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Last-minute SF Dim Sum advice...help!

I'll be in San Francisco next week. First visit for both my father and I. He requested that we have dim sum that Thursday. After a lot of research here on eGullet and elsewhere, I had narrowed the choices down to Koi Palace and Yank Sing.
Koi Palace looks awesome and seems almost unanimously praised here on eG, but it seems a bit further. Google says 17 mins from our hotel. But is this accurate given weekday mid-day traffic in SF? We will have a car...
Yank Sing's menu looks interesting, although non-traditional. This will be my dad's first time having dim sum and only my second, so maybe it would make more sense for us to have a more traditional intro to dim sum. But now I read post after post that says it is ridiculously expensive. Is that the case? I don't mind paying a little more if it is really good and warrants the price tag, but should I seek out other options?
What would you recommend? He first said he wanted the dim sum to be in Chinatown, but from what I gather the best dim sum is not to be found there, so we're open to other options as well.
(BTW: We're staying on Sutter St. near Jones, which I understand is between the Union Square area and Chinatown. And a definite stop that same day (before? after?) will be the Ferry Building Marketplace. And somewhere to see the Golden Gate Bridge. He also wants to Fisherman's Wharf, although quite honestly, I don't know what is there, and I've read it's a big-time tourist trap kind of place. So that should give you some idea of the geographical contraints on the dim sum options.)

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  1. Sutter and Jones to Koi Palace on a weekday, I'd expect at least half an hour.

    Go to the Ferry Plaza on Saturday morning.

    1. > here on eGullet

      You are not on eGullet, by the way. ;-)

      As for the pricing at Yank Sing, it's higher than a lot of other places, in part due to location and decor. The food is very good. I don't think the prices are disproportionate to the quality and atmosphere.

      I guess I haven't eaten there since they moved (they were formerly on Battery St.)... so perhaps you should ignore my comments on the former location and former atmosphere. :-)

      6 Replies
      1. re: Jefferson

        doh! I meant Chowhound, but must've been reading eG at the time :)

        1. re: Jefferson

          Being punctuation-challenged myself, I think that was meant to be "here, on eGullet and elsewhere".

          Anyway, as both you and your dad are new to dim sum, I vote for Yang Sing. I don't mean this in any bad way since I'm no expert myself, but you probably wouldn't notice the nuances that would be required to drive down a less than attractive part of the Penninsula.

          Yank Sing makes wonderful dim sum in a beautiful restaurant that is a block from the Ferry Building. They have Asian and non-Asian customers and are very nice to non-Asians. As to the price, it depends on what you order and how much. You could expect to spend between $20 - $40 per person, and can be very happy in the $20 range.

          The food has always been super delicious in my experience. Get the sesame balls and egg custard tarts for dessert. I like the little goldfish dumpling because they are ... cute ... which should get me thrown of the dim sum discussions by the hoi poloi.

          Alot of the controversy with dim sum comes from people who eat it alot. Sometimes I just don't want to be bothered having to deal with the attitude in some Chinese places if you are not Asian. I like going to Yank Sing where I'm always made to feel comfortable and welcome. It is traditional dim sum with a few dishes that are more creative, but we are not talking wildly inventive or different.

          You and your dad can always walk through Chinatown at a different time and have some of the dim sum items at the various Chinese bakeries. Many of the same items as the dim sum restaurants you mention for very inexpensive prices. Just use your eyes for what looks good and point to it.

          As to Fisherman's Wharf, well what will your friends say if you don't at least walk through it ... take the cable car there from Union Sqaure and then take a vintage street car from the Wharf to the Ferry Building. The sea lions at Pier 39 are fun. I'm not sure if it is open, but the Maritime museum is great. The rest is carny shlock. Nice views though.

          Here's a recent Chow Digest mention of the best places to eat at the Wharf if your dad really wants to eat there ... However, it would be better to tour through the wharf and get your fish experience at Tadich on California in the Financial District.


          Just don't order the clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at the wharf. It's canned and locals eat that as often as Rice-a-roni. If you must eat canned clam chowder, go to Swan's Oyster Bar where they add clam juice to it and serve it in a normal bowl.

          Hope you'll report back about where you ate.

          1. re: rworange

            SF street cars are trolley cars (trolley refers to the connector between the top of the vehicle and the electric power line), so I'm confused by the distinction you're making between the two.

            I agree with your analysis of Yank Sing (and furthermore, think the madhouse-like atmosphere at Koi Palace is rather intimidating for a newbie). If you're looking for dim sum that tastes good in an atmosphere that's friendly to newbies and "gringos," then it's a fine choice. But if what you're looking for is a more "eating like Chinese people" experience, then I think a place like Gold Mountain would fit the bill better.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Thanks, I meant cable car and changed it in the above post.

              Gold Mountain would be in Chinatown

              644 Broadway, San Francisco 94133
              Btwn Stockton St & Columbus Ave

              I don't pay alot of attention to the dim sum reports. Do they have carts or is it off a menu?

              1. re: rworange

                Carts. Menus are pretty hard to deal with unless you know what the different dim sum items are (and the various ways they can be described on a menu).

                I figured you meant cable car. I was just giving you a hard time because you're lived here long enough to know better! :-)

            2. re: rworange

              It's the cable car that goes from Union Square to the wharf.

          2. Ton Kiang is a great option if you're willing to go a little farther out (it's on Geary at 22nd ave, about 20 minutes from your hotel). It's right by the best views of Golden Gate Bridge though, so it's a good starting point for exploring the Bridge.

            The dim sum is delicious and the wait shouldn't be too bad during the week.

            2 Replies
            1. re: beedub

              I wouldn't call that location right by the Golden Gate Bridge or have anyone think that location will offer any type of view. Yes, it is a closer drive that Chinatown, but it is not exactly walkable.

              1. re: rworange

                huh? Tom Kiang is most definitely *not* a closer drive to the OP's location at Sutter and Jones...oh, do you mean closer to GG Bridge than Yank Sing is to Chinatown???

                Ok, I am really confused.....but then, you did say you were punctuation challenged.. :-)

                (just teasing RW, you know I love your posts...)

                For the OP: I'd agree with Yank Sing between the two, although I love Koi Palace it will take longer than 17 minutes. Free parking though...No reason to drive to Tom Kiang, IMO.

            2. Yank Sing is fine price-wise if you don't load up on the special items. It's no worse than other nice lunch spots in SF. It's just that some of us are used to spending no more than $15 for dim sum and take offense to having to spend more than that. While Koi Palace is very good, I see no good reason to drive all the way out to Daly City.

              1. I've eaten at Yank Sing and Koi Palace several times. They're both good. In your situation I would advise Yank Sing as it's a pleasent dining experience and much more convinient to your location.

                Another alternative is City View, http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/pr.... Good choices, nice room, but not quite as fancy as Yank Sing. A lot of office workers eat there as it's kind of on the border between Chinatown and the Financial Dist. A bit closer to your hotel.

                If I had my choice of the two I'd pick Yank Sing but City View is quite good as well.

                1. here is my take. Yank Sing (I think they have two locations) is overall quite good. the caveat is that the typical dim sum dishes are reasonable... but there is no way of knowing that the small piece of plain overcooked baked fish (cod?) you took that was offered would be 17.95 until the bill came..and it was not very good. Lobster and scallop dumpings much better! tom kiang is closed wed, an odd day. I made a pilgrimage in the rain on a bus in April and was very bummed. Gold Mountain in china town was huge and very busy with almost all Asian and local families...very very authentic, somewhat brusk service, some pushing from my part to get some of the Asian specialities ie jelly fish salad with some find of jellied hock, and tripe. I enjoyed it, but I have seen reviews otherwise. Yank sing would be good for neophites imo as it is clean, high quality, with great choices, but I am stll perterbed about the crappy piece of fish

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lyn

                    True. I never know how much anything at Yank Sing costs. Other dim sum places have a menu with prices, or at least the prices of the various categories (usually "small," "medium," "large" and "special") but Yank Sing gives you no clue. Those "specials" there can really add up!

                    Personally, I can't recommend City View. Maybe because they do have so many office workers during the week who aren't very sophisticated dim sum eaters, but I got the worst "gringo" treatment there ever. Maybe it's better on weekends, when there's more of a Chinatown crowd, but I thought the food was pretty mediocre.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I can't believe you weren't mischarged. Was this a dim sum item or one of the few dishes that look like entrees? Did you ask if they made a mistake and it wasn't supposed to be $7.95? That is what I consider to be expensive at Yang Sing, the few dishes in the $6-$8 range. Most of them average $3-$4.

                      If you look at the to go menu, the single most expensive a la cart item is the baked pork bun at $1.50. That is what I consider pricy about Yank Sing ... a pork bun will be under $1 elsewhere. A $17.95 item is so out of whack I have to think it was a mistake.

                      Also on the website, it mentions that there is a stamp on the section of the menu that indicates price. IIRC, last time I was there, a card on the table had a guidline ... like column 1 = $2, 2=$3, etc ... not those exact prices but something like that.


                      1. re: rworange

                        I was there a week ago. We got the bill and saw something on it for 15.00. None of the bill is itemized, so we asked a server what we may have ordered that was 15.00. He asked if we got the cod. Yup, the cod was $15.00! We were sure surprised by that as it was really about 2-3 oz of fish roasted with a sweet glaze. Good but nothing to go ga-ga over...and definitely not a repeater at that price.

                  2. I think the best dim sum in the Bay Area is not in San Francisco but in the out laying areas.

                    But here are a couple that are not bad but you will have to travel across town.

                    Mayflower on Greay and 25th or so.

                    T&S Seafood on Noreiga and 34th

                    Clean with nice surroundings

                    I was at City View recently and would not go back.

                    Yank Sing is too much fusion for my taste, but it has it fans too.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: yimster

                      T&S Seafood had the absolute best chicken feet (about a month ago), but you order from a dimsum sheet, only about a third of which had english translation. The server waiting on our table was not able to translate the items. The few items we got were all good.

                      1. re: Sarah

                        Good point. I think Mayflower is mostly menus, too, at least during the week. As I pointed out above, I don't think menus are very accessible for people who aren't that familiar with what the various dishes are.

                        1. re: Sarah

                          Well there is a book you can buy from Amazon which shows pictures and written in both Chinese and English the names of most dim sum dishes. I know Chowfun has one and Nancy Berry showed me hers. This is a good starting point. believe me I do understand not read and speak Chinese makes it tougher when ordering dim sum. I am sure someone will post he name of the book I just do not have one.

                          1. re: Sarah

                            That's S&T Seafood, not T&S. Here's a link to a thread with the translations of the dim sum menu.


                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I didn't know the name of the restaurant and was responding to yimster's post above - only dimsum house on that block that I know of. Thanks for the translation, will use it if I'm in the area and have a hankering for their fabulous chicken feet.

                        2. I was in SF two weeks ago, and the concierge at my hotel recommended Great Eastern.

                          The soy sauce chicken and leek buns were fantastic. The place was hopping--there was a wait. The prices were fair, and the food very, very fresh. I recommend it.

                          1. Tian Sing might be the answer you're looking for.

                            Of all the choices, it's closest to your hotel. It's right off Union Square, very close to the Powell/Market intersection.

                            The restaurant is newish, brightly lit, small but quite nicely decorated, and service is fantastic for a dim sum restaurant (a smile? WOW!)

                            It's cheaper than Yank Sing and more expensive than Chinatown. Food tends toward bright flavors and colors, delicate preparation, and a mix of tradition and nouveau items. I wouldn't hesitate taking anyone there, granted they're looking for a $15-20 dim sum experience (Chinatown places will be more like $10).

                            1. Ton Kiang vs. Yank Sing

                              How many SF breakups have been caused by the disagreement?

                              1. I still am shocked that we ran up at bill of $80 for 2 at Yank Sing. Here in Seattle we eat ourselves silly for $15. And while we got more interesting and unique things at Yank Sing, it wasn't any more delicious than my favorites here at home.

                                Despite that, I think you'll be fine there. Since it's your dad's first time, maybe it's good to go to a place you know will be clean, use quality ingredients, and is convenient to your hotel.

                                I do understand your confusion. I travel frequently to the Bay area for work, and I have the worst time choosing restaurants based on opinions here and on egullet. For every one person that says "Restaurant X is the best Chinese/Mexican/Vietnamese/etc", another person says, "Oh no, Restaurant X is terrible, filty, has rude service" etc. I've never seen such a lack of consensus as I have on these California boards.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: christy319

                                  I agree with christy319 about the opinionated chowhounds on the San Francisco Bay Area board. For years, it was the Yank Sing vs Ton Kiang, then couple years ago Koi Palace appeared and became the darling of the SF dim sum afficionados. The dim sum are excellent in all three, therefore, you can't lose by picking any one of them. Pick one and enjoy yourself and don't worry about if the other two are better.

                                2. Incredibly helpful, everyone. Thanks so much for the opinions!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tupac17616

                                    Tell us where you end up! I'm sure everyone's curious what comes of all this arguing.