Dim Sum is always an adventure. In many ways it’s a sitcom at a table, especially when you have a big crowd. It is the perfect time for an alpha personality to take full control of a situation while one or two wheat belly people stare curmudgeonly at all the food they can’t eat. The combination of white starches and deep-fried morsels with the odd taboo food thrown in makes for a true social experiment.
Yank Sing is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable Dim Sum palaces. With two locations (I went to the Stevenson one), it is often quoted as not being the best Dim Sum in town but certainly is among the most popular.
I booked a table of 10 with the following demographics:
2 Asians- only one of which knew what they were doing. The other is essentially whiter than I am.
1 Shameless Glutton (that would be me)
3 Nurses whose conversation about past clinic experiences was far more awkward than anything which came along on the trolley
2 Pseudo Gluttons who fold to peer pressure like a bad suit but look much better than one doing it.
2 “I don’t eat simple starches but don’t want anybody to know and plus I’m only here for business anyway” people
1 “I’ll be there after my other lunch” followed by “Sorry I didn’t make it man..my other lunch went late” colleague (thus the reason I booked a table for 10 and not 11. Plus, I think zeros are luckier than ones in the Chinese culture).
It’s quite simple. The cart comes by and a conversation in Chinese ensues. The three nurses are too busy having a discussion about emergency room wounds or the biggest boil they have ever seen to notice. I sound like Dave Hester yelling “Yeeeeeeep!” every time I’m offered anything from a dumpling to a bun stuffed with some type of protein. The two wheat bellies stare at the vegetables hoping they make the cut while the pseudo gluttons secretly wish the weirdest thing on the tray doesn’t. In the end, there was an array of fare which came to the table. Their famous Shanghai soup dumplings which burst with subtle salt goodness. The potstickers were a tender and classic interpretation of this classic. The deep fried Phoenix tailed shrimp reminded me of why pseudo-Chinese food is permanently ingrained in the grease-loving palates of North Americans. The beans were quickly consumed by token herbivores. There were other tasty morsels passed around the table; some of which seemed to get a bit camera shy during the communal feast.
Another signature was the Peking duck served with a stuffable bun and some hoisin sauce. Once assembled, it was a pleasant few bites and scoring a couple of them was not a huge feat given the dynamics at the table.
Group dinners are usually sitcoms and this one was no exception. I’ll admit that there may be a few exaggerations about the dynamics but it makes for a good story. As for Yank Sing itself, I was a little surprised about how safe the offerings were. I’ve been for Dim Sum in Montreal and Toronto and the choices there are a lot more diverse and even a little risky. This place isn’t cheap either. The bill for the table was $370 which was a little steep for what we got. In the end, Yank Sing is like a tourist attraction; overpriced, a little overrated but fun nonetheless, especially when you go with a cast of characters that’s a cross between the Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.