Riverside Seafood Restaurant, a Sunset fixture for Cantonese cooking, acquired new owners two months ago, Susan and chef Henry Wong. They brought on two excellent new chefs, Wei Huang for dim sum and Mr. Kwan for dinner. They also spruced up the light—filled corner dining room, a cheerful and welcoming place for a family meal.
This is great news for those of us who like nothing better than whiling away the afternoon sipping cleansing pu-erh tea, with many freshly made dim sum brought out hot from the kitchen.
At Riverside, patrons check off dishes on a placemat-sized menu with six columns of choices sorted by price.
In the $2.90 column for example, start with steamed scallop and shrimp dumplings, soft yet toothsome white wrappers holding a loosely bound filling of sweet seafood, scented with a whisper of sesame oil.
Crescent-shaped Chinese chive dumplings deliver the succulence of pork and garlic, but without the after burn.
The unusual Zhong Shan salt dumpling, a white ball with a thin skin of sticky rice flour, is amply filled with a red pork stew textured with all sorts of gelatinous and cartilagenous bits. With its playful texture and five-spice scent, the dumpling is porky without being heavy.
Don’t miss fried stuffed taro puffs, a miracle of lacy taro coating and creamy taro filling. Riverside’s are among the best in town.
I adore Riverside’s fish cake rice porridge ($5.50) because the delicate fish cake is house made, tender and scented with dried tangerine peel. Be sure to sprinkle on white pepper at the table.
And I’m a fan of bitter melon and chicken rice noodle roll ($3.60). I’m excited — not turned off — by the startling bitterness of this cucumber-shaped green melon. The ground chicken filling and the saltiness of a light soy sauce broth poured over these steamed white rice noodles, mitigates.
End with deep fried green tea mochi ($2.90), thin, crisp, lacy green balls of pounded sticky rice (mochi) filled with sweetened black sesame seed paste. You can taste the tea, the sesame, the rice.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the dim sum possibilities here. We must all go to Riverside for more. The entire tab for all the above, plus many others, was $41 — divided by three diners.
At dinner, the selection of dishes is — unimaginably — broader, yet every dish during a sumptuous dinner for nine emerged from the kitchen steaming, attractively plated and precisely cooked.
The dark flesh of bronze skinned squab, cooked all the way through, remains moist and without gaminess. Gigantic spot shrimp with roe, transported live in tanks from Los Angeles, get a quick, spicy stir fry that seasons their incomparably sweet, juicy flesh.
Another standout dish, chrysanthemum greens – shinguku in Japanese — now in season, have become my favorite green vegetable with their slightly peppery, minty edge.
The tab per person for 10 courses — not counting dessert, which was thrown in – was $32 without tip. Be sure to scan both sides of the green paper menu for ordering inspiration.
Riverside is well worth a detour from any part of town, but those who live in the Sunset should be especially happy to have a cozy neighborhood place of this high caliber. Judging by the dining room packed with Chinese families at night and smaller groups at dim sum, the Sunset has responded.
Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at email@example.com.
Riverside Seafood Restaurant
Location: 1201 Vicente St. (at 23rd Avenue), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 759-8828
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday for dim sum; 5 to 9:30 p.m. nightly for dinner
Price range: Dim sum $1.95 to $5.50; dinner dishes $6 to $18
Recommended dishes: Rice porridge with fish cake, shrimp and scallop har gow, deep fried green tea mochi, chiu chow dumplings, fried stuffed taro puff; chrysanthemum greens, squab, spot shrimp
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa