Betelnut – San Francisco, CA

The restaurant pride itself on serving distintive local dishes that are popular among drinkers at drinking locales. A range of favourite from South East Asia & China are available with barely any twist and quite reminiscent of the originals but just a tad more sophisticated.

The restaurant seemed a tad tiny when we got there because of the massive crowd of guests hanging out at the bar waiting to be seated. But it actually extends around and houses to a good dozen or more tables.

Menu is not very extensive but has a good selection of dishes. We were tempted to order one of each but ended up ordering 2 orders of 11 items so everyone gets to try each dish.

I was having one of those days – I brought my camera but it was not charged up so I was only able to take pictures of the menu. Thank God SK was very on top of it (and an awesome friend!), he took all the pictures of the dishes for me. ^_^

We had 2 orders of all the items below (Prices reflected are for 1 order).

Chili crusted Calamari $11.75

Every other table that we walked past would have this order so of course we had to try it for ourselves. The portion was very generous. Calamari was a tad overdone but it was very crispy and seasoned well. I found it tasty on its own and didn’t care much for the sauce, which was reminiscent of Sweet Thai Chili sauce out of a bottle.


Satay O Chicken w Malaysian Peanut Sauce $9.25

Honestly, I would not have ordered this dish myself. Being from SEAsia, where I have tried the authentic satay fresh off the smoky grill. It is hard to get the same effect from any restaurant in North America. The chicken was marinated well but definitely missing some authenticity. The satay sauce (peanut sauce) was runny and one dimensional. Everyone else enjoyed it though, so that is just me being overly critical.


Cecilia’s Minced w Black mushrooms, Lap Cheong & Lettuce Cups $11.88

This order came in a good size portion as well. Enough meat to make over 8 lettuce wraps (request for more lettuce if needed). It was a pretty tasty dish but again one dimensional with oyster sauce being the prominent taste. The minced chicken came off grainy but there were a nice variety of other textures from chinese sausage, pinenuts and water chestnuts (or something with similar texture). The lettuce were nicely rounded, crisps and fresh.


Happy Buddha Dumplings w Pea tendrils, Yuba tofu & Crispy Shallots $9.75

I was pleasantly surprised by these dumplings. They were so pretty and delicate AND tasted pretty darn good as well. The skin was thin and smooth stuffed with vegetables that gave it great texture. The tangy dressing that was drizzled on top gave it a nice salty but sharp balance.


Vegetable Spring rolls w Wood Ear Mushrooms, yuba tofu & Szechuan mustard $9.98

Well made and deep fried without the grease being absorbed by the vegetables. Pretty solid but nothing exciting. I didn’t care much for the sauce that had a sharp edge from the mustard.


Braised Gulf Flounder w Szechuan Hot Bean Sauce & House pickled Chilies $16.88

OMG! As I typed this entry, I can remember this dish and wish I could have some right now. It was Excellent! The fish was prepared so well that it flaked off beautifully and maintained all its natural moisture. So fresh and delicate with the sharp rich black bean sauce. The sauce was a nice balance of sweet, spicy and salty. Surprisingly, the fish was able to hold up against such a rich sauce. I could eat this over white rice and be satisfied.


Sizzling iron plate Ribeye Steak  w Spring onions & Roasted Garlic$20.95

Another great dish. The rib eye was cooked to a nice medium rare with nice grill marks and smokiness. It was very tender and well seasoned. I did find that the portion was very small and it wasn’t as exciting as the other dishes. The roasted garlic and green onions added a nice sweetness to the dish.


Malaysian Curry Laksa w Chicken, Prawns, Tofu, Mint & Basil $11.95

Another one of those dishes that is hard to be satisfied with after having the authentic versions in S.E.Asia but it was pretty tasty. Good flavours from shrimp paste, coconut milk and loaded with ingredients. It was not as spicy or complex but still pretty good. There were generous amounts of shredded chicken, shrimp and egg. I found the noodles way overcooked and soggy but to be honest – I love soggy noodles so it didn’t bother me.


Penang Rice Noodles w Rock Crab, Shrimp, Sprouts, Chives & Chili Soy$14.50

This was another one of my favourites!! The noodles had nice wok hei (smoky flavours from the wok) and every inch was tossed well in sauce that was salty with a nice kick to it. Prominent flavours were soy sauce and fish sauce but very close to what one would get in the street stalls in Malaysia. Generous amounts of fresh shrimp that was cooked just right, I honestly did not get crab from the 4-5 bites I had. It does get a tad salty after a few bites but the good kind of salty.


Roti Prata $6.75

The roti was quite disappointing. It was very hard and cardboard like, without the thin distinct layers like in a puff pastry. The sauces were OK – a yoghurt raita/tzatziki like sauce and a sweet creamy curry sauce.


Szechuan Green Beans $9.50

This dish was amazing! How could green beans be so good?? The beans had a nice smokiness, charred at random parts but still maintained a nice crunch. The sauce was a pungent spicy shrimp paste that was delicious!!! It is another one of those dish that would be complete with just plain white jasmine rice!



2 Pots Pearl Jasmine Tea @ $4.50 each
2 Green Tea Lemonade @ $9 each
Pink Lotus $8.75
Dark N Stormy $8.75
Pale Ale $5.25
Pinot Grigio $7
Riesling $8.75
Nishida $12
Lemonade $3
Coke $2.50
Coffee $3

Pink Lotus cocktail –  I was quite disappointed with the cocktail. There was no distinct guava flavours, all I tasted was lime and tequila.



Total Damage: USD$462.49 (Including tax & tip), ~$36 pp.

Personal Rating: 3.25 out of 5 (Pretty darn good)

Overall, food was very tasty albeit some were heavily salted.Service started off a little shaky.. even with reservations we waited a good 20 minutes to be seated (which was understandable coz they were packed).

But it took eons to order, our server kept saying she would come back but she never did. It took over 40 minutes of being seated before we finally got to order our food (we got drinks about 15 minutes after being seated). That being said, the food got to us as record speed. Dish after dish came about 10 minutes after ordering and all came piping hot.

I thought it was fairly well priced, which is arguable because of the quantity served and it is easier to get fairly comparable items from actual S.E.Asian restaurants. That being said, for the ambiance and as tapas style dishes – it was well priced and portioned and the ingredients were all top notch quality. The dishes that were excellent were mindblowingly well done while a handful were just a tad above average. But even the mediocre dishes were of great quality so quite enjoyable still.

Note: be sure to make reservations, if possible don’t opt to eat at the bar area because that is where guests wait for their table and it gets crowded and would be unpleasant to eat there as you would have people hovering and shifting around literally an inch away from your table and bumping into you constantly.





2030 Union St
San Francisco, CA 94123

(415) 929 8855

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