Dining Out 3 minutes 19 February 2019

6 Restaurants Serving the Best Cantonese in San Francisco

Roast pork buns, congee, siu mai—here’s where to get the best of the best in the City by the Bay.

Michelin’s Fine Cantonese Food by the MICHELIN Guide 2018-2019: Asia, Europe and USA is the first edition from the prestigious tire company to focus on a specific regional cuisine. The guide pays tribute to one of the most famous Chinese cuisine types that cultures near and far have become a fan of. (Roast pork buns anyone?)

The first-ever Cantonese guide includes four three-starred, 11 two-starred and 63 one-starred restaurants, as well as 62 Bib Gourmand eateries and 151 restaurants recognized with a Michelin Plate.

Six of the restaurants happen to be located in San Francisco—the next time you’re in the Bay Area, here’s where to get the best Cantonese fare.

(Photo courtesy of Koi Palace/Facebook.)
(Photo courtesy of Koi Palace/Facebook.)

Mister Jiu’s

Designation: One Star

What Our Inspectors Say: “Chef/owner Brandon Jew has brought some of the sparkle back to Chinatown with this contemporary treasure, which puts a modern Californian spin on the Cantonese classics that once made this neighborhood a national dining destination. Impressively, the chef also makes all his Chinese pantry staples in-house, like the oyster sauce that coats a stir-fry of smoked tofu with long beans, tripe and tendon; or lap cheong (Chinese sausage), which comes stuffed into roasted quail with sticky rice and jujube. The menu is full of these clever touches, from the tomalley that adds depth to a rich Dungeness crab egg custard to the “tentacles” of fried fennel that echo the texture of salt-and-pepper squid. Set in a longtime banquet hall, Mister Jiu’s is bright and airy, with dramatic brass lotus chandeliers overhead. Food is served family style, making it ideal for groups. But solo diners will also enjoy the sophisticated front bar that serves up thoughtful, complex cocktails with Asian inflections—like lemongrass milk and green tea. Desserts are excellent, equally skillful and may incorporate black sesame, red bean and osmanthus cream into preparations that will satisfy any sweet tooth.”

Koi Palace

Designation: The Plate

What Our Inspectors Say: “Long regarded as one of the Bay Area’s best spots for dim sum, Koi Palace continues to earn its serious waits (guaranteed on weekends, and common at weekday lunch). The dining room is a step up from its competition, with shallow koi ponds weaving between tables, high ceilings and huge tables to accommodate the Chinese-American families celebrating big occasions. They come to share plates of perfectly lacquered, smoky-salty roasted suckling pig or sticky rice noodle rolls encasing plump shrimp, minced ginger and sesame oil. Not far behind, find lotus leaves stuffed with glutinous rice, dried scallop and roast pork, as well as big pots of jasmine tea. Save room for desserts like the fluffy almond cream-steamed buns and flaky, caramelized custard tarts.”

M.Y. China

Designation: Bib Gourmand

What Our Inspectors Say: “Need proof that Yan Can Cook? Just snag a table at the famed PBS chef’s elegant restaurant. Housed under the dome of the Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping mall, M.Y. China is a dark, sultry space full of posh Chinese furniture, antiques and dramatic lighting. Shopping-weary patrons fill the dining room, whereas chowhounds hit the exhibition counter to watch the staff masterfully hand-pull noodles and toss woks. The menu reads like an ode to regional Chinese cuisine, spanning chewy scissor-cut noodles with wild boar, fluffy bao stuffed with sweet and smoky barbecue pork and, when it's in season, delectable pepper-dusted whole crab. Be sure to order strategically, as you'll want room for the flaky, buttery, creamy and outright superb Macanese egg tarts.”
(Photo courtesy of Yank Sing/Facebook.)
(Photo courtesy of Yank Sing/Facebook.)

Yank Sing

Designation: Bib Gourmand

What Our Inspectors Say: “With a higher price tag than the average Chinatown joint, Yank Sing is arguably the place in town for dim sum. The upscale setting boasts reasonable prices, but the zigzagging carts can get hectic. While peak hours entail a wait, one can be assured of quality and abundant variety from these carts rolling out of the kitchen. The signature Peking duck with its crispy lacquered skin and fluffy buns makes for a memorable treat, not unlike the deliciously sweet and salty char siu bao. Of course, dumplings here are the true highlight, and range from fragrant pork xiao long bao to paper-thin har gao concealing chunks of shrimp. Don’t see favorites like the flaky egg custard tarts? Just ask the cheerful staff, who’ll radio the kitchen for help via headsets.”

Hong Kong Flower

Designation: The Plate

What Our Inspectors Say: “Generations of dim sum diehards have patronized this palace of pork buns, where a small army of servers will surround you with carts from the moment you take your seat. They bear innumerable delights: rich barbecue pork belly with crispy skin, pan-fried pork-and-chive wontons steamed to order and doused in oyster sauce, delicate vegetable dumplings and a best-in-class baked egg custard bun. Evenings are a bit more sedate, emphasizing Cantonese seafood straight from the on-site tanks. As with all dim sum spots, the early bird gets the best selection (and avoids the non-negligible weekend waits). Thankfully, the super-central Millbrae location, towering over El Camino Real, boasts plenty of parking-and a machine-like staff that knows how to pack them in.”

Lai Hong Lounge

Designation: Bib Gourmand

What Our Inspectors Say: “This windowless dim sum lounge looks small from the outside, but there’s room for over 100 diners inside its cherry-red dining room—with dozens more hopefuls lined up on the street outside. The largely Chinese crowd attests to the authenticity of the food, which ranges from steamed pork buns and taro dumplings to chicken feet with peanuts and Peking duck—if you’re hoping to skip out on the wait, go at dinner instead of lunch, or call for takeout. Favorites include rice noodle rolls stuffed with ground beef and aromatic herbs and crispy, golden pan-fried tofu with a silky interior. Shanghai pork soup dumplings arrive in a steam basket in individual metal cups. Served with black vinegar for dipping, they're achingly fragile but terrifically tasty.”

Hero image courtesy of M.Y. China.

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