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Foodie Friday: Dumpling Time (San Francisco, CA)

“There’s always time for Dim Sum.”By Alexander Quebec

Dim sum is a part of life in the Bay Area like tacos, pho, and severe income disparity. Wherever you go, there are popular places to take in some shumai or xiao long bao. It wasn’t long ago that the Bay Area got its first (and only so far) Din Tai Fung, and the mainstay Koi Palace in Milpitas (who have reverent fans devoted to their own take on dim sum). As for yours truly, I used to go to 99 Ranch (I’m grudgingly typing in the “correct” way as I’m doing this, Ranch 99 till I die) on Thursdays to eat some grocery store dim sum with an Arizona iced tea. Yeah, it sounds oddly specific and weird, but it was a tradition for me…for some reason.

Cat and I took a trip to Dumpling Time near the new Chase Center while waiting for a show (A famous crossdresser in case you were curious). After hearing about it through friends and social media, we decided it would be a good time to start a new slew of our Foodie Friday pieces for 2020 with this place.

Or so we thought it was the new Thrive City. Turns out, the Uber driver took us to another Dumpling Time that happened to be within the vicinity. I’m not 100% sure who the blame here, but I remember distinctly saying “The New Chase Center”. Looking back, however, hunger was winning the war against reason and logic, so in retrospect, it was probably good we got to eat lunch when we did, least it turn into the nastiest Snickers commercial out there (minus the Snickers bars)

The area near Thrive City ,inspired by one of the major sponsors of the arena, Kaiser Permanente, reeks of rising rents and local displacement just on the onset, then again, this is San Francisco 2020. When you combine gentrification with ethnic foods, it doesn’t end well for the food in question. Granted, a business needs to appeal to its local demo, but sometimes it’s done at the cost of some of the old country qualities that make it special in the first place, but I’m going to get off of that soapbox now and put it away for a future day.

The location is one of their original ones, located less than a block away from another Dumpling Time,  which appeared to be more of a fast-casual version than the one we went to. I really enjoyed the ambiance of the place, a fusion of big city high energy with a little bit of old-world tradition and charm. The subway tile mixed with the bare concrete floors and hand-painted murals of different cities in China let you know that this place is not your grandparent’s dim sum restaurant. One of the major things you notice walking through the doors is the team making your food through the window facing the entrance, adding to one of the best aspects I love about dim sum places. The theater of watching your food getting made is almost as captivating as eating it yourself.

Patio area, it was a very nice day to be in the city I might add.

When we got there, the crowd was pretty robust with lots of techies from nearby companies on lunch break (my observation solely based on the amount of tech apparel I saw some of them wearing). Since there was no game going on at the nearby Chase Center, I could only imagine how busy this place might be on a game or event day. We didn’t wait that long, then again, we were only a two-person party. We were seated outdoors on the covered patio. What’s cool about the patio is that you can still see the window that leads into the kitchen, so I was happy about that nod to old-style dim sum spots that were kept in the restaurant’s design throughout the space.

What did we try?

We were severely divided on the Lamb dumplings. Cat loved the mild curry element about them, but I didn’t care for them. I’m not a fan of that smoky after taste you get with lamb, it just kind of haunts my taste buds. Cat, meanwhile, loved the presentation of the microgreens and radishes as well, a cold and crisp contrast from the warmed dumplings, which lacked the gamey flavor often found in lamb, however. In other words, if you love lamb, great; if not, give this a pass.

Lamp dumplings

The wagyu gyoza, a high-end take on an otherwise low-end entree, made me rethink what this could be. What was really interesting was that even though they were steamed, there was a bit of a fried piece of pastry shell on the bottom, which gave the dim sum some crunchy contrast against the soft boiled wrapper. The wagyu inside was seasoned very lightly, possibly to allow one to dip it in the sauces: a soy-based one and a light orange one that we enjoyed, but couldn’t pin down the flavor profile.

Wagyu gyoza

The steam pork baos were like ones you’ve seen everywhere else. It had a nice, meaty center with a soft, dumpling wrap. Seasoned very lightly to allow one to use their in-house chili sauce or other sauces available. I could also say the same about the Shumai, it tasted on point with very tender meat and a firm wrap around it, accompanied by some fish eggs on top. Both are staples in many dim sum places, and the textures and taste were on point and what I would be expecting.

Steamed pork bun and shumai

Finally, we got to the dessert bao. We ranked them in the following order (top to bottom):

Clockwise from top: Taro Bun, Egg yolk bun and Green tea and Milk bun

  1. Egg yolk
  2. Green Tea and Milk
  3. Taro root.

As a Filipino, it might be considered sacrilegious that I don’t care for taro root. You are correct, but I do not care. I’m not super fond of the earthy flavor that comes with the root based dessert. I can respect that people love it, but to me, it was a no go. The other two buns, however, had a nice, creamy center made of their respective flavors, the egg yolk one was, hands down, my personal favorite out of the three: I loved the silky smooth, creamy and sweet consistency of the egg yolk against the soft, chewy bun.

Long story short, if you’ve got the time, Dumpling Time has the dumplings. They’re worth a stop in case you’re in the area, and especially if you’re not in a position to travel halfway across the city for some dim sum. Dim sum is a great food for friends and family to gather around, and the food combined with a modern yet welcoming environment, make Dumpling time a good time for all involved.

For locations and information, click here

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