Millbrae and the Outer Richmond are definitely your dim sum epicenters. The Castro? Eh, not so much. Well, that is unless you're at Mama Ji’s, home to outstanding Shanghai xiao long bao dumplings and wobbly handmade pulled rice rolls (note: most dumplings are three to an order, compared to the customary four, and for roughly the same price... you’re paying for primo SF real estate). Of particular note are the crisp-on-the-outside and pillowy-centered seared pumpkin cakes that are really deep-fried pumpkin filled with red bean paste. They look like sci-fi corn cob orbs and taste like autumn in a bite. Dim sum rules at lunch ,but also takes up much of the dinner menu -- including Szechuan classics (where the Chef/owner Mama Ji is from) offered as dim sum, like the gigantic, palate-numbing plate of spicy cold noodles. And you can always enjoy Belgian beers on tap. Chimay and siu mai, ahhhhhh.
Past the lions guarding this massive, three-story, 400-seat, eight-month-old giant, which shares three parking lots with Taco Bell and Burger King (they used to have no parking!), you'll find elite-tier taro root rolls, durian pastries, chilled steamed tripe with fiery pepper sauce, and killer salted egg yolk-fried pumpkin. Show up with an entourage, because big plates are really where it’s at. The (probably) 10lbs of fried noodles with fish are jaw-dropping, with a snazzy crisp exterior evolving into soft noodles towards the center. Across the street from The Kitchen, it's locked in an epic Millbrae showdown these days. One that we all win.