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Shanghai Dumpling King [SF] - Is it going downhill?

I ate at Shanghai Dumpling King last night (Thursday), and had the worst meal I've ever had there—by far. We were there on the late side, but the restaurant was still full when we arrived, so not too late. The last time I was there was back in March, and things were great then: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840764

Not so much this time.

Sauteed pea pod leaves were undersalted and a bit tough. They also didn't seem super fresh. They weren't bad, per se, but definitely only average. In the past, vegetables were always great here.

Sauteed rice cakes w/ preserved vegetables and pork were super oily and not good. The rice cakes were sort of tough - tasted like they weren't freshly cooked, but had been sitting around, and then sloppily heated up in the wok with oil. Hardly any preserved vegetables, and little bits of pork were pale and flavorless—all they did was add a chewy texture.

Xiao long bao - The filling was too sweet—more so than I remember. The meat also didn't hold together very well. But worst of all were the wrappers, which were too thick on the top...they felt doughy to me, while previously they've always been thin and delicate.

Sugar puffs - These were a tad greasy on the bottom—more so than usual. But these were the most on-par with past experiences. But after such a greasy disappointing meal, we weren't so excited about this dessert either.

I'm hoping that this is a fluke, and that things will be back to normal when I go next. But should I be finding a new spot for great Shanghainese?

Dave MP

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  1. post from Soupcon about change in ownership is gone? maybe blog link? but sounded like the answer to your question.

    the blog post was from April so after your last visit.

    2 Replies
    1. re: drewskiSF

      This thread in Feb 2011 reported a change of ownership at Shanghai Dumpling King.

      1. re: drewskiSF

        Yes, the former owner moved to Millbrae to be with his wife, who was running SDS in Millbrae. The actual ownership change took place at the end of 2010, but there may have been later kitchen staff shuffling as well, since no real alarms were sounded until earlier this year.

      2. went a couple years ago and not impressed. kingdom of dumpling is far far better

        5 Replies
        1. re: vulber

          vulber, that is the relatively small place on Taraval, right?

          1. re: Dave MP

            Dumpling Kitchen is on Taraval, but is actually decent sized. As someone pointed out to me, Kingdom of Dumpling is a tiny one.


            1. re: hyperbowler

              I usualy dont bitch about cheap, small places, but I went back to KINGDOM OF DUMPLING on TARAVAL and it kinda sucked.

              First, I thought I was breaking new ground for me and going to the one I had not been to before, but I got DUMPLING KITCHEN confused with the KINGDOM and ended up at KOD for the ~4th time.

              The dry fried green beans were very good. One of the best executions I've had. Everything else was average to bad.

              XLB: good structure, but hardly any taste. Agreed to by the other CH poster at the table.

              Soup: My friend who called the broth "dishwater" was exaggerating, but only slightly. It was pretty bad, and not really that hot. I was missing the much better soup broth at YAO MING BEIJING RESTO.

              Beef Tendon app: just a notch above ice cold, and not that tasty.

              Green onion pancake ... this was ok, esp with the hot sauce.

              Pan friend dumplings ... these were ok, but did taste a little doughy/undercooked, but I am not expert, having only had this 2-3 times and was mainly concerned not burning my mouth.

              The actual steamed dumplings, pork+chive and shrimp ... I suppose the werent bad, but I was kinda irritated so that may have affected by judgement (I picked the place so I felt "responsible").

              They also forgot one item, garlic boy choy. Not clear if we were charged for it. We should have gotten the salt+pepper tofu, which I remember with appreciation from the time I was there with a VEGAN.


              Maybe by posting this, I'll remember to go to DUMPLING KITCHEN next time.

              1. re: psb

                Dumpling Kitchen
                1935 Taraval Street, San Francisco, CA 94116

            2. re: Dave MP

              yes - quite small.

              although they have a commissary on noriega where you can buy their frozen dumplings to take home and cook yourself, about half the cost and all the flavor (and probably better ambience).

              that being said, their non-dumpling menu is still delicious.

          2. Was there about two weeks ago, pea shoots were good, XLB and red oil wantons were acceptable.

            1. We and another CH went there a couple of years ago and were totally unimpressed. I can't remember what all we had but the XLB were a deal killer. I remember the thick wrappers and the fact that there was literally no liquid.

              1 Reply
              1. re: c oliver

                They always seemed to have an inconsistency problem. I've been there when the dumplings were 100% full of liquid and ~40% full of liquid.

                It would be nice to hit all of the Shanghainese places at one point, if only to get their names straight...

              2. That is sad to hear -- I've only been for xlb and sugar puffs, both of which were excellent, but that was a couple years ago, in conjunction to a visit with Shanghai House. I've been to SH thrice now and love the pre-order salt and pepper pork knuckle to bits. The tea smoked duck is pretty outstanding as well, certainly comparable to the many versions I've tried at home in Vancouver.

                1. I heard (but can't verify) Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae might still be owned by the original owner of SDK, i.e., he didn't sell that location.

                  Any way, bummer on SDK. Friends went 6 or so months ago and said it was the same. Regarding if they were any good in the first place, had SDK and Din Tai Fung in Arcadia within a week of each other a few years back and I thought SDK were much better.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ML8000

                    Isn't Shanghai Dumpling Shop associated with Shanghai Dumpling House on Balboa?

                    1. re: Civil Bear

                      I heard Shanghai Dumpling Shop was associated with SDK, before they sold.

                  2. On Tuesday at noon, the xlb were delicious, thin skinned, delicate and juicy.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      Thanks. Some friends (who I trust) said it was good/the same as always from a visit 5 months ago. It might be inconsistent and that's a bummer but there's still a chance.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        Well, then, I've been fortunate to avoid that inconsistency. I stop by SDK after volunteering at the Legion of Honor and have tea and xlb on a fairly regular schedule... they know well enough to put two dishes of the ginger-black vinegar in front of me even before I order. I go before the lunchtime rush of the high school is out the door.

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          I've been going to shanghai dumpling king weekly for xlb.Its still the best around and I've tried them all. Sometimes the xlb are better than other times but nothing is perfect. Interestingly I returned from Hong Kong were they have established 2 Din tai fungs and found that the pork filing actually tasted better at dumpling king . I was actually disappointed after eating in thier Shanghai locations .

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            Thanks Cynsa and Glev...glad it hasn't been inconsistent for you guys. I was going to take my uncle there who really likes it but wasn't sure. I'll just go for it.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              And I thank them also. I was never going back; now I will.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                Me too, I really hope that my latest experience was a fluke.

                        2. The XLB I had today were fantastic, best ones I've had there. The skins were translucent and each contained a big hunk of filling. 9/10 contained soup, and some had nearly a full spoonful. As a bonus, an XLB that sat until the check game never lost its soup.

                          On the other hand, the Shanghai style noodles were particularly lousy. I was never keen on their preparation, so that's not a new thing. A longer report of their and other place's version of that dish is at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/874436

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            Yup had the xlb yesterday it was really good. Not a fan of the shanghai noodles either ,kinda tasteless and bland. I do recommend the Green Beans as a side dish they are great.I order them with the dumplings every time ! Going to Hong Kong and Beijing next month outa have some fine xlb when I get there :) Nice pic hyperbowler

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              Did you just cut it open for a photo op?

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Thanks for the tip about the green beans. I'll definitely get those on the next visit.

                                heh, no, I wouldn't sacrifice an XLB for a photo op--- enjoying food always trumps picture taking! These are too big and hot to suck the soup out of, so you need to pick them up, take a bite, and let them drain onto the spoon. The one on the right was the victim of a chopstick mishap (note the spilled soup on the plate)--- having a tighter wrapper and less soup would have eating these more manageable.

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  HA! That's exactly MY attitude. When I DO take pix I usually forget til I'm a few bites into whatever. I've been places where an order is six large; others where it's twelve smaller. The latter is preference.

                              2. re: hyperbowler

                                Given the story that the owner of SDK shifted to Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae, I went to the latter for a comparison. These were hands down the most perfectly assembled XLB I've eaten. Typically with XLB, you have to worry about how to pick them up without causing them to leak or slip across the table. With SDS's, the chopsticks fit underneath the pleats perfectly, and allowed me to balance the dumpling for easy lifting onto the spoon.

                                Wow. These were the only XLB on the west coast I've eaten that had an open hole at the top without completely deflating. That little spout spurted out soup as I tried to pierce a larger hole in the reasonably thin dough. The ratio of soup to meat was right, and the meatball was bouncy and round.

                                Flavorwise, there was a range of goodness. The first two I ate had a strong off putting taste to them, enough so that I might have sent them back had a server been in sight. The third one and afterward were thankfully delicious.

                              3. An ominous sign as we sat down: we are used to seeing the vinegar vessels with julienne ginger. Here, we got little uneven chunks of ginger floating in the vinegar.

                                XLB and crab and pork XLB: the XLB here are quite big. Stylistically, the size was not my favorite, but that's not the main issue. The crab XLB had substantially more soup than the ones with only pork, and it had more of a "xian" flavor. As the skin was quite thick, lacking a good amount of elasticity, and because the size of the dumplings were pretty big, several of the XLBs broke in the processing of us grabbing them.

                                Beijing dumplings: worst dish of our lunch. A boring filling, with a mushy skin.

                                Shanghai style wonton soup: the wontons here showed a finesse that the other dishes lacked. The soup was water with soy sauce; no one drank much of it.

                                Rice cakes with preserved vegetables: it's not often I think this Shanghainese standard to be subpar in restaurants, because it contains two of my favorite ingredients, but this was decidedly disappointing. As the dish landed on our table, we immediately wondered where the preserved vegetables were. The taste of the dish was the same as the look--lacking in any preserved vegetable flavor.

                                Even if the restaurant can do better and is only suffering from an inconsistency problem, I would not go back because the lows of our lunch are too low. A big disappointment. I will have to try the other XLB places by myself before taking any guests, because I felt embarrassed to have taken them here.

                                1. I went to SDK this weekend with a group and it was pretty much the same as the past. XLBs were good/the same. Shanghai noodles were good. The ham and rice clay pot was good.

                                  The egg puffs however were not great. They seem to have been sitting around a bit instead of fresh out of the fryer.

                                  Since it was a weekend they pretty much told us we had to leave after our meal was complete. Given the price range and line outside, seems understandable.

                                  1. I've thought SDK was slipping the last few times I've tried their food. Now I know why, different owners. On the other hand, I just tried the XLB at Shanghai Dumpling Shop in millbrae. Dare I say they were the best I've tasted in the past year. I've been trying XLBs in LA and none was this good. This included Ding Tai Fung and few places in Monterey Park. Sadly, it's still harder to find a properly fried pan fried buns, SJB, anywhere.

                                    1. Snacking today on Deliciously Dedicated XLBs; much improved in flavor and technique; hot juice-filled thin skins wrap a mouthful of a fluffy pork ball seasoned delicately - these xlb are not only better tasting, they're also bigger. 10 for $6.
                                      As noted by my server, they were destined to improve the XLBs as their signature dish with a new cook in the kitchen. Even better than 9/8/12.
                                      2 two-tops and 2 singles... four tables on a Friday afternoon at 11 am -

                                      18 Replies
                                      1. re: Cynsa

                                        Just to confirm, this is at Shanghai Dumpling King in the Inner Richmond? I got confused about why "Deliciously Dedicated" was in all-caps...

                                        1. re: Dave MP

                                          Shanghai Dumpling King is 'decidedly delicious' once again for XLBs
                                          3319 Balboa Street
                                          San Francisco, CA 94121
                                          (415) 387-2088

                                          1. re: Dave MP

                                            not the inner Richmond, the outer Richmond

                                          2. re: Cynsa

                                            It's still the best.Every time I try a different place I'm always surpriced about how better they are in flavor. I love Din Tai Fung in Asia for the diversity of the soup dumplings ,like the foie gras soup dumplings or truffle XLB but really the pork XLB at Shanghai Dumpling King is as good or better. Going on Saturday :)

                                            1. re: Glev82453

                                              XLBs and what other dishes? Spicy Chives and Pork dumplings? 3 cups Chicken Clay Pot?

                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                Sadly enough I' m only there for the XLB and the green beans which are terrific. :)

                                                1. re: Glev82453

                                                  me, too. Since I am usually at Shanghai Dumpling King when I am volunteering at the Legion of Honor - and snacking alone - my standard order as I walk in the door is simply XLBs, please.

                                                2. re: Cynsa

                                                  It is the only place I have had the sugar coated egg bombs(i clearly don't know the name) that are really good. Clearly good luck with the fry cook.

                                                  1. re: wally

                                                    If you're ever in the Peninsula, I think the egg bombs/donuts are even better at Cooking Papa (I've only been to the Foster City location)

                                              2. re: Cynsa

                                                Went here for an afternoon snack on Saturday. The waiters weren't thrilled that *all* we wanted was one order of XLB, but the restaurant was mostly empty and we got our wish. Like Cynsa says, seems like these dumplings are back on track now. Delicate skin, juicy porky filling. 10 for $6 makes this one of the best snack bargains in the city.

                                                Way beter than 9/7/12, when I originally posted.

                                                1. re: Dave MP

                                                  Here's a photo of this weekend's xlb

                                                2. re: Cynsa

                                                  Hey everyone Shanghai Dumpling King is moving aprox the 3rd week of April or sooner. The new address will be 696 Monterey Blvd. Apparently the present restaurant is going to be renovated. They don't know how long they will be at the new location or if they are coming back to the old one. They will have a post on the door when it happens. Might be nicer place but farther for me. Kind of a shocker !

                                                  1. re: Glev82453

                                                    That is directly across the street from Lucky River, discussed here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864449

                                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                                      Thanks Dave : Looks like I've got a new spot to try as well ! If you happento notice the move, give a shout I'm sure it would be appreciated. Chuck

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Thanks Melanie : Same owners as present SDK. I appreciate the update .Chuck

                                                  2. Has anyone been back to try it since they have re-opened on Balboa??

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: saffrongold

                                                      I was there 2 weekends ago. Not up to snuff. I'm hoping it gets better .It tasted like a chef change. Not as tasty nor soupy. You might see the sfeater.com posting about a telephone conversation with shanghai dumpling king reopening .Its hilarious .Chuck

                                                          1. re: saffrongold

                                                            Happy to report that my experience at Dumpling King this Friday was much better than a couple weeks ago.The XLB were back to pre closing standard. Thanks grayelf for the particulars on the eater site !

                                                            1. re: Glev82453

                                                              You're welcome. It was from eater sf as Chuck pointed out. I just couldn't resist posting the link : -).

                                                      1. re: saffrongold

                                                        Six of us had lunch at Shanghai Dumpling King; with the renovations the new front space is much smaller!
                                                        We had two orders of XLB; skins are tender and thin and each dumpling was filled with tasty soup. Our server gave each of us our own dish of the ginger vinegar.
                                                        We were there for two overs - Monday was a busy afternoon... and ordered the 3-cup chicken clay pot, the lion head meatballs, pea shoots with garlic, stir fried green beans, cucumber salad, green onion pancake and egg puffs. Every dish was spot on and just as good as ever, if not better.

                                                      2. Just ate at SDK for the first time since the remodel. Dining area nearly totally unchanged except for losing a table in the front room. Apparently all of the remodelling was in the kitchen. Bathroom, back room all the same. Food is worse. The XLB had thin enough wrappers but were clumsily wrapped, in the past they had neat pleats that stood up to steaming. Now they have a mushy, lumpy top knot. Ginger in the vinegar was chopped, not finely shredded, hard to grab pieces to eat with the dumpling. My favorite braised lion's head meatballs had little spinach and a layer of oil over the gloppy brown sauce that congealed as the dish cooled. Obviously too much cornstarch. Same problem with the messily cut eggplant. Eggplant had little char so no smoky flavor. So I would have to say the quality has definitely gone down. I asked the waiter if the ownership had changed since the food was noticeably worse than before the remodel, he said no, but clearly there is a new chef in the kitchen. Too bad, SDK use to be one of my regular go-to places, probably won't be any more. Never did like their non-dumpling dishes other than the lion's head meatballs, green beans and eggplant and now two of the three are disappointing. Didn't try my other usual dumplings (hot chili, fried, etc). What a shame.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: cyssf

                                                          Had a similar bad experience first time back but a much better one second time.i thought there was a chef change as well. As it seems that they are off and on and off again they might be rotating chefs. I hate to give up on them as I can't find better XLB in the city. Hopefully they will get it right.

                                                          1. re: cyssf

                                                            We went to SDK and I had the worst meal I've had there. The last time I went was maybe 6 months ago, and there is a marked decline in quality.

                                                            XLB were all completely deflated--no soup at all--we had the same problems with the eggplant as cyssf, green onion pancake tasted of old oil, and service more off its game than usual--they forgot two of our dishes.

                                                            Will probably not go back until I hear news of improvement from a trusted voice.

                                                          2. Yup, two thumbs down. Tried the Monterery location, packed and not like the past and tried the new location since the reopening and it wasn't very good.

                                                            Have to head to Millbrasia to try the old owner's spot.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: hankstramm

                                                              Went to the Millbrae location a few weeks ago; it's still pretty good down there.

                                                              1. re: dunstable

                                                                Thanks ! Do you have the address ?

                                                                1. re: Glev82453

                                                                  Address: 455 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
                                                                  Phone:(650) 697-0682

                                                              2. re: hankstramm

                                                                Went yesterday.Not bad but not great . Will probably keep going but not as often until they get it right again. Any other suggestions beside South Bay ?

                                                                1. re: Glev82453

                                                                  Ok folks crystal jade opens tommorow at 4 embarcadero center . It will be mammoth . The soup dumplings have been terrific as well as the rest of the menu at other locations in Asia. It will be pricier .It does offer a closer and more refined setting with bay views if you aren't concerned about cost. Really have been waiting for it since it's been announced a year ago. Let's hope it does let us down ! Chuck