Cuisine: Chinese Dim Sum (without the carts)
Ambiance: Simple, Colorful
Address: 1 Pagoda Place, San Francisco, CA 94108
Web Site: no site, but click here to check out their Yelp page
Must Taste (Lunch):
- Hang Ah BBQ Pork Buns (2) - I read a lot of reviews saying these steamed pork buns were delish and they were right. They are a bit larger than the ones I usually see, so start small and order more if you’re still hungry.
- Chinese Broccoli - I don’t remember seeing this dish on their dim sum menu, but most dim sum restaurants offer this side veggie. If you’ve never had it, chinese broccoli is a lot like broccolini - a mix of spinach and broccoli. This dish is huge and piled high with fresh, crisp-tender veggies with oyster sauce. Don’t be afraid of the oyster sauce, to me it tastes a lot like a sweet soy sauce - not fishy at all.
- Dim Sum: about $2 - 8 per plate (dim sum is a lot like tapas - small plates of food you order to share, though some are larger than others)
Best For: Quick, simple lunch with SO, friends, or family
What to Wear: casual
Fave Points: simplicity that satisfied
My Fave Dish: Hang Ah BBQ Pork Buns - I usually prefer the baked BBQ pork buns over the steamed ones, but I loved the steamed version they served here.
Menu pricing and availability subject to change.
I was traveling for work to San Francisco, CA and spent quite a bit of time researching the available eats. I also heard there was a huge Chinatown in SF, so I knew I had to go there at least once and get dim sum because I’m a big dim sum fan. I consulted Yelp , found a few options, and decided to search for the Hang Ah Tea Room since the reviews were favorable. Most reviews indicated that the place was a bit of a hole-in-the-wall and that they wouldn’t have found the restaurant if a lady on the corner in Chinatown hadn’t been passing out fliers and walking those interested straight to the restaurant.
The first day I arrived in SF, I had a couple hours of downtime, and decided the rest of the week would be pretty slammed, so I’d best hit up Chinatown while I still had the chance. I looked up the Hang Ah Tea Room on Google Maps and, from the Financial area, wandered down California in search of Pagoda St. I cut over to Sacramento St by way of Kearny St. and headed uphill. I was starving and walking rather quickly and almost ran over the guy in front of me at Grant St (which appeared to be one of the main Chinatown intersections) when he suddenly stopped. Turns out he had been stopped by a lady giving out pink fliers. Turns out the lady was the one I read so much about on Yelp! I asked for a flier, indicated I was interested in the restaurant, and the lady offered to walk me to the restaurant, just like the reviews said.
I snapped a quick picture of her on my way out (above) - look for her if you’re looking for Hang Ah Dim Sum. Or, just look for the pink fliers - I hear there’s a man who distributes these, as well.
Turns out the yelpers were right - I probably would have walked right past the Hang Ah Tea Room. Good thing the nice lady helped me find it.
As I walked inside the restaurant, I immediately noticed the bright color scheme.
The yelp reviews I read said the interior was a bit cheesy and like a time warp. It was certainly colorful and seemed quite clean, which was all that mattered to me. Personally, I thought the decor really added to the experience.
I took my flier into the restaurant with me and was quickly seated to one of the numbered tables - I sat at A3. I was greeted by a very friendly waitress who was very smily and nice during the whole meal. She asked for my drink order and I got hot tea. As an avid dim sum lover, I always try to order hot tea as my drink of choice as I feel it makes the whole eating experience more authentic. If you’re ever at a dim sum restaurant and don’t see sugar packets on the table, that’s because you’re not supposed to sweeten your tea. (You’re also not supposed to use a fork)
I was glad I read on Yelp that Hang Ah didn’t do the dim sum carts you usually see - that may have been a big disappointment if I had been expecting them, but I hardly missed them this trip.
I followed the advice I gathered from Yelp and ordered the Hang Ah BBQ pork buns. These did not disappoint - they were delicious! The dough was nice and soft and the filling had a great flavor. My only problem with them was that they were so big I felt bad not being able to finish the second one. If only hubby had come along for the trip, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still order these again…I just may try to coerce someone into going with me next time since dim sum is best shared (unless you’re a big eater).
I also got one of my all time dim sum faves - the Ha Gow (shrimp dumplings). They were great and totally hit the spot. They tasted like shrimp dumplings I’d order at any other dim sum restaurant. In fact, this dish tastes the same at almost every dim sum restaurant - the consistency amazes me sometimes.
I ordered another one of my dim sum favorites - Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this - not because it wasn’t delicious (because it was), but because this made 2 huge plates of food that I had to attempt to finish on my own. Leftovers and traveling don’t typically mix well - especially when your hotel doesn’t have a mini fridge. I just couldn’t resist those tender leaves and crisp-tender stalks mixed with that lovely sauce.
In an attempt to branch out, I ordered something I’ve never tried before - Sticky Rice (Veggie). For me, these were so-so. They appeared to be prepared quite nicely and the mix of what looked to be sticky rice and a doughy-outside was interesting enough. I just wasn’t crazy about the filling, which was a mixture of sticky rice and sweet peanuts. I’m not a big peanut-person. If you like peanuts, give this one a go. I think I’ll stick with the Lotus Leaf Rice next time I want sticky rice.
Once I was done eating, I ended up getting a take-out box and bag since I wouldn’t realize until later than my hotel didn’t have a mini-fridge.
I got all that food for a mere $16.40! Two people could have eaten off all the food I ordered. I totally misjudged the portions and could have done ordering 1 dish less, but I’ll know for next time.
If you’re new to dim sum, you may have a harder time ordering sans carts since you won’t be able to see the food before you select it. I highly recommend taking a look at the reviews on Yelp to for suggestions. Be brave and try to not chicken out and order the “regular Chinese food.” I read on yelp that it wasn’t that great (I didn’t try it personally), but anyways, you’re at a dim sum restaurant and those can be hard to find! Try it while you can. At these low prices, you can afford to make a mistake or two - especially if you discover something you end up loving.
As for me, I already know I love dim sum, and I really enjoyed my meal at Hang Ah. Hang Ah was just as good as any other dim sum place I’ve eaten at and those BBQ pork buns may very well beat out some of the others. I left the place quite happy, satisfied, and more than full.
If you’re looking for the entire dim sum experience with the carts, you may be happier trying somewhere else. If you’re looking for simple, good, dim sum style food without the bells and whistles, then you’ll love Hang Ah Tea Room.