To be honest, after reading many of the diner reviews I didn't have super high hopes...I know, I know, so then why am I risking my birthday dinner here? Well, to be honest we have faith in Charles Phan and have heard amazing things about the cocktail program by bar manager Trevor Easter (who was recently named a SFGate Bar Star). So off we go! Is Heaven's Dog Best in Show or a Pound Puppy? Read on to find out...
First things first...the cocktails! I got the Pimm's Cup Rangoon and Christian ordered the "Freedom from Choice" where you simply tell the bartender your spirit of choice and if you prefer citrus or spiritous cocktails. My drink was delightful, not to sweet but with enough gin that you knew you had a drink...light and refreshing so it didn't overpower or compete with my food too much. Christian's adventure led him to a Kentucky Mule with candied ginger. This is what I call a manly cocktail...puts a little hair on your chest with that first sip but sweetened up just enough to make it fun. Quite delicious...they make some top notch cocktails here and for $10 that's about as good as it gets in this city!
First up for food, the Scallion Pancake. I actually wasn't expecting much from this but was pleasantly surprised. Nice and crunchy with a strong scallion flavor. It could have used a tad less salt (and seriously, I never say that!) and some kind of a dipping sauce or spread to go alongside but all in all it was pretty good.
Next, Shumai Dumplings. To be fair, I'm not a dumpling connoisseur but the texture of the filling of these really put me off at first. The flavors were quite nice (as were the flavors in the horseradish mustard and chili dipping sauces) but the texture felt fatty and sinewy at first. By my second dumpling the texture didn't bother me quite so much and by my third I was fully enjoying it and over the initial mouth-feel issue. That being said, I think I would go with the Shanghai Dumplings next time and skip these. The Shanghai Dumplings are soup dumplings which is a fun experience in of itself if you've never had a soup dumpling before...they kind of explode a little soup-like goodness inside your mouth so you have to eat the whole dumpling in one bite. Kind of like those chocolate covered cherry candies we all loved when we were kids!