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Oct 1, 2013 12:16 AM

Chowdown: All Season Restaurant (SF)

A group of nine Chowhounds gathered at All Seasons Restaurant in Diamond Heights for Sunday dim sum. It took about 45 minutes to get our party seated after "we" grabbed numbers (thanks to those who got there earlier than me!).

I lost the menus, but there's a big fold out menu of standard stuff, and a two sided menu with lots of pictures with less familiar items. There's also cart service, but there wasn't much of interest on them.

=Two-sided menu items=
Cashew pastry
Shredded pork puffy rolls
Beef shank with chicken feet (removed from the table by the server before most people could eat it!)
Duck bills with basil
Hand pulled rice noodle rolls with string beans
Taro roll with minced pork and shrimp
Beef pancake rolls
Zhongshan dumplings filled with char siu
Salty egg yolk yams and pumpkin
Taro paste filled pancakes

=Fold-out menu items=
Deep fried "lobster" dumplings
Shrimp and spinach dumplings
Chicken feet
Portuguese egg tarts
Regular egg tarts
Durian pasty
Black sesame dessert

=Cart items=
Pork ribs
Bean curd skin wrapped shrimp
Fish balls

The bill came to $20/person and that included multiple orders of several dishes, chrysanthemum tea, tax, & tip I'll let others chime in first with comments, but I'll preface my future post by saying that I had a great time and enjoyed the food quite a bit.

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  1. Great mouth-watering pix!
    All Season moves to the top of my list.

    1. Nice pictures! I'm excited to hear what is good....and excited by the prospect of good dim sum on Diamond Heights!

      What is the dough around the black sesame dessert? Was it fried? Hot or cold?

      16 Replies
        1. re: Dave MP

          I've never mastered the Chinese name, but that looks like the steamed mochi balls with black sesame filling. It usually is dusted on the top with a mix of ground peanuts and sugar. It's one of my favorite dim sum items. This doesn't look like a particularly good version, though, because the skin looks quite thick. It should be served warm and the mochi shouldn't be so thick that it's firm to the touch.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            That is what it looks like. Not sure if this the right name but here it goes. Gee Ma Nor Mee Chee.

            It is steamed without the peanut and sugar covering. Would have to try it before know if it good :>)

            1. re: yimster

              >peanut and sugar covering.
              >Would have to try it before know if it good
              i tried it; it was good.
              i believe it did have the peanut dust ... if they are the one which came which came in the little foil cups.

              the outside was a bit thick but the total mass of sesame filling was pretty high, so i think the ratio worked out fine.

              1. re: psb

                So it was served hot? Or at least, the sesame filling was warm?

                1. re: psb

                  The ones I have had in the past (dim sum is something no longer on my list of things I can now eat) were steamed and rolling in a peanut sugar mixture and placed on a plate. These seems to be steamed in a foil cup (I have seen that done for xlb's but I like both without the tin cup).

                  I have also heard called something like "flowing lava buns" before but do not remember that Chinese name for that.

                  1. re: yimster

                    Is that like a steamed bun filled w/ black sesame? Or a baked bun?

                    Actually, steamed buns filled w/ black sesame were pretty common in the Guilin area when I was there, and I was hoping the Guilin restaurant in Oakland would serve these. So far, there are no buns on that menu though.

                    When you ate them and they were still really fresh, the sugar/sesame mixture inside was indeed a lot like flowing lava.

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      Dave it is not bread but a sweet rice "cake" steamed in Japanese mochi and in Cantonese nor mee chee. Not a bao.

                      1. re: yimster

                        Oh okay.

                        I wish someone in the bay area made a bao with black sesame....but I haven't seen this anywhere.

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          I am not sure if you are thinking about a black bean sweet paste instead of black sesame. Doo Sa which is what I think this was made of. They used to make this in bun form. Have not purchase this in years but next time I am in the City I will ask around.

                          1. re: yimster

                            The thing I am referring to has a sesame/sugar filling (looks identical to the filling in this mochi) but it's inside a steamed bun, as opposed to mochi. I don't know if I've ever seen this in the USA.

                      2. re: Dave MP

                        Dave, just for your future eating I saw frozen steamed black sesame bun (steamed bread) in the freezer in Foster City and I am sure they will available in any Chinese Supermarket.

                        Not freshly made but at least it is a start. Next I do a Chinatown walk I will see if any take out dim sum place have it.

                      3. re: yimster

                        yimster's reference to "flowing lava bun" 流沙包, LiuShaBao

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          I googled LiuShaBao and that is a totally different animal: a baked wheat dough bun with runny egg yolk custard filling. Here's a complete photo essay on them, although he appears to have used coconut instead of peanut on the outside:


                    2. re: yimster

                      Online menu calls it: 雷沙湯元 , Léi shā tāng yuán
                      The first character on the receipt is blurry, but I believe it calls it: 擂沙湯丸 , Léi shā tāng wán

                      I call it : the thing that burned my tongue because I didn't let it cool first :-)

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Oh yeah, that filling really can be like lava if you're not careful.

                2. Thanks to hyperbowler for organizing another successful Chowdown. The company was very engaging and I got so involved in the conversation I didn't pay as much attention as usual to all the dishes. Here are my comments on the dishes that left an impression on me—

                  Cashew pastry—quite good

                  Duck bills with basil—these were the least satisfying duck jaws I've had so far—somewhat overcooked and dry, less flavor and more issues with small bones than the much better duck jaw offerings at Cooking Papa (Maggi) or Great Eastern (cold soya sauce).

                  Hand pulled rice noodle rolls with string beans—the string beans were done perfectly--nice crunch. Needed more or better sauce on the noodle rolls

                  Zhongshan dumplings filled with char siu—I'm usually a sucker for char siu, but wasn't impressed here. I guess the char siu was OK, but it doesn't work for me in dumpling form. A few days earlier I had char siu in rice noodle rolls at Cooking Papa in Foster City and was similarly disappointed. Give me a bao any day.

                  Salty egg yolk yams and pumpkin—the coating was a little greasy and not as puffy or eggy as I like but the kabocha was decent and the yam pieces were a nice addition. I'd order it again.

                  Deep fried "lobster" dumplings—there was some discussion if they were actually lobster but regardless they were excellent, one of the best tastes of the meal.

                  Shrimp and spinach dumplings—usually one of my favorite dim sum dishes, but not this overcooked rendition—not much flavor and the shrimp was mushy.

                  Portuguese egg tarts—small, lots of crust for very little custard, not especially flavorful

                  Durian pasty—Having enjoyed these whenever I have had them before, I was feeling brave and sniffed deeply before eating. That may be why they seemed to have more durian sulphurous odor than usual, and more than I like. They were not as light & custardy as I like but if you like intense durian and consider this type of pastry to be durian for wimps you might enjoy the somewhat stronger than usual taste.

                  Black sesame dessert—a tad too sweet but otherwise very good—big enough to have lots of black sesame, and a reasonable sesame/mochi ratio. A winner.

                  Fish balls—pretty bland but still mildly pleasant.

                  Bottom line—My overall impression was better than the sum of my comments above. I enjoyed the meal and would come back if I lived nearby, but if I'm going to drive all the way to the City I'd prefer Great Eastern for quality+value or Yank Sing for quality. Still, it was good value and good enough quality that I wouldn't hesitate to return.

                  1. Not that we're any kind of experts but All Seasons is our go-to place for Dim Sum as we live near by. Very happy to have them close enough to go regularly.

                    I'd love to try some of their sea food dishes for dinner, but not sure if I'd get to try some of their better dishes as we don't read/speak Chinese. Not to clear how their menu system works.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Calvinist

                      Their menus are all bilingual, so I think you'd be okay. We had a few issues with our servers, but the barrier didn't seem to be language as much as communication/confusion--- they forgot a few items and removed a dish from our table that we'd started eating with no explanation.

                      There was a banquet menu that was English on one side, Chinese on the opposite side. I believe it was $288.

                    2. Loved the company...liked the food!
                      The most interesting thing for me (as people who know me will attest.. (remember when a tray of boiling hot chicken feet was accidently dumped on my head at one of our chowdowns) was the chicken feet...they were perfectly cooked and could be sucked right off the bone...these were not in black bean sauce,...but a more refined, delicate abalone sauce. They are definitely better in the mouth than on the head!
                      I really liked the egg coated pumpkin and yams, because they had an additional crunchy deep fried coating..never had it that way before.. my other faves were the Shredded Pork Puffy Rolls, the deep fried lobster dumplings ( these were probably stuffed with seemed,) Durian Pastry and Black Sesame came with a lot of sesame..perhaps a tad too sweet.