All photos by Jenny Oh
Perhaps you’re a dim sum disciple of the venerable Yank Sing or other haunts around San Francisco, but there’s plenty of other places around the Bay Area to snack on this delightful Chinese fare. While it’s hard to narrow down the list to just five, the following restaurants are perennial favorites that I’m willing to brave the crowds for on Sunday mornings — especially with the Lunar New Year right around the corner (January 31). Let us know where you go for your dumpling fix in the comments.
4288 Dublin Blvd (Dublin Ulferts Center) Dublin, CA [map]
Ph: (925) 833-9090
Mon.-Fri. 11 am – 3 pm
Mon.-Thu., Sun. 5 pm – 9:30 pm
Fri.-Sat. 5 pm – 10 pm
Sat. 10 am – 3:30 pm
Sun. 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Facebook: Koi Palace
Koi Palace in Daly City is the flagship location of this mini-dim sum empire, but the Dublin location in the Ulferts Center matches its predecessor in quality. Take the escalator up to the second level of the mall, walk through the glowing Moon Gate and if you’re lucky, you won’t have to wait too long for a seat in one of their spacious dining rooms. Even on a weekday, bow-tied waiters and servers decked out in black-and-red visors briskly weave through the tables with trays and carts attending to the busy lunch rush as quickly as they can. Their extensive colorful menu offers a variety of dishes from $2.95-$15.00. Highlights include the lamb buns that arrive sizzling over a bed of onions and scallions in a clay pot ($5.80); stir-fried, garlicky green beans with tender morsels of pork and chili pepper ($6.90); succulent, deep-fried pork ribs glazed with maple butter and served in a large coffee mug over a thick, sweet chocolaty-espresso sauce ($6.90); spinach-scallop dumplings swimming in a spicy Sichuan sauce ($5.80).
If you’re headed to the Pacific East Mall to stock up on Asian groceries at Ranch Market 99, be sure to stop by its next door neighbor: Asian Pearl Seafood Restaurant. While there’s usually a bit of a wait during prime time hours on weekends, they’ll call out your number if you’re inclined to wander off to the nearby Kingstone Books store that sells an array of Totoro dolls and Hello Kitty backpacks. Then get ready to enter a “culinary wonderland” (their motto emblazoned on their menu) as you walk past the tanks filled with live seafood. You can order dim sum everyday and not just for brunch; they now serve it at all hours. Items range between $2.60-$6.50 depending on the size of the dish. Try their buttery soft baked BBQ pork buns ($2.60), sticky rice with lotus leaves ($3.80) that’s flavored with pork, mushrooms and other savory ingredients, fried turnip cakes flecked with fatty bits of Chinese sausage ($2.60) and steamed scallop and shrimp dumplings ($3.30).
Imperial Tea Court
1511 Shattuck Ave. (between Cedar & Vine Streets) Berkeley, CA [map]
Ph: (510) 540-8888
Mon.-Sat. 11 am – 9 pm
Sun. 11 am – 8 pm
Facebook: Imperial Tea Court
Whenever I tell friends that you can order delicious dim sum at the San Francisco or Berkeley locations of the Imperial Tea Court, they’re always surprised. Despite the fact that they’ve been serving dim sum, hand-pulled noodles and other entrees produced with locally-sourced, organic ingredients for several years (and that tea and dim sum go hand-in hand), the Imperial Tea Court doesn’t seem to register on the local foodie radar when it comes to dumplings or fried turnip cakes. But the Berkeley spot — perched above the gourmet food complex Epicurious Garden – is a quiet sanctuary with an outdoor patio that’s perfect for sampling their Dragon Well dumplings ($9), pumpkin or pork shao mai ($6) or green onion pancakes ($6). For a tasting platter, try the dim sum sampler ($12) with vegetarian pot stickers, pork shao mai, shrimp dumplings made with Yin Hao jasmine green tea and steamed buns.
East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1713 Webster St. (between Lincoln & Haight Avenues) Alameda, CA [map]
Ph: (510) 865-3381
Mon.-Sun. 10 am – 2:30 pm
Mon.-Sun. 5 pm – 9:30 pm
Facebook: East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
If you can find the time to visit East Ocean Seafood Restaurant during the week, you won’t be stuck waiting in a long line for a table. They serve dim sum 7 days a week from 10AM-2:30PM (although kitchen items aren’t available until 11AM.) You can even select items from the smattering of servers carrying trays and pushing around carts. Otherwise, be prepared to face the throngs that fill the sidewalk out front on weekends. Prices range from $2.60 to $5.50 depending on what you order, and I’m partial to the steamed Dungeness crab dumplings ($4.25), vegetarian rice noodles wrapped around a generous assortment of sauteed mushrooms ($4.25), the fried sweet durian puffs stuffed with a tangy custard in a warm, crispy croissant-like pastry ($4.25) and the pork shanghai dumplings flavored with a dash of soup ($3.25).
On a dim sum-themed bike ride several years ago, some cycling friends and I ventured down the peninsula for an annual bike swap that takes place in Cupertino. Per the recommendations of the dim sum aficionados in our group, we stopped by the Joy Luck Palace afterwards for lunch. It’s also located within a shopping center — Cupertino Village — and a welcoming wooden archway gives way to their vast main dining space. If you decide to come on a Sunday, be ready to take a number and wait at least a half-hour in the small foyer or courtyard. But once you’re seated, servers are quickly making the rounds, so it’ll be no time before you’ve got a bamboo steamer basket of fresh dumplings on your table. Select kitchen items, like sauteed green beans with tofu ($12) are spooned hot from a clay pot atop one of the roving carts. Sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf is filled with juicy roast pork, sausage and creamy mashed mung beans ($3.40), steamed beef balls have a sweet, spongy texture ($3.40) and their classic pork dumplings are topped with fish roe ($3.40). The golden, baked sweet buns with a coconut-honey filling are a delicious dessert ($2.80) . Prices range from $2.80-$4.00 for dim sum items a la carte.