and love dim sum. But more on that later.
On the way to our lunch destination, we had to pass through the Rincon Annex of the US Post Office. The lobby of the streamlined moderne-style former post office on the building's Mission Street side still had signs of its former life as a post office.
Windows identified with signs of "Stamps" and "Box Window" had been restored to their original state.
But it was the 27 giant panels of a mural that lined the walls that were the main attraction. The mural was painted by Russian artist Anton Refregier, who was hired by the WPA to decorate the walls of the Post Office Annex. The panels depict California life from the days of the Native Americans through World War I. The work was controversial with social conservatives, because of their portrayals of the waterfront strike and Sand Lot Riots (anti-Chinese uprisings). Ultimately, citizens and artists defeated critics who wanted the murals taken down.
When these murals were unveiled, powerful voices called for their destruction, but 40 years later, they saved the Rincon Center from demolition.
After a brief tour of the Rincon Building, it was time for dim sum lunch at Yank Sing which occupies space in one corner of the building’s atrium. During the week, seating is in the elegant dining room, but on weekends additional dining space is created by setting up numerous tables under the atrium’s dome which
features a high tech waterfall (left) in the center of the space. (Note: the column of water falls five stories from the ceiling into a pond surrounded by potted plants, photo above.) Use of the atrium allows seating for five hundred hungry and noisy diners.
The Michelin Guide says about Yank Sing: “Housed in an airy urban space with floor-to-ceiling windows, Yank Sing remains the gold standard for dim sum in San Francisco. One need only survey the strictly orches-trated staff, outfitted with earpieces and micro-phones, to know this place takes dim sum seriously—no wonder it is always packed at lunch. Service is rapid-fire with a procession of carts brimming with steamed and fried delights.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine: “For more than 50 years, and through three generations of the Chan family, Yank Sing continues to turn out the brightest, freshest dim sum in the Bay Area. Chef Helen Chan and her crew adeptly produce classic and innovative dishes. On any day, the carts are filled with 80 items that circulate through the handsome dining room.”
And Northside Best of Food, San Francisco adds: “It’s impossible to mention great dim sum in San Francisco and not hear about Yank Sing. Founded by Alice Chan in 1958, son Henry started wrapping dumplings at age 9…Today, a third generation of Chan’s continues the family tradition…One of the best things about Yank Sing is the vast array of both traditional and modern dim sum known as the “creative collection.”
Both Chuck and I love the tapas/sampler plate/grazing style of eating and thought that we would enjoy dim sum-–if only we knew what we were doing. Since there is usually a language barrier between us and the persons pushing the food carts through the dining room, asking questions does not yield useful answers. So we have just perused the carts and pointed at something that might look good. It’s worked pretty well for us thus far. And this is the approach that Chuck, our cousin Barb Pauly, and I used that day.
Some of the items were recognizable. We shared a plate of Steamed Pork Buns (lower left in photo and whole shrimp, right, described below) which are warm fluffy bread buns stuffed with nuggets of honey-glazed BBQ pork. Yank Sing’s were less doughy and lighter than most steamed buns that I have had and were filled with a goodly amount of succulent and sweet pork.
Also on our table was a plate of pot stickers. I know--these appear on every Chinese restaurant menu, and I always want to order them. In fact, I could sit and spend afternoon leisurely dipping pot stickers into a sauce of soy, vinegar, and chilies and then popping them into my mouth. Yank Sing’s minced pork pot stickers also contained Napa cabbage, scallions, ginger, and sesame oil.
And there was also an order of lettuce cups made with minced chicken, sausage, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, pine nuts, scallion, and cilantro.
Being a sucker for fried foods (you mean you haven’t guessed that already?) a cart came by with asparagus spears coated with a shrimp paste then rolled in what I think were panko crumbs and then deep fat fried. This was an asparagus lover’s dream come true. Her favorite vegetable with covered with seafood and then fried.
The same shrimp paste/mousse enclosed whole shrimp which were also coated with crumbs and fried. The textural contrast of the crunchy coating with the softer shrimp mousse and then the crisp inside shrimp was perfect.
There was also an order of soup dumplings--small nuggets of dough (photos, right and below) filled with broth and served with a sweet sauce.
And, to round out the meal, we selected a plate of steamed rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp and cilantro.
Did we always know what we were selecting? No. Did we worry about it? No. Did we enjoy our dim sum lunch? You betcha! This was upscale Chinese dining at its best and deserved our 5.0 Addie rating.