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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area Dim Sum

Koi Palace dim sum report

daveena | | Feb 10, 2008 12:30 PM

Don't know why it took me so long to go here - I'm kicking myself, now, for not having gone sooner. I grew up going to dim sum in Queens at least once a month when I was a kid, and I've eaten at a few well-regarded places in San Gabriel Valley - the dim sum I had today pretty much left them all in the dust.

Most of dishes we ordered today were ones I've never seen before (all except one dish were ordered from the check-off menu):

shrimp dumplings topped with dried scallop: these were enormous, a little spicy, really delicious ($4.30 for 3)

X.O. spicy sauce dumpling: my favorite dumplings of the day - these had beautifully, intricately pleated tops, and were very juicy (unfortunately, I didn't anticipate the juice and I sent an arc of the delicious, spicy broth/oil across table when I took my first bite). ($4.30 for 3)

pan-fried steamed pork bun - I think this was the only thing we ordered from a circulating server - these were excellent, with beautifully browned bottoms.

Szechwan style spicy surf clams - these were delicious - sweet, tender/chewy clams, dressed with a spicy sauce, draped on a mound of pickled ginger. The clams and ginger were great for cleansing the palate between all the other porky, shrimpy, umami-heavy dishes. ($5.30 for a generously sized mound)

Dried scallop and mustard green dumplings - these were the only disappointment of the morning - they weren't bad, but the flavors weren't strong enough to really register ($4.30 for 4) Most of the other dumplings came on individual foil "cupcake liners", but these didn't, so they stuck together and broke when we separated them.

Crispy fried dough stuffed rice noodle roll - these were a table favorite - excellent Chinese crullers rolled in a sheet of rice noodle, sliced, and served with a fantastic sesame paste based dipping sauce. (a generous serving for $4.30)

Crab meat filled dumplings w/ whole crab - 10 sweet crabby XLB with a pile of deep fried crab legs, and the fried crab carapace on top. Admittedly, the XLB wrappers were not the best I've ever had (they were a little flabby, and the dumplings were somewhat deflated by the time we got them), but the filling was very good. The deep fried crab was excellent - frying, like roasting, resolves the wateriness that I dislike about Dungeness, and the crab meat was sweet, with an appealingly dense texture. Plus, frying the shells renders them brittle enough to crack with one's teeth, which made eating them easier. Bits of the fried batter on the inner surface of the carapace clung to crab butter - eaten together, they tasted remarkably like the best fried oysters ever. Our most expensive dish, at $28.

sugar egg puffs - these were fantastic, perfectly fried eggy dough (a bit eggier than choux pastry) (5 for $4.30)

Total came out to about $24 pp before tip - the most I've spent on dim sum, but this was so much superior to everything else I've ever had that I'd rather forgo dim sum everywhere else and drop my entire annual dim sum budget here.

Other things on the check-off menu that looked interesting:
pumpkin + sea cucumber rice roll ($5.50)
abalone shuimai king ($6.50)
poached Queen's Clam ($15)
durian paste puff pastry ($6.90)
tiny fish, dried shrimp, crab roe fried rice ($14)
goose intestine and pickled tuber chow fun ($18)

We got there at exactly 9 AM, when it opened - there was already a scrum to get in, but everyone who was there at 9 got seated - I think I saw open tables until about 9:30.