At long last, I close the loop on my San Francisco trip report series with a review of the last restaurant we visited in the city, the Hang Ah Tea Room in Chinatown. How did we end up here? Number one, I was in the mood for Chinese food, and number two, we had just spent a rather large quantity of money in search of crab the day before, so I preferred to tamp down the spending rate just a tad for lunch. Plus, the Hang Ah bills itself as America’s first dim sum restaurant. Since I’d come all the way to SF, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit such a place, now could I?
Hang Ah Tea Room
- 1 Pagoda Place, San Francisco, CA
- Hours: daily except Tuesday 10:30 A.M.-9 P.M.
- Price: $15-20 per person without alcohol
Directions: basically at the SE corner of Stockton Street and Sacramento Street. Take the 101 north, and continue past the end of the freeway onto Van Ness Street. Turn right at Clay Street, then right at Stockton Street. There is no parking lot for the restaurant, so find whatever street parking you can if you are driving. Once you get to the corner of Stockton and Sacramento, you can’t miss the signs to the restaurant (pictured above).
As mentioned above, the Hang Ah claims to be the oldest “standing and functioning” dim sum house in the United States. If you’re not in the mood for dim sum, though, the restaurant has a full slate of homemade Mandarin meals on the menu. But as you can see from the outside, the advertised specialty here is dim sum.
The restaurant itself is quite cozy. Given that Chinese New Year celebrations were ongoing that weekend, I’m surprised it wasn’t more crowded. I was expecting a wait, but there were several empty tables when we walked in about 10 minutes to noon. The children’s play area in the corner was a nice touch.
We had ridden the cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market Street and then walked back up to Chinatown, so we were both hungry. Our choices for a hearty lunch – a big bowl of prawns and vegetable noodle soup and a big plate of fried rice to share, and an order of Szechuan chicken for me.
A feast for sure. And every bit of it was delicious. The soup could have used a little more heat, but the shrimp was fresh, the noodles were tender but not “slimy”, and the broth had a wonderfully rich flavor. It reminded me to some degree of the noodle soup at The Pier (Cathay Pacific’s business class lounge) at the Hong Kong airport, and I mean that in a good way. The rice was cooked perfectly and had a good texture – not too crunchy – and it wasn’t too oily. My chicken was also excellent, tender and nicely seared and with just the right amount of soy sauce in the sauce. Thus, it wasn’t excessively salty, as Chinese food sometimes can be. Again, though, I was wishing for just a little more heat, a tad disappointing considering the dish had the “hot and spicy” symbol next to it on the menu. There wasn’t a trace of food left after we finished, though, and yes, we both used chopsticks for everything. We didn’t have anything for dessert, aside from the obligatory pre-packaged fortune cookie.
This is a family-run establishment, and service is ruthlessly efficient. You can tell this place gets busy, but they have it down to a science to get people in and out quickly. We ate leisurely but were still done in less than an hour.
Rating: I can’t quite justify a 5-star rating, but will go with 4 1/2 stars instead. It’s really good Chinese food, and well worth the $33 (including tip) we paid for our large lunch.
NOTE: This is the final installment of a multi-part series about our short Valentine’s Day weekend in San Francisco. Other parts of this series:
- Flight Review – Virgin America Main Cabin, DAL-SFO-DAL
- Sightseeing at 35,000 Feet – Dallas to San Francisco
- Restaurant Review – Hang Ah Tea Room, San Francisco (this post)