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Best Xiao Long Bao in the Bay area?

I can't find any recent threads on this subject so I'm starting a new one (if I've missed a recent one, please let me know). My 8 year old nephew is coming to visit and he has given me the task of locating the best "Shanghai Soup Dumplings" in the area. He was recently in NY and had them, so I assume he's talking about juicy xiao long bao. Any recent suggestions on where to look, either in SF, the east bay, or the south bay? Thanks!

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    1. re: scoopG

      Thank you! How did you search for it? When I searched, I got threads that ended in 2007.

    2. My fave in SF are at Bund Shanghai on Jackson just a few storefronts down from Grant. The only other place I've had them were Shanghai Dumpling King and we were SUPER disappointed but have since wondered if we hit a bad day as others have liked them.


      1. If quantity of soup is his priority, he may be disappointed--- the ones around here tend not to have as much soup inside as some popular places in NY. See this subthread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9238...

        My favorite is Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hyperbowler

          Do I remember reading that a lot of "soup" isn't an indicator of "authenticity" or desireability?

        2. The best I've had recently were at Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae a couple of weeks ago, though I really like Yank Sing's as well (but it has been a while). Neither place uses the metal cups which I suspect might affect quality.

          3 Replies
          1. re: charliemyboy

            SDS is supposedly owned by the people who use to own/run Shanghai Dumpling King on Balboa. SDK use to be the best but apparently is now inconsistent with the new owner.

            1. re: ML8000

              I've had both SDS and SDK in the last six months or so, and my opinion is that SDK on Balboa is still okay (this is still where I usually go to get my XLB fix), but SDS in Millbrae is unmistakably superior. I often stop by if I'm dropping someone off at the airport.

              1. re: dunstable

                If I were in the area, I'd stop at SDK no problem. I've never had issues but the reports of inconsistency are there.

                However in its prime SDK was better than Din Tai Fung. I had SDK and DTF (SoCal) within a couple of weeks of each other and SDK was clearly better.

          2. I had the XLB at Koi Palace recently and they were excellent, and I've been to Joe's Shangai in NYC, and Yank Sing, but I think the best I've ever had were at the Shanghai restaurant on 25th St. in San Mateo -- I've forgotten the name, but it's not Shanghai Dumpling East, but the other Shanghai restaurant on 25th St that's just off El Camino Real. Unfortunately, the rest of their food is good but not great, but those XLB were amazing, and you can (or could, it's been a few years) buy them frozen in big cheap bags to make at home

            1 Reply
            1. re: JoyM

              Little Shanghai half a block from the SM Fairgrounds? Last time I was there a couple at the next table touted the XLB at a smaller place on the same street on the other side of El Camino.

            2. Koi palace has my favorite ones in the Bay Area and the only ones that are at the level of ones I have had in Asia.

              1. Here is a picture of the Koi palace ones

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ridge

                  I think those metal cups are just plain silly :)

                2. Since you included south bay in the scope, the popular Bamboo Garden in mid-peninsula (corner Central Expwy [aka Alma] and Rengstorff, easy to get to by car) somewhat specializes in them (and other dumplings, some of them uncommon around here). I've been told XLB are the restaurant's #1 selling dish.

                  Theirs are notably thin-skinned and taper toward a point on top, easily handled if you pick up from the top with fingers -- most other methods are doomed (experience speaking here).

                  Inexpensive place, focally Shanghainese, largely Chinese clientele. Michelin-recommended incidentally for Shanghainese specialties. Thread started by Melanie soon after it opened (doubtless how Michelin heard about the place):


                  22 Replies
                  1. re: eatzalot

                    I've never had any that I couldn't pick up with chopsticks and I've never seen anyone use their fingers! Here's a little photo exhibit. BTW, I'm not Asian :)


                    1. re: c oliver

                      Understood, c; but what was your experience at the restaurant I named? Otherwise, the point remains theoretical (as with other comments some people express here about restaurants they haven't actually tried).

                      The XLB I've had at Bamboo Garden (a least a dozen orders) look different from those in the photos you linked -- conspicuously thin wrappers, more pointed at top -- as mentioned earlier. While some skilled people may well be able to handle them with utensils, the consensus among those I've dined with (all 40-plus-year chopstick users) favors picking them up with fingertips, from the top. I thought newcomers to Bamboo Garden might appreciated knowing this trick!

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        Hey, no fair--- DTF's XLB (technically tong bao) are unbelievably easy to pick up with chopsticks! :-) Their dough is translucently thin and flexible, and the weight of the filling pulls the bottom down, leaving a "neck" above the soup/meat line to grip onto.

                        It's better manners to use your hands than have an XLB unexpectedly birth a meatball that shoots across the table onto some else's plate. No one wants to be a Xiao Long Mazel.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          DTF's XLB are XLB. Tang bao or Guangtangbao are much larger.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            DTF lists them as Xiao Long Bao but see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9238... for difference between XLB and tang bao (giant tang bao are something different).

                            I buy that argument.

                            In favor of it, probably the most famous place in Shanghai serving things like this is Jia Jia Tang Bao. Their menu lists the item as Tang Bao ( 湯包 ).

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              Main difference I think is in the dough - tang bao and guangtangbao are more mantou like - or can be. XLB never.

                          2. re: hyperbowler

                            I'm really not particularly good with chopsticks but don't find XLB a problem at all. I sometimes have an issue with making a hole in the side but the picking up and placing in the spoon is fine.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Again c oliver, I'll be interested to read of your experiences -- whether you find this to be a probkem or not -- if and when you visit the particular restaurant that started this subdiscussion: Bamboo Garden. AFAIK you've never tried _their_ XLB.

                              All the people I dine with there went through the usual alternatives, had punctures, meat balls getting loose, etc., then settled on fingertips grappling the top of the teardrop-shaped, delicate-walled XLB at that particular restaurant. It is a trick many other people may appreciate knowing too, thus sparing them our need for hard-won trial-and-error.

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Since I try to avoid the 'burbs esp. when in the SF area I guess I'll have to pass on that experience. BTW, I don't pick up from the tip of the dumpling but rather across the pleats where there's more to 'grab hold' of.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  For your future reference from a local native, most Bay Area restaurants are in "burbs;" the adjoining counties together have 5 or 6 times SF's population. Both Bay Area Michelin 3-star restaurants (French Laundry, Meadowood) are in burbs. The pioneering Chez Panisse started 43 years ago in burbs. Many or most of the emphatic ethnic-restaurant suggestions on this board are in burbs. Don't knock the burbs.

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    >Chez Panisse started 43 years ago in burbs.
                                    by that standard, most of SF are the 'burbs.
                                    certainly anything say west of Park Presidio/19th Av, or south of say Cortland?

                                    1. re: psb

                                      I wondered about that. I thought Chez Panisse was always in Berkeley.

                                      1. re: psb

                                        Um, psb, Panisse has always been outside of the City and County of San Francisco. (Even outside of the limits of what was the former, larger, SF County, before that county shrank to just the City, in '56.)


                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                          So was CP in the 'burbs before it was in Berkeley?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I'm pretty sure CP was always in Berkeley.

                                            1. re: ML8000

                                              Jeez folks. I saw it open in Berkeley in 1971. Berkeley is a "suburb" of San Francisco, one of the older ones. I hope all is clear now.

                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                Berkeley might be a suburb of Oakland but one could argue it's not a suburb of SF since when it was established, there was no Bay Bridge let alone BART. I mean seriously, SF is barely a city and often is referred to as a town given it's size and population.

                                                1. re: ML8000

                                                  ML, this all arose in a context of someone contrasting restaurants in SF proper to those in outlying towns -- a working meaning of "burbs." Bamboo Garden is located in a town officially and firmly categorized as urban in population density, like Berkeley in that way. Both are outside SF and inevitably referred to by some people for generations as suburbs of SF, among many other such.  A benefit of getting to know the whole Bay Area is that these things drop into focus.

                                                  Please let's not nitpick this further, I find it amazing (like the earlier speculations in the thread on whether or not Panisse opened in Berkeley, whence "jeez").

                                                2. re: eatzalot

                                                  I've always thought of Berkeley as a small city with nothing that looks or feels anything like the 'burbs.' "Jeez" indeed.

                                            2. re: eatzalot

                                              >Panisse has always been outside of the City
                                              yes, i am aware of that ... Chez Panisse and I arrived in Berkeley at about the same time. I am sitting in 94720 right now.

                                              My point is what one usually associate with "the burbs" ... let's say Walnut Creek ... doesnt really apply to Shattuck Avenue. A residential street in on Twin Peaks is more "burbish". Or consider Sloat past Stern Grove ... that's basically a suburban street for a few blocks, strip malls included.

                                              Now if you just mean "burbs" in the spatial sense rather than cultural, ok whatever. It's one thing to say "i prefer to spend my time in happening parts of the city ... FiDi, Tenderloin, Mission, Marina, Haight etc" but it would be odd to say "Sure, let's go out to Lake Merced/West Portal, but no, I dont want to go to downtown Berkeley".

                                2. re: eatzalot

                                  Wait- if a XLB cools down enough to be picked up by hand, isn't it not hot enough to enjoy?

                                  1. re: ckshen

                                    No, that isn't a problem! Recall the Diffusion Equation, one of the simplest principles in physics. The outside cools before the inside. The top of the outside before the bottom of the outside (which is insulated from air by a bamboo tray). The gathered top of those I mentioned at Bamboo Garden is easily picked up with fingers, while the contents remain hot.

                                    The main thing about those particular XLB is that the wrappers are thinnish and unforgiving, easily torn etc. So it just works out best with fingers. Besides, they're finger-sized food.

                            2. as one can tell from looking at the picture (and i had them recently there as well), the skins at Koi Palace are thicker and more "waterlogged" than some other versions around here (Yank Sing) and compared to some i've had in Shanghai, SoCal (DTF) etc. which have very delicate yet elastic skins through which the broth is visible. But it's a matter of personal taste...

                              1. I haven't tried nearly as many XLB, in nearly as many places as some on this list seem to have done, to form a reliable comparative opinion, but I've eaten pretty regularly at the newer Shanghai Dumpling King location, on Monterrey St, SF (google.com/maps/place/Shanghai+Dumpling+King/@37.731753,-122.45102,17z/), and always want to return ASAP. More comfortable seating than their Balboa location, too.

                                1. i saw Bamboo Garden in Mountain View mentioned. I'd also throw My Dumpling in Milpitas into the ring as having good XLB.