Dim sum in San Francisco
Dim Sum heaven by day, Hong Kong-style bites by night, the second Hong Kong Lounge located in the Inner Richmond will cure your 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. Since there are only six tables available, most opt to take-out. Here, customers check off their desired items on an order form while in line, making the snaking weekend lines move quickly. (The service may be brusque, but it's certainly efficient.) Most sets of three items cost $2 so it’s easy on pork siu mai or juicy shrimp chive dumplings for just a few dollars. Don’t miss the nuomici, a mochi-like coconut rice ball dusted in ground peanuts and shaved coconut, filled with peanut paste.
A multi-floored ode to modern Chinese food, the downstairs restaurant at China Live serves modern, creative dim sum like the bursting sheng jian bao 'SJB' (pan-fried pork dumplings), spicy-good Sichuan "Working Hands" dumplings in sesame butter and peppercorn-chili broth or Peking duck in kumquat glaze, tucked into sesame bread pockets.
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.
At Yank Sing, 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. Consider Yank Sing your special occasion dim sum destination.
Mama Ji's started as a pop-up in the back of Queen Malika cafe before landing in the Castro, where it now offers quality Szechuan cooking. Mama Ji (owner Lily Ji) cooks with recipes inherited from her family, putting her own spin on dishes 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 (from Daly City’s Koi Palace owners) offers a sleeker dim sum respite in the Outer Richmond serving colorful 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.
It’s hard to beat the likes of $7.95 for 10 xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) at Shanghai Dumpling King. From the pan-fried BBQ pork buns to nutty spicy wontons, most items hover around $7 to $8 for 8 to 10 dumplings or buns. Round out your meal with an order of sugar egg puffs—fluffy, hot-from-the-fryer doughnuts.
Great Eastern has long been a Chinatown institution drawing presidents and tourists to one of the better Chinatown spots for old school dim sum. Seafood favorites include cilantro shrimp dumplings or deep-fried seaweed roll with fish, alongside only-for-the-experienced-palate options like bitter melon beef dumplings. Black sesame balls or deep fried pumpkin and egg yolk custard balls are dessert favorites.
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.