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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Picture the largest restaurant you’ve...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Picture the largest restaurant you’ve ever been in--and then triple it so that it occupies three floors. Now fill it with tightly packed tables, women pushing carts of steamed dumplings and men walking around making candy on the spot and calling out the names of sesame-covered buns, spareribs in black bean sauce, turnip cakes, roast ducks. . . . Picture hordes of people clutching numbers that beautiful women call out each time a table becomes available. It could be one of the enormous dim sum parlors of Hong Kong--or it could be America’s largest dim sum emporium, which has just opened in San Francisco.

Ocean City (644 Broadway, San Francisco, (415) 982-2328) is the latest example of how fast California’s Asian population is growing. This is a restaurant that is unabashedly Chinese--although there are 1,500 seats, almost none are occupied by people who don’t understand Cantonese. Few of the serving people speak English, and the numbers for the tables are announced only in Cantonese. But you have only to point at what you want when it comes rolling past you, the prices are extremely reasonable, and people are friendly. This is a fascinating place to visit, for when you walk into this boisterous atmosphere you feel that you are walking right into another country.


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