Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A long while back, when I discovered Chinese dim-sum, I took my sister to a restaurant in Washington DC so she could experience my new fave food. The really great part about dim sum is that it's served fresh, ideally from steam carts wheeled by chanting servers who'll pick out your choice - on a plate, in a small steamer, sometimes in a bowl - and bingo, a small helping of, say, shrimp in a rice paper wrapper (about the size of a small egg, usually three to a steamer), or shiu mai, which is a thin dough wrapper pleated around chopped chicken/scallop or, more often, ground pork or shrimp (these open-topped goodies are about an inch across and 1-1/2" high, again three to a steamer).  Pot stickers fried before your eyes, turnip cakes ditto; or congee (thick rice soup); noodles of course, or steamed broccoli or tiny clams in black bean sauce. There are literally hundreds of dim sum, many of them vegetarian, so that ho-hum factor is never going to be an issue. You'll probably never get to taste them all.
I believe the DC restaurant I took my sister to is no longer in business. But they deserved to go out of business; the dim sum were terrible. One of my favorites is barbequed pork bun, which is a delicious mound of chopped, saucy barbeque pork inside a fluffy rice flour dumpling the size of a tennis ball. Imagine my horror when their version appeared to be cheap white bread wrapped around Dinty Moore Stew! Other items were no better. My sister still rags on me about that disgusting meal.

So, right now, I am in San Francisco, on the trail of the ultimate dim sum.I'm polling friends who live here in Baghdad by the Bay, and am going to try as many places as possible. I've only got to one so far, and while it was relatively cheap it was also solidly mediocre. More later!
After ten days in Berkeley and San Francisco, I am still searching for dim sum experiences. Research pointed me to CITY VIEW RESTAURANT (top 2 photos from there) in the Financial District, where I and two friends had an excellent meal. The immaculately clean restaurant offers plenty of choices from both carts and hand-carried trays. The steamed spinach dumplings were divine. The BBQ pork buns had a lot of excellent filling but the enclosing dough was a bit gummy. I'd go back to the City View any time even if it did have white tablecloths and fabric napkins.
If you seek really cheap eats, and can do without ambiance, variety or a lack of grease, there are scores of small hole-in-the-wall take-out joints that most tourists wouldn't even register. I went to YOU'S DIM SUM on Stockton (walking from Union Square? Through the tunnel, then a block further on to You's; it's on the left, see 3rd photo). Three dim-sum of my choice: $1.60. I ate them with a plastic fork at a formica table. I spent an entire afternoon trying these places out and must say that price is the main thing. More later!
Alex and Aggie took us to The New Lantern Restaurant in the Mission district, and of all the places we ate, this one is probably the best, considering they serve dim sum until late at night. They're varied, cooked to order and they were delicious. I love it when good ingredients are used. Try THE NEW LANTERN!


  1. I think you may have been at Yenching Palace in Cleveland Park, maybe? It had been there *forever* and was definitely on the way out when it finally closed in 2007.

  2. Sorry, not Yenching Palace, the place I disparage was just past the Friendship Arch on Eye St. Near the two-story restaurant with the dimsum upstairs.

  3. Superbly helpful reviews! I don't travel much anymore, but for friends who do I've passed along this blog.
    I like the fact that you provide excellent directions to the eateries.
    Great work, Lee! You have definitely found your calling!Can't remember my wordpress info, sorry!


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