SF: Checking out Betelnut

margarita at Betelnut

When I was last in San Francisco, I wanted to do a little get together with everyone there and Tracy from Dishcrawl suggested Betelnut. I was looking for something casual, fun and with an Asian flair.

You may be surprised to learn I don’t do  much day drinking but I happily got a cocktail when everyone else decided Friday lunch was the perfect time to kick off the weekend. I chose the Phuket Gimlet (Hendrick’s gin, lemongrass, Thai basil) although I thought about getting a Mai Tai. I liked my cocktail and most people seemed to like their drinks. We did send the Whiskey Smash back only because it was “too strong,” exchanging it for a Pimm’s Cup. I tasted the Whiskey Smash and I probably wouldn’t have sent it back though I did question the lack of fruit or mint.

little dragon soup dumplings – xiao long bao

I can’t help it, I order soup dumplings (xiao long bao or XLBs) everywhere I go. These were fine. Not soupy enough for my taste. The other dumplings our server recommended were much better.


yee sang yellowtail jack salad

We wanted to get a salad and our server recommended the yee sang yellowtail jack. I have to say for $14.88, this was an extremely pricey salad. The four of us basically got a forkful each.

yee sang yellowtail jack salad


I did like the seaweed and plum-lime dressing though.

whiskey smash

Pimm’s Cup

The drinks switcheroo – from Whiskey Smash to Pimm’s Cup.

firecracker shrimp


One of the recommended dishes for Betelnut is the firecracker shrimp. It is indeed good. It comes with a sambal sauce though I liked the shrimp plain. I didn’t want to lose the crunch!

Szechuan green beans

The other dish that is a must order is the Szechuan green beans. We later even used some of the sauce on our shrimp fried rice.


shui jiao dumplings

As mentioned, our server recommended the shui jaio pork dumplings for us to share. It had a great sauce. I just wish there were more. At over $10 an order, the dish wasn’t much of a deal. There were dumplings for the soup dumplings but they weren’t as good. So do you go for quantity or quality? I say order two of these rather than both the XLBs and shui jiao.


Phuket Gimlet

xianjiang lamb iron pot


I did like the Xianjiang lamb though we found the noodles unwieldy. I half-expected bean thread or vermicelli noodles which I felt would have absorbed the flavor better.

Malaysian curry laksa

I really, really, really wanted to like the Malaysian curry laksa. I expected a lot of zip but sadly, it was just sort of okay. The prawns, tofu and chicken had not absorbed any of the flavor either. I now need a good bowl of laksa to reverse the travesty.

Scallion hotcake

Scallion hotcake or pancakes as I usually know them were okay. I did what our server suggested by dipping it into the sauce from the shui jiao dumplings but I can’t say it did anything for me. But I’m in general sort of meh about green onion pancakes. I rather have beef rolls.

shrimp fried rice

This is some of the whitest looking fried rice I’ve ever seen. No wonder we had to use the leftover sauce from the green beans to flavor our rice. I know I’ve said I make the best fried rice but I really do when compared to this. Also, I can hear my father yelling at me for ordering fried rice at a restaurant. Still, it was some of the plainest foods you could get if you had been suffering from a week-long weak tummy as one of our dining party was.

My overall impression of the place is you’d go here if you were in the Marina or Cow Hollow and really want Chinese food like firecracker shrimp and Szechuan green beans. It’s just a tiny bit too pricey for your every day Chinese lunch needs. But I’m sure there are better places in the city. On the other hand, they have decent cocktails and I made reservations easily through Opentable.

Now where should I have gone for this type of food in SF? I’m making a list for next time!


2030 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123 — (415) 929-8855
© The Minty 2012