Sunday, October 17, 2010

Behind the Scenes with Stirrin' It Up!: The Elusive Custard Tart. And, a Spicy Premiere.

What makes a hot restaurant even hotter? First, it needs a 'house special,' that must-eat item that can turn rooted vegetarians into pop-up carnivores. And second, it needs at least one dish that's destined to be "eighty-sixed." Meaning: You order this limited supply item with mouth-watering anticipation and then, then...the kitchen just ran out of it. Buh-bye. All gone. 86.

Yank Sing is just that hot, with just that kind of cachet and it's been givin' it up to hungry San Francisco for over 50 years. Yank Sing's also gets top marks from elite food authorities with a 2009 James Beard Foundation Award, and in 2010 a spot in the haute cuisine food lover's bible, the Michelin Guide.

Yank Sing's house specialty is Shanghai Kurobuta Pork Dumplings aka (Joe's Shanghai NYC patrons) soup dumplings aka (deem sum purists) xiao long bao. The restaurant dedicates several serving carts to this one, single dumpling. Fresh from the steamer they're a delicate package; a tiny ginger-scented, pork meatball bathing in it's own velvety broth.

Yank Sing's not just dumplings, you can round out your meal with all your "dim sum" favorites, including dessert which is where elusiveness comes in, that soon-to-be 86'd item. In other words, you need to get yours right when you walk in. I'd been to the restaurant 3 times before I wised up because this isn't just any Egg Custard Tart. It's an ├╝ber-flakey crust encasing sweet, eggy custard ready to melt blissfully inside you.

Of course, Spicy's got her own must-eat-top pick. That thing I've been calling ahead for each time I head to Yank Sing. That plate of euphoria I can only find there, so I've started dining at their less busy (shhhh!) location at 49 Stevenson, streamlining any obstacles between me and my extra special deem sum...the Seaweed Tofu. If you are ever at Yank Sing, you must try this: it's about 2 ounces of tofu, stuffed with dried shrimp, wrapped in nori, expertly battered and fried, then topped with scallions and bright red chilis! .... okay, I know this may not sound yum to the 'tofu-haters' or those who fear fried stuff, but there's one thing Spicy can guarantee you in life, The more you Taste...the more you will Love. (Words to live by.)

Or, you can play it safe and eat steamed shrimp dumplings (aka shrimp shumai) until you bust open. Still absolutely delicious. At Yank Sing shrimp shumai is traditionally spelled "siu mye" on the menu ensuring that feeling like you're really in some loud, steamy, terrifically bustling deem sum hall off a main square in China.

So, what was Spicy doing at Yank Sing? When I first went to their Rincon Center location last winter, I was "stirrin' it up" as the executive producer of a food web series shot in the San Francisco Bay Area. A short-format show that visits chefs, restaurants, food stalls, halls, carts, trucks, kitchens and anywhere you can sense food adventure in the air. And, guess what?

THE SHOW IS LAUNCHING TODAY! Check out our pilot episode shot on location at Yank Sing restaurant inside San Francisco's Rincon Center.

See you at Yank Sing! ~ Spice-E