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May 22, 2005 10:19 PM

Yank Sing continues downhill?

  • w

I ended up at Yank Sing twice this week, once for lunch at the branch on Stevenson, a second time over the weekend entertaining out-of-town friends at Rincon Center.

I hadn't been in a while, and after recent reports, I was a little worried about prices. The bills were reasonable by Yank Sing standards ($21-25 per person), but the food on both occasions was very lackluster, no better than say Ton Kiang and not at all at the level of Hong Kong Flower Lounge or Harbor Village, or even a simpler place like Imperial Palace.

-red cabbage salad with jicama, walnuts, and lemon zest. I didn't want to order this, but it was easily the best dish of the day
-The premium tea is quite good. We tried both the oolong and the chrysanthemum, and pots were refilled often. The teapots they use are poorly designed--I spilled tea all over with the long spout.

-custard tarts, extremely buttery
-lettuce cups with chicken and pine nuts (shouldn't this be squab?)
-seaweed-wrapped tofu, fried in salt and chiles. Should have been better than it was, but points for originality.
-spinach dumplings with water chestnuts inside

-dumplings in general. We ordered one of each kind, from shrimp to chives to spinach in translucent wrappers to shu mai. Most were gluey. Some came two to an order, some three or four. No idea what they cost. Shu mai weren't terrible, but like most of the food, they had no noticeable flavor or texture.
-turnip cakes, which I ordinarily love, were soggy, with no crispness on the outside or added ingredients for texture
-Peking duck, which I ordered and then didn't bother with because the skin wasn't crisp enough looking. We passed on a plate of barbecued pork that made me long for the suckling pig at HK Flower Lounge.
-xiao long bao, although I had fun introducing them to the table
-asparagus battered in panko and deep fried (four puny spears--they should have used fatter asparagus)
-steamed bbq pork buns were huge and not exciting.

I didn't get to try several of the dumplings including the chicken basil ones or the tiny sesame balls or egg rolls. Different food started coming out as we left at noon--an appetizing looking steamed sea bass and more fried things plus a shrimp wrapped in bacon.

FWIW, everyone else enjoyed their meal immensely. At Rincon Annex, we sat out by the fountain, in increasingly bright sunlight, as the water fell from the ceiling. Bring your shades.

Service was erratic, at times overly pushy if friendly, and sometimes just incompetent. We got two steamers of xlbs and four spoons. We asked for replacements which were delivered 15 minutes later. The waiters were busy folding napkins when they should have been clearing away plates or checking in on us. I won't be rushing back.

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  1. Funny, we also had dim sum today. However, it was at a little (unless you are "local") place in Alameda, East Ocean Sea Food on Webster, the west end of the island.

    This place is outstanding and that's been confirmed by Chinese friends that our dim sum addicts.

    The turnip cake today was crispy and wonderful. Dumplings were outstanding. The steamed custard filled buns for dessert were wonderful. It was just my wife and I, think we had 8 or 9 items, total bill, 21 bucks. While there were a few "round eyes" there, it was mainly Chinese families, mother, father, grandfather, grandmother and kids and that, by the way, is very well behaved childred.

    We've been to Yank Sing many times and always have enjoyed it. However, for the price, East Ocean compares to the places in Daly City and that area.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Monty

      I like East Ocean, but I don't think it's in the same class as the big-name Millbrae/Daly City places.

      I think it's solid mid-tier, plus it's a good value, the parking is easy, and it's usually possible to be seated right away.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        You are probably correct. I've only eaten at one of the places in Millbrae, Fook Yuen and it was outstanding. However, I was with a friend who is Chinese and he pretty much took care of ordering.

        Still, East Ocean is good, it's close (we live in Alameda), it's inexpensive and there is parking. Oh, and one more thing, they are very friendly. Yesterday the owner ( I think he is anyway) tracked us down a couple of steamed custard filled buns very quickly. The same person I went to Fook Yuen with came over and tried East Ocean and enjoyed it very much. His "dish" to compare different places is the shrimp dumpling and he pronounced East Ocean's good. However, I'm sure the selection at places like Fook Yuen ofter more options.

        We like to support our local businesses plus it's a great place to go spur of the moment without having to drive (or take BART) all the way to the south bay.

        1. re: Monty

          All good points -- I've always found the staff there to be very nice. The man I think is probably the owner (an older gentleman) is always there, and he keeps a good eye on things.

          I think it's great that a town like Alameda has a good dim sum place, so I don't intend to be overly critical; I just don't want to oversell the place and make it seem like a destination for hounds from other parts of the Bay Area. If you're in the Alameda/Oakland area, though, it's a solid choice.

      2. re: Monty

        Is this a branch of East Ocean of Emeryville?

        1. re: Peter

          Not that I'm aware of although I couldn't swear to it. Think it's just locally owned.

      3. I unexpectedly had dim sum at Yank Sing yesterday while looking for a place to park for Kaboom! -- the Rincon center is a not-too-short-but-not-too-far walk, parking there is $10 for all day (as opposed to many lots charging $20 in the area), but the parking is complimentary on weekends if you get validated at Yank Sing :)

        I hadn't had dim sum at Yank Sing for a couple of years but previously I felt that while the quality of ingredients was high, the flavors weren't that clean and the price was high.

        This time I strongly agree with Windy that it seemed worse than usual. The peking duck was poorly executed -- the skin was not crispy at all. The dumplings and spareribs were no better than at a run-of-the-mill place, and the lettuce cups and mango pudding/mousse was so-so. I wouldn't say anything we had was particularly good, though the tea was decent. Price came to $49 for the two of us, and we weren't particularly full.

        The salad you liked came out when we were getting our check but it did look very good, and some sea bass filets that came out while we were leaving also looked promising, so I might try Yank Sing again for those dishes if I happen to be in the area. However, I think even the Foster City ABC Seafood (where I eat all the time since I live 1/2 block away) is much better for dim sum, and Yank Sing doesn't hold a candle to Koi Palace or HKFL.

        1. In the past couple of months, I've had dim sum at Yank Sing (Rincon Center) and Ton Kiang in SF; Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae; Legendary Palace, Peony, Yo Ho, Jade Villa, and Tea House China Bistro in Oakland; and Tin's Tea House in Walnut Creek. None of them really measured up to my expectations for excellent dim sum. Tin's was the best overall, though the hunk of fresh, tender, juicy, perfectly roasted sea bass coated with soy sauce and honey at Yank Sing was the winner for best dish.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Rod Williams
            ChowFun (derek)

            So..what are your expectations of good dim sum, and where have you been able to find a place that meets your expectations?
            Please share!!!

            1. re: ChowFun (derek)

              I particularly like steamed dumplings, whether seafood, veggie or meat, and I tend to limit my intake of fried dim sum dishes, or yummy things that will fill me up before I'm ready to quit -- like sticky rice, or those oversized char siu bao. So my expectation is always for a wide selection of delicious steamed treats, and for the last year or more, it seems like I'm being thwarted! I either get a too-small selection of good stuff, or a large selection of ho-hum stuff.

              On Saturday we went to Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae. The standout was a terrific dish of tender pork wontons boiled up in the cart at table-side and served in a wonderful soy-and-gingery meat broth with julienned scallions and red and green chilies. The har gow were excellent -- big, succulent shrimp with feather-light wrappers. I also liked the green spinach dumplings stuffed with chopped oyster mushrooms and water-chestnuts, and the shrimp and pea-shoot dumplings. Everything was piping hot from the kitchen, and the wrappers were light and melt-in-the-mouth. But we weren't offered much else dumpling-wise, and the other offerings seemed pedestrian in comparison. And that's what I've been finding most places I go.

              I still dream about a period about 10 years ago, when Imperial Palace in SF was putting out the most amazing dumplings -- several varieties each of lobster and scallop ones, as well as wonderful shrimp, veggie and meat ones, abalone baked in flaky pastry, etc., etc. I'd have to turn away yummy looking dishes because I knew something even better would soon be coming out of the kitchen. Can't remember the last time that happened.

              So, I guess my biggest complaint these days is not that I can't get good dim sum, but that the variety of selections being offered is Not What It Used To Be...

          2. I had lunch at Yank Sing (Rincon Centre) today, but wasn't impressed by the food there at all! Mind you, the service was fantastic though - all the staff were very friendly & attentive and, strangely, insisted on speaking in English to me (even though I tried to reply to them first in Cantonese, then Mandarin, but to no avail).

            There were 4 of us, and my colleagues ordered:
            - xiao long bao (which is waaaaay too oily for my taste);
            - siew mai (much too hard & dry, perhaps the dumplings weren't freshly made that day);
            - har gow (also too dry);
            - char siew bao (okay, but much too little filling);
            - kai lan vegetables with oyster sauce (served cold!);
            - fried tofu (my favorite dish for this meal);
            - Peking duck (THIS is Peking duck?!).

            Sorry, I don't mean to be over-critical - but I'm not even comparing the food here to those in Asian cities. I've enjoyed dim sum in Peony & Legendary Palace in Oakland Chinatown, or Ton Kiang at Geary Blvd. Maybe my expectations of Yank Sing was too high.

            3 Replies
            1. re: klyeoh

              I once met a waiter who said his, non French speaking, fellow employee in a French restaurant spoke with a very heavy French accent. His ruse was exposed when when
              a customer replied in French. Is this possible here?

              1. re: wolfe

                No, I think it's probably because the waitresses are trying very hard to practice their English. But their attentive service is really quite a refreshing change from the nonchalant attitude of some Chinatown restaurant staff. I just wished their food would be better.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  Is there a Cantonese expression for "just pulling your leg"?