Ten Chowhounds descended upon Zen Peninsula in Millbrae tonight in search of good eats, in particular Stuffed Chicken with Sticky Rice, this month's dish of the month. I'll make some notes about that dish once someone creates a subthread at this post (hint, hint):
When we were seated, they gave us a standard menu. There were also one-page Chinese-only menus that we never got around to translating. The standard menu was missing a bunch of stuff from the website, so we inquired and were given the set of their picture friendly dinner specials listed at: http://www.zenpeninsula.com/prod03.htm
They kept pushing the crab on us, but we declined. We ordered almost exclusively off the pictured menu. DaveMP was kind enough to document for me all of the dishes we got:
Zen's Roast Pork (pork neck) with peanut
BBQ Pork (char siu)
Marinated platter (five things including tofu; duck tongue; pork feet or snout)
Scallop in egg white
Eggplant w/ garlic in clay pot
Chicken stuffed w/ sticky rice
Lettuce in shrimp paste
Golden Kabocha fries w/ salty egg
Black sesame soup
Mango flavored mochi
The items I had a chance to eat on the marinated platter were all very good, and with an entire meal to get through, I think the nibbles it provided were a perfect size to split amongst 10 people. The standout item on the marinated platter for me and others was the duck tongue. Good flavor and firm yet not rubbery texture. The back of the tongue has a bone, but it's not a big deal. I'd had an unpleasant duck tongue experience at New Gold Medal a while back, so was happy to see this item can be excellent when prepared properly.
Great roast pork. It had a thick sauce interspersed with little (soy?) beans. Not sure if this was a mental thing, but the sauce reminded me a bit of baked beans!
Cysna had warned us that the scallop in egg white would be a subtle dish, and she was right. Compared to many of the complex flavored dishes, this one is all about the salt, egg, and texture. I'd recommend it, but you should be careful which dish to precede it with.
The lettuce in shrimp paste, at least the portion i had, tasted like braised lettuce in garlic sauce. No notes of seafood at all. It was a fine dish as is, but we were wondering if profiling lead them to skip the bulk of the shrimp paste.
The smoked seabass filet, at $35, seemed pretty expensive, but it was a really big piece. The piece I had was overbearingly salty, and in retrospect, might have been good if cut with some rice, which we hadn't ordered.
My favorite dish was probably the kabocha fries. The crust adhered well to the squash, giving a uniform and crisp chew to each piece. The salty egg yolk was excellent too. I'm not a huge fan of the sulfurous egg yolk flavor you get in things like dan tat (custard tarts), so the salty egg yolk was a special treat.
Upon request from the one Chinese person at the table, we were given a complimentary dessert, the mango flavored mochi ... and some plastic wrapped fortune cookies. He then asked why we weren't given the black sesame dessert they'd told us about earlier, so they brought that out afterwards. Good stuff, and not overly sweet way to end a fun meal.
It was great to finally connect, in person, with other Chowhounds. I had a really good time. I'd encourage other new community members to join the yahoo lists, and not to be shy about attending these events: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4691...