This was our first spot on our list of places we wanted to try while in San Francisco. We had heard that it was the first dim sum house in the United States circa 1920s. Although I’m still a little skeptical of that fact since there are plenty of other dim sum houses in New York that also started in 1920s. Anyways we took a Lyft from Japantown to Chinatown to find our way to Hang Ah Tea Room. The place is a little hidden inside an alley of sorts that’s also next to basketball court. You’d have to find street parking if you end up driving yourself up to San Francisco and want to give this place a try, although recommend taking Lyft or public transport, parking is gnarly hard to find in Chinatown!
We managed to find it with the help of Google Maps and a little walking around. The place was definitely small, I’d say comfortably fits about 30 people before it gets crowded. We arrived a little before 11:00AM and there wasn’t a crowd yet (but around 11:30AM a line had started to form). Due to the early time, there were open tables so we were sat down when we arrived. No waiting! 🙂 Awesome.
Once sat down and menus given, I was surprised on how limited their options were compared to what I was used to, they had about maybe 20 dim sum dishes. They didn’t have chicken feet or pork’s blood that I wanted to try. We ended up just ordering turnip cake, shu mai, spare ribs, and a BBQ pork bun. The turnip cake was very average, didn’t have much turnip flavor in it that I liked, but good texture though. Just a little bland in taste, even for me. The next dish I tried was their shu mai, BOMB.COM. The flavors were delicious and amazing! The shu mai outer wrap was very light and thin so that most of the focus was on the pork center. The wrap also acted as a cup of sorts similar to a xiao long bao: the wrapper wrapped in a little bit of the pork juice making the inside meat very tender and savory with a bit of soup finishing.
Then had their spare ribs, also very delicious. It had a strong spicy kick from the jalapenos that it was steamed with that I quite enjoyed and found it very fitting to the rest of the flavors. The meat was tender that it fell of its bones. The shu mai and the spare ribs were definitely the best I’ve had so far compared to the ones from Los Angeles. But rest of the experience didn’t blow my mind, the two dishes were very tasty, but the turnip cake and the cha siu bao were just okay. Boyfriend found the cha siu bao also lacking in flavor, albeit the breading was perfectly steamed and soft.
For the first dim sum house I expected a little more variety in the more specialized dishes like boiled white chicken feet and pork’s blood. Overall, would give this place a solid three stars!
Address: 1 Pagoda Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108
Monday, Wednesday-Sunday: 10:30am-9:00pm