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Top Notch Dim Sum?

Hi, I will be down in San Fran over the holidays and I'm looking to have some top notch dim sum here. I live in Vancouver where fancy & top notch dim sum is plenty . . . and I'm sure San Fran has the same type of quality. Where do you suggest me to go?? I have a car and I am willing to drive as far as I need to go!

Thanks!!

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  1. Koi Palace

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    Koi Palace Restaurant
    365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

    1. You're not going to find anything in the SF Bay Area as good as Vancouver, unless things have gone seriously downhill in Vancouver in the last year. Koi Palace is a decent experience though not up to the best in Vancouver. They do have some really good seafood dishes at dinner, but I think you can get same at lunch as well. I see people ordering lobster etc. during dim sum hours all the time.

      I hear good things about Zen Peninsula, but haven't been yet. There's also the Kitchen which is a chain. The one in L.A. is pretty good but not my favorite there. Haven't been to the one in this area.

      People up here seem to be really fond of Hong Kong Flower Lounge. Personally I think they're smoking too much bad crack, but that's just me.

      9 Replies
      1. re: choctastic

        The Kitchen is a "chain" only in the sense that it is owned by a restaurant group that also owns several other Chinese restaurants, including another one of the same name in LA, and one soon to be in Sacramento.

        1. re: PeterL

          The Kitchen and Asian Pearl are part of the same chain. They have two senior chefs which run all the kitchens.

          1. re: yimster

            I think we're splitting hairs, here. one could as justifiably say that The French Laundry is part of a chain, with one chef running five (?) kitchens. And Chinese cuisine, IMHO, is less chef-driven than Euro-American cuisine.

        2. re: choctastic

          I agree with you! I've never had a good meal at HKFL nor Ton Kiang, and can't understand the rave reviews.

          1. re: Claudette

            Well, I agree on Ton Kiang, but I can't agree on HKFL. During the famous "dim sum civil" war I ate dim sum in more than two dozen restaurants around the Bay Area across the spectrum from dives to high-end, and since then I've eaten at many more, and HKFL was the best. Although I have to say that one meal was merely very good, while the other was outstanding.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Uh, with all due respect, that civil war was what...4 years ago? Things have changed mightily since then... That said, I do remember going to HKFL about 3 years ago (that's probably the earliest memory I have of that place) and I didn't have a good meal back then or in subsequent times.

              I will admit I have the minority opinion on that place. Most people on this board really seem to like HKFL.

              1. re: choctastic

                HKFL was bought by Eric Lau of the Mayflower mini-empire (San Francisco, Milpitas, Union City) about a month ago. Any reports of any changes?

                I've also heard that Lau is planning to sell the SF Mayflower, but that may just be rumor.

                1. re: choctastic

                  It's true I haven't been there for a while, but people I know and trust who have been there as recently as a few weeks ago tell me it's the same. It is (or was) part of a small Hong Kong-based chain, and one thing you can say about chains is that they're consistent. However, I'll be interested to hear if people feel there are differences under the new management.

                  I'm curious, can you tell me what made it not a good meal? One particular dish? More than one particular dish? The overall food quality? Something else?

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Overall food quality has never been what I get at for instance Koi Palace, Asian Pearl, etc. I still don't get what people love about this place; everything seems so tired. Perhaps I don't get the special treatment because I'm just an average joe, but I think my experience is as valid as anyone else's.

          2. You will be hard pressed to find anything better in the Bay Area better than Vancouver/Richmond BC.

            But if you must than in Addition to Koi Palace

            Joy Luck in San Mateo
            Zen Pen in Millbare
            Asian Pearl in Millbare
            Hong Flower Lounge in Millbare.

            These are some of the better one in the Bay Area.

            Good eating.

            11 Replies
            1. re: yimster

              Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I read on a few threads that Koi Palace seems like the place to go? Kind of dissapointed that the quality isn't as good as Vancouver as I expected SF to be equal or better! But you never know . . i'll give it a try!

              Thanks!!

              1. re: bobthebuilder

                The ones recommend to you by our local hounds are comparable to the best Richmond has to offer. Of course there is no dim sum house in which every dish is the best. Even in BC you have to cherry pick items.

                As someone who has off and on visited BC to see family and eat I think the Bay Area dim sum in the last five years has reach the same high level as BC. But the Hong Kong connection is better in BC.

                There are items that are better here.

                So by all means give it a try. The only thing here we have dim sum houses open at 8 AM for breakfast dim sum.

                1. re: bobthebuilder

                  Prior to the HK migration wave in the late 80's you may be able to say that about SF vs Vancouver Chinese food. Right now Vancouver has practically the best Chinese food outside of HK and China.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    I was there two weeks ago and I do think we are closer today then ever.

                    1. re: yimster

                      A good way to gauge is to see if the "Low Sah Bao" is in the dim sum rotation. It's been in existence for a little while now, I first had it in China and Hong Kong 2 years ago, the name translates to "leak sand". It seems like a lotus paste bun or a ly wong bao, but the center is actually a salted duck egg yolk mixed with sugar and most likely pork fat, which when heated results in a sweet yet rich, lovely lovely thing. I've only seen it here at Gold Mountain, in Chinatown SF of all places, but have asked for it at Joy Luck in San Mateo and the manager still hadn't heard of it yet...

                      I'm sure it's made it's way into Vancouver by now...?

                      1. re: jondis

                        I did have Low Sah Bow at Asian Pearl in Millbare only last week and found to be very good. We got a fresh from the steamer order. As time pasts the free flowing salted duck egg custard will become more solid and less flowing.

                        1. re: yimster

                          Some places will offer a baked version, the same as a baked char siu bao..I'm going to have to check it out. The only other place I've had it was in Oakland, the two story place on 8th.

                          Speaking of which, Restaurant Peony also does a version of the Macau Egg Tart in which they caramelize the top. you have to special order it though "poh gok dan tat"

                          1. re: jondis

                            It was a steam bun, have not seen the Macau egg tart at any of the Millbare places.

                            In the past I have traveled long ways for great Chinese food, now I am glad it is closer and with gas so high I hope to find closer places for my food fixes.

                            As for the Macau Egg Tart I did have one in the San Jose area but I do not remember off hand. I will check my notes and if I find the place I will post.

                        2. re: jondis

                          Sea Harbour in Vancouver and LA have had that bun for ages. Others have it too but that was the first place that came to mind. Haven't seen it in the SF Bay Area much.

                          1. re: jondis

                            Here's a sighting in SF at S & T Hong Kong Seafood on Noriega,
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31257...

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                            S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
                            2578 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                            1. re: jondis

                              They have this at Peony's in Oakland Chinatown. However, they are hit or miss. Sometimes, they're full of the oozy goodness that is expected. But othertimes, it's over cooked and becomes a solid paste instead of being runny.

                    2. After my last visit to Vancouver I literally could not eat Chinese food back home for a month because Vancouver Chinese food is that much better. I'd say the "average" Chinese restaurant in Richmond is better than the best places down here. However, I do agree with everything on this board as to which are the best Bay Area dim sum restaurants, and having gotten over my last Vancouver trip I'll happily go to any of these restaurants.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        The Chinese food in the Bay Area has steady improved in recently and the gap has closed. For over ten years we travel to BC to visit family and eat. The food here was alway good but has gotten better.

                        Hell, you could live in New Jersey or Wisconsin.

                        1. re: yimster

                          Try Ton Kiang at 5821 Geary Blvd in SF. Its at Geary and 22nd or 23rd. It is outstanding - get there early - there is always a line out the door. I think you will find that it measures up to what you are used to eating. Fabulous.

                          1. re: sonomasal

                            Not!

                            I haven't had as much dim sum as the esteemed Yimster but I have had a lot of dim sum some of the best places in both Vancouver & the Bay Area. Unless they've had a major management change very recently, TK is just not in the same class. Just one example - every shrimp dish I've had at TK has been seriously bad - rubbery, stale, freezer-burn nasty.

                            1. re: larochelle

                              Bob - trust me and trust Frommer's who list Ton Kiang as the #1 dim sum restaurant in the city. See review. ttp://www.frommers.com/destinations/sanfran...
                              I have sampled Dim Sum all over the world - including in China - this is the best in the city.

                              1. re: sonomasal

                                Sorry, Frommer's is notoriously bad for San Francisco. And, now I know it's poor at judging dim sum too. Ton Kiang is not somewhere I'd send someone hoping to best Vancouver's dim sum.

                                1. re: sonomasal

                                  I don't know you but I wouldn't trust Frommers for Chinese food. BTW SF city has probably the worse overall quality of dim sum in all the Bay Area.

                                  1. re: sonomasal

                                    chiming in here, ton kiang is great for ppl who want the sanitized and slightly more western version of dim sum. it's not completely authentic and the quality is poor compared to the real thing. it might be something the op is interested in, but since they're writing from vancouver, this probably won't appeal to them.

                                    1. re: thejulia

                                      Ton Kiang is as authentic Hakkanese as my guinea pig. Too many deep fried dim sum items (easy and faster to churn out) as well as unrefined common stuff.

                          2. Vancouver has much better shrimp. Ergo, dimsum with shrimp is almost always better in Vancouver.

                            Having granted Vancouver that much, I'd agree with Yimster that SF Bay Area dimsum has gotten better over the past several years and can now hold a candle to Vancouver dimsum--except where shrimp is concerned. I also have to agree that you have to find out which items each restaurant does best and stick to those things.

                            Joy Luck San Mateo--for me, the best balance of good food, comfortable dining experience, and reasonable prices. Lo bak see jar leung (thanks, Yimster) might be worth the drive from SF. BBQ items and chicken feet are very good.

                            Yank Sing--if money is no object, and you are willing to try some non-traditional dimsum, this is a good place to dine. Food quality and service are very good, and you may well find items you don't get in Vancouver.

                            Asian Pearl--very good dimsum. Reminds me of Vancouver dimsum. Best egg tarts I've had lately.

                            Koi Palace--probably the best dimsum overall. Roast suckling pig, coffee spareribs, steamed cake layered with salted egg filling. . . But have everyone in your party bring noise-cancelling headphones, good music, and a good book if you go on a weekend as dining there can be quite stressful. Conversation will be impossible. High-strung people may need Valium.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: pilinut

                              I have to agree with everything in this post. Actually, not just shrimp but seafood in general. That said, Koi Palace can pull out some very interesting seafood dishes, but it'll cost ya. And yeah, dim sum in the Bay Area definitely has gotten better in the last couple of years, no denying that, though I still think the best places in Vancouver are better overall, but that's just me.

                              1. re: choctastic

                                What about the whole dungeness crab shanghai soup dumplings at Koi Palace? I've never seen that rendtion in any of the LA dim sum houses. If Vancouver is lacking something like that, it is definitely worth a try. It's bascially XLB filled with 90% dungesness crab (meat from the body portion) and the legs are fried for your enjoyment. They also do whole lobster dumplings but I like the crab version better. They should be available by the time you get down here.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  that sounds really good! Obviously not a dim sum item, but thank you SF fourmers for all your help! I constantly travel and tried dim sum in cities like NY, Chicago & LA. I have found them to be good . . . but easily comparable to Canadian cities like Toronto & Calgary. I am SURE SF should be able to top that! . . wish me luck!

                                  1. re: bobthebuilder

                                    Depends on if you consider all forms of dumplings a dim sum item. The whole lobster dumplings are done with a wrapper more like a har gow wrapper while the dungeness crab XLB is classic XLB wrapper with 90-100% dungeness crab. Both are served only during dim sum. Guess that's one thing SF/Koi Palace has over Vancouver.

                                  2. re: Porthos

                                    okay good call, i haven't seen these in l.a. or vancouver either.