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Going to Yank Sing for the first time [San Francisco]

We are going to have dim sum (or is it deem sum?) for the first time ever at Yank Sing. Is there a difference in the two locations that is worth considering? Also, is it mandatory to leave there feeling like you've just eaten a weeks' worth of food?

Yank Sing
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

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  1. If there are carts, the cart ladies will be pushy, so it's easy to order too much food. It's also easy because it smells so good. Order too much, eat too much, but it's all the diner's fault. The more people you go with, the less you will end up eating, simply because you'll want to order lots to taste everything.

    1. I like the Rincon Center location because the old Post Office is a treasure.
      My own style of eating there is to slow things down. A lot. Order one or two items and politely refuse any more until you finish round one. Keep your eyes and ears open (you're actually taking inventory) before ordering one or two more items for round two. How many rounds you go for is up to you. I like to arrive early to avoid a wait. I used to sit in the back near the kitchen in order to flag the carts as they came out but that's not really necessary. Going with a group is a lot more fun than dining solo or as a couple (increase the number of items per round accordingly). Dim sum dining is a bit of a celebration: bring a good attitude and an appetite.

      2 Replies
      1. re: steve h.

        You sound like a pro at this. Thanks for passing on what you know.

        1. re: JENNYBEEAY

          For tea I like Gok Bo. Do not miss the shanghai dumplings, my friends always get the cabbage salad- its good, but not sure it is a necessity. Watch out for some items. Often for no good reason Chinese Brocolli (Gai Lan) is $10 a plate. Should be the least expensive item, but usually is not.....

      2. As Steve H. recommends - going slow is a good strategy for not overeating. What you order is also important - order many fried items and you're bound to feel heavy afterwards if not before.
        A variety of items - textures, tastes, cooking techniques will lead to a balanced meal. Pu-er tea is supposed to be a "grease cutter" - some folks order it with a blend of chrysanthemum because it can be a bit austere on its own. A group is a lot of fun but be careful sometimes it can lead to over ordering - if you've ever been to a Chowhound dim sum experience you'll understand this statement. Everybody's excited and chattering away ....... each wants to order his/her favorite item ....... oh, make it 3 orders of that etc .... have fun and let us know what you think about Yank Sing.

        Yank Sing
        49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

        1. Would advise arriving by 2:00 at the latest. The food quality tends to go downhill at the end of the day.

          1. Yes, I too recommend Rincon Center. They validate parking for weekend dim sum, so don't forget your ticket.

            It's ideal to pace yourself and to not grab too many items too quickly. But with cart places, the danger with not grabbing an appealing item when you first see it is that you may not see it again (unless it's a bread and butter stuff like hargau, which you're guaranteed to see again and again). Having said that, my experiences at Yank Sing have been that pretty much everything you see on cart comes around time after time. So I do think you can pace your ordering without worrying that you may not be able to get something later.

            Hope you like Yank Sing. It's expensive and has its distractors. But I think it is the best dim sum in the city. Definitely get their XLB.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chowmouse

              if you don't see an item you want, ask one of the wait staff with a headset (in-house intercom). They'll order/locate it for you or at least tell you if it's sold out.

            2. I always go to the Rincon center one; you can make a reservation -- nice. I like to sit inside, NOT in the lobby area. Only get 1 or 2 items at a time, take your time and enjoy it. I always get shrimp dumplings, Peking duck, minced chicken in lettuce and egg custard tarts. If you don't see what you want going by, just ask your main waiter to get it for you.

              Don't be afraid to ask the price -- the most expensive thing is the fish and it's $17 -- too pricey for me. Oh yes, be sure to get the soup dumplings if you eat pork.

              I really love this place, always have a good time here. I think the quality (and nice atmosphere) justifies the expense.

              1. We went yesterday with the friend who first took me to the old Yank Sing on Broadway in the 70s. We all agreed it's still the best. As usual the tab came to around $25 a head, which my friend (who lives out of the country and has been spending the last few weeks here in a foodie feeding frenzy) thought was the best bargain of his trip, an example of how great and cheap ethnic food here is compared with Chez Panisse, Zuni, et al.

                Tips for a beginner:

                Go with a party of three or six, since a lot of items come in threes or sixes.

                Make a reservation.

                The Rincon branch has three hours free parking in the basement garage on weekends, $4 for two hours weekdays. Don't forget to get your ticket validated.

                If you're at Rincon Center, sit inside, the fountain has an unappetizing smell.

                If you don't tell them what kind of tea you want, they bring jasmine, which I don't like. I always order black tea.

                If they don't give you a menu with prices (on the back of the wine list), ask for one.

                If you want to keep the tab down, note the very expensive dishes (e.g. Peking duck $5.25 per slice, honey baked seabass $17.50, soft-shell crab $10 each, minced chicken in lettuce cup $4.80 each) and avoid them.

                If offered a special that's not on the menu, ask what it costs.

                If offered something you don't recognize, feel free to ask the server to point it out on the menu.

                If you get something that should be warm and it's cold, send it back.

                You can ask for half orders of some of the larger dishes.

                Generally, the deep-fried items are gross. I rarely if ever see Chinese customers order them.

                I don't think the siu mai are very good.

                I used to love the stuffed mushrooms but since they switched from pork to chicken they're not so good.

                The Shanghai kurobuta pork dumplings aka xiao long bao / XLB are usually worth the price ($11.20 for 6). If you get a batch with torn wrappers, which I guess happens if the XLB masters are all out, send them back, you're paying for perfection.

                The one deep-fried item I order is the taro dumpling. Ask if they're hot; they're fine warm, but once they get cold they're gross and mealy.

                My other favorite items: shrimp rice rolls, mushroom dumplings (better than the chicken mushroom dumplings), turnip cake, eggplant with Hunan sauce.

                It's nice to order a plate of greens to counter the mostly rich food. They always have cold Chinese broccoli ($5.60). Sometimes they have seasonal greens such as stir-fried pea leaf (can be pricey but worth it).

                If you're planning to walk around after lunch, skip the custard tarts and go to Golden Gate Bakery instead.

                Golden Gate Bakery
                1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                Yank Sing
                49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                Rincon Center
                121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

                6 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Robert: Excellent comments. I agree about asking about prices and asking for a price list. I avoid that fish; if I were wealthy and/or REALLY wanted fish, I'd get it. But, when I go to YS, I MUST get the Peking Duck AND the chicken in lettuce cups and XLB -- I don't think they are all THAT expensive.

                  Last time I ate here (about a month ago) a friend wanted to order the shrimp chow mein. Really good, shrimp excellent quality, noodles chewy, some gai lan, too. It was $17 -- seems high but for the quality I "guess" it was worth it.

                  Re: custard tarts -- I think the ones at YS are excellent, especially if you request them HOT straight from the kitchen (careful not to burn your tongue!) Have one (at least) here and THEN go to Golden Gate Bakery, if you must. A bit of a walk PLUS waiting in line .. and, they are often closed for "vacation."

                  Are there different kinds of "black" tea?

                  Golden Gate Bakery
                  1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  1. re: walker

                    They probably have multiple kinds of black tea. I'm not picky.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Pu'er and jasmine are about it. They've also got chrysanthymum and oolong.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Wow, it's been a while since I've seen the skin on any xiao long bao that thick. No wonder people say the xiao long bao at Yank Sing holds a lot of soup -- if I were to use the equivalent of a rough rice sack for the dumpling skin, I would also be able to make it soupy!

                    1. I definitely reccommend the Rincon Center location as well. I did not have a problem with the fountain. We sat in the patio, although it was fairly close to the inside entrance and so a ways from the fountain. We found it to be, umm, very expensive, but, worth it for a special treat. While there were plenty of carts, I remember a waiter coming by also asking if we wanted certain items that were not on the cart but were "specials." He lured us intp ordering a sea bass dish. It was, well, one of the best dishes any of have ever eaten, ever. But, we should have asked the price $25 and not such a huge helping. But, in the end, it was worth it. Next time I am in San Francisco, I am going back for sure, even though thee are plenty of other very good, much less expensive places.

                      Yank Sing
                      49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                      Rincon Center
                      121 Spear St # B18, San Francisco, CA

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: wrldtrvl

                        The sea bass is now $17.50 and it's not a huge serving, actually seemed kind of small for the price.

                        1. re: wrldtrvl

                          If you like the seabass try going to Alameda's East Ocean for dinner. While not cheap either you get a much larger portion of I think Black Cod -- it is pink on the outside like Char Siu, but does not taste like it. It melts in your mouth.

                          1. re: wrldtrvl

                            The servers at Yang Sing must work on commission. The pushiness with high-priced items is tacky.

                            Sorry to hear they hit you up, but glad the food was good. I prefer not to have to be so vigilant first meal of the day.

                          2. just a little update/confirmation. i was there recently for lunch with some out of towners and what I enjoyed most were:

                            mushroom dumplings (couldn't get enough!)
                            turnip cake (among the best I've had -- totally not greasy)
                            fried taro dumpling (and I never order fried anything but these were exceptional)
                            stir fried pea leaves (really different than the shoots I get elsewhere)
                            and I forget the name but it's little dough sacks filled with tasty things and served in a bit of broth (warning: put the whole thing in your mouth and then bite or it will squirt all over everyone else..)

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: escargot3

                              The little dough sacks are prolly xiao long bao or soup dumplings.

                              1. re: grayelf

                                ah thanks GE.
                                now i understand all the posts re. XLB. yummy.

                              2. re: escargot3

                                The XLB are not served in broth, they're served in a steamer on paper with some red vinegar on the side. The broth's inside the dumpling.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  oh right, that's what it was - and the trick was to gently lift it out of the steamer without breaking it open.

                                  1. re: escargot3

                                    Indeed. Sometimes the wrappers aren't quite right or they've sat too long on the paper and it's impossible, in which case I'd send them back.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The squirting everyone else was a giveaway that you were talking about XLB :-). I think we've all been there as newbs -- now you can torture others at will!

                                    So many ways to attack the tasty little beggars. I like to put my XLB on a china soup spoon pretreated with a bit of vinegar (which should be Chinkiang/black and have ginger strips in it IMO), bite a tiny bit off, Hoover up the juice and then quickly devour the meatball and skin. And once they land on the table, ya gotta eat them all as fast as humanly possible. Even the best XLB has a half life of about 4.6 minutes!

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      I love the "hoover up the juice" VBG I think your description is the "proper" eg traditional way -at least that's how I've seen Chinese people eating them. And I agree about the half life- it's really important to eat them fast (although when they're served on steamed cabbage leaves they seem to last a tad longer)

                                2. Went to the Rincon branch for a delightful if splurgy late lunch today. On weekends the validated parking is free and they're open until 4.

                                  * spectacular, worth the extra money:

                                  chicken mushroom dumplings, 2 (large) for $5.25
                                  scallop siu mye, 3 for $5.25
                                  taro dumpling, 2 for $4.95
                                  steamed rice noodle rolls with shrimp, 3 for $8
                                  Shanghai Kurobuta pork dumpling (XLB), 6 for $12.25
                                  dry-fried green beans special, $8.50

                                  I just don't know anywhere else to get this level of quality in dim sum. The taro dumplings are the only ones I've liked anywhere, I think they've improved in recent years, less dough for a better filling-to-taro ratio. The XLB were perfect and profound.

                                  The green beans were fantastic, tasted sort of Malaysian, like kang kung balachan. Lots of fermented dried shrimp, complex aromatics, hint of sweetness, slightly tart, perfectly cooked, not too raw but not soft.

                                  * very good, probably could get as good or better elsewhere for less money:

                                  Mandarin dumpling (shrimp and herbs), 3 for $5.25
                                  sliced pork special, $9.50
                                  egg custard tart, 4 for $10.50 (go to Golden Gate Bakery if you have time)
                                  black tea, $3.90

                                  The pork was heavily caramelized, somewhere in between char siu and jerky. Really good, haven't had anything quite like it before.

                                  * disappointing, won't order again:

                                  turnip cake, 3 for $4.95
                                  chicken stuffed mushrooms, 3 for $5.25 (half order)

                                  These both used to have pork in them. Left a note on the comment card lamenting the change.

                                  Overall, it was a great and relaxing meal. I just don't know anywhere else to get this level of quality in dim sum.

                                  5 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Went to the Stevenson branch on July 4. City was empty, drove in with no traffic, parked right in front, pretty surreal.

                                      Quality as high as ever. Prices up slightly since March 2013: taro dumplings $5.25, XLB $12.95, $5.25 items now $5.55. Three of us stuffed ourselves for $30 each.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Its a pity they dont offer baby pig. Had some today at Hong Kong East Ocean, very good.

                                        1. re: barleywino

                                          They had some beautiful roast pork but it's one of the things I usually don't order because it's so expensive.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            yank sing does put some large slices of their roast pork into their shrimp wonton soup so you can kill two birds with one stone :). but it's not the crispy skin baby pig ($19/plate at HKEO). I do think it's a bit odd Yank sing doesn't distribute their noodle menu along with their dimsum list.

                                    2. Because they have such a short half-life, I'd recommend ordering the Xiao Long Bao off the menu to ensure that their quality hasn't declined between steaming and serving. The XLB I ate today were a little sticky from sitting on the cart, but since the cart had just left the kitchen, the skin didn't suffer much. (The pleated tops were a bit too thick, but otherwise these were very good and well constructed XLB with a slightly gingery broth. There are better and cheaper XLB's in the Richmond/Sunset, but those places tend to be inconsistent).

                                      I agree with two reports above that the taro dumplings are exceptional. Very crispy outsides, and the least pasty insides of any version of this dish I've had before.

                                      1. I go to the Rincon Annex restaurant. It's one of San Francisco's great eating pleasures. The food is fantastic, the service is perfect (Are all of the waitresses now fluent in English? How things change!), special requests are immediately attended to, and the last two times I've gone, before noon on a Saturday, I've been seated immediately. Finally, the 蔥油餅 (scallion cakes) are exquisite—delicate, flaky pastries formed into rings like tiny savory donuts. My new favorite food.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: samo

                                          agree on the scallion cakes (half order available). Also like their crispy sea bass rolls (half order not available, unfortunately), which tend to be more moist inside than their sea bass small plates.

                                          1. re: barleywino

                                            Scallion cakes and sea bass at Yank Sing.....You have me daydreaming about it down here in San Diego. I go there every time I am in San Francisco, which is not often enough.

                                            1. re: wrldtrvl

                                              And I dream about Sushi Ota in San Diego! (I am a long time fan of Ota-san, from his early days at Mr Sushi, 25 yrs ago)

                                              1. re: barleywino

                                                I wish we could send each other care packages!