Shanghai Dumpling King: Reviews

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Xiao Long Bao Soup Dumplings Shanghai Vegetarian DumplingsSpicy Ma Po Tofu
Xiao Long Bao Soup Dumplings, Shanghai Vegetarian Dumplings, Spicy Ma Po Tofu


Lysley Tenorio
Name: Lysley
Occupation: English Professor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Shanghai Dumpling King
Reviewed Shanghai Dumpling King: Thursday, December 25, 2008


Christmas came early for us this year — the 19th! — so on Christmas night, we found ourselves driving around the city in search of a place serving dinner, and like a holiday miracle, the Shanghai Dumpling King was actually open. It’s been a favorite spot for the past four years, and it never disappoints. As its name proclaims, this restaurant is indeed the king of dumplings, and we are its royal (and loyal) subjects. They make the best Chinese dumplings I’ve ever had, and it’s their xiao long bao, the soup dumplings, that put them on the map — perfect pouches filled, not only with pork, but with actual soup, just enough so that you need an actual soup spoon to eat them. You pick up the dumpling with a spoon, give it a quick dip into a bit of soy sauce and vinegar, and bite. Since we’d celebrated Christmas the week before, the soup dumplings were the perfect present to open on Christmas night. The slippery floury pouch and the tender bit of pork inside mix perfectly with the hot and just-salty-enough soup. On a foggy and windy Outer Richmond night it was the gift that kept on giving.

While soup dumplings are the superstar on the menu, the others are excellent as well. They offer about a dozen different kinds, and my favorites are the pork and crabmeat, the pork and chive, and the vegetable. All are steamed, and arrive in their own bamboo steamers. I also love the pan-fried pork buns, which are like little pork buns you might find at a fast food dim sum joint along Clement Street, but much better. The quality of the pork filling and the bun itself surpass those by far. For new visitors to Shanghai Dumpling King, I always recommend making an entire meal out of the dumplings. Ranging from five to eight dollars each, they’re an amazing deal.

But the non-dumpling fare is good too, and on Christmas night, we feasted. We ordered three dumplings (the soup dumpling, the chive, and the vegetable) along with several entrees (the bok choy with bean curd sheet, the salt pan cake, the spicy pork noodle soup, which they recommended, and the orange peel beef).

The bok choy is stir-fried just enough to maintain its flavor and crunch, with bits of garlic mixed in, and I’m a fan of the bean curd sheet, these thin ribbons of tofu. They have a subtle flavor, and a rubbery texture that I happen to enjoy. I’d never had the salt pan cake before, and I loved it. It was like a fried pastry stuffed with bits of pork, sautéed onion, and cabbage, which mixed together, had an almost gooey texture. The spicy pork noodle soup was also new to me, and it was perfect for the cold night. It had rice noodles in a thick broth that tasted like a more subtle Thai peanut sauce. The orange peel beef had a Panda Express-y quality (the sauce was a bit too thick and heavy), but it was undeniably flavorful, and I appreciated the fact that you could actually taste the orange peel.

For dessert, we had the egg puffs. This is always an interesting moment at Shanghai Dumpling King. Half the time, the egg puffs (which are doughy and eggy and sugary and deep fried and delicious—think of it as a Chinese doughnut) are free — there have been times where they’re literally handing them out to anyone who wants them. On Christmas night, they were free again, but they’re so good that we’d gladly pay for them, too.

Their mysterious egg puff policy is, I have to say, indicative of Shanghai Dumpling King. There is something a little haphazard about the service: you never know which order they’ll bring out first, if they’ll treat the dumplings as your appetizer or your entrée, if your water glass will ever be re-filled (or filled). But I consider this part of the restaurant’s hole-in-the-wall charm. It’s a small, two-room joint, modestly decorated with hand-written menus taped to the wall. You get the sense that the place is family-owned and family-run. You can see them cooking and chatting in the kitchen area, and on Christmas night, I liked that some of the staff were enjoying their own dinner at the table next to ours. A very Merry Christmas from the King of Dumplings.


Sydney Pfaff
Name: Sydney
Occupation: Fashion Writer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: farmerbrown
Reviewed Shanghai Dumpling King: Sunday, December 28, 2008


If I lived anywhere near Shanghai Dumpling, I would probably eat there every other night, if not more often. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my belly), it’s a 30-40 minute ride on the 38 bus to get there, and I’m not really willing to commit to that — even though the dumplings are heavenly.

I will preface this by saying the food was delicious and once we were finally able to order, the food came rather quickly. The first mistake of the evening was leaving the house really hungry, making the bus ride feel like an eternity. Once we walked the two blocks from the bus stop and entered the restaurant, we were behind one family waiting for a table. The place was busy, but there were at least four or five tables open. We stood for ten minutes before the family before us was seated, then we stood for an additional six or seven minutes before being seated at one of the two-tops against the wall in the second room.

We were given tea the second we sat down, which was very nice. But no joking, we sat for 20 minutes before anyone came back to take our order. After several attempts to get a server’s attention, I pretty much had to stand and waive my arms frantically until one of the girls came by. I ordered a spicy tofu dish that was covered in a great sauce, almost similar to barbeque sauce. The tofu was excellent, although one gripe was that the plastic chopsticks made it very difficult to pick up sauce-soaked, slippery tofu. I mixed it with rice to make it easier to grab with my sticks and all was well. I also ordered the vegetarian dumplings, but they were out of the classic ones, so I had the Shanghai veggie dumplings — so good! I could have eaten ten of them. The boyfriend had the Tianjin dumplings, which he loved. He also had the Lion’s head soup, which he didn’t really like so much, as the meatballs were dry even though they were soaking in soup, but he did like the soup and silver noodles.

We followed the meal with the most wonderful little treats — the sugar egg puffs! They were so good, I couldn’t believe it. They’re like glorified donuts, but super light and fluffy. We ordered way too much food, but had plenty of leftovers for lunch the following day. After all of this, we were both in food comas and ready to lie down on the floor right then and there. Unfortunately, it took another 20 minutes to get anyone’s attention for the check. We sat and waited, and waited. Once again, I had to practically grab someone to come bring us the check. We actually had to ask for it three times before someone finally brought it to us! Thankfully, we didn’t need change, so we paid and ran to catch the 38 back to civilization.

I will definitely return soon, but I’ll remember to eat a small snack before going and be sure not to have anything I have to hurry back to after dinner.


Ray Bautista
Name: Ray
Occupation: Electrical Design Engineer
Location: Larkspur
Favorite Restaurant: Caesar’s Italian Restaurant
Reviewed Shanghai Dumpling King: Monday, December 15, 2008


I invited my neighbor to join me for lunch at this restaurant because we both
enjoy Chinese food greatly. Arriving to the location at 34th and Balboa Street, metered street parking was not a problem. The location was easy to find with their big white and red sign.

Upon entering, we were greeted and they indicated that we could select any table in either: 1, the main dining entrance room with five tables with a to-go counter; or 2, the adjacent main dining room with 12 tables.

The décor and atmosphere was very simple with some Chinese decorations. We selected a table for four in the main dining room with no tablecloth or utensils. Two minutes later, the waiter brought us chopsticks, napkins and the menus. Another waiter brought over a plate of three Sugar Egg Puffs and asked us if we would like some (they looked great), but we indicated “no,” it was too early for dessert.

In reviewing the menu, we saw they had it all: Dim Sum (24 selections), appetizers (10), soup and clay pot (17), rice and noodle (22), vegetable (14), beef (8), chicken (7), seafood (11), pork (11), egg foo young (5), and dessert (8). The selection was too great for our palates, we wanted ten to 15 dishes, but we ordered only six selections for three-course meal. Our waiter was new, so we had to order by number and name of each dish we wanted:

Course #1. #13. Vegetarian Pot Sticker (8)

Course #2. #43. Chicken and Corn Soup (for 2) — it comes in large bowl for four — and #21. Green Onion Pancakes.

Course #3. #80. Eggplant with garlic sauce and #95. Beef with Bean Curd. (Each portion was made to serve 3 persons; you would not go hungry.)

Comments: A. They also had a Lunch Special Menu of (18) dishes. Includes: Daily Soup and Steamed Rice for $4.95 or $5.50. B. They also had a take-out counter with fixed (4) items for $3.50. At 12 noon for lunch, they had line out the door, about 25 persons deep.

All in all, we had a very enjoying lunch for five reasons:

1. Each course was served quickly.
2. You had a choice: with or without MSG.
3. Each serving plate would serve 3 persons. (portions were large)
4. Each dish was very tasty and good.
5. The value and price of each dish, price was very reasonable. (Bang for the buck.)

I would recommend this restaurant to our familes and friends with no reservations, if they lived in San Francisco or were the neighborhood.

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  • Ynez Ozturhan

    This Shanghai Dumpling King was the worst place ever!!!!
    Maybe you and your guests should go easier on your wine consuption before reccommending a restaurant.

    The food was not cooked thoroughly. I can appreciate “out of the way” places and hole in the wall restaurants. But if you looked closely to the steamer baskets…..OMG what a haven for bacteria!!! They were disgustingly filthy!!!! I have had dim sum and enjoyed dumplings at many other restaurants, but this place SUCKED BIG TIME!!!!!!!

  • Brin Londo

    Thanks for the recommendation– Shanghai Dumpling King was terrific– they really were the best dumplings I’ve had in the Bay Area! And the soup dumplings were so, so good. Service was rushed but perfectly fine. We went for the food, not for a Chez Panisse dining experience. I’m definitely going back w/ friends.

    Not sure what Ynez Ozturhan was talking about, but I have trouble taking any comments seriously from someone who uses, ‘OMG.’ Clearly, she’s someone not old enough to consume wine–probably just a 14-year old texting teen (I suppose I should now write, ‘LOL’).

  • T LaVerne

    I’ve been to this place and it is exactly what it says…the king of shanghai dumplings. If people don’t know what a shanghai dumpling is, or do not know what a real Chinese restaurant looks like (Ynez Ozturhan) they may not quite “get” what is going on. Everyone else will enjoy great food at a great price.

    Also, I just have to say that that Lysley guy should have his own spin off show. Has there ever been someone so funny on CPBA? I think he was the best guest I have ever seen.

  • Pingback: Check Please Loves The Dumpling King « mis gatos

  • D. Lang

    I place even less credibility one someone’s words when s/he thinks a proper sentence–from any language in the world–would need more than a single exlamation mark–or any mark, for that matter, save for the ellipsis–to punctuate.

    I haven’t been to this place yet, being from the south bay, but now that this “reviewer” of sort brought it up, I can’t wait to try it out, if only to give myself a test just how quickly the remaining bacteria that may manage to survive the steaming process in the *steamer baskets* (as carefuly noted in a previous sentence) will upset my system after having consumed whatever delicious content from the container. I am no fool, however, and have full confidence, really, seeing how this “food critic” *safely survived* her “apparent gastronomic ordeal” from this joint, getting home in one piece and having plenty of sweet time to crank out a post that’s more than generously exclamated on this blog.

  • Y.O.

    To Brin Londo, T. LaVerne & D. Lang:

    I am surprised at your attitudes and that you attacked my opinion!!!! And my writing skills!!! Grow Up!!! You all reacted as though I was reviewing your taste buds and criticizing you for liking Shanghai Dumpling King. This is the USA and as of now “Freedom of Speech” still applies!!!!!!! (Too many exlamation points for you Londo??)

    If the restaurant was not interested in being reviewed, then they would not have allowed themself to be featured on Check Please Bay Area. Everyone, look at the photographs of the dishes served at SDK. I ate at that restaurant, and what I wrote was MY experience. And what I was served DID NOT in the least bit resemble the photographs!!!! And YES the steamers were old and filthy!! There were two very re-used and wilted pieces of some sort of lettuce on the bottom. I was not reviewing the ambiance or the service, I was reviewing the qualilty and the taste of the FOOD! I have travelled ALOT. I have lived in Guam where the predominant cuisines are from various Asian cultures. I have eated dim sum, dumplings from chinese restauranteurs in Paris, I have been to North Africa and eaten camel. Have any of you??? So my point being is that I am no stranger to the “Hole-In-The-Wall” restaurant. I was not expecting a “Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysee in Paris ambiance, where I have also been!! I was highly disappointed with my experience based on the fact that the guest reviewers on that particular episode so highly touted Shanghai Dumpling King. To me they are not the King of dumplings. But that is no refection up you and the fact that you like the dishes at that restaurant. I am happy for all of you if you did have a wonderful dining experience at Shanghai Dumpling King. :-)

    Brin Londo: Maybe you should try dining outside of the Bay Area more often to expand your palette!!!!!!!! And I think you are the teenager since you seemed to understand my OMG!!! It was MY review and I can punctuate anyway that I choose to. And yes, maybe if they did not drink so much wine they would have been more objective. So I think I just got the last LOL!!

    T. LaVerne: I know what an authentic chinese restaurant is. Do you? Have you ever dined in China????

    D. Lang: Are you a linguist??? There are many languages in which one is unable to detect where the puntuations are in a sentence. Let alone know where a sentence begins or ends. Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and its many dialects, Russian, Japanese…. and your comment was an EDUCATED comment??? I think not!! You are an expert in what??? Sarcasm??? You have not even dined at Shanghai Dumpling King, so you are NOT QUALIFIED to critique my opinion and experience. Plus you obviously know nothing about bacteriology!!!! Just because there is steam, it does not mean that the bacteria have been exterminated!!! And I was attempting to tread lightly with my review. I made no mention as to what occured to me when my husband and I arrived home. You are not fool???? I beg to differ!!!!! So much for your “MADE-UP” bacteria theory you pseudo-scientist!

    So in closing, even after your attacks on my review, I still stand my ground!!! And the next time you respond to another’s review that is contrary to your own opinion, do so with respectfully, logicaly intelligently and maturely. Do not take it so personally and react so emotionally. I do not think any of you are the proprietors of the Shanghai Dupling King Restaurant.

    Et Bon Appetit a tous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • S Michel

    While I wouldn’t go as far as Ynez in saying it’s the “worst place ever”, we went to Shanghai Dumpling King yesterday and we wouldn’t go back. We ordered the dumplings, a chow mien dish, and orange peel beef. The food was adequate but definitely nothing special.

    What really killed this place for me was when I started looking looking at the pictures on the wall and they were disgustingly dirty, with caked-on “stuff.” One of our soup bowls and spoon was dirty too. Some other patrons were sat a a dirty table and asked the waitress to re-clean it. These type of seemingly minor issues always makes me question the cleanliness of the kitchen.

    The service was indifferent and extremely slow; we had to chase down a waitress to obtain our check.

    We do not live in San Francisco but but travel there periodically and pass Shanghai Dumpling King We’ll just continue to pass it next time. It was gross.

  • GPS

    My wife an I stopped in yesterday, based on the enthusiastic reviews on Check Please Bay, and had one of the worst meals ever. Filthy? Yes. Bad smelling? That too! I felt guilty unloading our leftovers on a couple of homeless guys.

    We ordered an onion pancake. It came at the end of the meal and was the best thing we had — average for a South Bay Chinese supermarket. The Peking style dumplings were just about inedible (I think they’re what kept us burping through the concert afterward). Crab and pork dumplings were very tired — not as old or tired as I felt at the end of the meal, but not fresh and not up to steam table dim sum quality. The won ton soup — I know, this is a Shanghai restaurant, but a woman at the next table had some and recommended it — was also about the worst ever: thick, undercooked dumpling dough, evil smelling broth. Horrible all around but moderately priced (under $30 for two to eat very poorly).

    The owners seemed nice enough, but they tried hard to seat us across from the bathroom door, which, BTW, doesn’t close completely. I’ll resist further comment at this point other than to note that, in an area full of excellent ethnic food, this is the worst I’ve ever had. Of course, we’ll never go back, and we no longer trust the hype on CPBA. We wonder what the positive reviewers were smoking and where we can get some.

  • Rosalyn

    After watching Check Please Bay Area we decided to go out of our way and visit the Shanghai Dumpling King in the outer Richmond. My son recently transferred to school in San Francisco, and we were celebrating his move. The KQED reviewers were glowing in their comments of the food at The Dumpling King, and we were expecting delicious home-made food served in a comforting, down home setting.

    The restaurant was beyond filthy dirty. The service was so poor that I had to ask twice just to receive the food I had ordered. Three of us ordered the hot and sour soup. It was completely lacking in flavor, and had an odd consistency. We could not eat it. I ordered the dumpling soup. It contained three pitiful and tasteless dumplings that were no better than those one would get in a frozen package from Trader Joe’s – in fact they were not even as good as the frozen dumplings. The three dumplings swam in a tasteless, oily broth that reminded me of dirty dishwater – ugh!!! My son ordered beef with noodles. A dish arrived with thin slices of “mystery beef” sitting on top of a few lifeless overcoked cellophane noodles. The texture of the beef was disgusting, and the dish was nearly inedible even for a college sudent who enjos hamburger helper!! My daughter ordered the dumplings, and they were edible, but tasteless.

    We appeared to be the only diners not speaking Chinese, and we felt that we were discriminated against because of our English speaking. The waiter was rude, the service was terrible, the restaurant was filthy, and the food was barely recognizable and tasteless.

    I will never again watch Check Please Bay Area because there is no way I will be able to trust any type of review from this program. I believe you are doing a diservice to the comunity when you so blatently mis-characterize a restaurant. Diners speaking Chinese received their food well before out table, even though they arrived later than us – this restaurant is a disgrace to all Asians!

  • greghousesgf

    The food was ok but I’ve had better. The service was terrible. The first thing they did when I walked in the door was insult me by calling me “sir”. I’m a woman. Then the waitress tried to take my order less than 20 seconds after handing me a menu, as if that were even remotely enough time for me to read it, much less decide. Also I got take out and they gave me the wrong thing which I didn’t realize until after I left.

  • JBodine

    Well, went there last night with a musician friend from out of town before he played the Fillmore. He’s from New York and really wanted soup dumplings. I’m a vegetarian and more the critic. We waited 20 minutes in the crowded doorway to be seated. The first things I noticed was the filthy and slippery floor, and then the filthy dirty table and chopsticks. I used an alcohol wipe to clean out spot and utensils. The veggie options are awful. I had noodles but there was 1 leaf of spinach in it. It was oily, bland, and just plain awful. My friend’s dumplings were just so, so. Nothing like New York City I’m told. I would NOT recommend this place to a goat. The reviewer certainly don’t know good food ! ! ! Put this on you NO GO list.

  • KL YIU

    I went to Shanghai Dumpling King tonight afte watching Check Please Bay Area. I am so so so DISAPPOINTED! The service was terrible. They only greet and friendly to Caucasian but not Asian. The place was so filthy and bad smelling too. I ordered the spicy wonton, hot & spicy beef stew in noodles soup. The food was awful, you only tasted peanut butter sauce of the wonton and but not spicy at all. The beef was too tough and the soup was too salty. I didn’t finish it. I am totally agreed with JBodine and Y.O. I would NOT recommend this place to anyone and also I would not go back again.

  • Bill Z.

    Perhaps the worst restaurant ever! I checked health inspection records. Nine violations. The place was filthy, bathrooms disgusting. It’s a tiny hole-in-the wall with tables jammed together. We got reservations and arrived to find out they don’t take reservations (they lied). We got hassled by people who had been waiting and were angry that we were demanding to be seated. Service consisted of a waiter in dirty street clothes throwing a plate of food on the table on his way to another table. Not once did they speak to us until it was time for the bill. It has all, the ambience of a bus depot. Dumplings? Limp, over-cooked balls of who knows what. We were a party of five and the dipping sauces were enough for one person, maybe. The soup arrived at the end of the meal. I can’t comment much on the food… the visible lack of sanitation made me afraid to eat it. We had taken family there for Valentine’s day and were mortified at taking them to such a place. Check Please needs to double check some of their guests opinions as well as health records as this kind of thing impugns the shows reputation as well. Yuck!! The place was cheap – you get what you pay for.

  • BOB

    We tried this place based on a friend’s recommendation last year. Unfortunately, the dumplings we ate were not either properly cooked, or rotten with bad ingredients.
    My wife and I became ill afterward. Looking at their refrigeration storage and freezer capacity, I suspect some food is left out longer than is safe in a hot cooking area.
    We like hole-in-the-wall places. But this one disappointed us.