Dim sum in San Francisco
Even though the restaurant is temporarily closed due to a pipeline explosion, we'd be remiss not to mention the reigning king of dim dum in SF on this list. Hong Kong Lounge II, located in the Inner Richmond, will cure any craving for quality Chinese food. Their extensive dumpling menu includes crowd pleasers like crispy fried seafood and more traditional options like steamed chicken feet, baked char siu bao (pork buns) and har gow (shrimp dumplings). If you want to try something a little different, taste the savory-sweet coffee pork ribs, egg yolk almond balls and plump shrimp noodle rolls.
This small Richmond shop serves up authentic dim sum without dominating your day or decimating your wallet. With only six tables, most opt to take-out, checking off their desired dumplings on an order form while waiting in a line which, though it gets long on weekends, moves quickly. The brusque but efficient service doesn’t hurt either. Most sets of three items cost $2 so it’s easy to load up on pork siu mai or juicy shrimp chive dumplings with no regrets. Don’t miss the nuomici, a mochi-like coconut rice ball filled with peanut paste and dusted in ground peanuts and shaved coconut.
A multi-floored ode to modern Chinese food, the stylish downstairs restaurant at China Live is worlds apart from the classic no-frills dining rooms of most San Francisco dim sum spots. The food here is just as creative, with flavor-filled bites which include the succulent sheng jian bao 'SJB' (pan-fried pork dumplings), spicy-good Sichuan "Working Hands" dumplings in sesame butter and peppercorn-chili broth, and kumquat glazed Peking duck tucked into sesame bread pockets.
At Yank Sing, a 2018 Michelin Bib Gourmand winner, you order by pointing to what looks good on passing carts; you may not always know exactly what you’re getting but the unexpected culinary surprises are half the fun. Their Shanghai dumplings are iconic, as are their har gow (shrimp dumplings), but we also love the snow pea shoots and taro root dumplings. Pricier than your typical dim sum restaurant, consider Yank Sing a go-to special occasion destination.
Mama Ji (owner Lily Ji) lovingly prepares family recipes, putting her own spin on traditional dishes. Think: pea sprout shrimp dumplings, chicken shrimp shumai, spicy cold noodles and fried pumpkin “cakes” filled with red bean paste for dessert. On weekends, cure your hangover with a smattering of dim sum plates coupled with a Belgian ale.
Clean, bright and modern, Dragon Beaux is a sleek Outer Richmond dim sum experience from the owners of Daly City’s beloved Koi Palace. The restaurant serves a variety of elevated favorites, including vibrant xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) colored with beet, saffron, spinach or squid ink. Make sure to order the lau saa bao (rice flour bun filled with sweet, creamy egg and sugar custard), shrimp rice crepe rolls and durian puffs.
Great Eastern has long been a Chinatown institution drawing presidents (Obama ate here in 2012), tourists and locals for a taste of its old school dim sum. Favorites include seafood dishes like cilantro shrimp dumplings and deep-fried seaweed roll with fish, alongside only-for-the-experienced-palate options like bitter melon beef dumplings. Black sesame balls and deep fried pumpkin and egg yolk custard balls are a sweet ending for some of the city’s best Chinese fare.
Don’t confuse this Alameda dim sum mainstay with the Emeryville restaurant of a similar name; East Ocean Seafood Restaurant is the better of the two. What the cavernous space lacks in panache it makes up for in its extensive menu of beautifully executed Hong Kong-style dishes, with dim sum served daily from 10am-2:30pm. Gorge on an extensive list of classics like haa gao and char siu. For those in the know, the chicken feet here are a particular favorite. Expect something of a wait on weekends but, thanks to the size of the dining room, you’ll be gorging on dumplings before you know it.
At this Chinatown hole-in-the-wall, the take-out only dim sum is generous, cheap and delicious. Their menu includes classics like shui mai, steamed chive dumplings and BBQ pork buns along with more old-world options like shark fin dumplings, turnip cakes, and preserved egg and pork porridge. All dishes, including many that come with three pieces to an order, cost less than $3.30.
Don’t let the odd location of this Russian Hill restaurant fool you, the under-the-radar Dim Sum Club is making some of the best dumplings, buns and cakes in the city. During afternoon hours, the small restaurant tucked into the lobby of the Da Vinci Villa Hotel offers a wide selection of traditional favorites, including a mean xiao long bao served with black vinegar and an impressive take on noodle rolls thick with barbeque pork, spare ribs, soy, fish, or Chinese donuts. It’s not the most economical dim sum around (items cost around $5 each) but the larger-than-average portions are bursting with flavor.
With hip hop blaring and carafes of saké flowing, both Chubby Noodle’s locations (Marina and North Beach) are popular for their bottomless dim sum brunches ($45 per person on weekends). Fill up on Kung Pao wings, salt and pepper shrimp, steamed pork buns and mountains of noodles at both festive locations.
It’s hard to beat the likes of $7.95 for 10 xiao long bao at Shanghai Dumpling King. From the pan-fried BBQ pork buns to nutty spicy wontons, most items hover around $7 to $8 for eight to 10 dumplings or buns. Round out your meal with an order of sugar egg puffs—fluffy, hot-from-the-fryer doughnuts.
Dark, sexy and alluring, the San Francisco branch of Hakkasan is located smack dab in the middle of Downtown. A la carte items are available for lunch and dinner and special seasonal menus showcase creative options like jade lobster daikon rolls, cuttlefish mei si rolls or XO scallop puffs.