Kingdom of Dumplings: Building an Outer Sunset Dynasty

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Restaurant San Francisco

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bargain Bites guide led us to the outer reaches of the foggy Sunset district, an out-of-the-way section of the city where many of the signs are in Chinese. Until recently, the seven-table pan-Asian café was David’s Kitchen, but owner David Li changed the name to Kingdom of Dumplings to further emphasize his family’s specialty.

Dumplings San Francisco
Li offers 18 different varieties, including pork with string bean, chicken with celery, lamb with Chinese vegetable, beef with carrot and shrimp with green chives. We began our foray into the dumpling kingdom with an order of Steamed Pork Dumplings with Corn (12 for $6.45). The juicy filling clearly incorporated fresh ground pork and whole kernels of sweet corn. The skins were good, not too thick or doughy.

Dumplings San Francisco
Li produced a good version of volcano-shaped Shanghai Soup Dumplings (6 for $4.95), which spurted pork juice after piercing the dumpling skins with my teeth.

Dumplings San Francisco
Potstickers ($5.95) were crisp on the bottom, with a mince of pork, green onion, Napa cabbage. The menu also listed a mysterious 108-degree sauce, whatever that is. The skins could have been a little thinner, and I would have appreciated a fraction more caramelization, but those are minor quibbles. These were good potstickers.

Chinese Food San Francisco
We downed 24 dumplings, then explored the Kingdom’s grill. Pork Chops ($8.50) were marinated with garlic-soy sauce, which caramelized nicely on the char-grilled pig meat. The entree was supposed to come with David’s kimchi, but we received a dish of boiled peanuts instead, along with spears of grilled zucchini and eggplant, and a small pile of nutty brown rice.

Chinese Food San Francisco
Chicken cooked under a brick ($9.50) is typically a Tuscan dish, but not in David Li’s kitchen. The half-bird was treated to a five-spice marinade. David repeatedly apologized for overcooking the bird, but we couldn’t understand why. It was smoky, with crisp skin. It came with fat spears of asparagus, brown rice and a dish of soy sauce, not that the chicken needed a boost.

Dessert San Francisco
David felt the need to make amends for the bird he supposedly botched. As a result, he treated us to a complimentary crème brûlée. He held a kitchen torch to the ramekin right near my head, which was kind of off-putting. Thankfully my hair didn’t receive the Michael Jackson treatment, and the crème brulee became hot and custardy, flecked with bits of fresh-ground vanilla bean.

David Li’s Kingdom of Dumplings may not look like much from the outside, or even from the inside, but the food was good enough (and cheap enough) to more than justify a drive across the city.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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