Lai Hong Lounge - San Francisco, CA
From the time I knew I was going to San Francisco I thought about all the food I wanted to try. There are so many different places and cuisines to choose from. But there was one culinary adventure that I knew had to happen: authentic dim sum in historic Chinatown.
Dim Sum is similar to Spanish tapas, small plates of different types of food. It's a great place to go with a big group of people because you can pretty much order anything off the menu to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
I decided to try Lai Hong Lounge off Powell and Broadway. I heard that it served great dim sum and was less touristy with a lot of local flair. It was exactly where I wanted to go.
They opened at 9am and by the time I arrived at about 9:40 there was already a 30 minute wait. That's how I knew I landed at a good spot. As I waited more and more people arrived until it was standing room only and the hostess moved the podium outside.
I was seated and given a laminated menu and a sharpie. I had to select what I wanted to eat and they would come bring it to my table. In other dim sum restaurants there are carts pushed around with different plates and you more or less point and choose what you want. This was a little different and slightly less intimidating because there were english translations of the different dishes, and there was plenty to choose from!
I wanted to try everything, but I was selective since I was a table for one after all. I had to order the har gow, which is a shrimp dumpling with a clear wrapper. It's my absolute favorite and this was fantastic. It was steamed and served in a traditional bamboo steamer. It had a nice filling with a couple of pieces of shrimp and was exactly what I was looking for.
I tried a couple of new things too. I picked ingredients that I thought I would like, like tofu and taro root, and I was pleasantly surprised. The tofu skin roll was like a flat egg roll. However, instead of an egg roll wrapper it was wrapped in tofu and then fried. It was also filled with shrimp and had a nice crunch and flavor to it.
Next I had the deep fried taro root. I love taro root. Its like a starchy root veggie similar to a potato but doesn't have quite a starchy flavor to it. The taro appeared to be smashed, filled with a bean mixture before being rolled into a breading and then fried. It was crunchy and the bean filling brought back memories from when I was kid enjoying dim sum with my family. It was really tasty.
I also had to try the baked pork bun. It came highly recommended from the different reviews I read. And I was not disappointed. It was a soft, warm bun filled with BBQ pork in a delicious sauce. It was both tangy and sweet.
When I left there were even more people waiting outside. Definitely plan to wait a little, especially on a busy weekend morning. But it is totally worth the wait. I took leftovers home - I definitely ordered way too much food - and it was even more delicious the next day AND the day after that!
Lai Hong Lounge is now the standard I will hold all future dim sum tastings to.