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Jan 18, 2009 04:17 PM

Best Dim Sum in the Bay

Seems like it's been awhile since everyone got all stirred up about this, so I'd like to throw this out for the New Year. I'm a recent transplant to the Bay from Toronto, which probably has the some of the best Chinese food in the world. I would know since I grew up in Hong Kong with foodie parents. I've been extremely disappointed by the "best" chinese places so far. I've tried several places for dinner in SF chinatown, universally bad, not innovative, and the hole-in-the-wall is totally not my thing since that seems to only attract guai-lo and elderly chinese people.

I've tried Koi Palace for dim sum, it is at best mediocre, and the price is pretty outrageous for what they serve you. Yank Sing is the best I've found so far, but it's still not excellent by any means, although all the items are fresh and is approaching the delicacy I would expect from dim sum. All the "offical" reviews seem to rank this place very highly, so I'm worried there's really no better places in the Bay. I have a car and will travel for better dim sum, I'm seriously suffering withdrawal. Any suggestions?

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  1. I like Yank Sing's Stevenson Street location better than the Rincon one. I've been surprised, it seems to have gotten better while Rincon has problems. The last time I ate at Rincon, some of it was cool when it should have been hot.

    There's Ton Kiang, a little expensive, but maybe better, depends on what you like. I've found some of the places in Millbrae and even Belmont to be better than San Francisco. There's one in Belmont on Ralston near 101, I haven't eaten there for a few years, but they had a better selection than many places in the city, including duck's tongue, congee, and tripe prepared several ways. Some of the more standard stuff was good too, but it seemed like they made an effort on the dishes that weren't found everywhere. In Millbrae, I used to eat at Fook Yuen (great name) and they had some interesting and unusual stuff also. The chopped fish heads were excellent if you know where the tasty stuff is. Unfortunately, I can't give recent reports on either of these since I moved to the city a while back, but they are definitely worth checking out.

    1. I think that you are doomed to disappointment. Your bar seems to be higher than what I have read on this board.

      1. Judging by the crowds of 90% asian folks @ Peony in Oakland's Chinatown, they must be doing something right.... I ate there a few months ago and thought it was all really delicious but I'm just a round-eye and far from a dimsum expert. I will try to attach the link. Adam

        Restaurant Peony
        388 9th St Ste 288, Oakland, CA 94607

        6 Replies
        1. re: adamshoe

          Adam, I would of thought the same from the 95+% at a Koi Palace on a week day, but apparently I was wrong.

          1. re: wolfe

            Maybe they all read Michael Bauer's review translated into Chinese? Haven't tried Koi Palace; have you been to Peony? The place gives cavernous a new meaning! I think they must seat at least 1000 + maybe more in their banquet areas. Went on a sunday and it was a zoo, but were seated w/in a half hour. Adam

          2. re: adamshoe

            I think Koi Palace is significantly better than Peony.

            Clone_zeta - what did you have at Koi Palace? When I've had conversations with other people unimpressed with Koi Palace, it turns out that they all pretty much only ordered stuff that was coming around the dining room, and not off the check-off menu. My favorite dishes are the XO pork and mushroom dumplings (XLB wrapper and filled with spicy broth), the fried Dungeness crab legs and carapace that come with the crab XLB, and the egg puffs. If you've had these, and were still unimpressed, I'm afraid I can't help you. I find Yank Sing adequate but grossly overpriced, and only recommend it for vegetarians (I think their vegetarian dumplings are actually excellent and difficult to find elsewhere).

            1. re: daveena

              With the large group we had, we had probably ordered all the dumplings they had. We also had the rice wrappers with the shrimp or other stuffing in the middle. We also had some buns and various things they had wheeled around, such as the lotus leaf rice.

              I just find the dumpling wrapper very thick, which results in chewiness. The same with the rice wrappers, and with slight graininess as well, good ones are supposed to be transulcent with silky texture. The buns' stuffings are not very good. It could be that by the time the items get to us in the large roon, it is already cooled, which does severly impact the texture of hot steamed items.

              I do agree that Yank Sing is very expensive for what the meal is - it is after all dim sum. Fortunately, I'm not a big eater so if this is the best in the bay, I can afford a treat for myself once in awhile.

              1. re: clone_zeta

                I agree that the dumplings with tapioca wrappers at Koi are too thick and chewy, and that Yank Sing's are better. I think Koi's wheat wrappers are good, though.

                I haven't eaten in HK or Toronto, so can't make comparisons personally, but I remember another thread on dim sum here vs. elsewhere, and I think I remember reading that we just don't have enough recent HK immigrants to bring the level of our dim sum up to current HK/Toronto standards.

                1. re: daveena

                  The XLB type dumplings are better at Koi for sure - I have found that ShangHai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae to be good as well as a more "pure" XLB place.

                  Your cited reason regarding recent HK immigrants are certainly very valid. I have noticed certainly much more "old schoolness" not only at resturants, but also for even things like medicine shops and bakeries and grocery stores. I'm sure though Vancouver or Toronto will also be old-fashioned compared to HK or ShangHai. I think those places though are helped by not only the fact there are newer immigrants, but also a large flux of young people that frequently visit HK and China, like every year. I can only hope that the Bay will catchup soon, it's surprising that it's not already much closer since there is so much money here!

          3. I guess I'm pretty picky - I've been spoiled. But to be honest, I have secretly suspect that the best dimsum is to be found outside of the city, that's generally the case with areas with lots of chinese settlers :)

            Re: Belmont resturant, is it called ABC? That seems to the place that comes up in searches.

            Re: Fook Yuen, how does it compare to HK Flower Lounge?

            3 Replies
            1. re: clone_zeta

              Fook Yuen used to be considered on par or slightly below HKFL (a matter of taste, IMHO, as I found the food at FY to be slightly more robustly flavored but less refined than HKFL), but reports over the last few years are that it's slipped from its high point. I haven't seen a updated report on FY in years.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I haven't been to Fook Yuen for a while, but I started going when I saw a major slip in quality at HKFL. It got very greasy and didn't seem to have the same flavors and textures. I would agree that FY is a bit more "rustic" than HKFL, at least when I last went.

              2. re: clone_zeta

                First of all, consider your reference dim sum object. For some reason, my favorite places are terrible at shiu mai. I don't know what it is. They're much better at BBQ pork buns (all flavors). I've sort of given up on shiu mai.

                ABC is a fun place, it's huge and the price is right, but if you're talking exalted quality I'd say it doesn't likely measure up.

                I've been very, very happen recently with Joy Luck Place in San Mateo. it's hard for me to drive past San Mateo up to Koi and Yank Sing - because I get hungry and stop at Joy Luck - so I can't give you a compare-o.

                Last time I was at Fook Yuen and actually had Dim Sum it was pretty good but not great. Dinner was an unmitigated disaster. YYMV.

                I've also been eating at the big place in mountain view - Fung Lum? - great pork buns, almost transcendent.

              3. Not a huge selection, but perhaps you'll find Harmony in Mill Valley to your liking. Second site posted below has dim sum menu, I think...