Flip open any San Francisco guidebook and you’re almost guaranteed to find two dim sum recommendations: Yank Sing and Ton Kiang. The two restaurants pretty much dominate the city’s dim sum scene, with lines that routinely snake out the door on weekends. However, guidebooks rarely tell the whole story. It was ground level from longtime San Franciscan Aaron Tell (Savory Hunter) who led me to City View, a decade-old dim sum specialist on a side street that can more than hold its own with the better known big boys.
Decor at the sprawling dim sum palace is highlighted by a panoramic painting of the jutting limestone formations that frame the Li River in Guilin, northern China.
We arrived hungry, just after the doors opened, and waited impatiently for the carts to round the corner with their mysterious shrouded metal-shrouded offerings. We quickly accumulated stamps on our check, devouring a dozen different dishes. We started with loosely packed, cilantro-flecked beef meatballs plated on thin tofu “coasters.”
Crispy fried shrimp rolls were also herb flecked, and not too greasy. They sported scissor cuts and came with a dish of sweet chile dipping sauce. City View uses sweet, high quality shrimp across the board, but this was one of the better preparations.
The most outstanding dumpling was probably the seafood version with scallop, shrimp and hardly any filler. The cleverly constructed dumpling hosted three chambers, each holding a tiny vegetable: two peas and a carrot.
Individual tins each held a Shanghai soup dumpling. Unfortunately, the dumpling skins stuck to the aluminum, so the soup burst never quite made it to my mouth. The dumplings arrived with dish of tangy red vinegar sauce and shaved ginger.
Scallop siu mai were even more interesting, topped with tobiko, tiny orange flying fish roe. In this case, the tobiko probably didn’t benefit from the heat, since they clumped into clusters, but the scallop meat was plump and sweet, and the dumpling skins were delicate.
We finished strong by ordering Peking duck with shaved scallions, steamed clam shell buns and plum sauce. The duck was gamy, with plenty of moisture, and good flavor, but the skin could have been crispier, and it would have been more impactful if the duck was shaved to order instead of pre-portioned.
City View was very satisfying, with very few missteps. Was it better than Yank Sing or Ton Kiang? When you factor in the shorter line and lower cost, it’s at least in the discussion.