Three hounds in search of dim sum delight ate today at Champagne Seafood Restaurant in San Mateo in the space formerly occupied by the gone but not forgotten Joy Luck Place.
The remodeled space, while not ornate, has a much warmer feel than JLP’s spare furnishings. The conversion of two rooms into one plus the high ceilings, ample natural light, and generous spacing between tables add a pleasant openness. Some JLP staff have stayed on with Champagne, including the hostess with the sort of spiky hairdo who was friendly and attentive.
Our meal included—
603. Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce
612. Tofu in Cane Sugar
614. Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (har gow)
615. Beef Ball in Broth
629. Egg Yolk Lava Bun
635. Baked Crispy Portuguese Egg Tart
642. Scallop Dumpling with Parsley
655. Rice Noodle Roll Stuffed with Fried Dough
Combination of Suckling Pig and BBQ Pork (not on menu)
The chicken feet were soft and tender but the flavor was milder and not as satisfying to me as at Oakland’s Restaurant Peony, the scene of most of my recent dim sum meals.
The har gow was tightly wrapped and nicely shaped but the texture was too uniform and the flavor lacking. The scallop dumplings scored better on both counts.
I enjoyed the suckling pig a bit more than what we had last week at Koi Palace (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/695577). It was a different part of the pig with larger bits of soft meat, lots of juicy fat, and a good solid after-taste. The BBQ pork served with it was at least as good.
The beef ball in broth had some nice crunchy parts and pleasing flavors.
The noodle roll stuffed with fried dough (my first ever) was light and airy but not flavorful enough to make me a convert to this dish.
The desserts were all very good. Wanting to save the sweets for last, I let my egg yolk lava bun get cold, so the dough was harder and the filling cooler than it ought to have been. In this state it wasn’t as enjoyable as the similar steamed egg and custard bun at Asian Pearl but I suspect it might have been just as good if eaten warm. There is also an “egg custard bun” on the menu at Champagne. If anyone has tried both of these please let us know the difference. I have uploaded (I hope— it’s my first time trying this) images of the two menu pages so perhaps a Chinese-speaking hound can advise of the difference between no. 629 and no. 631 based on the Chinese names.
The tofu in syrup at first seemed clearly inferior to Peony’s version, which has a softer, more melt-in-your-mouth texture and a purer, stronger sugar syrup taste. But by the final mouthful I was beginning to think that Champagne’s less sweet but more complex flavor might actually be better, though the texture and overall effect were still not as good.
The last may have been the best. The small Portuguese egg tarts had a light, crispy crust and flavorful custard which was slightly burnt on top.
The service was the best I’ve had recently. The hostess recognized Pia and came by to say hello. She remained very attentive and brought us clean plates. When I mentioned I liked mustard she brought me my own portion. We did have to ask a second time to get our bill, however.
Less than a week after my prior dim sum experience I was privileged again to enjoy good food and good company. This could get addicting!
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
Peninsula Asian Pearl
1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030
388 9th St Ste 288, Oakland, CA 94607
Champagne Seafood Restaurant
88 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401