San Tung Chinese Restaurant
If you only know one thing about San Tung, it’s that they make some of the best wings in the city. They’re sweet, spicy, and somehow manage to stay super crunchy even though they’re completely drenched in a sticky sauce. The wings are the first dish you should order anytime you come here. But if there’s one other thing you should know about San Tung, it’s that while the wings get all the attention, the entire menu is worth exploring because just about everything here is delicious.
San Tung is a small Chinese restaurant in one of the busier pockets of Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. No matter where you live in relation to this place, the wings are worth making a trip for, even with the inevitable wait to get inside. They’re extremely crispy and heavily seasoned with salt and pepper before getting covered in a spicy, sticky sauce that’s heavy on garlic and ginger. It’s the consistency of caramel poured on a countertop to cool, and even if it would solidify, the wings are never around long enough for that to happen.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
You have to flip through a lot of pages to get to the wings—the menu is long enough that you could read someone a bedtime story in less time than it takes to sift through the variety of dumplings, noodles, meat, seafood, and poultry dishes. And even if the wings didn’t exist, or you didn’t know about them yet, the rest of the food would still have you coming back.
There are laundry lists of dishes like beef with broccoli, kung pao shrimp, and pork chow mein on every page, to the point that you’ll feel like you could come here for years and never get the same thing twice. But if you don’t have that kind of time or dedication, you can order from any section and know that what shows up at your table will be good. The wonton soup is rich with lots of ginger in the pork filling, which keeps the whole thing tasting lighter than you’d expect. The beef with oyster sauce is tender and has just enough sauce to mop up with rice, but not so much that the beef is swimming in it. And the spicy seafood noodles ride the line between being just hot enough and slightly too spicy.
The wings alone are good enough for you to want a standing reservation. But unless you have a group of six or more, San Tung is walk-in only and there’s always a crowd of people waiting on the sidewalk, even after the fog rolls in. Even if you’re number 44 on the waitlist, though, don’t leave—they come out and call names so fast that you could miss yours if you’re not paying complete attention. Once you do get in, you might get seated at a large communal table if you only come with one other person. Or if you bring a group, you’ll get to cover your own with enough food to make it feel like you’re at a royal banquet. And while there’s no way you can go wrong with your order, just make sure you save enough room for an extra order of wings.
These potstickers are huge with a thin, crispy bottom and are filled with pork, cabbage, and a lot of ginger. These are an excellent way to start any meal here.
Original Dry-Fried Chicken Wings
The Discovery Channel could dedicate an entire week to these wings and it still wouldn’t be enough time. They’re heavy on salt and pepper and covered in a sauce full of red pepper, ginger, and garlic. It’s sweet, slightly spicy, and the perfect caramel consistency that Vince Vaughn probably looks for in his hair products. There is no excuse, you must order these.
Conveniently, you can order this in different sizes depending on how many people you’re with. The soup itself is rich and chicken-y, with plenty of vegetables to balance everything out. The wontons are filled with pork and a lot of ginger that cuts through the meat and makes this whole dish feel lighter than it really is. Go for it.
Dry Black Bean Sauce Noodles
The thick consistency of the black bean sauce makes it cling to the noodles in a way that seems to defy gravity. They’re a little sweet and full of shrimp, scallops, and squid. These noodles are good, but not the first thing you’ll tell someone to order after you’re done talking about the wings.
Three Deluxe Spicy Sauce Noodles
These come with the same seafood as the black bean noodles and the bright red sauce sticks to the long chewy noodles the same way, but we like the spicy flavor of these a lot more. They’re just spicy enough that a single tear will form in your eye after each bite. Then, when you’re done, the heat will dissipate just enough to make you forget about the slight burning sensation and you’ll want to dive right back in again. And again. And again. Order these.
Beef With Oyster Sauce
The thinly-sliced beef is sauteed in oyster sauce until it’s tender, sweet, and sticky. Make sure you get some rice to go with this to soak up all the sauce.