Restaurants & Bars

San Francisco Bay Area San Mateo

The Kitchen (Millbrae) vs. Chef Wai (San Mateo)

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The Kitchen (Millbrae) vs. Chef Wai (San Mateo)

vincentlo | Jan 15, 2007 09:41 AM

The Kitchen easily wins this battle.

It opens much later, and I was impressed when a supervisor or manager was really nice to me the entire dinner. Usually when someone at a fancy Chinese restaurant (think Koi Palace) sees someone young (or white?), they don't care because they think you won't order the expensive stuff like live seafood and shark's fin. A chef at a different restaurant told me the staff at The Kitchen are really passionate about what they do and regularly meet to come up with new dishes to challenge themselves, instead of just churning out beef chow fun every day with little care.

The Kitchen's roasted squab is the *best* I've had outside of Asia. Succulent, tender with an explosion of flavor, and of course with a thin crispy enticing skin that screams "Forget your new year's resolution of reducing your fat intake!" My chef friend also highly recommends the grilled (or roasted?) pork neck (or belly?) dish. Been to The Kitchen three times now, and everything is excellent. Grade: Solid A+.

Chef Wai is certainly one of the best Cantonese restaurants in the area, but after hearing all the raving reviews, my experience was just underwhelming. My friend and I ordered a large variety of dishes to sample the chefs' skills, and most of them were just a tad bland. The salmon multi-grain rice tasted very clean, but the taste profile in the mouth was just too one-dimensional. Honestly it tasted too much like something I would/could do (and enjoy) at home. The tea-leaf chicken was served in a soy sauce, and the chicken again had little taste, partly because of the inherent quality of the chicken meat chosen and partly because of the kitchen preparations, and worse, it tasted like something you bought in a Chinese deli and microwaved a day later! I think the way they warm up the dishes needs some work. The roasted duck also had this "just warmed up again in the oven" feel. The taro egg pancakes had little taste again--I was expecting the "egg" to be salted duck eggs, but apparently I was wrong. The place is pretty, with high ceilings. Prices are high, and portions are smaller than usual. Again the meal wasn't bad, but I probably won't go back unless I hear convincing reasons from others. Now I understand why Chronicle didn't give Chef Wai a higher score. Grade: B+

Vincent

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