Cooking Papa is the latest tenant inside the strip mall, replacing Diamond Harbor (and before that, Mr. Fong's). These guys are no strangers to the scene as Cooking Papa 1 first opened up in Santa Clara a couple years back to a great level of success.
The story is that the guys behind Joy Luck Place San Mateo for whatever reason shut the place down, decided to branch out to do Cantonese comfort food fare (in a way a tip of the hat to Fat Wong's San Bruno who is the forefather of this trend) and the rest is history.
As for the name....apparently it was a play on those iPhone type games Cooking Mama, but decided that the male image, which is predominant in a lot of Cantonese kitchens, plus the fact that it invokes the thought of a fatherly figure cooking for you....
It is also said that the chef has experience cooking from Hong Kong and used to cook and work at a dai pai dong before, hence the signages of "Hong Kong Dai Pai Dong" style eats (in Chinese at the restaurant's window). Given that Foster City is pretty much lacking in Cantonese (and the same goes for nearby), something on this level is very welcome indeed, and the fact that grand opening week was flooded with Cantonese speaking customers is a pretty good sign. For now weekends still look pretty packed but you may find seating a lot easier on weeknights.
Bring cash, they don't take credit cards.
Website: www.mycookingpapa.com and you can check the menus for each location.
Currently the Foster City location has the SC branch staff overseeing the grand opening, supervising, and training. Right now I would say that FC quality so far is a few notches better than when SC first opened (given the time they had to ramp out and work out the SC kinks). Hopefully this keeps up.
There is a ton of stuff on the menu, as much as a HK cafe but without the westernized dishes, it's all Cantonese Hong Kong style. Even though they have xiao long bao here, I would likely skip it, as it is there just for the sake of variety. Their clear broth stewed brisket (listed as Braised Beef Brisket) is really good, and can be ordered as an appetizer or paired with noodles in broth of your choice. The base broth is already a lot better than the likes of Champagne Restaurant (Millbrae), ABC (San Mateo), or even a place like Tak Kee Lee on Noriega (owners supposedly also ran a dai pai dong in Hong Kong). You can actually taste the dried tilefish flavor in the noodle broth, although it lacks the dried shrimp roe flavor which would enhance their won ton noodles (cannot complain otherwise).
Cantonese BBQ: they have Peking Duck, roast duck, Hainan style chicken (don't compare it to Singapore but it's tasty and acceptable), crispy skin roasted pork belly, marinated duck tongue, crispy fried pork intestines.
One of the highlights here is steamed to order cheung fun, available even into the night (although they close at 9:30 pm which is the only downside other than cash only). The carb on carb special known as Ja Leung (fried cruller with cheung fun skin wrapped around it, cheung fun soy sauce, sesame seed, plus two dip sauces on the side) is very well executed, at least the cruller is still crispy, a key point. Wasn't too sold on the beef cheung fun, as the beef wasn't hammered into a paste, and still looked like minced/ground. The fish paste cheung fun however was quite solid with some cliantro.
Those who like congee can pick from 17 kinds (it's basically the same congee base, recooked once the various ingredients are put in to bring it to a boil to draw the flavors out more)
Like Fat Wong's they also have a lineup of noodle soups with "mai seen" (thin tubular rice noodles) with their in house fish broth that's quite tasty.
The dessert that's pretty much on everyone's must order plate is their Sa Yung 沙翁, called egg puff on the menu. One order comes with four large pieces of fried doughy goodness, with a sugar donut like exterior, and a very creamy smooth eggy interior. This is one of those old school pastry items from the 1980s and before that is now experiencing a mass revival. Haven't had one in such a long time and thought this rendition was not bad, although I'm sure hong_kong_foodie will think Koi Palace's rendition is supreme. But hey this is Foster City.
Hong Kong milk tea here is not bad, and it tastes similar to a Chinese tea (even though they claim the leaf blend is imported from Hong Kong) but it's quite potent...might make you stay up so don't drink it too late.
They even sell their own mooncakes right now.
Overall a very solid performer of non upscale non seafood Cantonese in the area. Really hoping quality keeps up if the SC branch staff depart after the ramp up/training period is over (or maybe they will stay). I see these guys already outpeforming Champagne Restaurant in Millbrae (even though CR has roast goose).