The North team visited San Francisco's Ton Kiang on Saturday and found too many flops to include it in the top circle of dim sum houses. This was the biggest upset of the places tried to date, considering its popularity and reputation.
The dishes all looked beautiful tiny, delicate bite-size dumplings wrapped to perfection. However, four of the different types of shrimp dumplings sampled were overcooked, resulting in shrimp with the texture of pencil erasers and robbing their flavor. The soy-based sauce on the shrimp crepe lacked the delicate complexity of the best versions. Scallion pancakes, while still hot and fresh from the kitchen, were doughy and listless. Deep-fried taro balls were heavy and oil-laden, filled with too much gravy and not enough meat. The braised tofu skin rolls lacked depth of flavor and suffered from gluey sauce. The char sui so (bbq pork in flaky pastry) suffered from overly hard pastry and too skimpy filling.
Some dishes were acceptable and one could be considered exceptional. The Shanghai steamed dumplings were delicious with a gingery pork filling, even though overly firm in texture and the juices had escaped. Braised chicken feet were excellent with complex flavor and chili highlights. The panfried turnip cake was decent, and made special with Ton Kiangs Hakka-style green chili sauce. The curry beef turnovers were wonderfully flaky and tasty. The custard tart had a beautifully flaky pastry and only lost points for having too low a proportion of custard to pie shell. The one very special dish was the nai wong siu beng (egg custard-filled panfried rice cake) served piping hot, the silky custard oozed from the center of the lightly browned and chewy mochi-like shell.