Sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. For me that constitutes getting on the L Taraval and heading over to the way other side of town, Outer Sunset/Parkside(?) way to try a popular dim sum/noodle/dumpling joint with Ms. O called Kingdom of Dumpling. I know, this town is littered with dim sum joints so why schlep all the way from Mission Bay to there? Well, she'd heard it was a pretty good place where folks line up/sign up to eat like it's brunch or something, thus it must be good, right? We decided to try and forgo any line standing/waiting and hit up the place during the week when they first opened. Seems a few other people had this same idea and we weren't the first ones there, but it was early enough that they pretty much seated us all at the same time.
It is a tiny space with roughly 10-12 tables of two and just a few minutes after opening all of them are full. Since neither of us has been here before, we will take that as a good sign. It seems like a big-ish menu but each section is just a noodle or dim sum variation and then you just choose what kind of filling or topping you want with it. Since we were getting mostly steamed, bready things we wanted to start a little healthy with....
....some garlic green beans for $5.95. It's not a bad portion size and the bonus for coming early is that it came out of the kitchen piping hot. Of course, the downside of coming early and seating all those tables at once means it took a little extra time for some dishes to come out too. As for the beans, they were good. They still had a little crisp crunch after being flash deep fried then sauteed in garlic and soy sauce. A little salty, but not too bad and the garlic was right at the edge of being enough to flavor and taste it but not too much to taste bitter and have you reaching immediately for the Altoids. A decent first plate and at least we were having something green.
When me and Ms. O were going over the menu, we both gravitated to the pork and corn dumpling for whatever reason. Probably because it just seemed different, if not out of place, and we hadn't really seen it any other dim sum menu. It was 12 of them for $6.45 and we got an extra one to boot. Freshly boiled little pillows of dough filled with ground pork and corn. Nothing fancy going on here to be sure and the descriptions you get on the menu are straight what you get. I think that is why people use the soy sauce to dip in, otherwise there isn't a whole lot of seasoning going on in these things. They are like husky raviolis without the sauce. Judging on their basic merits--the dough wasn't sticky, gummy or slimy, the filling was cooked all the way through and they tasted exactly like pork with a little bit of sweet corn mixed in. Simple, basic and filling.
Next was the Shanghai soup dumpling (some folks call it xiao long bao), 6 steamed pillows filled with ground pork and spices and what I'm guessing was a little chicken stock liquid for $4.95. To be honest, outside of having the soupy liquid squirt out on me when I bit into it, I couldn't tell that there was much different between these and the ones above. Sometimes when it comes to steamed dim sum with the ground up filling, it all runs together on my taste buds. Kind of like same thing, different shape. Doesn't mean they weren't tasty. Like the others they were steamed well and what it says it what it was. Just for me, it was a little same, samey.
We finished off with some green chive pancakes for $5.95. Ms. O is a big fan of this item in general, it brings back childhood memories and stuff, or something like that. I've variations on these at other places and the basics of it are dough mixed with chives then deep fried. Seriously, I think I've said before, how can you go wrong with deep fried dough? Usually that's in conjunction with it being covered in sugar or something but the rule still applies to savory. These are better fresh out of the fryer as they are still hot, crisp and not too greasy. Ones that sit around can get soggy and dense. I'm always a big fan of just plain ol' bread in general and even though I know it doesn't fit in here, I couldn't help thinking how good these would be with some butter. Yeah, that's where the Southern in me goes, if it's deep fried, slap some butter and/or sugar on it. It's a reflex action. Still, tasty, especially if you get them freshly made.
On a side note, I kept wondering what the difference between dim sum and dumpling was and after falling down a Google search hole here's what I found. Dim sum actually refers to a type meal that made up of small plates, not the actual dishes themselves. Dumplings are just some of the dishes that are served (though not necessarily) during a dim sum meal. So there is today's small lesson in Asian foods and terms.
Kingdom of Dumpling was good, worth going all the way out to Outer Sunset/Parkside (totally did NOT know it was called that!) to try? Eh, not necessarily. There are any number of good dim sum/dumpling/noodle places all over San Francisco and you don't really need to go from one end of town to the other to get it. However, if you live in the hood or just feel like riding the L almost all the way to the ocean or to the zoo (yes, SF has one!) they'd totally be worth a drop in. Plus, for about $20 or so, the two of us got plenty of food to fill us up and still had a tad left over, something that is increasingly difficult in San Francisco. Definitely more bang for you buck than getting a sandwich in this town, that's for sure.