photo credit: Yank Sing
Dim sum restaurants are everywhere in San Francisco. They line the streets of Chinatown, the Richmond, and the Sunset—but even with all this har gow and siu mai to choose from, Yank Sing is always the first place we think of when we’re in the mood for dumplings. This place has been around in one form or another since 1958, and while it may not be the best or most interesting dim sum spot in SF, it’s still a classic we love. Coming here feels like a special trip or a grand occasion that’s tough to get anywhere else in the city.
You can get a similar experience at either of Yank Sing’s two locations, but walking through the tall atrium of the one at the Rincon Center makes a weekday lunch feel like much more of an event. The dining room is always packed and it’s set up like a grand banquet hall with white tablecloths and servers in black bow ties—the whole scene makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into a wedding reception you didn’t know you were invited to.
There is a menu, but you don’t order from it. Instead, carts with cabbage salads and stacked towers of steaming hot dumplings to choose from whiz over to your table as soon as you’re seated. Even after the table is filled with more steamers, baskets, and bowls than you can handle, more and more food keeps coming, like planes landing at SFO but without the wind delays.
photo credit: Stephanie Court
What gives Yank Sing real staying power—and why we think about this place so much—is its consistency. Their siu mai are always stuffed to the brim with shrimp, the potstickers are juicy 100% of the time, and every time we get the green beans, they’re perfectly spicy. Still, it’s not all created equal. There are standout dishes you need to order no matter what, like the build-your-own Peking duck buns that come with tender meat with crispy skin, and soup dumplings with delicate wrappers and rich filling.
When you’re in the middle of weekend brunch, it’s easy to see why this place has crowds large enough to make a Dreamforce organizer nervous—on weekends, those crowds extend into the lobby of the Rincon Center, where tables are also set up. Even if there are other places in the city to get stuffed crab claws and soup dumplings, eating at Yank Sing is a quintessential San Francisco experience that should always be on your shortlist.
If you really want something off the menu, flag down someone with a radio and they’ll have it brought to your table. Otherwise, just let the carts make their rounds and get everything you can handle.
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Steamed BBQ Pork Bun
They’re sweet, tender, and smaller than what you’d find at places in the Richmond or Chinatown, but that’s OK.
Pork & Shrimp Siu Mai
A lot of pork and shrimp siu mai are as dense as golf balls, but these are tender and flavorful—and show that Yank Sing is really working with high-quality ingredients.
Scallop Siu Mai
They’re only filled with tender scallops, and sometimes we like them more than the pork and shrimp version.
Shanghai Kurobuta Pork Dumplings
Getting these always tries our patience. We immediately want to dive right in, but we know we need to give the soup inside a minute to cool off so we don’t burn ourselves. Be better than us when you order these.
The turnip cakes are salty and a little fishy. If you want some filler between different dishes, these are a good order, but there are better things on the menu.
Silken Tofu with Pickled Turnips in Sesame Soy
This is one of the best dishes on the menu. Even if you’re not a huge fan of tofu, you’ll want to drink the sesame soy that’s on the bottom through a straw.
Sauteed String Beans
The string beans are like popcorn—you could snack on them all day long. They come with dried shrimp and chilies, and the slight fishiness makes them even better.