Food & Drink

The 14 best dim sum restaurants in the Bay Area

Published On 11/11/2014 Published On 11/11/2014
Joe Starkey
Joe Starkey
Trevor Felch
Flickr/shinzui
Trevor Felch
Flickr/naotoj
Trevor Felch
Trevor Felch
Joe Starkey
Trevor Felch
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1. Asian Pearl Peninsula 1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

Millbrae is full of dim sum destinations and Asian Pearl just might be the crown... pearl?... of the airport city. This is grown-up, elegant dim sum: the steamed radish cake is properly grease-free, they've got some artsy dumpling options, and then there's the wasabi pork stomach -- just try it, okay? The desserts? Tartine-quality: exemplary black sesame balls, durian puffs, and gooey, charred-in-all-the-right-places Portuguese custard "egg" tarts (relation to Hong Kong? Not sure, but Macau is a 40-minute hydrofoil trip away). Bonus: there are also branches in Richmond and Fremont for the 510 crowd.

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2. East Ocean Seafood Restaurant 1713 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501-2135

Like dim sum’s home (Hong Kong), Alameda is an island. East Ocean Seafood boasts an incredibly comfortable (and oddly civilized) cart-filled dining room. The classics are winners, like delicate dumplings screaming with Dungeness crab (now in season!), or the funky marinated seafood and pork wrapped in bean curd skin. Finish with durian custard-filled pastry puffs, which are like beignets gone haywire.

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3. Good Mong Kok Bakery 1039 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Chinatown)

If there’s one place to get take-out fare in Chinatown, Good Mong Kok Bakery is it: a seatless, bargain dim sum shop where the pork buns, pork and shrimp siu mai, and myriad other filled dough selections are right on par with the Bay Area's best of the best.

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4. Great Eastern Restaurant 649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Chinatown)

Great Eastern Restaurant serves up some of the city’s best seafood-centric dim sum. Sit down to deep-fried seaweed rolls with fish, salt-baked octopus, and mushrooms stuffed with fish paste -- or do as President Obama did back in 2012, and order half of the menu! The white tablecloth atmosphere also makes GER a great place to take visitors for a quality brunch in the heart of Chinatown.

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5. Hong Kong Lounge 5322 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

This Bay Area classic is one of the go-to spots for dim sum -- the dumplings are terrific and the baked goods are the highlight of the place, making it the dim sum equivalent of a Parisian bakery.

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6. Hong Kong Lounge II 3300 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

This small, Inner Richmond dim sum spot is comfy and well designed, and it serves up the usual suspects, as well as some under-the-radar options like the clay pot dishes (steamed pork ribs, salty fish, etc.).

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7. Jook Time 3398 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

Jook Time in Outer Richmond is the choice when you want the buns and dumplings. Just point and choose, and you will be on your way to dim sum heaven.

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8. Joy Luck Palace 10911 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014

Joy Luck Palace is a small but excellent dim sum option in Cupertino. The menu offers all the usual choices, including crunchy shrimp dumplings.

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9. The Kitchen 279 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

Millbrae’s The Kitchen utilizes various master chefs and consultants from Hong Kong and China to help furnish lavish abalone- and crab-filled dinner banquets, in addition to equally great dim sum dishes in the day. Check out top-notch chicken feet in black bean sauce and beautifully constructed dumplings.

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10. Koi Palace 365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

At 500 seats strong, Koi Palace is huge (and, subsequently, doesn't have dim sum carts). Shanghai crab broth- and pork-filled dumplings are the studs, and your best bet is to order in a large group so you also get a whole fried crab with the dumplings. Make sure to go on a weekday, when there’s no wait!

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11. Mama Ji's 4416 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

A dim sum palace with all of the classics, including a porcupine-like deep-fried shrimp ball and a steamed egg custard bun that is DIVINE.

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12. Tai Wu 300 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

This massive, three-story, 400-seat giant has 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.

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13. Ton Kiang 5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

Ton Kiang is a Geary standby that's been around forever; a two-story classic that is one of the few Hakka Chinese restaurants in the city. The dim sum is mostly made up of the usual BBQ pork buns and shrimp-stuffed eggplant, but explore the carts and you’ll encounter some unique selections: light-as-air green chive and shrimp dumplings or foil-wrapped chicken.

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14. Yank Sing 101 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105 (Embarcadero)

Yank Sing is the most celebrated (hello, James Beard classic award) and most gold standard-setting of dim sum joints in the Bay Area for good reason -- these guys know dumplings. The Shanghai soup dumplings are essential and the shrimp har gow alone should be as revered for perfection in texture and timing as Zuni’s roast chicken. Yes, the cart action is intense, and its reputation and proximity to the Embarcadero and FiDi drive in locals and tourists at record speeds, so plan accordingly and go on a weekday or be smart and reserve. Yes, yes, you can reserve a table -- a rarity in dim sum. Another rarity? Peking duck, slid into a DIY taco with sweet hoisin and green onions.