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In search of delicious dim sum in SF for 30th birthday brunch.

  • m

So, I have read ALL the postings about dim sum in SF on the Chowhound boards, but they all seem to be at least a year old and I would love to hear where people are preferring to get there dine-in dim sum these days.

I am planning on getting a group together in August for my birthday and am looking for somewhere in SF that is clean, has good (better than decent) food, around $15-$20/pp and is accessible by public transportation without too much hassle (otherwise I would go out of the city).

I really don't mind if we have to order off the menu, though carts are fun. A good friend recommended Yank Sing, but I am not sure if everyone in the group can afford $30 for brunch/lunch. I would like to go somewhere that feels special, isn't super greasy/uses decent ingredients, and is tasty - is there such place in SF? Any of your thoughts would be appreciated!!

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

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  1. First, you can take public transit to Millbrae, which is where the best options are (and better parking for people who choose to drive).

    If you don't mind ordering from a menu, I'd recommend Great Eastern, which has the added bonus of being able to walk around Chinatown afterwards.

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    Great Eastern Restaurant
    649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

    11 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Thank you Ruth - any recommendations for where to go in Milbrae that is BART accessible? And, any suggestions for what to order from Great Eastern?

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      Great Eastern Restaurant
      649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. re: mibee

        If your starting point is downtown SF, taking BART to Millbrae will likely mean spending over an hour going back and forth at a cost of around $8 per person. If that is the scenario, Yank Sing, while not cheap, doesn't look too bad.

        1. re: nocharge

          That is totally true, nocharge. We will all either be starting out at Civic Center or in the Mission...so with 11 people that is about $90 on transportation alone. Money that we could be spending on delicious dim sum. But will dim sum in Millbrae be a few hundred dollars cheaper for such a large group of us?

          1. re: mibee

            I haven't been since I moved to the East Bay 3 years ago, but my favorite, especially by value, was always "the place next to Ton Kiang", which is Golden River in the mid-Richmond. You can take a Geary bus or share cabs. I'll admit, I haven't extensively tried the sit-down dim sum places in Chinatown, but I have to admit that value-wise it greatly outshines Yank Sing, and the quality is quite good, though the selection is more traditional than Yank Sing or TonKiang. But everything is very fresh, and well executed, at least in the days I went. It is an order from a checklist kind of place, but I find that makes the orders fresher and better executed.

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

            Ton Kiang
            5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

            Golden River
            5827 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

            1. re: ...tm...

              I like Golden River (aka the place next to Ton Kiang) but I don't think it's appropriate for a nice brunch and I don't think they take reservations, which would be essential.

              If you do go to Millbrae, Hong Kong Flower Lounge is on the corner opposite the BART station. I haven't been there for a while, but it was significantly cheaper than Yank Sing. People will argue that you can get out of Yank Sing for under $30/person but that means being very careful about what you order, so unless you are going to control all the ordering it could get out of hand. If you start in the Civic Center or the Mission you're going to take public transit anyway -- $44 roundtrip for 11 people.

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              Hong Kong Flower Lounge
              51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

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

              Ton Kiang
              5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

              Golden River
              5827 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                SF residents who depend on public transit buy monthly passes, so taking Muni doesn't add to the cost of the meal.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Note that Golden River remodeled a couple years ago and is looking rather slick these days. That said, since the OP is open to going out of town, I'd head to one of the places in Millbrae instead, such as Zen Peninsula, Hong Kong Flower Lounge, or Asian Pearl.

                  Should also take a look at the new post about dim sum at Hong Kong Lounge in SF.

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                  Hong Kong Flower Lounge
                  51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

                  Peninsula Asian Pearl
                  1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                  Zen Peninsula
                  1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                  Golden River
                  5827 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  Hong Kong Lounge
                  5322 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    The Millbrae places are nicer than anything in the city, with consistently better food. HKFL is the only one that's easy without a car. Asian Pearl is about a mile north of the BART station.

                    Hong Kong Flower Lounge is elegant, consistently good, and has accommodating service. It's also huge, with $2 (?) valet parking, and has banquet/special dishes available.

                    If public transit weren't an issue, then Tai Wu in Daly City would be worth considering. A bit of a madhouse, but fun and creative.

                    The dim sum I like best in the city is at S&T Seafood out on Noriega near 33rd St. It's not expensive ($15-20 including tax and tip) but still reasonably festive. With a party that size, they should be willing to reserve.

                    You could also check out City View, an elegant place on the edge of Chinatown. I've had a couple of very good meals there (on weekdays), with none of the crazy bills, pushy service, or inconsistent quality at Yank Sing.

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                    Hong Kong Flower Lounge
                    51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

                    City View Restaurant
                    662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

                    Tai Wu Restaurant
                    1080 Foster City Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                    Asian Pearl
                    3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                    1. re: Windy

                      City View's a great suggestion. Very nice space, good food, easy to get to by public transportation from anywhere in SF.

                      Given the $15-20 desired price range, spending $8 on BART to get to Millbrae seems out.

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                      City View Restaurant
                      662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Hong Kong Flower Lounge is affiliated with the mayflower group. mayflower has restaurants on geary in s.f. and in union city and milpitas.

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                    Hong Kong Flower Lounge
                    51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

                    1. re: shanghaikid

                      In the past. HKFL in Millbrae was considerably better than Mayflower. Plus we found Mayflower chaotic for waiting last time we were there (around a year ago). Once seated, we had trouble getting high chairs from the staff.

                      I gather from reports here (from Chandavki?) that the quality at HKFL has slid since Mayflower bought them back, but haven't been for dim sum in a while. Dinner was the same last time I went.

        2. Absolutely the most wonderful dim sum is Ton Kiang on Geary (5821 Geary--about 22nd-23rd). Instead of carts, they bring out the dim sum on trays---one species at a time. Usually all the fried dishes come out, and then all the vegetable, then the steamed, and so on. Everything is beautiful and delicious. It's hard to resist and we always eat too much, but it's never expensive!

          Be sure to try the fruit bowl. It is as delicious as it is gorgeous!

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          Ton Kiang
          5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

          9 Replies
          1. re: gailee

            Just my opinion, but Ton Kiang did not impress me; I do think Yank Sing (101 Spear) is worth the few extra dollars. It's easy to get to on Muni or BART .. from Civic Center, if you like to walk, it's doable. (Just walk REALLY FAST between 8th Street to 5th Street!)

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            Ton Kiang
            5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

            1. re: walker

              Feel the need to humbly update my defense of Ton Kiang. We ate there this weekend and were underwhelmed. They were not crowded, but the service was terrible (had to ask for a place setting, remind them three times to bring tea and water, and they never picked up empty serving dishes). But most important the food was not that good.
              A totally disheartening experience---especially since we were hosting friends.

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              Ton Kiang
              5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

              1. re: gailee

                I'm thinking maybe Ton Kiang is past their prime. They date back to at least the 1990s, and while some Chinese restaurants are able to keep reinventing themselves as newcomer restaurants up the quality ante, those are the exceptions.

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                Ton Kiang
                5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  Also, IMHO when Ton Kiang became popular it really started to cater to its non-Chinese clientele. Why change when they have lines out the door and people who don't know much about dim sum but feel "safe" at Ton Kiang still tout them as the best in the City?

                  We were underwhelmed when we checked out Ton Kiang for the "dim sum civil war" in 2002 -- which actually surprised a couple of people on our tasting team who had liked it in the past, so they've been on a downhill slide since at least then.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/21200

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                  Ton Kiang
                  5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I wonder if the food changed or it just became apparent that other places were better by comparison.

                    I used to go there in the 90s (between when HKFL on Geary closed and when they opened in Millbrae) and liked it well enough.

                    The last time I ate there was a weekday a few years ago, and it was fine, but not worth driving across town and waiting in line. Also from where I live in the city, it takes longer to get to Ton Kiang than to Millbrae.

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                    Ton Kiang
                    5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                    1. re: Windy

                      I can't say at to Ton Kiang since I haven't been back there in a dozen years. However with the evolutionary nature of Chinese food, in most cases it's new restaurants coming up with new and better ideas that makes the older places seem to suffer by comparison.

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                      Ton Kiang
                      5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        If you read the report I linked, you'll see that we had issues with both the prep and the quality of the ingredients. We were using a collection of standards for a baseline, so how "new and better" the dishes were was not a factor. IIRC Ton Kiang was the only dim sum place we also left slightly hungry, after spending an amount that was close to the top of the range (less than Yank Sing, about the same as HKFL, Harbor Village, etc.).

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                        Ton Kiang
                        5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          I'm not sure trendy items fare that well for dim sum. Sure, I like the innovation at Tai Wu, and laughed at the coffee-rubbed ribs in the coffee cup at Koi Palace or the durian rolls at Asian Pearl.

                          But I haven't ordered any of them more than once. Then we went right back to siu mai and sticky rice.

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

                          Tai Wu Restaurant
                          1080 Foster City Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                    2. re: Chandavkl

                      Ton Kiang's popularity dates back to the early 80s, when they were a few doors down from Yank Sing on Broadway. Yank Sing closed that location and Ton Kiang picked up the slack.

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

                      Ton Kiang
                      5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121