Food Adventure Team

Exploring San Francisco, one restaurant at a time.

Shanghai Dumpling King

Shanghai Dumpling King

3319 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA 94121

Suggested by Andy

In attendance:


Warning: White girl reviewing! I love Chinese food and consider myself fairly adventurous, but I definitely was not raised eating the more unamericanized fare served here. So some of the stuff I didn’t like may have been because I’m just a white girl and I don’t like things that seem “weird” to a westerner (like, for example, tripe).

The service was fine for such a restaurant. Nothing special. The servers pretty much spoke no English, but it wasn’t really needed. It was a little dirty (for example, they left a water jug for us, but it was an old tupperware container with food crusted in its cracks — kinda unappetizing), but on the whole the ambiance was totally acceptable. And everyone was super nice!

We ordered the meal for 7-8, plus a few extra things. I’m glad we did it this way because we got to try things we never would’ve thought to otherwise. However, I probably wouldn’t do it that way next time, because there was some kinda “meh” stuff that got wasted because we didn’t eat it.

Things you must get:

  • DUMPLINGS! We got the Shanghai dumplings, which I had never had and were completely delicious. Soup in a dumpling — what a novel concept! I have no idea how they do it. We also got the crab and pork dumplings, which were similarly delicious.
  • Rice with some sort of Chinese bacon (?) on top. Should’ve grabbed a menu so I could know what this was actually called. The rice was perfect and fluffy but still quite moist — not gluey. It had scallions in it, and on top was some sort of extremely salty cured (?) pork. The pork, while delicious, was a bit intense for me so I didn’t eat a huge amount; the rice was amazing.
  • Soy braised “lion’s head” meatball. This was quite tasty in unexpected ways. Not “weird” at all, these huge (as in, softball-sized) meatballs were spiced of cinnamon and ginger, and served in a soy sauce based sauce on a bed of spinach. One of my favorite entrees.
  • Red Bean Buns – holy crap, BEST EVER. So light and fluffy and fresh. Not overly sweet. Perfect. Do not miss these. (But be careful, they come out HOT and the filling will burn the roof of your mouth.)
  • Sugar puffs – very simple dessert. Extremely fluffy, eggy dough with lots of air pockets, like a popover, fried up tall and served with sugar on top. I could eat 12 of them if I let myself.

Things that weren’t bad but weren’t amazing either:

  • Green onion pancakes. Nice and crispy without being overly greasy. Weren’t something I’d write home about though.
  • Cucumber salad. This was the only appetizer I liked, really. It was a really simple salad of sliced cucumbers with a strongly garlicky dressing. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but others devoured it.
  • Some sort of spicy beef dish (kung pao?) with onions and bell peppers. It was pretty tasty, but was more along the lines of “generic Chinese food”, the kind you can get at every mom & pop Chinese restaurant you walk into.
  • Fish soup. It had a lot of greens (spinach? bok choy?) in it — perhaps too many — but it wasn’t fishy-tasting or smelling at all (which is a good thing). It wasn’t my favorite thing, but others seemed to enjoy it a great deal.
  • Shanghai style salted pancakes. I think that’s what these were called. They were kinda weird and gluey, but not in a way that I enjoyed. The outsides were crispy, which I liked. They had something else in the filling besides the gluey stuff, but I never did find out what it was.
  • Some sort of shrimp dish. It was shrimp and some leafy green veggies and probably green onions (I don’t remember) in a gooey, clear, bland sauce. The shrimp themselves were great — not fishy, not tough — but the sauce didn’t impress me.

Things I definitely would not order again:

  • Vegetable stir fry of some sort. It had tofu skin noodles, pieces of… tofu? Seitan? bok choy, and some other unidentifiable veggies & stuff. It kind of tasted like nothing, and looked like nothing also.
  • The appetizers. I think they were just too “weird” for me. They were all cold appetizers, which wasn’t helping for some reason.
    • The cucumber salad (mentioned above) was pretty good, but the other things left something to be desired.
    • There was a duck dish that tasted pretty good (marinated in sesame oil) but was sliced in a way that the bones were embedded and impossible to remove from the meat. I know bone marrow is a Chinese delicacy so I guessed that maybe it was supposed to be eaten bone and all, but honestly I’m not there yet.
    • There was a chicken dish. The chicken had its skin on, but it was just floppy white skin– I’m guessing the chicken was boiled? The meat tasted strongly of sherry; very one-dimensional.
    • There was a tripe dish. This was the only thing I didn’t try all night. I know, I know, I’m a big wimp. But it didn’t look terribly appetizing and others who tried it weren’t big fans, so I didn’t bother.

Summary: It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The good stuff was REALLY good (as in, I’d happily trek across town again just for their red bean buns or Shanghai dumplings). For the stuff we weren’t such fans of, hey, at least we had a new culinary experience! And, amazingly, we walked away paying only $17 apiece, including a generous tip! Highly recommended.

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