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Jun 30, 2004 02:53 AM

Hong Kong-Style dim sum in SF Chinatown

  • j

Yes, an old question. But...
What is your recommendation for the best value/money Hong Kong-style dim sum restaurant (roving carts) in San Francisco's Chinatown?

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  1. Y. Ben House
    Lichee Gardens
    Gold Mountain

    Roughly in order by quality/price ratio and declining order of "niceness" (if you're bringing your aunt from out of town). All big, noisy and with carts -- everything you want in a HK style place.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gary Soup
      Melanie Wong

      Gosh, have you been to Y Ben House lately? It may have been good at one time, but now there's not much to recommend. Yes, it is cheap, but since I only ate about a buck's worth of food (some rice cakes and the stuffed eggplant) and left a pile of bitten-into-but-not-consumed stuff on my plate, I didn't get much value for my $7. In the post linked below, that list may seem like an extraordinary number of dishes for only 6 people. We gave it a fair shake-down, and I kept getting more and more plates off the carts hoping to find something that I wouldn't mind swallowing. Unfortunately, this place had an extremely low ratio, 3 or 4 decent dishes out of 16 things tried.

      At that price point, I'm not looking for refinement, but I do expect some flavor. There was very little that was worth tasting or sacrificing the calories, and I left the lunch hungry and found some food down the street to take home with me. The staff were kind and helpful, but why bother with the food here? This place needs a downhill alert.

      Not having been to Lichee Garden for a couple years, i can't offer recent enough experience to recommend it. I've liked it in the past. Gold Mountain is good for the heartier style of dishes, and while it is more than the other two, it should top out at about $12 or $15 per person and isn't expensive by any means. It's a good choice if one MUST be in Chinatown, but bear in mind that it's on the other side of Broadway and some don't consider than the REAL Chinatown.

      That said, I'd have to agree with Windy that, Harbor Village a few blocks further in the Embarcadero is where I'd go as a visitor. I think it's the best in the City, and the most Hong Kong-like. That will run $15 to $20 per person.


      1. re: Melanie Wong

        It's probably been a year, as my frugal wife has taken a shine to Lichee Garden and some of the places in the Richmond (like Ocean). I'd say Nick's assessment was closer to what mine might be than yours. I recall both the fried and braised versions of stuffed tofu skin to be savory, the beehive taro (my favorite dim sim item) very good, and the seafood chow fun one of the best "anchor" dishes I have had at any Chinatown dim sum palace.

        I'll agree that Harbor Village is probably the best in the City, but it's DEFINITELY not in Chinatown and debatable from the "value" standpoint (if Jim was thinking "budget.") I'd say Gold Mountain is more "in Chinatown", BTW, than Lichee Garden!

        A former co-worker from Hong Kong always felt that New Asia was the most "Hong Kong-like," though to his credit he never claimed the food was exceptional.

        1. re: Melanie Wong


          Y Ben House Restaurant
          835 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

      2. As an Angelino limited to occasional short visits to San Francisco, I certainly defer to knowledgeable locals like Gary Soup for a specific answer to your question. However, I would comment that San Francisco Chinatown, like downtown Chinatowns in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Houston, Washington D.C., Toronto and other cities, is not where you go for the best Chinese food. Rather it is the suburban areas where the more middle class Chinese reside that have the best Chinese food. Consequently, for someone interested in the highest quality Hong Kong style dim sum restaurants in the Bay Area, locales like Cupertino, Milpitas, Millbrae, Daly City, and outer neighborhoods within San Francisco are where you will find the best dim sum and other Chinese food.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Chandavkl

          The words you use limit your choices of where to go. It seems we are on a biweekly basis ask a question like this.

          But what I like to know what order you rate these items so that you can get a better answer.

          In Chinatown itself
          Price the dim sum is ok but it is cheap
          The dim sum should be better and I am willing to pay a little more
          The best dim sum I do not care about the price and where it is
          Do you classic dim sum or new wave dim sum

          If it has to be in Chinatown and cheap there is nothing wrong the Souper recomemendations.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            For a more lavish HK style experience (with prices to match), it's only a short walk to Harbor Village in the Embarcadero Center.

            I've had some very good meals at Louie's (across from the Holiday Inn) as have many on this board, but dim sum is made to order rather than carts.

            1. re: Windy

              Harbor Village closed about 2 years ago.

              1. re: asianstamp

                Note the date of the original post and most of the answers -- from 2004.