurry to share but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Although it might have been our least favorite of the dishes, it still had lots of flavor from the brown sauce and an added crunch from the noodles.

Peking Duck Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

Our Christmas [Peking] Duck

Peking Duck Bun Lai Hong Lounge San Francisco California CA

All made up and ready to devour!

The star of the meal was the peking duck. Nothing beats the crispy skin paired with a perfectly cooked duck and plum sauce all packed up with green onion in a little steamed bun. So many textures and flavors! This was another recommendation from Yelp and I’m so glad I saw it because it’s not on the menu! As soon as it came out, everyone was looking over at our table asking about ordering it.

Yelp was such a great tool to use for lunch and I’m thrilled that it worked out so well.. plus we have leftovers for dinner tonight! YES!

Post-dim sum-stuffing, we made our way back to East Bay and headed to the movie theater to see Anchorman 2. Honestly, this movie was just as ridiculous as expected. It definitely had its funny moments, but if you consider the first Anchorman movie and the cast, you should know what to expect. It was a fun way to break up the day but I could have waited until it came out on DVD to see it.

After the movie, we drove into Berkeley for another Yelp-recommended restaurant; Himalayan Flavors. I’m glad Lai Hong Lounge worked out so well or Nathan may never trust me to make a restaurant decision again! Unfortunately, dinner was a miss.

Himalayan Flavors Berkeley California CA

Clockwise from the top: Mixed tandoor, Buckwheat pancake w/ onion, herbs, & spices, Mushrooms & eggplant in onion tomato sauce w/ garlic & ginger, and Lentil soup

It took about 10 minutes to place our order and another 20 for me to get my glass of wine. The most flavorful dish that we had was the lentil soup and that comes complimentary with each entree. The food was cooked nicely but lacked any flavor. We also ordered the dishes medium hot and there was no heat at all. Each dish came with either basmati or brown rice so we ordered one of each but they only brought out basmati. Seeing as how it took over an hour for our food to come out, I didn’t bother asking for anything else.

Like I said, it’s a good thing lunch worked out! But the night ended on a high note when we got back and Nathan turned the TV on.

Mariah Carey Christmas Michael Buble

Best. Christmas song. Ever.

Mariah Carey saved the night with her duet with Michael Buble. All I Want for Christmas is You is obviously the best Christmas song out there and I made Nathan suffer through it. So maybe it ended on a high note for me 😉 Regardless, we’re going to have a fabulous dinner of dim sum leftovers tonight and I’m psyched!

I hope your holiday was just as wonderful as ours!

Food for Thought

Do you celebrate Christmas?
What was your favorite part of the day?

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10 thoughts on “Our Jewish Christmas

  1. I go to SF a lot for work – definitely checking out Lai next time I go! We celebrate Christmas, but our big meal is usually brunch. We go big with champagne and a selection of things to choose from food-wise.

  2. The pea shoots look AMAZING and I too find that buns have too much bread so I love to see all that pork filling! What a bummer about the second restaurant though. Nothing is worse than waiting forever for your drink, haha! I’m glad you had Mariah to help the evening recover. It sounds like I enjoyed Anchorman 2 way more than you did! I just adored the cameo-heavy end!

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