Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dumpling Kitchen in San Francisco

Feeding the Shanghai Dumpling Frenzy
1935 Taraval St. (between 29th and 30th Avenues), San Francisco
Sunset District
PH: 415.682.8938
Mon.--–Tue., Thu.-–Fri., 11 a.m.-–9:30 p.m.; Sat.-–Sun., 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted; no reservations

Web site

I love xiao lung bao, the Shanghai dumplings with the burst of broth folded inside. And last week I checked out another dumpling restaurant that opened last year called Dumpling Kitchen.

The restaurant is on Taraval Street, just a couple of blocks down from the popular Kingdom of Dumpling, which always has a group of people waiting outside. So Dumpling Kitchen has positioned itself to pick up the overflow and feed this city’s hunger for the comforting dumplings.

Joining me for lunch was my friend Sylvia who was visiting from New York during the holidays. Despite being less than a year old, Dumpling Kitchen looks a bit dumpy and stark. So it’s not the fanciest of Chinese restaurants; we were there for the food.

Although the food is primarily Shanghai specialties, there were a few Cantonese-type dishes thrown in. So you can get dumplings and several plates of entrees from beef to chicken to shrimp.

The specialty Shanghai-style dumplings, known as xiao lung bao, are also one of the best values, with a steamer of 10 pieces selling for $6. When they arrived, I thought they weren’t necessarily the prettiest dumpling shapes I’ve seen, but I was surprised by what I tasted.

There was a nice filling of pork and vegetables, but it was the burst of soup that got me. The flavor of the broth was unlike anything I’ve tried before, not meaty and rich but almost fragrant and herbal. It was compelling and made me want to eat more and more.

But we had another plate of food to try, and that was an order of the Shanghai-style stir-fried rice cakes ($7.50). Sylvia and I were both curious about the rice cakes, thinking they were like rice crispies, but when the plate arrive, they looked like the Cantonese chow fun, which are thick rice noodles almost like fettuccine. I guess they call them rice cakes because the noodles are short like little rice medallions.

The stir-fried rice cakes with vegetables and pork were nicely pulled together, with the right balance of soy sauce and oil.

I always feel eating Chinese food can be heavy on the starch and meat, so Sylvia and I decided to order a plate of vegetables. Our server recommend the dry-braised string beans ($7), which she said was very popular. I can see why. The crunchy fresh green beans are stir-fried with a salty substance (not the typical black beans or oyster sauce) almost like anchovies. The clean, tasty beans were a nice counter balance to the rice cakes.

As you can tell, this was all a lot of food for us, so we were quite full and satisfied by this point. (Although I think I probably could have ordered more of those xiao lung bao.) I’ve never tried the popular Kingdom of Dumpling, but I don’t think it’s a mistake to visit Dumpling Kitchen first.

Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (Value Dumplings)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Dumpling Kitchen on Urbanspoon

More dumpling love:
San Dong House: “Hand-Pulled Noodles Pounded to Perfection”
Bund Shanghai: "Hearty Northern Chinese Cuisine Done Right"
Shan Dong: "What's All the Fuss Oakland Lunchers?"


Hungry Dog said...

Um, why haven't I been to a place called Dumpling Kitchen? Sounds like it was made for me. Yes, the ambiance looks non-existent. But sounds like they delivered on the dumplings. Happy new year, Ben!

Kim said...

I've always wanted to try Shanghai dumplings, but is it pointless for a vegetarian?

Single Guy Ben said...

Happy new year to you too HD!

Kim, I don't think Dumpling Kitchen had a vegetarian dumpling on the menu. I think San Dong on Geary I tried might. But the problem is even if they use vegetables only, they may end up using a beef-based broth inside, so that defeats the whole purpose. But I don't want to temp you, I still feel it's such a unique food item, you should at least try it once. I mean, what other food gives you a soup and meal in one? ;-)

Recipe360 said...

I just got back from having a ton of dumplings actually. and made my own 2 nights ago.
what a great coincidence this post is. I had one today that had a green skin. I'm going to assume it was bok choy powder or something and hope it wasnt just food coloring :P

Bewildered said...

Did you really just tell a vegetarian to go "at least try" something with meat?

Single Guy Ben said...

Recipe360, I bet you had the spinach dumplings. Those are good, but they don't have the broth.

Bewildered, um, yeah, I did. :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Were the wrappers on the dumplings super thin? I tell ya, I have been spoiled for xiao lung bao ever since I had the ethereal ones at Din Tai Fung in Los Angeles.

Cindy said...

I don't think I've ever had a soup dumpling - is there a special way of eating them without squishing the juice all over one's front? Or just put it in your mouth all at once?

I'm gonna need a mountain of napkins! :D

Single Guy Ben said...

Carolyn, the wrapper wasn't paper thin, but it was decent. I bet LA has a lot of great soup dumpling spots.

Cindy, the best way is to use a soup spoon in your left hand and chopsticks in right. You place the dumpling in the spoon and raise it to your mouth and you can either drop the whole dumpling into your mouth (warning, if the soup is hot you'll hurt yourself) or you can use your chopstick to pick up the dumpling and bite into it, using the spoon to catch any soup dropping out. The risk is if you don't bite the right angle, you can squirt soup onto yourself or across the table to your guest! :)

LC said...

That dish of Shanghai rice cakes (nian gao) are named because traditionally those "chow fun" strips are hand sliced from a bigger rice cake (aka. Hand cut noodles). Similar to shaving strips of hard cheese. Nowadays u buy the stuff already pre-sliced.

Single Guy Ben said...

Thanks LC for the explanation. Makes total sense now. And thanks for commenting, you really have some insightful information! :)