Legendary Palace: Oakland Dim Sum
708 Franklin St.
I kept hearing about having to go to Oakland to get true Northern dim sum, or to hit true Northern (Shanghai) Chinese restaurants. What’s the difference between regular (Cantonese/Southern) dim sum and that from the north?
All I can say is that Northern dim sum does other stuff than the small plates wheeled around on carts. You’ll see more bread & starch products. Mainly, soybean milk in sweet or salty format. It’s served in big bowls – larger than cereal bowls, smaller than…hmmm…. a large pasta serving bowl.
Dipped in the soybean milk are what I endearingly call, “Chinese hot dogs.” Technically, there is no meat involved, but they are long fried dough sticks. Others call it the “Chinese donut.” It’s deep friend, thicker than a churro, and then you drizzle it with a little soy sauce and/or dip it into the soybean milk. The “hot dog” also can come with a bun (ordered separately). The bun is actually a flat rectangular piece of layered dough – it’s either baked or pan fried…sort of like a rectangular croissant, sprinkled with some sesame seeds.
Northern dim sum may also include hand-pulled noodles — so basically stuff that doesn’t come in little circular tins in sets of 3.
So my real point is…I didn’t look too hard for Northern Chinese restaurants in Oakland. I was lazy and decided to check out their dim sum selection. Plus, it’d be easier for dragging friends along.
Legendary Palace was written up in San Francisco Magazine (a Google search came up with that reference), and my friend surveyed his peeps and came up with the same answer. (Not that I didn’t trust SF Magazine for its knowledge on legit dim sum).
We left SF at 11:00 am on Sunday as we heard the place got pretty crowded. We got there at 11:30 am. Unlike SF, Oakland’s Chinatown seems to come with more abundant parking garages. No crazy parking scenarios.
My buddy then bullied his way up to the counter to get a ticket – he had to compete with a few grandmas who were trying to elbow him aside or use him to block out other people.
Note – you’ll need to listen carefully to the numbers that the hostess calls out, to tell people when their table is ready. The numbers are read out 2-3 times in Cantonese, quickly in English, then possibly Cantonese again. And the numbers are not called out in order.
When we finally got seated (on their first of two floors), service was speedy. Don’t expect too much attention if you have special requests though…or need extra utensils. It’s all about placing orders. One of my friends was vegetarian. When we did flag down a host and asked about veg dim sum options, he quickly said that there were none. She ordered off the menu (a hostess quickly appeared to take that). Then…less than 5 minutes after that hostess left, all these vegetarian dim sum dishes got wheeled out!! Too ironic. Basically, this is a legit place. Don’t ask naive questions like “what dish would you recommend,” because you could be taken advantage of. (Most peeps know this about Chinese restaurants).
Dishes were good – not overly magnificent, but consistent. We had our fill with food… given the speedy travel there, the nicer weather, and the better supply of parking spots, a jaunt over to Oaktown really ain’t all that bad.
Total per meat eater (out of 4 meat eaters & 1 vegetarian): $16. The vegetarian paid $10. Not bad….