Some time before I was born, Dim Sum achieved cult status in San Francisco. Dumplings became part of SF pop culture. And as it did to the native--culture killed dimsum.
As a result of its iconizaiton, dim sum quality became polarized. Shui Mai has suffered unnecessarily from the following SF peculiarities:
1) Windowshop dimsum.
Confused by the intimadating web of dimsum lore, the frugal dimsum tourist must surcome to the factory quality, gooey, unacceptable offerings at three for 1.10
or if he/she researched before he came, he/she is sucked into:
2) Yuppy powerhouses.
Yank Sing, Ton King, Harbor Village...
Besides the difficulty of finding classics as the trays pass by, these highly reviewed Cantonese french laundrys can be afforded about as regurly as a family can eat in Yountville. Not the every-sunday-family-lunch that dim sum is ment to be.
and the only thing inbetween these two econ strata is filled in by
3) Dim Sum available on menues.
restaraunts, eager to jump on the profit band wagon, started adding dim sum to their menus. In a city that covets gastronomic hyporbole, it is difficult to find ubiquitoius, affordadable, good quality dim sum. Without the mandatory blessing of Gayot, or San Francisco Chronicle, restaraunts will not risk selling ordinary dimsum alone. If a tourist or local, is frustrated by the price of Yank Sing, and unwilling to eat his dim sum with toothpicks like fast food, he is stricken to a carbon copy menu. He checks off only what he recongnizes, waits twenty minutes, and leaves San Francisco disillusioned.
I realise that somewhere out there are good quality, fairly priced carts, rolling around right now as I write...but they have been overshadowed by high profile "best-of-the-bay" bullies, and opium like dimsum dens. I guess love killed the dumpling.