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Dim sum on Folsom at Canton

February 16, 2007

I went into San Francisco for a meeting today and afterwords had dim sum at Canton on Folsom Street near the freeway entrance. Canton is one of those places you don’t find in too many cities that don’t start with san and rhyme with disco. I love the fact that in this city, you can get dim sum at 3pm on a Friday. Or 2pm on a Wednesday. Back where I come from, dim sum is like brunch – strictly for Saturdays and Sundays only.

The main dining room holds some 300 people, and the upstairs holds another 400 plus. It’s usually pretty busy. Today though, we were almost the only ones in there, but the food was delicious, per usual. A work associate turned me on to this place as a dependable spot, and we were dining together again today.

I’ve never been to China, but I’ve spent a good deal of time on the 30 and 45 buses in San Francisco, so I feel close to the Chinese. Today’s choices felt like they could have sprouted, like shiitake mushrooms, from the depths of your most rank and file dim sum house in Hong Kong. It would have been exactly the same at any bland, pink-walled, gold-trimmed cafeteria-like-joint in all of red china’s glorious glory. And if you want me to lay it on the line, Canton really feels, well, Cantonese.

But back to today’s menu items; they included in all their deliciousness…Beef in Rice Noodle (cheong fun,) Steamed Pork Bun with BBQ Pork (char siu bau,) Black Bean Spareribs, two different Shumai, one with Shrimps and Bean Sprouts, and the other with Chicken and Peas, and a few other dumplingesque creatures whose names I do not know. Those are the ones we ate anyways, and there were a few more, including the ones wrapped in lotus leaves, some sweetly-soy looking fried rice, and one or two more.

Service at Canton is mostly fantastic. Now, by fantastic I mean of course brusque, borderline rude, indifferent though utterly charming at the same time. It’s also very fast. You will usually not have gotten at all comfortable even with your chair and your jacket and your sitting down and what-not, and they’re swarming already. The little dim sum girls and their steamy carts. Swarming I say.

Well, not today they weren’t. Pity, we didn’t even get the steamy carts. Our server brought out (still amazingly quickly) a selection of about nine or ten different bamboo steamers on a tray, each one of them pregnant with a beefy child or a shrimpy cousin of chinese origin no doubt, and let us choose from the tray. I don’t think she listened much to what we said. She just kind of announced the name of the dumpling, and then placed in front of us without waiting to see if we nodded or shook our heads in agreement or denial. After six or eight plates we just said okay, enough, we’re good.

They were all perfectly reasonable choices, though they had obviously been sitting in the steamer for a while. We were definitely in the post lunch pre dinner crowd, but still, 25 minutes later and $28 poorer, we left completely sated. (I’ll have to hit up Yank Sing again soon for the dim sum face-off.)

Last time we were there, they had these amazing little fried smelts that were, like it or not, completely stuffed with roe. They tasted like a crunchy omelette with fried fish in it. Really. Also roasted duck rolls which are really like very sweet, sticky brioch formed into the shape of a pac-man and filled with roasted duck. I really dig the pac man duck ones.

I think they have some enormous 900 item regular menu too, just in case beef tendons is what you’re looking for, but seriously…why bother when the dim sum is kicking like this? It’s always a good value.

Canton on Folsom
Check it out here.

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