Obama and the Chinese restaurant

San Francisco ChinatownA couple of weeks ago, I wrote that we discovered a really nice Chinese restaurant in, of all places, San Francisco’s Chinatown (which is not known locally for quality Chinese food):

Apropos Chinese food, if you’re in San Francisco’s Chinatown, I have a Chinese restaurant to recommend. I have never recommended a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. In my experience as an SF native, the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown are always either (a) too geared to tourists; (b) too dirty, along with having horrible greasy, gristly food; or (c) too Hong Kong style, which means bland flavors and lots of offal. The other day, though, we ate at a wonderful Chinese restaurant called Hunan Homes. It’s one block from the affordable Portsmouth Square garage, which makes it relatively easy to get to. In addition, the restaurant is very clean, the service is excellent, and the food is affordable and delicious.

We were in Chinatown again last night after an enjoyable tea-tasting experience, so we decided to cap off the experience with a visit to Hunan Homes.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t made a reservation first, and discovered it would be at least 30 minutes before we could be seated.  As some of our party were so hungry they didn’t want to wait, we looked across the street, to Great Eastern Chinese Restaurant.

Great Eastern’s claim to fame is that President Obama ate there.  You can see below the proudly displayed pictures the restaurant has posted outside its door, showing Obama with various people in the restaurant:

Obama Chinese restaurant

On the theory that what’s good enough for Obama is good enough for us, in we went.  It turns out that, while the food may have been good enough for Obama, it wasn’t good enough for us.

Before getting to the food, let me say that the service, while not particularly friendly, was excellent.  The wait staff responded immediately to requests for attention, brought food hot off the stove top, and cleared the table swiftly.  I’m sure it wasn’t their fault that the forks we got were dirty, that there weren’t enough napkins, and that the bathrooms were dingy and overflowing with used paper towels.

As for the food, it wasn’t awful.  It was just typical Chinatown fare — heavy on the grease, fat, corn starch, flour, and MSG or salt (I wasn’t sure which).  There was no delicacy and there were no interesting flavors.  The portions were small and expensive.  At the end of the meal, we had eaten less food than at Hunan Homes, the food was decidedly less good, and the bill was $20 more.  I will definitely return to Hunan Homes.  I hope never to return to Great Eastern.

Conclusion:  The fact that Obama went to a restaurant is no recommendation for the restaurant.