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Sep 2, 2012 04:44 PM

Is Lai Hong Lounge Now The Clear Choice For Dim Sum in SF Chinatown?

I don't know since I haven't eaten there and have no trips scheduled to the Bay Area the rest of this year, so I'm tossing out the question. However, I did send my daughter, who is a bigger foodie than I am, over there this morning and the reports are very positive. (we nickednamed here "the little gourmet" when she turned seven and has more than lived up to that name). First of all it was a half hour wait to get in, and when's the last time you had to wait that long to eat dim sum in Chinatown? Then she live blogged me with updates that were nothing but glowing. She described the sticky rice lotus leaf as the best that she's had, and also had praise for the rice noodle rolls with XO sauce and dried scallops; shrimp cheung fun (thin delicate skin), the ha gow and siu mai (also with delicate wrappers), and summarizing that everything is good. This is from somebody who eats better than I do, since she only eats at the best places in L.A. (e.g., Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hua), while I'm out chasing the latest noodle shop or tea house that has just opened. Address is 1416 Powell St.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Lai Hong is a branch of Hong Kong Lounge on Geary, which many people have considered the best in the city for a while now, so it's pleasing but not surprising to hear glowing reports on Lai Hong Lounge. Did she mention if they have carts or trays, or is it menu only?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Have yet to try it, but according to Yelpers it's by checklist only.

        1. re: soupçon

          The only time I've done the checklist was at Elite Restaurant in SGV. I loved it and am looking forward to this place. Thanks to the little gourmet :)

          1. re: c oliver

            Little gourmet then when to Koi Palace and said Lai Hong Lounge was better! I'll have to follow up.

      1. Is your daughter based in San Francisco? Does she blog or post on Yelp, and if not why not? Regarding long waits, I pine for the days when one went to Miriwa to avoid the line at Gold Mountain, then went to Hong Kong Teahouse on Stockton to avoid the line at Miriwa, then spent half an hour in line there!

        4 Replies
        1. re: soupçon

          Supertina is based in Los Angeles and does not blog or post on Yelp. She only eats and takes pictures (posts only on Facebook--I'm not her FB friend so I don't even see her food pictures). Yes, San Francisco Chinatown was once the place to go for dim sum. It was sad that when out of towners asked where to go for dim sum in San Francisco we had to tell them anywhere but Chinatown. Hopefully this has changed.

          1. re: soupçon

            Miriwa was was my first dim sum in SF. They sat me at a dirty table then put stained placemats over the cloth.

            1. re: stanbee

              Dim sum places tend to start off with a bang and then deteriorate -- some more rapidly than others. When we checked out Meriwa during our survey for the dim sum civil war our experience was much like yours, but many years earlier it had been the dim sum hot spot.


              1. re: stanbee

                Gosh... guess you never ate at Y Ben. Don't think you would have stayed.

            2. The phone number is (415) 397-2290 (thanks Melanie Wong for researching that!)

              1. I stopped by Lai Hong Lounge this morning, and left echoing "The Little Gourmet's" praise of the delicate wrappers here.This isn't a heavily trafficked stretch (Powell x Vallejo), sort of between North Beach and Chinatown crowds, yet as soon as I turned the corner I could see the Lai Hong line on an otherwise quiet block.

                Got a ticket and a printed menu from the hostess, waited about half an hour to enter. The crowd was a diverse group: 99% Chinese, but young and old, big families and intimate groups, 20-somethings wearing sparkly clubwear who seemed to be on dates, grandpas with canes, toddlers and middle-aged gossips. My tablemates were a Taiwanese tourist and a nonagenarian Chinatown resident who visits every week and recommended some dishes.

                I have a cold and was mostly interested in textures plus a hearty dose of chili sauce. I ordered shrimp wonton soup (recommended by the regular at my table), pork rice noodle rolls, shrimp-chive dumplings, and a sticky rice lotus leaf. The sticky rice lotus leaf, filled with mushroom, shrimp and a few pieces of pork was especially good. Another winner was the homestyle dumplings, with wide, soft pleats. I don't like when the chives overwhelm the interior and impart a grassiness to the bite; this was a nice blend of ingredients that let each component have its space. While the BBQ pork inside the rice noodle rolls had a pleasant and consistent texture, the rolls were slightly gluey or tacky in sections. The soup was delicate, with sliced chives floating like buoys across a clear, light broth. Below was an impossible number of wontons: every time I plucked a few out I couldn't believe so many remained (probably 12 total, in a soup that was $5).

                Pleasant dining room, carefully kept. Big chandeliers, a few wallhangings, not a speck of dust anywhere. Ordering is via the checklist menu received outside plus a short menu of specials on the table. Excellent value: total bill was $21.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pane

                  Strongly concur. Just got back from lunch and every table in the large dining room was packed on a Monday morning. Sticky rice lotus leaf was perfectly seasoned and very savory without being overblown. Had most of the dishes mentioned above and echo the findings. I'd also recommend the delicately steamed young pork liver slices as a starter, and of all things the BBQ pork buns - these can be a huge disappointment if the buns are even slightly overcooked or the ratio of bun to filling is off, so I usually avoid them. But these were very delicately steamed with ample porky goodness inside. And if you don't like pork buns for the cloying or too-plummy sauce in the middle, try these - deep pork flavor, not just loads of sweet and salt. I also really liked the fried chive dumplings, a bit hard to manage but the chive explosion inside is rich and textured, not green, grassy or limp.

                  The chicken feet were a bit overcooked and soggy (but well seasoned) and the spareribs were just too sweet to my taste, though improved with a little salt; but considering how fresh and well balanced the ingredients in every dish were, that was easily overlooked. I'm normally a load-up-the-chili-sauce kind of guy but found that overall the seasonings were so well done that I really felt guilty adding even a drop of soy or chili sauce to anything - that's possibly the strongest praise I can give.

                  In addition the waitstaff was very friendly and helpful in balancing portion sizes on the checklist for our group, even though I was clearly the only guy out of a few hundred who couldn't speak Chinese, and had no idea how to go about ordering. Really pleasant experience.

                2. this is indeed the clear choice for dim sum in chinatown - go soon before the word really gets out about this place - the wait was about 20-30 minutes today; but as more people hear about it, it will undoubtedly have lines rivaling (or exceeding) hong kong lounge on geary

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: vulber

                    What do you consider early? We like to do dim sum around 9.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      oops, meant to specify that it referred to the wait around noon. it opens at 9:30; i'm sure it will be fine to go at that time.

                      1. re: vulber

                        Cool and thanks. We're hoping to be in the SFBA over the holidays and this will be at the top of the list.