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New Shanghai Dumpling King? Less than a block from my house? [San Francisco]

This weekend I tried to order take-out from Creekside Villa (formerly T&T Seafood) on Monterey Blvd., right across from the Lucky River, but no one answered the phone. When I went out later I looked in and saw a change of ownership sign posted and a closed for renovations note.

Then tonight when I got home from work there were men installing a red and yellow awning proclaiming "Shanghai Dumpling King", that looks just like the sign over the one in the Outer Richmond.

Could this be my lucky day? Does anyone know if this is related to the SDK in the outer Richmond, or better yet related to the original SDK owners?

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  1. Sounds like it's your lucky day! You can host the next chowdown at SDK. :)

    Here's the word from "Glev82453" that SDK is moving temporarily or permanently to 696 Monterey Blvd., where T&T Seafood used to be.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8673...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Excellent, thanks Melanie.

    2. Sign on the door says it opens Wednesday!

      1. Wow, that's fantastic! Speaking of Lucky River, though - do you ever eat from there? I had one of my worst meals ever ordered from there, but possibly I ordered wrong or...something.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Violatp

          I'm interested to hear Sunnyside's take too, and 2nd the need for a Chowdown at the new SDK!

          Some other reports:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/864449

          1. re: Violatp

            Hmmm. The Lucky River is an enigma to me. I've gotten takeout from there at least 20 times over the 8 years I've lived in the neighborhood and it has always been mediocre at best, and generally less than mediocre.
            But I've never eaten inside and when I've been picking up my order I've seen large family style plates of food being hauled upstairs that looked better than anything I've ever been served. Also they do a regular business with Chinese construction workers, families and postal workers (it always amuses me to see eight mail trucks lined up along the hill on Gennessee every Saturday) and I've read a couple Chowhound reports of some gems among the menu. So there are indications of good food to be had, but personally I have been unable to crack the code and swore off the place about a year ago.

            1. re: sunnyside

              Yeah, I feel exactly the same way. That what I had delivered could not possibly be what everyone there was eating. I was completely flummoxed at how crowded it always seemed to be!

              1. re: Violatp

                I've been to Lucky River a long time ago. Like many Chinese restaurants, it's probably best experienced in a group with several dishes. Take-out is a poor barometer. Heck I avoid take-out, Chinese food or otherwise. Also if I recall, it's a decent value.

          2. My one experience with SDK was more than disappointing. But since I also live a block away, it will have to get a second chance.

            I have not had a "wow" moment like others have in the other Lucky River thread, but the few times we've been, it seemed generally competent, and good value.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kirk_T

              There's only a few things we get at SDK: the XLB, the Lion's Head meatball over greens (nice gravy), the spicy wontons, and the ni kuo (sweet egg puffs - although the last is better at Mayflower, for our taste, but they serve them cold, whereas SDK serves theirs hot).

              We've tried some regular dishes and other types of dumplings, but didn't care for anything of it.

            2. What's the closest Muni stop to there anyway? I know the 23 goes past because that's the one I've taken, but is there anything else?

              Damn. Now I want XLB and on the NW side of Chicago, it's just not going to happen.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Violatp

                Right the 23 will drop you right in front, or the 36 Teresita will drop you one block down if you are coming from the Glen Park BART, just get off where it makes the turn at Foerster.

                1. re: sunnyside

                  Thanks, good to know!

                  Countdown to my next SF trip in August now commences.

              2. On my only visit to the old Balboa location, I was not impressed with SDK. But perhaps I was in the minority, because the new location got a lot of old customers that the restaurant personnel recognized. They all generally seemed happy to have the restaurant.

                Last time, I was automatically biased when sitting down, because the little plate of ginger was cut in chunks, rather than thin batons. Same thing this time, and completely inconsistent chunks at that. FWIW, the restauranteurs speak Cantonese. We got the following:

                XLB
                XLB with crab
                Sauted eel chow mien
                Bamboo shoot and pork soup 腌笃鲜

                To me, these are some of the standards of the cuisine, along with rice cakes with preserved mustard greens, drunken chicken, cold smoked fish, lions head meatballs, and so on.

                The XLB were both decent. The one with only pork was more full flavored, but the broth tasted significantly more oily. The one with crab had a little bit of "xian" flavor. These are still pretty big dumplings, but they were structurally sound this time; none of them broke when using chopsticks to pick them up. The meat filling in each is sizable too.

                I liked the XLB a little more this time, but was seriously underwhelmed with the soup and eel. The noodles had very little eel, and the way they were cut and cooked, you might have thought they were wood ear mushrooms, rather than eel. The dish is a failure conceptually and in execution. It contained some barely stir fried green bell peppers, once again very sloopily cut. The fragrance of the peppers completely overwhelmed any taste of the eel. The noodles were cooked too limp, not giving much bite, and though seemingly covered in soy sauce, lacking in flavor. When I had the preserved mustard greens rice cakes at the old location, there was also a shockingly small amount of the greens. I don't think I'm ever getting a stir fried starch dish again.

                A good rendition of this soup should be assertive in flavor. The pork plus ham that cooks in the broth should bring a full umami dimension to the broth, and chunks of bamboo should soak in that flavor. The soup at SDK is not that. Though you can see some thin slices of ham, the soup is completely devoid of any ham flavor. The thin bamboo shoots look like canned ones. I've tried this soup in Milpitas, at Shanghai Bund in Chinatown, and now this version at SDK; none have been satisfactory, but this is third place.

                We saw someone get the red braised pork that looked huge and good, and perhaps we should have tried the lions head. I can see myself going there once in a while to fill a craving for XLB, so perhaps I will try them in the future. Perhaps.

                Cash only.

                1. They're closed on Tuesdays

                  1. Had the chance to try this place with the Mrs. last night. XLB was flavorful and juicy, although the wrappers seemed a little thick. Lion's Head meatballs with spinach and gravy were fine. Egg puffs were as good as always. The star however the honey glazed beef. Peppery and not too sweet as promised by the server, with wonderful wok char. I would go back just to order that dish again.

                    On a lighter note, there was a disproportional amount of attractive women dining that night. Even the Mrs. was looking especially lovely. Must have been the food!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Civil Bear

                      Great to hear! I'm going to try to go there this weekend. I'll be sure to order the honey glazed beef (and of course the XLB).

                    2. This new location is permanent and both locations will remain when the renovations to the original location are finished. For what it's worth, I was told that the chef is Cantonese.

                      Here's what I got to try.

                      #12 Pan fried pork buns (Sheng jian bao 生煎饅頭) I'm not sure how these are supposed to be made, but I liked this version better than the ones I've eaten at Bund and at Five Happiness. The bun dough was fresh and very fluffy, and the browned part seemed integral to the bun rather than being a hardened section you could peel off. Sesame seeds adorned and flavored the non-crispy bit. The inside layer of the buns was soaked, but not soggy, with meat juices and allowed for a nice gradient of wet, to fluffy, to crunchy. The nice tasting meatball inside had lots of room to bounce around.

                      #85 Fried spinach w/ bean curd sheet : A light vegetable side.

                      #128 "Soy braised pork dump" : (a better translation would be red braised pork knuckle, 紅燒元蹄 ) At $15.95, this is the most expensive item on the menu. The meat was a little dry, and parts of the exterior crust were too tough.

                      #146 Sugar egg puff : kind of like a cross between Chinese doughnut sticks and a giant popover. Not my thing, but lots of tables around the restaurant were enjoying these.

                      Other than some of the buns and dumplings, I've never thought highly of SDK and this meal didn't convince me otherwise. Still I'm glad to see a place with some Shanghainese dishes in my neighborhood.

                      Since the reports of Lucky River's Americanized stuff aren't very promising, has anyone had success with those kinds of things on SDK's menu?

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        pics

                         
                         
                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          nice pix of the Pan fried pork buns Sheng jian bao 生煎饅頭 with its crusty topping.

                          the sugar egg puffs remind me of deep fried Pâte à Choux, best hot from the fryer.

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            Something occurred to me while eating a leftover SJB. My understanding is that these are traditionally cooked in a similar way as potstickers--- bottoms fried and then the tops are cooked from steam (for simplicity sake, let's ignore which side is up). Based on their fluffiness and the lightness of the fried crust, I find it hard to believe they did that here. I'm going to wildly speculate that SDK's were steamed, and then pan-fried to finish, maybe after being dipped in rice flour. Someone who knows more about this dish should certainly chime in. Authentic or not, I like them better than what I've been able to find elsewhere!

                            Note that any kind of juiciness or soup, if present in the raw ingredients, isn't free floating and instead coats the inner dough. Note also that these were not served with any kind of vinegar.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8218...

                            @ cysna : That's a good tip to know. Maybe someone had over ordered or something, but they were hawking plates of cooked egg puffs around the dining room. Coincidentally, I placed an order just as that was going on.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              The hawking plates of egg puffs has been a tradition at SDK. Sometimes you get charged for them and sometimes you don't. The practice has always puzzled me though because they are best eaten for dessert and they are best eaten hot. I always order them after dinner.

                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                I stopped in for some crab Xiao Long Bao. All 10 XLB successfully held their soup without bursting, and each contained about half a spoonful of soup. The meatballs inside were rather large and held together well. With the exception of some crab shell, I'm not sure I could tell much difference between these and the pork XLB. I prefer the flavor, delicate wrappers, and wrapping technique of the XLB at Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae, but these were pretty good.

                                Regarding the sheng jian bao info posted above, here's an interview with Yang Lipeng, whose popular SJB's in Shanghai have progressed over the years from dry to soup filled inside. SDK's version doesn't conform to the "skin thin, soup heavy, meat fresh, bottom crispy" standard Yang now adheres to, but I haven't found posts about other Bay Area places that have followed suit either:

                                http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/featur...

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  >With the exception of some crab shell, I'm not sure
                                  >I could tell much difference between these and the pork XLB.
                                  >
                                  yes, in my experience too, pork + crab = pork, so i've been lobbying friends not to spend the extra $$$ needlessly.

                                  maybe different at a high end place?

                                  --psb

                                  1. re: psb

                                    I had them at Din Tai Fung in Tokyo. You could taste the crab. They were nothing like i had ever had before and they cost about a couple of dollars a piece. this was a number of years ago.

                                    1. re: wally

                                      Sure, I meant to leave the door open for places like Yank Sing, or the fancier places HKFL, Koi Palace etc.

                                      So I mean the diff between the $6 dollar pork vs say $8 crab+pork seems to be ... $2.

                                      Like in a different case some cheap proscuitto or smoke salmon was a total waste of money because it was so bad ... better to spend say 50% more and get something decent.

                                      1. re: wally

                                        Big difference is that in Asia, crab dumplings have crab roe in them which is very intensely flavored.

                                        1. re: wally

                                          Ditto for Din Tai Fung in Beijing. The crab + pork XLB had ample crab flavor. To my surprise I ended up preferring the straight pork XLB over the straight crab or the combo, and so did my friends. Those pork XLB were one of the my favorite tastes ever. The price difference was minimal though.

                                          1. re: wally

                                            To be fair to SDK, the description of the crab and pork XLB says crab meat. If I recall correctly, Din Tai Fung has it as 蟹粉 XLB, meaning there should be both crab roe and crab meat. I agree that the taste difference at DTF is obvious, and the difference at SDK is minimal; less oily than the purely pork one was my main takeaway.

                                            The biggest price uptick at DTF Taipei was the truffle XLB. Each XLB had a small slice of black truffle, and the aroma and taste was completely distinct from every other XLB. We've had the Perigord black truffle and have truffle oil at home; these XLBs tasted more like the real thing than the oil. No experience with the various other black truffles though, i.e. Himalayan, summer truffles, etc. It was something like 4 times more expensive than the pork XLB, but it was amazing.

                                2. re: hyperbowler

                                  Considering I live right around the corner, glad to hear the Outer Richmond location will not be permanently closed!

                                3. I stopped by this week and had XLBs and vegetarian goose. Soup in the XLBs, but the flavor wasn't very good. The goose wasn't great either. Not expensive, but I wouldn't return. I haven't been out to Balboa in a while, but I always liked that branch.

                                  Note that they have a $20 minimum for credit cards.