Earlier this morning while looking for La Boulangerie in the Fillmore area, I wasn’t sure whether it was on Pine St or California St. As I walked a few steps on California Street past the Fillmore intersection, I came across a place I had never seen before. Granted, I have not been in this area for a while now, coming here occasionally for Curbside Café or Delfina Pizzeria, and even that was already more than a year ago.
Dumplings and Buns sounds very much an Asian fare, but looking at the façade and a quick peek through the glass window into the interior revealed no clue of what to make of the place. For sure it was not a traditional dumpling place, although one side of the store’s dark wood shelf with tea cups and bottled condiments for sale reminded me of colonial Asian shops.
I live in 21st Century San Francisco, so naturally I shouldn’t be wondering about what such place was. After all, franchises like Fuzio had made noodles from around the world a theme of the restaurant. I was just so used to the more traditional places like the Shanghai Dumpling King on Balboa Street.
A cook in uniform was smoking outside with right foot stamped on the wall. I was going to ask if the cook worked there but did not want to interrupt the break. Instead I marched in and was greeted by the manager behind the counter. I wanted to sample the most traditional offerings: Pork Dumplings and BBQ Pork Bao (Cha Siu Bao).
The red wall interior has a California-Street-facing counter. The only other sitting place would be the wooden communal table and wooden stools in the middle of the room.
Apparently at 7:30 in the morning, I was the first customer of the day. I was surprised, however, to find out that the place, at only 4-month old, was supposed to open for business at 11 AM. I was way too early; but hey, the door was open and I was not turned away.
Unfortunately the Pork Dumpling was not ready, and neither was the BBQ Pork Bao. I asked for the Chicken Dumplings instead, and grabbed a bottled Thai Tea. An order came with four pieces of dumplings (The Chinese word for four sounds quite similar to the word for death; similar in Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, and Sino-Vietnamese languages; thus the number 4 is usually avoided by more superstitious owners) and a small receptacle of hot and sweet sauce for dipping. The menu indicated 3 pieces, but perhaps I was given extra because of the unavailability of my original order.
Chicken Dumplings and Sweet Bun with Bottled Thai Iced Tea, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.
While consuming my dumplings, the Manager came to give me a Sweet Bun (custard filled bun) as a peace offering for not having the Pork Bun ready. As if that were not enough, as I was about to leave, he came again to give me a Chicken Bao, wrapped in paper bag to go, again as a gesture of apology for not having both what I wanted ready. What a service!
The dumplings were different from other places in terms of the skin. There was translucence and lightness in the skin instead of opacity and excessive doughiness offered by a lower-end dim sum places. It had a certain texture I had not encountered in other similar eateries. In terms of the filling, it was good, although not spectacular.
The hot and sweet sauce wasn’t mentioned anywhere. In the menu, two sauces were mentioned as an option: Peanut Sauce or Savory Soy Sauce.
The menu mentioned the opening hours to be 11AM to 8PM daily. I do not know if today was an exception (opening almost four hours early), but what a perfect place this would be to serve the morning commuters who wait outside the store for the California Bus to take them downtown (unless they prefer the more authentic Chinatown dumpling eateries).
The place announces its Community Giveback Program that pairs a particular product with a different local non-profit, with 10% of product sales being donated.
Dumplings and Buns
2411 California St (at Fillmore St)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Mon – Sun : 11:00 – 20:00