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THE Top Dim Sum Place, please.

I am a Los Angeles Hound, looking the THE "must-go-to" dim sum places. We will have TWO dim sum meals there in San Francisco. We will stay in the city, so we are hoping that we can find great dim sum there as well.

Please post only your TOP choice...the one that will really show us why Los Angeles is in second place of the U.S. dim sum cities.

Many thanks!

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  1. Usual suspects these days:

    Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae
    Koi Palace in Daly City
    The Kitchen in Millbrae
    Zen Peninsula in Millbrae

    1. None in the City will show you that LA is in second place in the dim sum race. Outside, maybe the Lauriston recs will show you that those 4 will match LA in terms of quality. But certainly not in quantity.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PeterL

        Thanks, Robert and Peter!
        What a disappointment, as I am not hearing the enthusiasm that I anticipated. Yes, we now have some delicious and exciting dim sum places in Los Angeles, but rumor has it that San Fran can top what we have. When it really gets down to it, it's not true, huh?

        1. re: liu

          I think determining definitively whether the San Francisco Peninsula or San Gabriel Valley has the best dim sum would require substantial research.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Robert, despite my search for THE best, I'm really not into finding out who will win the race. We are just looking for a couple of delicious dim sum experiences, and our standard is what LA has to offer -- which is pretty good! Surely, we are not approaching this with a scientific tongue, or even a pen and legal pad; we are just hoping for two good dim sum brunches.

          2. re: liu

            Liu, Koi Palace is THE one that can beat SGV/Montery Park/Alhambra/Rowland Heights hands down (it's the only one though). The quality at Koi Palace is unmatched. You'll also see things you won't get at standard dim sum spots.

            Get the dungeness crab XLB if available. It's just that. XLB stuffed with sweet dungeness crab meat from the body. The legs are fried and served on the side.

            Try the standards and note the quality of the filling and wrapper for the shrimp dumplings but also wait for the good stuff...the various scallop and seafood dumplings that come out of the kitchen and are instantly snatched up.

            Roast suckling pig there is good too.

            1. re: Porthos

              Thanks, Porthos, for your very specific recs at Koi Palace. You are with many others in recommending this place.

        2. Because we used to live in the City, I never went to any of the dim places listed by Robert. My two favorites IN SF are Dol Ho, in Chinatown on Pacific between Stockton and Powell (You can walk all along Grant window shopping and then turn left up Pacific). It has zero atmosphere (unless you count old chandeliers that are hung so high they can never be cleaned), is small and if not Chinese, you'll have to use a little charm (or a lot) to get even a crack of a smile. But, having said that, I've been eating there for 15 years and love it. Two of us eat til we're dying of fullness and it will be under $10. The other place is Ton Kiang on Geary at 22nd Street (you can take the 38 Geary bus from Union Square). It's much more expensive than Dol Hol and DOES have atmosphere. But I won't hold that against it. It's great. I've only had dim sum once in LA and it was good but this are MY two favorites. And, hey, just wander through Chinatown and have a dumpling here and a sparerib there. Mmmmm. Have a good trip.

          3 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            c oliver -- I very much appreciate your offering a couple of places in the city. While Koi Palace is a tempting chase out to Daly City, I know the reality of the convenience of staying in the city because there is so much else to see in a couple of days. I will take both of your suggestions with us, and thanks for the directions.

            1. re: liu

              Dol Ho is great for what it is, but it's not sophisticated, top-of-the-line food, and the offerings are simple and limited. I think you would be disappointed with Ton Kiang, and given your concerns about convenience and limited time, I wouldn't go there unless I was already in that neighborhood. I wouldn't go there at all -- in that neighborhood I'd probably go to Mayflower. But that's just me.

              Saying you want great dim sum but only in San Francisco proper is a little like saying you want great dim sum in LA, but only in downtown LA -- there are some options, but they're limited and probably not the very best of the best.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I hear 'ya, Ruth, and I thank you for giving me some perspective to trying to find dim sum downtown. You really said it so I could understand. We chase around LA for dim sum, but we never go downtown anymore because it just isn't good by comparison to some of the others in the San Gabriel Valley.

          2. In the Chinatown/Financial District area, I like City View which is at 662 Commercial St. It's a more upscale environment, popular with the financial district types, so not a cheap place. The dim sum is very good, the ambiance is nice, and the location may be more convenient if you want to stay in the city.

            65 Replies
            1. re: rcinsf

              rcinsf -- This sounds good! In Los Angeles, we have done many styles: some hole-in-the-wall delicious, and some more genteel delicious. If delicious-ness can be had with a pleasant ambiance, then that might be a better direction for a "vacation weekend." Thanks!

              1. re: liu

                A second for City View. It's one of our favorites.

                1. re: rfneid

                  Oh...good! Two enthusiastic votes is enough to get me there!

                  1. re: liu

                    Ok, so I'll vote against City View, if that keeps you from wasting your time there.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Thanks, Melanie. Your vote means a lot to me.
                      Also, it seems like I have some other very good choices, so City View -- with several thumbs down -- will not be among the top spots.

                      1. re: liu

                        I was not going to get into another dim sum best discussion, but I too would not go to City View. While it may be the best of the Chinatown dim sum places it is not in the class of the best.

                        I remember a few years ago we had dim sum at Mayflower on Geary at 20 something and it was better than City View but not in the class of mid-Peninsula.

                        Here are my choices

                        1. Joy Luck Place in San Mateo
                        2. The Kitchen in Millbare
                        3. Asian Pearl in Millbare
                        4. Zen Pen in Millbare
                        5. Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbare

                        A step below is Fook Yuen iin Millbare and Mr. Fong's in Foster City.

                        If you can drive a little further down to Santo Clara County there are a lot more. But you have only two days.

                        Just a note the Senior Dim Sum at Joy Luck is off on Wednesday so now you know I need to get a life.

                        This just my opinion and everyone has one.

                        1. re: yimster

                          I'll go further and say that City View dim sum wouldn't be the best in Chinatown by any stretch even if it were in Chinatown.

                          1. re: yimster

                            Thanks, yimster, for posting.
                            We are not going to deal with a car; coming from LA, we are seeking a walking weekend! So, if we can't walk there, then we probably won't go this trip.

                            We have The Kitchen here in LA; I think it's the same, and it is quite good. Judging from that on your list, I value the other ones you have noted. I will save your list for another visit.

                            1. re: liu

                              You can take BART to Millbare and they are and the Millbare group is within bus or walking distance.

                              The Kitchen LA is part of the same chain as is Asian Pearl.

                              These Millbare teahouse are a match for anything in LA

                              1. re: yimster

                                BART works! Thanks, yimster...we surely will consider doing that, and I just reprinted your list!

                            2. re: yimster

                              Also ABC Seafood in Foster City can be counted on as belonging to that second tier group.

                              1. re: yimster

                                Thanks for your list, yimster. No spot for Koi Palace? Also, I'd put Fook Yuen several steps below, still hasn't recovered from the exodus of staff to The Kitchen.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Have not been to either Fook Yuen or Koi Palace for a while just repeating other reports.

                                  My last visit to Koi Palace was very disappointing. Not only bad service, out of control seating but most important bad dim sum. Why should go back when there are other so much better.

                                  I will should have dropped Food Yuen lower but I have a buddy who still loves it.

                    2. re: rcinsf

                      Next time we're in the City, I'll try City View also. I've actually eaten dim sum for breakfast and lunch on the same day when I had been deprived for a while. I too don't find "delicious-ness" and atmosphere contracditory!

                      1. re: c oliver

                        c oliver -- But I still love your idea of wandering and grazing: "...a dumpling here and a sparerib there!"

                        1. re: liu

                          No one has yet mentioned Yank Sing - I go to the one at 101 Spear -- very near Hyatt Regency and Embarcadero stop. They take reservations, are always busy and I really love it, esp. the shrimp dumplings. I tried the Kitchen in Millbrae once and didn't like it enough to return.

                          1. re: walker

                            No one has mentioned Yank Sing because no one wants to have yet another round of the "authentic/inauthentic/expensive/worth it" discussion that accompanies such mentions. ;-)

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              And YOUR opinion of Yank Sing?
                              BTW -- They have a nice website!

                              1. re: liu

                                Everyone I have ever taken there LOVES it and wants to return. Real tea leaves steeped in a beautiful German glass teapot. I always get the shrimp dumplings, soup dumplings, minced chicken in lettuce cups, Peking duck, don tarts (little egg custard tarts).

                                1. re: walker

                                  Hello, walker. I really appreciate the nice extras, like the "tea leaves steeped in a beautiful German glass teapot." It's always about the food, but it is also always about the entire experience.

                                  1. re: liu

                                    I can also vouch that the ladies' room is not just clean but beautiful. If you don't get the sea bass, you can keep the price down. If I watch it, it's about $25 pp, otherwise, $35 without wine. Even if you stuff yourself, you still have energy to do things after. Once, a newspaper article said you can request those don tarts to be served directly from the kitchen; I started doing that. Beware, it can burn your tongue if you don't wait a minute. I've taken some to go but they aren't quite the same a couple hours later. They are at 101 Spear (bdt. Mission and Howard) phone for res.: 415-957-9300 sit inside, not in the atrium lobby. If you don't see a cart go by with what you want, request it of a supervisor and you'll get it in no time. Also, I think it's best to get 1 or 2 plates at a time, this way, you'll always be getting fresh.

                                    1. re: walker

                                      Although transliterations of the first syllable can vary, it's "dan TAT" (not "tart").

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        If you want to be picky, it's "dan ta" (蛋挞). Adding a final consonant is a Cantonese thing.

                                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                                          So? Isn't dim sum primarily Cantonese? Whether you want to be picky about which version of Chinese is or isn't correct, I think we can all agree that it's not "tart"!

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            The word "ta" is actually used as a token homophone for "tart." It became "ta" because Chinese are not fond of the "r" sound and Mandarin does not know dental final consonants. There is nothing WRONG with "dan tart" if you can say it. Even in Cantonese, there's no "T" consonant, just a glottal stop that sounds close to it.

                                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                                              I side with Ruth in correcting the above poster not to put a "t" at the end of dan tat (or ta). Even if we follow your theory of the "r" sound in Mandarin (which is prominent among Taiwanese), then it would be "dan tar," never "tart."

                                              1. re: singleguychef

                                                I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I think Walker should get some benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she's from Boston and pahks her cah in Hahvahd Yahd when she goes for her dan taht.

                                                1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                  I've learned my lesson and am going to stick to the language I know best: English, and just tell everyone: "Be sure to get the egg custard tarts."

                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Right. And it's meant to be the Chinese word for the English (or, more realistically, the British) word "tart."

                                  2. re: liu

                                    I like Yank Sing. Here's a recent discussion about what's good there:

                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429279

                                    1. re: liu

                                      I'm not surprised they have a nice website -- that's the kind of thing the pay attention to.

                                      My opinion of Yank Sing is that it's good, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. It's "nouvelle" dim sum, so someone looking for "traditional" dim sum might consider it inauthentic. But I don't think cuisine needs to be frozen in time to be authentic -- chefs throughout Asia are always experimenting and looking for the next new trend, why shouldn't Chinese restaurants here do the same? It is expensive, though. Although some people have claimed to get out of there for prices typical of other dim sum places, most people, especially if they order any of the "innovative" stuff, end up spending upwards of $35/person. At that price point/price differential, it had better be really good! Although I've enjoyed eating there, when it comes to making that "do I want to eat there and spend that kind of money" the answer is usually "no" -- not when I can eat at Hong Kong Flower Lounge (or Harbor Village, when it was still around) for almost half the price, or other, less refined places, for even less.

                                      BTW, I'm not a fan of City View, but lots of people seem to like it, and I'd be interested to see a knowledgable opinion. In that part of town, I'd be more likely to check out the rumors of a hot new dim sum chef at Louie's Cal-Chinese.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Most of the dishes I order at Yank Sing are the opposite of nouvelle. They're pretty much unchanged since I first started eating there when it was a funky hole in the wall on Broadway. Usually spend more like $20 a head before drinks.

                                        Harbor Village had similar prices.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I really don't see the point of going to Yank Sing if you aren't going to get their specialties. $20 a head is the *most* I ever spent at Harbor Village (unless I was eating by myself and over-ordering), not the bare minimum, and Ithat invariably included at least one plate of their delicious roast duck.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            I like Yank Sing as well, the customer service is probably the best I've ever had at any dim sum place here in the US. I would definitely recommend the Xiao Long Bao here, it is on par with some of the best I've had in Taiwan. However, it IS quite expensive compared to most other dim sum places around, but I felt the quality of food, service as well as atmosphere somehow justifies it to a certain degree.

                                             
                                             
                                            1. re: liujenny

                                              liujenny...that's a pretty high service rating! Of course, there is a price for everything. When one element such as good service complements the other great elements (good food, nice tableware, attention to detail, pleasant and interesting decor, etc.), then it is easy to pay the bill. However, when only one facet is extraordinary and the other features are fair, the experience is a failure for me. It sounds, however, that you enjoyed the entire package. Thanks for your input.

                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Thanks, Ruth, for your very respected opinion. I have been following you on these Boards for quite some time.

                                          I certainly agree with you about traditional vs. "nouvelle" food. For me, there are no rules. I never enter with a preconceived idea of the way things SHOULD be. I try to approach each culinary experience as I might approach a performance. Sometimes the whole works and I return, and sometimes it doesn't and I speak with my feet. Nevertheless, I usually find aspects of each experience that I enjoy.

                                        3. re: liu

                                          Coming from LA you'll have a heart attack when you get the bill at Yank Sing. I would venture to guess it's about 3 times what you would pay in LA, with comparable quality dim sum.

                                          1. re: PeterL

                                            I know, I think Yank Sing is way overpriced kind of fussy fancy and I even worked near there and when we went to dim sum with work the women who I worked with from Hong Kong would drag us across town to Geary Stret rather than waste their time and $$ on Yank Sing

                                            1. re: SFGourmande

                                              PeterL and SFGourmande -- As long as I know ahead about the price, we will factor that into our decision. I am fine with "pay for what you get," but I am hearing that this is not the case. Most -- like you, perhaps -- are insinuating that the value is not there...true?

                                              1. re: liu

                                                I lived in LA for 20 years and am a little familiar with the Chinese food scene there. I can tell you that coming from LA the price at Yank Sing will be shocking, compared to the value of the food.

                                                1. re: liu

                                                  If you're not willing to schlep to Millbrae or Daly City, I suggest you try Yank Sing and decide for yourself. The turnip cake, cheung fun (soft rice noodle rolls), and taro dumplings (when hot out of the fryer) are the best I've had. The chicken-mushroom fun gwor and mushroom caps stuffed with pork and tarragon are delicious and I haven't encountered them elsewhere. The kitchen does a much better job than most places with simple vegetables such as roast eggplant and steamed Chinese broccoli. I suggest ordering black tea to avoid the default jasmine.

                                                  I doubt the people who say it's so bad eat there as often as I do.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Yeah, but if someone wants to just split an order of turnip cake, cheung fun, taro dumplings and some mushrooms, it's going to cost a lot less than $20 a head elsewhere...

                                                    I think Yank Sing is alright, but only when I'm flush with cash. Usually costs me and my friends $50 a head when we order like we do at a normal dim sum joint. Sure if you order meagerly, like Robert Lauriston, you can get in under $20 a head but what's the fun in that? One order of xlb alone is like almost $10. They're pretty good though, maybe a little too sweet and weird red vinegar but the skins never burst and are tender.

                                                    1. re: choctastic

                                                      I don't order meagerly, I eat until I'm full.

                                                      I've had cheaper taro dumplings elsewhere, but Yank Sing's are the best (unless they've been sitting on the cart for a while).

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        a couple of seafood dishes and you've blown that $20 limit out of the water.

                                                        it's also telling that you never mention the xlb, which are amazingly good for a dim sum place. roughly $10 pp right there, because one person can easily eat a steamer of them (or two, or three in my case).

                                                        1. re: choctastic

                                                          At Yank Sing I stick to the dishes they do better than anybody else, and to my taste the XLB are better at Shanghai in Oakland.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I've never understood the appeal of Shanghai in Oakland, but seeing the rabidness of the fans up here, I guess I'm not in a position to argue its merits.

                                                            1. re: choctastic

                                                              I can't say whether it's the best in the area (it's better than Old Shanghai) but I've had some really good dishes there:

                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41897...

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                well, as far as the xlb are concerned, personally I think they area mediocre. there i said it, rabid Frisco fans. clumsily made, hardly any juice, flat taste, often broken. I've tried and tried them and in fact had them a month ago and still don't get what you frisco fans think is so great about them. in a contest, Yank Sing's version (dim sum joint no less!) wins hands down in my book.

                                                                They do have some okay dishes, are very inexpensive, but I was speaking of xlb and supposedly you were responding to that... "and to my taste the XLB are better at Shanghai in Oakland."

                                                                1. re: choctastic

                                                                  Taste varies. Personally I'd rather have meat in my dumpling anyway.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    If you just want a meat dumpling, what is the point of getting xlb in the first place?

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        That answer makes no sense. they sell various other dumplings. If variety is what you want, why stick with the mediocre xlb? Also, there are great dumplings across the street as well. Aren't you always trumpeting that we should be making the most chowish decisions? Or did I misread the Tu Lan thread?

                                                                        1. re: choctastic

                                                                          I'm rarely the person who orders XLB. If they're on the table I'll try one.

                                                                          Who has great dumplings across which street?

                                                                  2. re: choctastic

                                                                    The "rabid Frisco fans" you speak of are mostly East Bay denizens (RL included). We over here in San Francisco know that Shanghai Dumpling Shop is better for XLB.

                                                        2. re: choctastic

                                                          The xiao long bao at Yank Sing are made with kurobuta pork, getting closer to the natural sweetness, flavor, and fattiness of pork in Asia.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            Exactly my thoughts about the XLB Melanie, they taste very similar to those I've had in Taiwan, that's why I liked them so much I guess!

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              Yes, yes, we've heard this many times. However, I do think I was being unclear since I haven't had them for a couple of months and it was hard to describe what was odd about them. Perhaps it was just the vinegar that tasted weird and my memory is tweaked. Next time I'm going to bring my own vinegar and see how they taste. I have to agree that these are some of the best xlb I've had in the bay area and I've had them everywhere that they've been trumpeted.

                                                              --for the record, I've had kurabota pork many a time and do not find the taste to be odd in the least so that's not it.

                                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                                The vinegar is weird. It's some pink/red vinegar instead of your standard black vinegar. The filling itself is a notch sweeter than usual (and I suspect it's not just the sweetness of kurobuta).

                                                                I agree that price, especially compared to LA, will be a shock.

                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Robert, yes you are correct, people who thinks a restaurant is bad don't usually go back again and again to confirm that it is indeed bad.

                                                          3. re: liu

                                                            As with most things in this world, to get 20% more quality in service and/or food, you have to pay double or more. Whether those diminishing returns represent value, you'll have to decide. Since you've already forked over the expense to come to San Francisco with its higher food costs than LA, why scrimp on lunch? So much less than fan chan anyway.

                                                            -----
                                                            Yank Sing Banquet & Catering
                                                            101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              Personally, I just love their special-agent-style walkie-talkies that they all wear, you can tell anyone what dim sum you want, and they will make it a mission to rush it to your table ASAP. Sometimes, even flagging down anyone in other dim sum places take forever, that's why I especially appreciate Yank Sing's notice to details like these.

                                                              1. re: liujenny

                                                                Liu since you are coming from LA that has at least 4 great places for XLB, and especially if you're a fan of Din Tai Fung, there's really no need to order XLB at a dim sum restaurant, unless you happen to be at Yank Sing or Koi Palace.

                                                                Let's put it in this perspective. At Yank Sing an order of siu mai there costs almost the same at a high end hotel in Hong Kong, except in HK you get abalone and scallop in your siu mai, whereas at Yank Sing you get pork and....CORN. Uhhhh...corn? Yep. Nuff said.

                                                                I had dim sum in Monterey Park once maybe in late 90s, can't remember where but on Atlantic somewhere. It wasn't that great, but not bad. Although I too will vote for Koi Palace for anyone coming from LA, especially MP/SGV areas. Next vote will be The Kitchen in Millbrae, then Zen Peninsula down the street.

                                                                Joy Luck Place San Mateo is probably only really really good if you go with Yimster :-). I did not find it impressive on a visit earlier before this summer.

                                                            2. re: liu

                                                              I'm no expert on dim sum, but Yank Sing serves excellent food. We had a divine time there, and for anyone who is visiting the city for a limited period of time, it's quite a bit more convenient to pop down to Yank Sing than to travel some distance simply for lunch.

                                                              The other thing is that Yank Sing occupies some of the most expensive property on the continent, so they'd have to charge higher prices just to cover rent.

                                                              If I lived in San Francisco again (how I wish), I'd travel far and wide in the Bay Area to seek out great food at good prices, but as an occasional visitor, I have no qualms about paying the folks at Yank Sing for their excellent dim sum, especially since it's less than ten blocks from our preferred hotel location.

                                                              1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                                Hello, uptown jimmy!
                                                                I am the original poster here, and on our most recent visit to San Francisco we completely enjoyed the entire Yank Sing experience!

                                                                This past week I had to order more of their homemade chili pepper sauce and their heavenly loose-leaf jasmine tea. I went home with one of each from the restaurant, but I finished them quickly. Their chili pepper sauce is very smoky and flavorful, and their jasmine tea is very aromatic and sweet.

                                                                Next time we are nearby, we will definitely return to Yank Sing...and I thank those on this post who recommended it!

                                                  2. re: liu

                                                    During the old Dim Sum War* that we had on this board a few years ago, I was on the North team and we were determined to find a Top Notch dim sum place in SF and preferably in Chinatown. On multiple occassions, our team would meet in Chinatown and graze through 3 or 4 dim sum places. It was great fun, I recommend it as a fun afternoon activity. We did find some horrible places, some good places and some fun dives, but we never did find a Top Notch contender for an official battle.

                                                    * South Bay v. SF/North Dim Sum War - each team held "battles", inviting their opponent to the best of the best of their regions offerings.

                                              2. we had dim sum Sunday at Riverside Seafood in the avenues, I think Vicente and 23rd..it was great, fresh, fast and hot, very busy with locals but friendly enough. I'd say better than Ton Kiang.