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Jan 14, 2008 06:57 AM

best dim sum of the moment

sorry, i'm sure this board is harrangued with these requests, but as all chowhounders know, restaurants change often. i was really disappointed with my last trip into chinatown, and thought that going with an address in hand might make for a better trip.

while i'm all about the traditional dim sum dishes, i'm ok being a little daring, too. definite yes on the carts (my hotel referred me to a place that didn't have them... not a good sign in my book).

will likely get there midweek, should that make a difference.

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  1. this does get asked and discussed quit often and are fairly recent- the same suspects have not changed much over the years-

    You may want to go outside of Chinatown for dim sum-

    Some are mentioned in Chinatown-

    I don't understand the comment about no carts not being a good sign? There are a couple of good dim sum places on Clement where its counter service only, no carts and they are amoung my favorite dim sum in the city.

    I might enjoy Yank Sing- they have "traditional service" with carts, easy walk over from Chinatown.

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

    11 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      I also have found that the non-cart.. specially ordered dim sum comes out hot and fresh from the kitchen, and does not have to sojourn for who knows how long with the circulating carts!

      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        With the checklist places you have no control over the flow of the foods; if too much comes at once, some of it ends up getting cold on your table instead of on the cart. You are also ordering a pig in a poke; with the carts, you can see before you buy

        1. re: Xiao Yang

          Conversely, how often have you grabbed a bunch of dim sum plates and filled up, and then something you would have preferred shows up and you've already got as much as you can handle? Or your favorite never shows up at all? A check menu allows you to plan what dishes you order and make sure you get what you really want.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            For me, the usual problem is that i fill up and then something I would have preferred shows up and I order that too :)

            So for me, going to places where you check things off helps control the size of the meal. However, it sometimes means that you miss out on something great that is either unfamiliar to you on the menu or doesn't sound appealing on the menu.

            Dave MP

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I have a bit of self-restraint, after all. And if I don't get my wu gok, I'll ask for it. But I don't want to foreclose spontaneity.

              Dim sum isn't just about the food. Crowds, the clatter of the carts and the musical hawking of the cart-pushers are all part of the experience, IMHO.

            2. re: Xiao Yang

              I grew up eating dim sum from carts (Louie's on Grant anyone?). However, I have to agree that I prefer the check list over the cart. Carts are really just for show. You also have to consider that the carts go around the room ad nauseum until they sell out. If you're unlucky, you get a cold, limpy dim sum cuz it's been out for awhile.

              On the other hand, I've only had fresh dim sum w/ the check list. I also get my faves.

              The cart brings out the same old same old and sometimes I'm just waiting in hunger for a fave dish to roll around. I also am never full w/ the cart method.

          2. re: Lori SF

            I used to associate non-cart dim sum with Hang Ah Tea room--ewwggh! However on my last visit to Vancouver I found that virtually all of the top dim sum restaurants used the menu check off system. My cousin explained that removing the carts was a win-win situation for the restaurant and diners. The restaurants were able to stuff more tables since they no longer needed aisle space for the carts to pass, and the customers received fresh, cooked to order food.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              If you are ordering standard din sum items, I doubt that they are really "cooked to order." Are they really going to steam three har gow just for you? The "specials" (chow fun etc. are likely to be cooked to order whether they have carts or not.

              Lichee Garden combines the best of both worlds; they jam the tables in so close that carts are not feasible, but have the servers carry trays around for "point and shoot" ordering.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                It seemed to me at Golden River (where we were sitting by the kitchen door) was that what they did was wait until they had several orders for the same item, and then do a batch, which was then whisked out to the dining room. In a large, busy dim sum house, those batches are going to add up pretty quickly.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I agree with your assessment. No they aren't going to wrap those har gows when you order them on the spot (that's ridiculous not to mention unproductive). All those dumplings and then some are premade and frozen. When they get enough orders (har gow is quite popular so I'm sure the turn around time is quick since they have enough bunched orders to steam them all at once), they'll steam/fry or whatever with them.

                  Dim Sum King has an open kitchen and you can see that the people are constantly putting their dim sum in the steamers.

              2. re: Chandavkl

                I have to agree that ordering off a menu seems to assure getting fresh dim sum, at least in my Vancouver experience. Whether they make it cooked to order or not just for me is irrelevant, just the fact that each order comes out fresh and piping hot. I'd rather have that than the last few baskets sitting on the bottom of a cart.

            2. Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae have changed hands to the Mayflower group four weeks ago. I went to dim sum yesterday and can say that the offerings have much improved over the last owners. I had a delicious shrimp rice roll, soft gan sui dong (glutinous rice stuffed with red bean and wrapped in bamboo leaf) covered in syrup, but not crazy sweet. The fried taro balls were nice and crispy, but not too greasy. They have carts, for jook, pickled pigs feet, tripe, blanching gai lan, and the cold dishes. Being a Sunday, it was pretty busy, but no wait.

              1 Reply
              1. re: peppatty

                They have a menu you can order from as well as carts.

              2. Actually, a lot of places don't have carts on weekdays and that doesn't make them inauthentic. If you know what you want, ordering off a check menu often means you get dim sum that's cooked to order and thus fresher then stuff that's been circling on a cart for a while.

                That said, I think you want Gold Mountain -- good, traditional dim sum w/carts even midweek.

                Gold Mountain Restaurant
                644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                5 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I have been known to recommend Gold Mountain to visitors, but I went there in late December and was pretty disappointed. Many of the items were cold and/or oversteamed by the time they reached our table.

                  I don't currently have any alternative to suggest in Chinatown though.....but I now definitely feel that places outside of Chinatown are better.

                  I was at HKFL yesterday and we had a good meal - I also noticed the new management by Mayflower, and a menu of dim sum that I hadn't seen before. There is an entire section of rice noodle rolls - we got one w/ crispy fried shrimp - two big rice rolls w/ crispy bean curd skin wrapped around shrimp, served w/ soy sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame paste. Good, but the rice noodle roll with fried donut on the next table looked better!

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler


                    Check-off-the-big-list is popular in china, if your concern is authenticity. Makes it tough if you're a round-eye who only knows the sign for 'meat', but not impossible.

                    Check-off-the-list is higher throughput for the kitchen, wider menu, no waste, thus higher profits. I typically found it in bustling very popular lower-end places with excellent food.

                    Obviously, I have positive associations with the system....

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Yes, a perfect example of that kind of place would be Golden River -- aka The Place Next to Ton Kiang. Cheap, packed to the gills with Chinese families (as opposed to the high percentage of non-Asians at Ton Kiang), and the food comes to your table piping hot. Not as much fun as picking something off the cart, I agree, but if your really want it fresh and hot, the menu is the way to go.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Argh! I hit the post link instead of the places link:

                        Golden River
                        5827 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  2. thanks all.

                    in my mind: bigger place=more turnover of food=carts.

                    plus, i really prefer to make up my mind as the carts go by.

                    its the difference, to me, between sitting at the sushi bar or ordering off a menu from a table.

                    thanks for the suggestions!