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Oct 13, 2007 09:55 PM

David's Kitchen, now Kingdom of Dumplings

I stopped by Kingdom of Dumplings, the much-praised frozen dumpling maker in the Sunset. They told me that they took over the restaurant that used to be David's Kitchen on Taraval at 28th. If I understood correctly, they're already open. The kingdom has become an empire! Any reports yet?

Previous post on Kingdom of Dumplings: Their address is linked as "Asian American Food Co."

King of Chinese Dumpling
1426 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA

Kingdom of Dumpling
1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Kingdom of Dumplings has kept the same menu as David's Kitchen, except they also added some Shanghainese dim sum, dumplings, and soup noodles. We initially were not given the new menu, until we asked the waitress what happened to David and inquired about the new owners. The new owner came out and showed it to us. I overheard the waitress and owner tell other patrons that the new stuff wouldn't be available until next week, but we were able to order a few items. Several of the new dishes, however, were not available.

    The first dish we received was the clear bean curd. It's kind of like clear chow fun noodles and came in a soy-vinegar sauce with minced raw garlic. WAY salty, almost inedible, and you definitely need to pop a breathmint after eating. We ordered shrimp, chive dumplings. (I think there was another ingredient but I can't remember exactly what. pork maybe?) Nice flavor, very chive-y, but I love chives. I usually have dumplings at San Tung so compared to those, these were more flavorful, but had a thicker skin. We also ordered xiao long bao but they came back and said they only had 3 left, so i was a little disappointed they couldn't fill the order. We had the beef pancake which was basically like green onion pancakes, without the green onions and substitued with a layer of ground beef inside. Nice and crispy outside, but it was a little too heavy for me. It tasted fine, just not exactly what I like. We tried one dish from the old menu (lamb) which was prepared and presented the same as before.

    Overall, the food was good except for the bean curd. The waitress is the same one as before and she's always been friendly. I'm glad they still kept the same menu, but I wasn't really impressed with the dumplings. Good, not great. I think they're still working out the kinks with the new menu, so we'll see in a few months.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chris_chow

      I've never heard of "clear" bean curd noodles. Unless Victor Conte was manning the wok, I suspect it might be a bean starch noodle or some other starch noodle.

      I buzzed by there late yesterday afternoon to see what was up as well. There was a young woman with glasses (server?) and a young man with a moustache (chef?) on the premises, neither of which I recognized from the Noriega St. facility, and no customers. They showed me the two menus you spoke of, but we were on our way to dinner in the Richmond and I didn't stay to try anything.

      I've tried a lot of the frozen items from the King of Chinese Dumplings and my favorites are the wontons (good) and the luobo si bing, or "radish cake" (excellent).

      I hope they will get their act together, because it'll be nice to have a new sit-down Northern-style dumpling place around even if it's way out in the Sunset.

    2. I live in the neighborhood and used to love David's Kitchen as our go-to place for take-out (or delivery by the young server on a moped), or to eat in, for nights when we were too busy to cook. David was friendly and his food felt fresh and relatively healthy, perfectly cooked crisp vegetables, complex sauces, etc.

      So I was shocked and sad when I saw the new sign up for Kingdom of Dumpling,especially since it was not long after the SF Guardian ran a good review of David's Kitchen. Saw that they had the old menu still up in the window, so we decided to give it a try.

      Must say I was sorely disappointed, on several levels. First off, we asked about David, and the middle-aged guy who appeared to be 'in charge' told us some story about how he's David's brother and David is traveling for two months in Asia and he (the brother) is running the place in his absence. Believed him initially but then the story just started to feel fishy--why would they go to the trouble of changing the name on the sign outside? And the new menu? In the end, I do not think I believe the story, and I didn't like feeling like I was being lied to for no good reason (other than not to lose customers). Makes me not trust the guy, or the place.

      We ordered a mix of dishes from the old menu (to see if it was still the 'same') and some dumplings, though since it was a month ago I might be foggy on the details. From the old menu, we had the vegetarian green curry, which used to be a symphony of smooth, perfectly spiced Thai green curry base and tasty pea pods, zuchinni, eggplant, tofue -- in its new incarnation, this dish was the closest to the original. The taro veggie pancake was MUCH greasier in the new version than it used to be, and seemed to be simply chopped/mushed taro rather than the more varied mix of veggies it used to be.

      The dumplings were so so-- we had the 'soup' dumplings and some vegetarian potstickers and they were a bit dry (the latter) and not as flavorful as the place in Millbrae where I usually love the similar soup dumplings.

      The other thing that didn't sit well with me was the super obsequious, yet in-our-face proprietor. He came to our table after EVERY dish was brought out to inquire if we liked and it how it compared to the previous version. It was an intimidating kind of questioning, in my opinion, and I did not like it. I felt like I could only nod 'yes, it's fine' to get him to go away and leave us alone.

      All in all, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth and I won't be going back. I really wonder what happened to sweet, talented chef David--at one point during the meal I said to my friend 'what did they DO with him? did they stick him in the fridge back there?' Am curious if anyone has a better sense of what exactly happened.

      I know I'm probably biased because I did not want the place to change, but I'm sorry to lose a comfortable little restaurant with tasty food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: minerrva

        We moved into the neighborhood not too long ago and stumbled into David's Kitchen 2 nights before it closed. We loved it and were sad to hear it was closing (and about a week after it got a wonderful write-up in the SF Weekly, bummer). There was a party going on for some of David's friends, and one of them told us that he was just tired of running a restaurant and was taking some time off.

        We had noticed that the menu hadn't changed but hadn't gotten back to check it out. Sad that the quality was not maintained. Though based on Cynsa's report below we may have to go just to try the lamb dumplings!

      2. OMG, I could eat the Lamb and Chinese Vegetable dumplings everyday - they're plump perfections and are only better with a splash of black vinegar or a smear of chile sauce... there's the cold dish of spicy beef tendon bright with cilantro... and, then the dumplings with QQ noodles in a mushroom broth - full of flavor without any saltiness. This new expanded menu of dumplings surpasses the David's Kitchen items still offered. I'll be back... let's chow!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cynsa

          Today 4 of us joined Cynsa for lunch at Kingdom of Dumpling and all I can say is that everything we tried was just delicious! It's probably a good thing that this place isn't closer to where I live because if it was, I'd be in there far too often for my waistline...

          Reading Minerva's post above, I found it interesting how different we all are in that the owner came in just after we'd ordered and spent time with us making sure that we were happy with our dishes and we appreciated him rather than being annoyed.... He recognized at least one of the members of our group (a long time customer of the store on Noriega). He greeted her and acknowledged our group and asked what we'd ordered. He suggested some things we hadn't ordered which we then had to have! He constantly checked with us to see how we liked each item which I really appreciated. He is so proud of his products! And rightly so as they are so good.

          I really liked the spicy beef tendon in fact I brought an order home for my DH! The lamb dumplings were another favorite but the shrimp and pork were good too. The Radish cake - I don't care how many calories there are in these - they are worth every one! I love the toasty sesame seeds on the top. The grilled lamb skewers were one of the items he suggested that we originally hadn't ordered - I'm so glad we got them! Juicy, grilled lamb pieces seasoned with cumin and a little spice - got an order of these for DH too - he loved them as much as I did. They reheated pretty well too though perhaps not as juicy as they were when they first came off the grill. We split an order of soup with the Pork & Chinese spinach Wonton but with the QQ noodles in the mushroom broth that Cynsa mentioned. Very nice comforting dish especially on a cold and rainy day!

          We enjoyed several other dishes that I can't remember at the moment - maybe someone will and add to these notes...

          Also, the proximity to Marco Polo makes gelato a nice sweet finish...

          1. re: Cynsa

            I went tonight w/ two others, and we had a good meal.

            We ordered lamb dumplings, xiao long bao, chicken/spinach dumpling soup w/ QQ noodle, and duck with green curry (the curry was on the specials board). After we ordered, our waiter (not the owner, who at this point hadn't arrived) encouraged us to try the lamb kebabs, so we got that too.

            The kebabs arrived first - four of them with small bite size pieces of lamb. Very tender and tasty, served w/ nice chili sauce. These were good, but kind of a random item for this restaurant. When I was little my dad used to grill lamb chops sometimes and fry little extra tidbits on the side, and this reminded me of those tidbits. So I guess that's a good thing.

            Lamb dumplings were next, and I think Cynsa's description is spot on. These were great! There were twelve, so each of us got four of them, but all of us were keeping close track since they were so good. They were less gamey than the lamb dumplings at nearby Mandarin Islamic, and texture wise even better than the lamb dumplings at China Village in Albany. But I think flavorwise I prefer the ones at China Village, but not by much. These were boiled perfectly, the outer dough could not have been better. Texture wise, very similar to the dumplings I used to eat at Wang's in Somerville, MA.

            Xiao long Bao only came 6 to a steamer (which is not as much as you get at other Shanghai restaurants in the area) but they were quite good. They held form well and the meat and broth tasted good, though the flavor was more subtle than other XLB I've had elsewhere. But overall very good, and worth a try.

            At this point the very friendly and enthusiastic owner arrived, carrying a tray of dumplings from their shop. He encouraged us to order chicken wings (which we didn't, since we were already eating and had ordered enough) and then after the meal, encouraged us to order dessert (we didn't do this either, we went to Marco Polo).

            We had the soup Cynsa describes - my friends also said that they liked the broth for its full flavor without saltiness. I thought it was warm and good, but nothing special. Ditto for the dumplings in the soup.

            Last was the green curry and duck. This was pretty good, though not at all spicy. The green curry had a good flavor though, more liquidy than most, and the pieces of roast duck were tender and flavorful - the dish also contained eggplant and zucchini, both cooked appropriately (zucchini was on the firmer side, which I like, and eggplant was nice and soft).

            The two menus are funny. The old menu (from the previous place I guess?) is pretty pan-Asian, with Thai, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese style items....meanwhile, the other menu is focused on dumplings, dim sum, appetizers and soups. I thought the dumplings really stood out, so I'd recommend sticking mainly to those.

            The meal was inexpensive, but not super cheap, and servings weren't huge. Still a good value though (especially if focusing on dumplings). The room is very small, and at times it felt like we were in the proprieters living room.

            For dessert we went to nearby Marco Polo (very convenient since it's 3 blocks away).

            I had durian and guava gelato - the durian is pretty strong, which I really like, and the guava is more subtle with a perfect smooth texture and great balance of acidity and creaminess. Durian had a great texture as well. Friends had rum raisin (pretty good), taro (kind of vanilla-ey for me) and red bean (hearty but good).

            Both places were pretty quiet on this rainy evening.

            Dave MP

          2. I had the pleasure of discovering Kingdom of Dumplings recently during
            a San Francisco search for Shui Kau. Didn't find the Shui Kau
            (different regional cooking style), but I did find the dumplings both
            satisfying and comforting! The flavours were complex in their
            simplicity - balanced and subtle without any dominance of salt. The
            flavours brought back "edible" memories of special eating experiences
            when I was in China.

            This is definitely a specialty restaurant as opposed to a neighborhood
            restaurant offering a variety of popular dishes. Kingdom of Dumplings
            offers excellent dumplings served separately or in a delicious
            herbal-like broth with a variety of noodles. The QQ noodles are bean
            thread noodles that, if you save them for last after you finish your
            soup dumplings, will soak up the flavour of the soup and just make you
            smile as you eat them on a cold, SF foggy day.

            The owner did come out to recommend some dishes and I appreciated his
            comments. The menu offers many dishes that diners should be introduced
            to, since many offerings are not those served at most Chinese


            2 Replies
            1. re: cheTONGUEek

              If you are looking for the Cantonese shui kau (kind of like a flat wonton), try ABC in Chinatown; they have a wonton/shui kau combo soup which I sometimes order because I'm not fond of the skinny HK-style noodles in the wonton/noodle combos.

              1. re: cheTONGUEek

                Just went to KoD last night for the first time, after Pizza Place on Noriega was closed, and Outerlands was packed. I was surprised with how good it was. All in all, a great little hole-in-the-wall where the chef actually KNOWS and CARES about how to cook vegetables, and it's not just an afterthought, as witnessed by their cared- for presence in many of the dishes.

                I tried:

                *Pork dumplings (amazing - juicy, garlickly, flavorful, wonderful dough.)
                *Shrimp and chive dumplings (good dough, bland filling)
                *Scallion pancake (too greasy, the pancake part was kinda like a big wonton wrapper, rather than a flourbased pancake)
                *Duck curry, which was a special (amazing - lemongrassy, rich gravy, with a kick, and big big chunks of eggplant and zucchini that were cooked al dente, with vegetable-respect.)
                *Cucumber salad (recommended by our server, very very good - cold, with a garlickly soy saucy dressing

                They were out of kimchee and out of Vietnamese spring rolls.

                The menu is eclectic, with lots of Pan Asian dishes, and funny names like "the Day After". The kitchen, which you walk thru to use the bathroom, is astonishingly tiny. The place is small, packed, and hot. The waiter was charming and sort of disarmingly direct, recommending lots of dishes and making jokes. The prices are rock bottom. They didn't have enough "cold" beers of the type we ordered, so one of us had to order a different beer.
                Our bill came, with tip, to $63 for four people, each ordering a beer. AWESOME!

              2. i tried the beef stew noodle soup today.
                nice hot (temperature) flavorful broth.
                add your own chili sauce to your personal level of spiciness and tender noodles.
                i would recommend this place.