I pride myself on being pretty well versed in all things Oakland, but there are a lot of places and activities that elude my attention and enjoyment. This is especially true when buzzed-about restaurants are popping up left and right, and my salary doesn’t respond accordingly.
But in our efforts to keep up with the latest trendy bistros being opened by celebrity chefs or notable San Francisco restaurateurs, many noteworthy restaurants in Chinatown and East Oakland go unappreciated. Most of these are family owned underspots with loyal neighborhood followings and good cheap food. But because they lack big name chefs, prime real estate, or sophisticated décor, they get very little love in the foodie community.
In that spirit, I decided to visit Oakland’s Chinatown this afternoon to enjoy dim sum at Legendary Palace on Franklin St. Dim Sum is an ancient small plate tradition that pre-dates the overpriced tiny portions that many gourmet restaurants serve by centuries. Originating in southern China during the silk trade, it was an accompaniment to tea, but has since morphed into a culinary event all it’s own.
For the uninitiated (like me), dim sum is an adventure of a meal. You don’t peruse a menu and wrestle with the age-old dilemma of what to order. Instead, a cart filled with various buns, rolls, and dumplings comes from table to table and you select what you want based on what’s in front of you. When you can’t understand what the waiter or waitress is saying, you just point and hope for the best. Because most dishes are in bun or dumpling form you can’t see the ingredients inside, so it’s a bit of a crapshoot, but it’s an exciting way to eat.
Though dishes are marked on your order card as either small, medium, large, or special (to keep track of what you owe), all the dishes are small and cheap. This means you can try a lot of different things, eat till your full, and still get out of there without breaking the bank. This morning my girl and I entered hungry and left stuffed for under 20 bucks total. As full as we were, a stroll through the streets, corner bazaars, and fish markets of Chinatown were in order. All in all, it was an awesome way to spend the afternoon.
For some of you, dim sum is already a part of your repertoire, but for those of you who are unaware of this amazing Chinese tradition, like I was, be sure to partake.
Legendary Palace is a large two-story restaurant on the corner of Franklin and 7th St. and is also available for banquets and wedding receptions. Many establishments in the area serve dim sum – some are sit down restaurants, while others have buns and dumplings in the window for you to grab and go.