Pia, Cynthia and I had dim sum today at Koi Palace and Asian Pearl. I eagerly anticipated my first visit to both places and was especially eager to see if Koi Palace was really a level above the competition as suggested by some hounds.
At Koi Palace we had—
#157 Roasted Suckling Pig
#321 Shiu Mai with Diced Mushroom
#337 Bee’s Nest Taro
#341 Har Gow
#376 Coffee Glazed Pork Sparerib
With only three of us it wasn’t practical to order the much-heralded Crab Meat Filled Dumpling w/ Whole Crab. The steamed XO diced mushroom and pork dumplings praised in prior posts were not available today (or even on the menu). They are not the same as the XO Spicy Sauce Dumplings.
The shiu mai had a thin side wrapper and very good flavor— even better than the version that was one of my favorites at the now-defunct Joy Luck Place.
The har gow had a fairly thick and soft skin. Most of the shrimp was whole and too big to allow a tight wrapping with an even shape and they fell apart easily. The flavor was nice but a bit too subtle for my taste.
The suckling pig had very crisp skin and great flavor.
The bee’s nest taro was light, fluffy and virtually greaseless. The flavor was very good but the puffs were really small and didn’t fully satisfy my taro craving. I’m not sure if the taro ratio was lower than in most other taro balls or if I just didn’t get enough volume. They were very good regardless.
The coffee glazed pork sparerib came in a coffee cup with large pieces of pork in a coffee sauce with some whipped cream. It was entertaining but my piece of pork was mostly fat.
I am used to lighter, greener tea with dim sum than the pu-erh tea that Cynthia ordered for us. I have now been converted to darker tea—it seemed a better balance to the intense flavors.
Overall for me Koi Palace provided some really good dim sum but I didn’t feel I had experienced a meal that was at a clearly higher level than the best of the rest. Since we didn’t have the whole crab in dumplings or some of the other signature dishes I can’t really judge yet. Even without those it compares well.
My KP experience was much better in other respects than I expected. Some posts have implied that only regulars get decent service. My prior efforts to get friends to go to KP have resulted in depictions of a madhouse with interminable waits and poor service. Maybe that’s a good description of weekends but we got seated immediately in a soothing environment with prompt service. Not having a Chinese speaker in attendance was not a problem and our waiter was available to answer questions and make suggestions. The order form is a colorful menu with English descriptions and pictures of many of the dishes.
Though I usually prefer rooms with lots of natural light, the highly decorated room was a pleasing oasis of calm today. Extra touches like a flame under the teapot to keep your tea warm added to the feeling of quality. My one gripe with the high style was the pretty but tiny condiment dish which could only hold puny quantities.
At Asian Pearl we had—
#1 Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (har gow)
#3 Steamed Egg Custard Bun
#15 Shrimp and Chive Dumpling
#33 Beef Rice Noodle Roll
#58 BBQ Pork Neck
Durian Custard Rolls (not on menu)
The har gow was mostly whole shrimp in a thinner skin which held together better than at Koi Palace. It was sweeter with more intense flavors. I suspect a more sophisticated palate might find the sweetness and intensity a bit over the top but I loved it (especially with mustard). This was my favorite savory dish here.
The shrimp and chive dumpling was good and very similar to what I have had elsewhere.
Though I usually prefer meat other than beef in my dim sum, the beef rice noodle roll had good flavor and that nice slippery silky rice roll texture.
The BBQ pork neck was a bit too fat and oily for me.
The durian custard rolls had a flaky crust and a nice creamy texture and flavor. I wasn't overpowered by the durian, which pleased me but might disappoint a real fan of durian.
My favorite here was the steamed egg and custard bun. It tastes just like it sounds.
All in all, it was a very satisfying dim sum crawl— good food and good conversation. It’s hard to improve upon that! All we need now is a few more participants so we can go back for more variety and the bigger items like the whole crab.
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
Peninsula Asian Pearl
1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030