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Aug 14, 2014 09:38 PM

Dim Sum Club (Russian Hill, San Francisco)

Just noticed the “Grand Opening” banner flying on the restaurant in the Da Vinci Villa on Van Ness and Filbert and walked over there this evening to find out the story. It opened a couple weeks ago and features dim sum night and day. The menu shown is available from 11am to 3pm. It’s also served from 5pm to 9pm except for the rice noodle rolls and the taro dumpling. More items will soon be added to the dinner time menu. I asked if the evening dim sum dumplings were frozen from lunch service and the man I spoke to said they’re made fresh and waved toward the two cooks in the open kitchen. The restaurant also serves Western breakfast to hotel guests.

I noticed his logo polo shirt and commented that it was the same as the staff wear at Guangdong Barbecue Tea House on Irving Street. Bingo! Same owners and the Cantonese roast items will be sourced from there. I learned that large party orders such as roast pigs can be ordered a day ahead and will be transported to the Van Ness locale in the morning for pick up. Finally, something authentic (and hopefully good) closer to home.

Let’s hear some reports on the food.

Dim Sum Club
2550 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 529-2615

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  1. ...hopefully delicious!

    1. Very comfortable place with tablecloths, relaxing. Was initially disappointed that they were not serving bbq pork or spareribs, which they said were not up to par that day. Tried the fish w/ yellow chive rice noodle roll and beef w/ cilantro rice noodle roll, both had unusually delicate, elastic and fresh wrappers and ample filling. Salt and pepper (butterflied) chicken wings likewise had a very light delicate batter and light touch on the seasoning. I would probably go back for dinner sometime ( different menu but does include some dimsum).

      1 Reply
      1. re: barleywino

        Thanks for checking it out. I'm still in disbelief that there's a real Chinese place in the neighborhood. Sounds so promising.

        Here's your photo of the dinner menu.

      2. I too am in disbelief. That place has been thru so many reincarnations. The hotel is essentially dorms for AOA and some tourists who do not know better.

        Looking for a few more reports before I go...Im totally suspect

        3 Replies
        1. re: smatbrat

          I'm going back tonight but I don't think i'll bother reporting back if people are going to be so skeptical

          1. re: barleywino

            Please understand that our skepticism is not of your reporting but that this area has been devoid of decent Chinese food for so long this still feels like a mirage. Do let us know what you've been trying.

          2. re: smatbrat

            Heheh, I was there last night. Believe it. Very good now though I fear the neighborhood and motel visitors will dumb it down soon.

          3. When my dinner plans fell through on Friday, I was able to return here sooner than expected to see for myself. Seated in a comfy booth by the windows lining the streetside, I was the only customer at 6PM. From this perch I could observe the guests of the motel eyeing the posted menu as they passed by, and one or two cracked the door to ask about egg foo young (not available) or lo mein (guided toward panfried noodles).

            Favorite dish was Stuffed Eggplant with Black Bean Sauce, $3.95. Three big sandwiches of sweet and soft non-oily Chinese eggplant with a thick filling of high quotient shrimp forcemeat shimmered in a crisp coat of sheer batter. Doused with black bean sauce and then strewn with Thai bird chiles, scallions and cilantro, this was as good a rendition as I’ve ever run across.

            Salt & Pepper Chicken Wing (sic), $4.50, was excellent too, and interestingly, a completely different prep than found at Guangdong. I was intrigued by barleywino’s description of them as “butterflied”, remembering the chicken wing “lollipops” of childhood. These turned out to be not exactly either of those. Both drummettes and flats were used, four pieces to an order. The small bone in the flat was removed to leave just one “handle”. The meat’s pushed down to the end of the bone but not inverted into a lollipop ball. Since the skin was not removed, this method worked better as the cut edges splay out in the fryer crisping the skin. Very juicy meat with a golden brown eggy-tasting batter, the wings had little in the way of salt and (Sichuan) pepper seasoning. A generous scatter of minced raw garlic, scallions and jalapeño peppers revved up the taste. The paper doily allowed for more drainage of oil that pooled on the plate.

            Wanting to order some kind of steamed dumpling as they’re the real mark of a dim sum place, I hedged by choosing Steamed Homemade Dumpling, $3.50. These are a variety of fun guo and harder to mess up than the more delicate types of dumplings. No idea what they’d be, they turned out to have the chewy and thick wrapper of Teochew style but were not as overstuffed nor robustly seasoned. These had chopped pork bits rather than the ground pork often seen in non-Teochew fun guo. There was no doubt as to their freshness as I saw a cook bring out the raw dumplings from the back, holding two in each hand, to plop into the front kitchen’s steaming station. Adding a dab of chile sauce, these were pretty good.

            Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce, $3.50, divided into halves and garnished with a slice of jalapeño, demonstrated good prep work. Steamed soft enough and well-flavored, they tasted a little stale as if reheated more than once. Similarly the Bean Curd Roll with Oyster Sauce, $3.25, filled with pork, shrimp and glass noodles, had the same tired feeling. Maybe as business picks up, higher turnover will ensure more freshness. I was happy to see that restaurant is using bamboo steamer baskets and not steel.

            On the other hand, Steamed Spare Ribs with Plum Sauce, $3.25, featuring meaty pork ribs were not cooked long enough and wound up too chewy. While seasoned with garlic and scallion, there was nothing plummy in evidence.

            Beef Tomato Pan Fried Noodle, $8, featured a fried-to-order noodle cake. Many higher volume restaurants make them in advance for faster service. I could see the cook tossing the noodles in a spider to drain and hear the sizzle as the noodles hit the oil. However, the noodles themselves seemed of generic quality with little intrinsic flavor. They did fry up nicely to a well-browned crispness. Normally, I like this dish with a little Madras curry powder added but I forgot to request this when I placed my order. So to me, the flavors seemed muted compared to my usual. The beef was tender, maybe over-tenderized, but not very meaty tasting. Extra points for using fresh, ripe tomatoes, and I admired the knife work in cutting diamond-shaped lozenges of fresh ginger. No discernible wok flavor in this dish, perhaps the wok is too new and unseasoned at this early stage.

            With tax and tip, this came to $38 and was plenty to feed three people with a bit leftover for lunch the next day. More photos here,

            Peeking at the front kitchen, there appear to be three wok stations with a running water back splash. One has a warming tray over it, another is set up as a steaming station, and one had a dry wok resting on it. The range top next to it had two skillets resting on the burners. Unless there are more cooking stations in the back kitchen, things could get backed up as the place fills up.

            I confirmed with the manager that the owners of Dim Sum Club and Guangdong Barbecue Tea House are ex-Mayflower. He recommended ordering the soy sauce stir fried rice noodle next time. It’s depicted on one of the wall posters. I’d also like to try the cheung fun (rice noodle crepes) that barleywino reported on. And probably the pan fried turnip cakes since they’re so good at Guangdong and more dumplings.

            By the time I left an hour later, there were two parties of two eating in and a couple take-out orders. One asked me questions about my dinner and wound up ordering eggrolls, sweet and sour pork, and the beef tomato chow mein (because there’s no lo mein on the menu). The other party wanted to know what dim sum was and ended up ordering lemon chicken and chicken chow mein.

            Believe it, there is real potential and cooking chops behind Dim Sum Club. I can only hope that the neighbors can embrace it and not force a dumbing down. The dinner menu is still in flux, and I suspect that the manager is paying attention to what’s selling and what people are requesting. I’m going to make a point of returning a couple times in the next two weeks and ordering/asking for authentic dishes. Join the campaign for a real Chinese restaurant in this neighborhood!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Augh, so wish I was going to be back before fall, if only to have the eggplant dish! It is my favourite at dim sum, and increasingly hard to find. Thanks for the intel. Perhaps the SO will make it up there on one of his business trips. Chinese food of almost any kind for one is a bit difficult but dim sum can work.

              1. re: grayelf

                That's curious that it's disappearing from dim sum houses in BC, wonder why.

                The version here had it all: sweet and thoroughly cooked eggplant but not falling apart, light and crispy batter, tasty filling that had a high proportion of shrimp and not filler. Saucing was not as goopy as some, and the garnishes were fresh and vibrant.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Stop, you're killing me! I'm just back from dim sum with a couple o' local Hounds and we were discussing this very dish and the difficulty of finding it in any form. When you do find it, it tends to be made strictly with fish "mousse" instead of the delectable shrimp filling, which I find inferior. Perhaps it is more authentic (sorry to use the A word) but I prefer the shrimp.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    We had stuffed eggplant this morning at Lai Hong Lounge. Each of the 4 eggplant pieces were as large as I have ever seen, but were stuffed with a disproportionately small amount of filling. The sparse filling was ground something - we could not determine if it was fish or shrimp. Three of the four eggplant pieces were cooked perfectly, being neither too soft nor underdone, with a good amount of sweetness. The fourth piece was underdone a bit but the flavor was sufficiently good that I ate it anyway. The sauce was not traditional black bean and in fact was quite gummy. . . . Overall, this dish has gone downhill since my last LHL visit about a year ago.

                    On the other hand, LHL still makes the. best. siu. mai. ever.

            2. tried them for dim sum sunday. seating is only 15 tables/booths,
              no hostess/buspersons on duty. 2 associates running around delivering entrees checked off on a list.

              panfried potstickers(4/3.75)
              -undercooked, sent it back
              bbq pork bun (3/3.25)
              -doughy bun texture, sparse bbq meat tastleless, loaded with msg
              shrimp noodle crepe(5.25)
              -crepe skin fell apart, large crunchy shrimp semi-tasty
              beef chow fun(8)
              taste from fat and oiliness, little meat flavor
              -order forgotten, caught it immediately, came out tasteless, beef tender

              take outs:
              -food pricey, dimsum portion small
              -food same out fast
              -service ok when we got any.

              22 Replies
              1. re: shanghaikid

                Could you define your grading system please for those of us who don't know it? TIA.

                1. re: c oliver

                  my full report is on y,,p. this is just the generic food version. btw, wouldn't repeat.

                  factors in grading food:
                  -comparative value of food to similar dish in similar eatery
                  -subjective judgment whether it fits my food preference
                  food may be fably prepped. but i don't like it that way.
                  (no penalty, just not a high rating)
                  -food consistency
                  -(AB)use of msg, salt, additives, seasonings or lack of flavoring.
                  -seldom rate on service/decor/seating unless it's an aggravating factor. (possible + for imaginative decor...)
                  -imaginative touches merits higher marks, same old, same old, gets an average rating.
                  mostly it, some minor items may be left out.

                  1. re: shanghaikid

                    I remain confused. could you provide the link to you blog?

                      1. re: shanghaikid

                        okey dokey. So you gave how many you got and what the price was. Am I missing your evaluation of each dish?

                        1. re: c oliver

                          my evaluation is the written remarks under the description of pieces and pricing. no grade given.

                          only a subjective end grade of repeat or not is given or inferred.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              it was a thin line. i didn't hate it. but more importantly i didn't like it.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            most memorable line from victor's full review, "worst eating experience in a while with SO, she keep reminding me, so 2 stars." (on a 5 star scale) the Shanghai gourmand enjoys/endures a plethora of dining spots, so my guess 'worst eating experience in a while' is not derived from a small sample.

                            1. re: moto

                              I'll never denigrate anyone's opinion of a meal/restaurant but gotta say that my tastes align with Melanie Wong's.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                you are fortunate indeed.'s palate is much more finely calibrated than mine, with dietary and financial budgets further limiting my options. helpful to me, for Chinese food the Shanghai gourmand always notes the saltiness and m.s.g. he discerns.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      gourmand : 'lover of delicate fare ; judge of good eating'

                                      1. re: moto

                                        "a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much.
                                        synonyms: glutton, overeater, big eater, gobbler, gorger

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      The real question is: did she demean shanghaikid or me?

                                      <cue the rimshot>

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Neither, dear. I pay a huge amount of attention and respect to your posts. And the things you wrote about this place were no different. I said everyone's entitled to their opinion but I'll stick with your rec , who I've followed for years, vs. someone I've only just come across. If that came across as demeaning to shanhaikid that wasn't my intention.

                      2. re: c oliver

                        Those look like number of pieces per order and the prices.

                      3. re: shanghaikid

                        I've had the shrimp rice noodle roll three times now and it has been perfect in texture. One time I did have leftovers that I refrigerated overnight and then resteamed the next day. Though it returned to its former softness, it did break apart. So it sounds like what you were served might have been reheated.

                        I didn't have good luck with the steamed spareribs either. Though they were meaty, not much in the way of seasoning, not even salt. Here's the photo:

                        Did you order the steamed or the baked pork bun?