Number 30: Custard Buns from City View

Jonathan Kauffman
City View's custard buns.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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Regulars at City View know that there is a reason to make it there before the rush: The dim sum restaurant bakes a limited number of custard buns every day and runs out of them long before service is over. After noon, in fact, your chances of spotting a plate of them are iffy. But there's an upside to the restaurant's stinginess: The buns almost always come out to the table warm.

Because of its location, on the edge of Chinatown in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, City View attracts more non-Chinese diners than New Asia or Great Eastern, and its selection is poorer because of it. But compared to the fare from Chinatown's other dim sum restaurants, City View's dumplings have more delicate skins, its vegetables a more defined crispness. And the custard buns, which look like a rare species of amanita -- well, SFoodie has been marveling over them for more than a decade.

The cooks have to synchronize three separate processes to get the mandarin-sized buns right: They must bake that saffron-colored top crust until it's brittle while ensuring the dough underneath stays pale and fluffy and the custard in the center remains thick but uncurdled. So, when you bite into a just-baked bun, the crust shatters, the exterior gives way with no more resistance than a breath, and that warm, sweet, eggy custard gushes out. 

SFoodie has bought custard buns all over the city, looking for a less time-sensitive source. No luck. We still find ourselves with a craving for City View's, then realize we've missed the day's batch, and resolve to try again another day.

City View, 662 Commercial (at Kearny), 398-2838.

Other favorites in this series:
31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami
32: Panisse frites from Frances
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

Location Info



City View Restaurant

662 Commercial, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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