Sunday, February 21, 2010

Five Top Chinatown Dim Sum Spots

Who can resist dim sum: juicy little dumplings, plates of spicy spare ribs, slices of tender eggplant stuffed with shrimp and sweet egg custard tarts? Many Chinatown restaurants double as dim sum parlors at lunch and have a great, casual atmosphere: there's lots of conversation at large round tables as food carts circulate, servers stopping to uncover each dim sum delicacy as if presenting a gift.
If it's your first time here's what happens: When the cart rolls around to your table and the dishes are uncovered point to what you'd like: typically, you start a tab and the servers mark off how many dishes you've ordered, at what price level. It's part of the fun: you don't order from a menu and choose what you like by what looks good.
San Francisco's Chinatown is going to be bustling in the next week during the New Year's celebrations. It's a terrific time to visit.

Here are some picks for ever-favorite dim sum spots (unfortunately, they don't have web sites):

*City View, 662 Commercial, between Kearny and Montgomery. This is one of the most elegant of the Chinatown restaurants and serving some of the finest dim sum around. It's the place to take less adventurous first-time dim sum diners, or those who know dim sum (there's a lot of variety here) and want fancier surroundings than many of the traditional Chinatown dim sum parlors. Try the glazed walnut prawns, scallop dumplings, pork siu mai and potstickers.

*Pearl City, 641 Jackson, between Kearny and Grant. For many San Franciscans, this is the go-to spot for dim sum. It's inexpensive, rustic and the excellent dim sum comes in large portions.

*Dol Ho, 808 Pacific, between Stockton and Powell. Don't be scared away by the drab exterior and no-frills interior. Dol Ho is authentic, with fresh dim sum that the locals recognize as the real thing. Don't miss the spare ribs.

*Gold Mountain, 644 Broadway, near Stockton. This is one of those cavernous dim sum restaurants that draw in local Chinese families by the dozens. Because of volume of dim sum served, the dim sum is fresh and there's a large variety. Try the pork buns and chive dumplings.

*Lichee Garden, 1416 Powell, between Broadway and Vallejo. This traditional Cantonese restaurant is better known for its wonderful lunch and dinner fare but also offers top dim sum at lunchtime. Good service is a notch above the rest of the dim sum establishments.

Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy informed me Lichee no longer serves dim sum. Drats, it was so good.

Here's another favorite then: Kay Cheung at 615 Jackson near Kearny. This is one of those hole-in-the-wall Chinatown eateries that are easy to miss. Like Pearl City, which is close by, this has authentic dim sum, nothing fancy but inexpensive and good.

Do you have a favorite Chinatown restaurant for dim sum or other Chinese food? Comment, please!

And, check out my Chinatown travel app for more, including interactive maps, descriptions and photos that you can download onto your iPhone or iPod Touch.

1 comment:

Amy Sherman said...

Sadly Lichee Garden stopped serving dim sum about a year and a half ago. It was one of my favorite picks too!