United Dumplings

We all know how I love dim sum in general and Chinese dumplings in particular, and I’ve struck it rich by discovering United Dumplings. It’s on the aorta of Bernal Heights, Cortland Avenue, across from the library and a five-minute Segway ride from home. This is not the traditional dim sum with which San Franciscans are familiar. Rather, it’s a more northern Chinese version, so the menu doesn’t include most of the primarily Cantonese dishes we’re accustomed to but rather features northern Chinese food.They’ve occupied the parking space in front of the restaurant, which, driven by the twin imperatives of the city’s continual transition away from the automobile and the need for more space for outdoor dining during the epidemic, is now happening more and more in San Francisco. This yields a couple of tables for six and a pair of deuces on either side of the door. Unclear about opening time, I was there for the grand opening an hour early and grabbed a deuce. Alas, I picked a bad day since it was the third in a row with temperatures at a very rare 90 degrees. The sun was blazing and I was medium well by the time my meal arrived.

I loved my introductory meal so much that I keep going back, working my way through the menu two items at a time. Might as well just list them in order. Well, one note: Several of the dishes on the menu are marked by a red chile icon, but do not worry because none of them was all that “hot” for me.

Spicy Sichuan Wonton in Red Oil – Ground pork, shrimp, water chestnut, and green onion in a wonton wrapper and soaked in Sichuan hot chile oil. Superb, and that piquant red oil set them off.

Sauteed Green String Bean – Excellent. I might have eaten a better version of this classic dish but don’t remember when.

Chicken Mushroom Truffle Dumpling – These were good, but not as good as I’d expected.

Sauteed Pea Shoots with Garlic – Good enough but nowhere near the string beans.

Mission Chicken Pot Stickers – Chicken, sweet corn, and mozzarella cheese. Very good.

Mongolian Cumin Lamb – Lamb, sauteed with bell pepper, onion, ginger, and cumin seeds. Excellent.

,Grandma’s Pork Pot Stickers – Ground pork with Napa cabbage. Excellent.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings – Marinated with ginger, garlic, and house special sweet-spicy sauce. They were cooked so that the breading formed a quite crisp outer shell over the tender meat. The sauce definitely had some chile in it. Superb.

Pork Xiao Long Bao – Not as “juicy” as others I’ve had, and that’s an observation rather than a criticism. Very good.

Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles – Spicy with hot chile oil and topped with caramelized and crispy ground pork and bok choy. I’d not had noodles of this sort before and found them intriguing. Excellent.

Seafood Stir-Fried Noodles – The same noodles but stir-fried with fish filet, shrimp, fish ball, and imitation crab. Very good.

Crispy Shrimp Toast – A savory Chinese donut with baby shrimp and creamy sauce. I was expecting that southern Chinese dish, a shrimp mashed onto a piece of bread and deep fried, but this was radically different. The donut was way better than a piece of toast and it was deep fried so that it became crunchy and flaky. The little pot of creamy sauce set it off beautifully. Superb even though the tiny dried shrimp were pretty much tasteless.

And I’ll stop now even though I’ve eaten less than half the menu. I highly recommend this place, but bring a coat because Cortland is a wind tunnel when it’s not a calm day. I’m thinking that since it is now legal to offer limited indoor dining in San Francisco, they could have four very widely spaced tables in the front end of their space to use as the weather grows colder.

Meanwhile, instead of a photo of the front of the place, here’s a sign on Valencia that displays our famed San Francisco humor.

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