>> Thursday, June 2, 2011
Every break by chance I’ll see my old friends from the city. And every break, by chance, different people will show up depending on schedules. And every break, by chance…or routine I guess, I end up planning the get together. This time since we were in my friend’s neck of the woods, we decided on this place since it was close by. Plus it helped that his family goes here often and knows what’s good to order on the menu.
Judging from the outside one would not imagine this place to be all that spectacular. Sure I mean there are plenty of awards of awards posted in the window. But the location is smack dab on the outskirts of town and tucked in the most random location ever. The joint is small and can get rather cramped as my group experienced that afternoon. We were lucky enough to have just the right number for a short wait of no longer than five minutes. (A word of advice is to put your name on the sign in sheet clearly.) The five of us were placed in a tight corner by the window with knees and shoulders touching one another. I didn’t really mind since we’re all like family and small places aren’t anything new to me. The staff consists of family and arguably one of the hardest working I’ve come across in some time.
Collectively we decided to let the mastermind that chose the place to order up a bunch of dishes for the table. It makes things go faster especially when you opt for family style. We went with 7 dishes total, more than plenty to fill everyone up with some leftovers. First dish was a chewy noodle dish with Chinese broccoli and thinly minced beef. This one was well done, not ridiculously chewy, but just right. Directly behind it was another noodle dish. Long stir fried noodles with a little green onion, hint of ginger, and a few other aromatics.
Next up was a soup dumpling that came in a very dark soy broth. At first I thought this bowl was going to taste like straight up soy sauce. Though when tasting it, it was salted just right and wasn’t exploding with soy sauce flavor. The dumplings had good sized shrimp and amount of filling in them. Arguably they live up to their hype in the 7x7 magazine. They’re not the best I’ve ever had, but they’re a worthy contender.
Following was a stir fry of the daily veggie they had on hand which we actually didn’t order. Or possibly something got miscommunication in the ordering process, nonetheless we ate it up. The light smoky and charred flavor really made this dish accompany the rest nicely. Following that a plate of green onion pancakes. Good onion to dough ratio, hot, crispy on the outside, and slightly chewy on the inside.
And to top the meal off, even MORE dumplings. I guess no one would really be surprised considering the name of the place. Two orders of Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumplings), hot out of the steamer, ten per rack. A little blowing to cool the suckers down, lightly dip in soy and vinegar mixture, and you’re in heaven. Personally I’ve grown tired of the taste of Xiao Long Bao, but these were a nice reminder of how I still enjoy them once in a while. You have to be careful picking these up since the skins is a tad thinner than ones you get elsewhere.
Last but not least, Shen Jian Bao (pan fried pork dumplings). They were crispy on the bottom with a juicy inside and just about perfect. I’ve always liked the pan fried ones a little better than steamed ones. They seem to have a fuller and more savory taste. I’d go back to maybe try the lion’s head meatballs and egg puffs I keep hearing about. This place lives up to the reputation for sure.
3319 Balboa St
(between 34th Ave & 35th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121
Neighborhood: Outer Richmond