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Restaurants & Bars 8

Zen Peninsula dim sum

david kaplan | Nov 18, 2006 11:28 PM

Today was my first time at Zen Peninsula. I've been holding on to Fook Yuen, despite some recent stumbles, and Hong Kong Flower Lounge as my regular dim sum places. I have never been a fan of Koi Palace since I'm unable to get past the overly gummy rice wrappers on seemingly every dumpling I order. For me, Fook Yuen and HKFL were the places to beat, and I think Zen Peninsula, after one visit, shot to the top of my personal ranking.

The ingredients are incredibly fresh. Everything tasted as it should: shu mai tasted like pork, not like unidentifiable ground meat; the chive-and-shrimp dumplings tasted like chives and shrimp, not like green stuff and generic shellfish. I had some things I haven't seen elsewhere, like rice crepe with conpoy (dried scallop) and pea shoots (the leafy kind, not the grassy kind). The BBQ pork in pastry was very light, though a little too sweet and wet for my taste. Two black sesame items stood out: black sesame paste in glutinous rice ball was strongly flavored and the paste was thicker than usual, which I liked. Then there was what I can only describe as a black sesame gelatin sheet rolled up around a squirt of egg custard -- my description sounds gross, and it looked garish & quivery, but it tasted deeply of both sesame and egg and the contrast in textures was lovely.

My only quibble: some of the steamed rice wrapper dumplings were too thin. Not gummy like Koi Palace, but too thin such that it couldn't hold together the generous fillings. Also, the flour wrappers on the wontons in hot chili oil and on the dumplings in soup were also too thin and got a little mushy.

All in all, excellent. It was nearly empty when I arrived at 10:30 Saturday morning, and maybe half-full when I left at noon. Why isn't it more crowded?

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