Yank Sing

I’ll get the vaccine before a haircut.

The first time I ate dim sum was at Yank Sing in the summer of 1974. I was staying in San Francisco while taking UC Berkley’s intensive summer Spanish course; and even though it was definitely intensive, I managed to cram in some recreation. This led to my befriending a Cantonese man, and I got to go along when he took a small group of us to Yank Sing. In those days, Yank Sing was located on Broadway; and the tables were so crammed together that instead of women pushing carts loaded with selections, muscular young Chinese men carried over their heads large platters. They lowered the platters to allow you to choose what you wanted, and you could ask them for items you’d not seen.

It was love at first bite, and the level of love increased throughout the meal; so I started taking groups of friends there immediately afterward. Over the years I discovered other dim sum places, particularly after Yank Sing dropped from their menu my favorite dish, a rich pastry crust molded around a center of minced barbecued pork. The transliteration is Char Siu Sou, the Chinese characters are 叉燒酥, and an English translation would be Barbecued Pork Pastry or something like that. My favorite place to get that treat before the shutdown was the Riverside Seafood Restaurant, but when dear ones were visiting I usually took them to Yank Sing’s spectacular Spear Street location.

Recently, as indicated in my The Vault Garden post, our mayor has OK’d outdoor dining; and when I heard that it would be available at Yank Sing’s Stevenson Street location, I quickly worked a visit into my schedule.

Fearing there would be a queue, I arrived at 49 Stevenson Street forty minutes early, but there was nobody there! A Chinese woman got there right after me and started banging on the door, at first to no avail; but she was relentless and eventually a woman appeared inside and motioned us to the left. There is an alleyway alongside the the patio area at north end of the restaurant, and I waited at the patio entrance.

As opening time approached, a server came out with a placard displaying a QR code and said that we could use it to look at the menu and make our selections. What!!!! I’d seen those things all over and had seen people using them for various purposes, but I’d never been forced to use one. To my great relief, when I browsed through the stuff on my phone, I saw an app that looked right. Clicked on it and sure enough, when I held my phone up to the placard, pop! there was the menu. Wow, might use this function again.

Then an employee came around and took my order, after which I was seated. It felt at first like we were going inside; but no, the whole northwest corner of the building is a covered patio open on two sides to the outdoors. The tables there were placed at a minimum of ten feet from each other, and the air circulated owing to the two open sides. The waiters and staff were all masked, and I noticed that the patrons I could see kept their masks on as they sat down and didn’t remove them until a drink arrived.

There were no young women pushing carts around. You get what you ordered at the door. Part of the charm of dim sum for me is nabbing interesting things off a passing cart, but many dim sum places nowadays have you ordering from menus once you’re seated, and the only difference here is that you order before being seated.

Even though the menu was cruelly truncated, there were enough choices for me to get a variety of dishes; and the quality was fully up to the high Yank Sing standard. As were the prices.

It was a lovely dining experience, and I’m putting out feelers to friends I think might join me there. Among the things that the shutdown has taught me is that for anything other than burritos, a rather large part of my enjoyment is my companion and I being served good food that we can eat right there at a table. Voilá, the outdoor restaurant.

Meanwhile, here’s a pic of the patio dining area.

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  1. David Ogdeb
    Posted 6 July 2020 at 18:32 | Permalink

    叉燒酥 — I should’ve known it would be pork.

  2. David Queen
    Posted 16 August 2020 at 15:31 | Permalink

    Hey Louis:
    I remember when you took me to Harbor Village in the Embarcadero Center ~ some 17 years ago. To this day the most dim sum fun I have ever had. The food was great but the company was too.

    Just dropped by your Mattegray blog, having not been there for quite a while. The “plague” has really changed a lot of my habits. It’s good to see you appear to be doing well in your latest Coleridge digs.
    I bailed and bought a smaller “high-rise” condo next to Washington Park in Denver in 2015 after my wife died and I’m still here. It’s small but I bought it for the view which is a knockout. People spontaneously “swear” the first time they go to the balcony deck. And it’s just me here now so it’s fine.

    There are times when I wish I could just get “inoculated” and then somehow survive this thing … I am isolated now and restaurants / bars were my only human interface. But I have so many comorbidities (bp, coronary, age, diabetes) that statistically it’s too dangerous. Otherwise I’d be wandering maskless & licking supermarket basket handles. A vaccine (that works) can’t come soon enough, providing we live that long (Feb 21 maybe?) Have you had an antibody test? I’m thinking about it, though it would be such a disappointment to come up “negative.”
    I loved the “Barry’s Newest Replacement” episode – that’s my favorite thing to do as well … “adopt” people at the (e.g.) supermarket / street corner / wherever. Wish I was filthy rich, I could really have at it. I actually “adopted” a family (mother and two daughters) two Xmases ago and it felt good. Blew it last Christmas though.
    Sorry about the long note but it was good to find you well and up to your old tricks. Keep up the good work – there’s lots of us out here that like reading what you write.
    All the best

    • Posted 16 August 2020 at 16:36 | Permalink

      OMG. Wonderful to hear from you. So sorry about your wife, but I’m hoping you’ve bounced back. I also remember that meal at Harbor Village. Always great to take someone who’s a gourmand to an epicurean meal. And that sure was one. First time I’d eaten duck tongues, and it was the last, but at least I have bragging rights. I’m fortunate that socializing with my vendors at the farmers’ market is a main component of my social life, and that’s not impacted by the shutdown. I howled over “licking supermarket basket handles”. I’ve not been tested since I cannot imagine, at my age and debility, turning up positive. As it is, I’m relieved that neither anyone in my building nor anyone I know has been sickened so far, so I’ll just keep wearing my mask. Oh, and speaking of which, O2Canada.com. Love mine because my glasses no longer get fogged up and other reasons.
      So great to hear from a long-term reader, especially one so loyal that he continues to read even though the quality has slipped.

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