[SF Bay Area] Tru Gourmet Dim Sum- highly promising dim sum with quality ingredients at farmer's markets

Tru Gourmet is a farmer’s market Cantonese dim sum vendor. I have seen them at the Palo Alto California Avenue farmer’s market for years but never tried, for a variety of reasons. They are also at the San Rafael and Oakland Grand Lake farmer’s markets.

Last weekend, we were out of breakfast food at home so we went to try some of their offerings at the Cal Ave market. They indicate on their web site that they source their organic produce from the markets they participate in.

We had:

Pea shoot dumpling. Excellent with great quality shrimp. The one complaint I have about many dim sum restaurants in the Bay Area is the average/ mediocre quality of materials used, especially shrimps that are farm raised SE Asia ones with mushy texture unless perked up by some chemicals. Not this rendition. One bite and one can feel the crunch/ freshness of the shrimp. It reminds me off top quality dim sum in hotel restaurants in Hong Kong that charge more and can afford to use good quality ingredients. Likewise Tru Gourmet is not cheap, and doesn’t have seatings, but they spend the money you pay on ingredients, and the quality comes through.

Har gow (shrimp dumpling). Pretty good, the shrimps were oversalted this time, but otherwise good texture/ quality as the pea shoot dumpling.

Sesame ball- excellent. In fact, the best I’ve eaten. Restrained sweetness from the red bean wrapped around by a layer of sesame coated glutinous rice. I am not a big fan of red bean and sesame balls in general but I can eat this all day. My wife told me its her best sesame ball and I was skeptical, but I ended up agreeing with her.

Baked bbq pork bun- A bit too sweet and didn’t stand out, Prather Ranch pork notwithstanding.

Here’s a couple reasons why I haven’t tried Tru Gourmet previously- my lack of understanding of how they can make the logistics of steaming dim sum work in a farmer’s market setting, and the inability to pace the ordering unless one is willing to go back and line up repeatedly. Does one order and they steam on demand (line too long then)? Or do they steam first and let the dim sum cools down (which is no good)? They use a compromise, which is they steam first, and keep it in some sort of warmer. The result is that the dim sum is just short of hot, but not steaming hot (which is my ideal- let me do the cooling down myself before I shove it into my mouth, thank you). And the dumpling wrappers were a touch on the dry side from the warmer. There isn’t a solution of pacing the ordering, since its a line up, order and receive food system. Line wasn’t long at 9:30am but not sure about later in the morning.

Perhaps I should inquire about buying the steam dim sum raw instead and DIY.

Any other experience about their food?

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The had a brief stint at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center back in 2010 but were ridiculously expensive.

I’m guessing you are too embarrassed to report what you paid for your meal :wink:

I’d say that before the significant price increase in the dim sum restaurants across the bay in the last few years, I’d agree with you that Tru Gourmet is proportionally much more expensive. In fact, I think I looked at their prices previously and stayed away because of that. But now going to a mid range dim sum restaurant in the South Bay, a Medium order is like $4-5 a plate, with 3 to 4 pieces, which is not much different than the prices Tru Gourmet is charging. So its basically trading seating/ ambiance for quality of ingredients.

Total is $15, for the 4 items.

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Wow, I love dim sum and this sounds really great! Would you say its worth a trip from SF to San Rafael or Oakland?

I finally went to Dragon Beaux last month and had really fantastic dim sum! Definitely the best I’ve had in the city when it comes to sourcing high quality ingredients; better than my last experience at KP Daly City… but it came at a price! This morning I decided to hike up to Chinatown with the missus to taste the other end of the dim sum rainbow: Good Mong Kok Bakery. As we’re waiting in line (approx. twelve minute queue) some dude hurried down the sidewalk wheeling one of those little hand trucks that you usually see loaded with cardboard boxes in office supply and packing warehouses. The aluminum dolly was bumping and jolting along the asphalt, snaking through the dense weekend tourist traffic, dodging lots of fast moving shoes and posts painted with pigeon shit, rattling over ventilation grates blowing hot filthy air up into the stuffy concrete atmosphere - (incidentally, nobody informed me it was going to hit the 80s today or I’d have split in the opposite direction of Chinatown… which we eventually did!). Anyhow, I glanced over as this guy rolled past and I noticed a small yellow transparent plastic bag plopped right on the edge of the narrow metal ledge of his handcart, which was bouncing a few centimeters above the historic pavement squalor of Stockton St. The bag was untied and overflowing with raw minced meat. I winced and probably made a barf face to my wife, then watched as it wheeled right through the door of the bakery. Needless to say, we ended up ordering lots of scallion and daikon cakes, which came with enough surplus oil to bottle and stir fry a few more meals. We also ordered a couple of steamed chive dumplings and har gow. It was all greasy and gummy and glutinous and at $2 avg. per order, it’s the best tasting value around! Me, my better half, and a homeless guy were all well fed for $13 tax-in… where else can you drop five-to-six bucks a head on any dim sum in San Francisco?? It makes it easier to forget about the cleanliness issues and most likely multiple health score violations…

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As much as I enjoyed the items overall in my first encounter with them, I probably wouldn’t suggest anyone spend an hour crossing the bridge just to eat dim sum standing in the street. But please also understand that this is also coming from a guy who is not willing to wait 2 hours, or even 1 hour to get into Koi Palace for dim sum.

Its for similar reason that I haven’t made it to Dragon Beaux, even though I probably should. Good to hear they have good stuff!

But, if I happen to be at the Grand Lake market, I’d happily eat their dim sum.

The only dim sum worth travelling for to me are places like these that serve stuff that are ethereal. But, we can’t really get that here. But, to be fair, I get to travel to Hong Kong occasionally hence my opinion.


Photo copyright Heimo Aga

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With most places, just get there early haha. I am able to get a table at Dragon Beaux right when it opens (for a small group) the few times I went.

Is that Tin Lung Heen? Had their dim sum around two years ago, and it was great. Just wish the view was a little less… smoggy haha.

I’m pretty sure that Dragon Beaux takes reservations actually, so no need to show up early or wait in line. Weekday walk-ins are usually not a problem either. I’d like to go back to try their seafood treasure hotpot and steamed live fish with ginger and scallion, which is what every table that wasn’t eating dim sum seemed to be ordering.

Ah wasn’t aware they allowed reservations, that’s good. I just go there right when it opens for Koi, so I just assumed the same for Dragon Beaux (especially the fact that its a smaller restaurant). Never had a real issue.

I had that seafood hot pot… at least 2 years (probably more) ago. I thought they did a good job on the seafood preparation, just be warned–it’s not cheap. I never tried an actual dinner there though, so I’m hoping someone does a report.

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It is. Though my point isn’t to single them out as a place worth travelling for. I was just using a picture that shows what a typical dim sum place that’s worth travelling for may look like.

I called them previously and they told me they don’t take reservations for dim sums. Not even giving out a number over the phone.

That’s weird considering they only offer menu service. Just don’t mention dim sum next time. We called to make a reservation 20 minutes ahead of time on a weekend around dinner time and it was no problem. They’ll ask you which menu you want when you arrive, so you can request the dim sum menu when you show up and get seated. Maybe they were just really busy when you called and figured they’d do better with a large group ordering their banquet style seafood dishes (live fish, etc) if they were short on tables.

They take reservations for dinner. But who eats dim sum at dinner time? (You, I guess :slight_smile: )

I think @sck was referring to “normal” dim sum service.

If the clotted mass of humanity on Stockton St. gets to be too much, note that Good Mong Kok has a shiner, newer branch at 732 Jackson St. (called Wong Lee Bakery in English). That’s probably where the minced pork was coming from.

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Since dim sum specialist joints like Tim Ho Wan becomes famous, eating dim sum during dinner is not as uncommon as it once was.

But hey, we Americanos drink cappuccino late in the day too.

Does anybody recall the big Hing Lung “Green House” at 19th and Lincoln? AYCE hot pot plus unlimited dim sum. That’s the only time I ever had dim sum at dinner time.

Hey, I live in North Beach. No milk in the coffee after 11:00 AM, rompicoglioni!

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I’m excited–this discussion prompted me to take another look at Dragon Beaux’s website. It has a dinner menu, which I had thought from previous discussions was only the Hot Pot menu. As I have nearly zero interest in Hot Pot, I am excited they have many dim sum options and banquet menus available in the evening hours, when it’s easier for me to make plans there.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold