When I was eight years old, my mom excitedly took me to try something she called “dim sum.” I didn’t know what to expect, but it was certainly not being swarmed by bow-tied servers pushing dumbwaiters. My young mind was baffled by the disorganized-looking concept and the exotic-looking dishes. It took me fifteen years to discover and understand this wonderful genre of food… but my goodness, am I making up for lost time.
Brunch in the Bay Area is typically a game of competitive queuing, and Chinese concepts are not exempt. I had recently waited over an hour at a popular dim sum restaurant outside San Francisco, but was determined to find a closer, quicker alternative within the city. Instead, we did one better and found our new go-to in Hong Kong Lounge.
Unlike other trendy restaurants in the city, people don’t line up hours before opening to get seated promptly at Hong Kong Lounge. Jay and I came reasonably early, snagged a table, grabbed a paper menu and began marking off our desired dishes within minutes. Waiters come around infrequently carrying trays of dishes, so don’t depend on flagging one down for your food; it’s best to know what you want and order off the menu directly and accordingly. For a quick-and-dirty primer on dim sum eats, check out Serious Eats’ guide. While most of the dishes we ordered were wonderful, there were a few that we’d skip in favor trying something new.
What we definitely would eat again, however: baked pork buns, or cha siu bao, pictured in the lead. These… were… amazing. As you can see, the bun played a light and flaky counterpart to the barbecue pork’s tangy, hefty meatiness.
I had to order green onion pancakes — although these were a bit denser, oilier, and more glutinous than the style I prefer. I probably wouldn’t order these again, though they weren’t bad.
Jay’s absolute favorite dim sum dish is shrimp dumplings or har gau. These had a great delicate skin and tender, succulent filling.
We also had the above shrimp and chive steamed dumplings, which were good but not great. We did, however, totally love the jiu cai bau, or pan-fried chive dumplings. Due to the kitchen’s oversight and a long delay, we pounced on the plate upon its arrival, thereby failing to take photos in the process. I’ll just use that as an excuse to return and order them again. These are my personal favorite dim sum dish, and Hong Kong Lounge’s were phenomenal.
For dessert? Lai wong bau, or egg yolk buns. These magical steamed buns are filled with a lightly sweet, creamy-rich golden custard. They might look and sound bizarre, but doubt not; they’re a totally delightful way to end a dim sum meal.
Hong Kong Lounge
5322 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121