Excellent | Worth a Detour
Kingdom of Dumpling
Review by: ayersian
Although some Roadfood restaurants are unabashedly easy-to-find, given the vintage neon sign or oversized plaster-cast animal out front, others take the opposite approach. Kingdom of Dumpling is of the latter mindset. Far from the madding crowd of Chinatown, this small eatery is located on nondescript Taraval Street in San Francisco’s Parkside neighborhood. Given that literally only a handful of tables (maybe 5 or 6) fits within the shop’s tiny interior, the wait can be long if you arrive at a peak time. True dumpling devotees stake their spot on the sidewalk, however, and pass the time debating not which dumplings to order, but which to order first.
Trying to decide between the nearly 20 dumpling types on the menu can be the one stressful part of a visit to Kingdom of Dumpling. Although each sounds only slightly different from the last (e.g., pork and cabbage, pork and celery, pork and spinach, etc.), the particular meat and vegetable combination selected can certainly make all the difference. When overwhelmed by the options before us, we often abide by the “more is better” mantra (i.e. “Who knows how long it will be until we are back? We had better order them all just in case!”). However, here one must be careful in ordering because every inch of the $6 plate is covered by a full dozen dumplings.
On this visit, we were lucky enough to have friends Anna and John with us and therefore able to extend our sampling limits. Kingdom does not have a daily special per se, but the owner made a point to let us know that the chicken and corn dumplings had just been made (in fact, while waiting outside, we watched as a car pulled up, the driver unloaded large cookie sheets filled with fresh dumplings, and hurriedly carried them inside). We took his recommendation and also ordered plates of the pork and chive, lamb, and pork potstickers. All were top-notch with soft steamed skins wrapped around fillings that were not only flavorful, but moist and juicy as well.
The pièce de résistance, however, was the Shanghai soup dumplings. This Eastern Chinese specialty is set apart from more traditional dumplings by the addition of a solid meat gelatin that melts into a soup-like consistency upon steaming. The pork filling was every bit as delicious as in the other house dumplings, but the additional treat of a spoonful of bold broth at the end left us craving these steamed dumplings long after we left.
Not wanting to suffer from palate exhaustion, we also opted for a few items off the dim sum menu. The onion pancake (a thin flour pancake stuffed with green onions and fried), and cold, fresh cucumber salad were both simple yet appetite-whetting, and the salt & pepper tofu was what you would expect from the name—a heaping plate of golden brown cubes reserved for true fans of bean curd…or a very large group interested in sharing. Despite the simplicity of this dish, we were amazed at how soft the tofu remained inside the peppery crust, as we eagerly dipped piece after piece into the house chili sauce.
Kingdom of Dumpling is not your grandmother’s Chinese restaurant. If you are looking for General Tso’s chicken or beef & broccoli, you are advised to head downtown. However, if authentic items like marinated radish cake, spicy beef tendon, and freshly made dumplings are more up your alley, Kingdom of Dumpling will not disappoint.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|