Innovative Dimsum in the Bay Area: Palette Tea House

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If you're looking for one of the best dim sum restaurants in San Francisco, Palette Tea House is a crowd favorite. With an open concept kitchen, you can see the chefs making dumplings and dim sum right in front of you; similar to how it is at Din Tai Fung. The food and interior are beautifully decorated and if you’re looking for unique dishes, this place is it. Every item is presented beautifully and one of my favorite elements here is the plates served to resemble a ‘palette’ similar to an artist's palette which fits with the name of this restaurant.

Palette Tea House started to get traction when everyone Instagrammed their Palette soup dumpling "XLB" sampler where there are five different types of XLB in original, kale, crab, black truffle, beet & beef. Each comes with its individual spoon and looks like a dumpling flower. They also have other gourmet dim sum items on their menu like lobster dumplings with butter sauce where it comes with a little syringe and you inject the butter inside. Talk about innovation and deliciousness!

Other items I tried are:

  • Wagyu Beef Chow Fun: If there is wagyu on any menu, I always have to try it! Their take on the classic Cantonese dish, beef chow fun, and upscaling it by using wagyu. The beef was seared nicely and the beansprouts added a great crunch to the overall dish.
  • Squid Ink Dumplings: I saw this on the menu and since it was in a dark, greyish color I was intrigued. If you're not a fan of a strong seafood taste, I would advise against ordering this but it was fun to give it a try.
  • Rainbow Prawn Rice Roll: Your standard rice roll dish but instead of small shrimp, their prawns are on the larger size drizzled with sweet soy sauce.
  • Black Swan Taro Puff: I was surprised to see that it was actually the shape of a swan and came in a pair of two. The stuffing and taro were perfectly seasoned. They definitely get a 10 out of 10 for presentation.
  • Matcha Lava Bun: Perfect way to end the meal with dessert! The matcha custard was creamy and not too sweet or overbearing compared to other lava buns I've tried. They also have other flavors like salted egg which is a classic.
  • Hong Kong milk tea: Very authentic and reminded me of the milk teas I had in Hong Kong or at local cha chaang teng (HK Chinese cafes)

Not only limited to dim sum, Palette Tea House also has their dinner menu where you can get their signature entrees like Singaporean style prawns, roasted Iberico pork, Chairman's chicken, or squid ink sakura shrimp fried rice. If you are looking to order for the family, they have two family meals with pre-selected sets called the "Roaring Dragon" and "Rise of the Phoenix" so you can try their bestsellers together.

Palette Tea House is located in Ghirardelli Square so there are plenty of things to do afterward. Walk around and check out the local stores in the plaza or cross the street and get a beautiful view of the ocean. Before the pandemic, there were always long lines and waitlists for hours to get their delicious dim sum but since indoor dining is limited, you can support them by ordering takeout on Toast or delivery on UberEats. While their dim sum is more expensive than going to a local Chinese restaurant, all the items are upscaled and more instagrammable with their different flavors and design. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to treat themselves to a fantastic meal and a great experience. Service is always top-notch and the ambiance is beautiful.

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Follow me as I share my passion and opinions about food and travel as a native in the Bay Area. Follow my food Instagram for daily posts: eatswithvinni

San Francisco, CA
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