If you've never had the opportunity to gorge yourself on the Chinese specialty known as the soup dumpling or xiao long bao, you need to stop reading right now and get your ass out to one of the handful of places in the Bay Area reputed to serve up a decent batch. Imagine, if you will: dumplings about the size of a hacky-sack filled with a spoonful of rich, scalding soup -- usually pork, if you're lucky pork and crab meat.
Sadly, the Bay Area's soup dumpling action may not hold a candle to New York City's legendary Joe's Shanghai, but it's worth a gander all the same. Word around town points to (in descending order of awesomeness): Shanghai House and Shanghai Dumpling King (both in the Outer Richmond), Shanghai (Oakland Chinatown) and Shanghai Dumpling Shop (Millbrae), with a few others scattered elsewhere. Do yourself a favor, and learn the technique before you attempt the xiao long bao experience.
-- Brian Bernbaum