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Dim sum at HKFL, Palo Alto

Pancho | Dec 18, 200306:40 PM

Returning from a work Christmas outing to the Hong Kong Flower Lounge for dim sum, I was underwhelmed. Here are some comments and some beefs.

The restaurant was full, with enough Asian families in attendance to inspire confidence. A color picture menu helped to orient the occasional dim sum-ers in our party of 7. And fairly friendly service set a new standard in my non-family-owned Chinese restaurant dining experience.

But HKFL replaced the traditional carts with a pre-order menu. Think sushi order forms. For the quantity-impaired, it's really hard to know what the right numbers and totals of, say, 11 small plates is/should be. For the quality-conscious, it's hard to turn back a plate of fun noodles that's sat too long on the steam table.

On to the dim sum. Har gow and siu mai were generously sized, freshly made and just fine. The spare ribs (my favorite) had the right proportion of black bean to chile pepper to highlight the pork flavor and cut its essential greasiness. Lo bak go (taro cake) could have been fried a little crisper, but was hot and not greasy at all. The salt-fried dishes - scallops, shrimp, and a delicious black cod - all showed the light hand of the fry cook. The gai lan was fresh and well trimmed (i.e. no tough stalks). Nor mai fan, the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, was a little small and timidly-flavored for my taste. Stuffed mushrooms, 'Shanghai-style' mushroom dumplings, and sliced roast pork were excellent, hot and as good as my memory of Yank Sing's.

But I didn't come away with the memory of one really, really good rendition of any of these dishes. And when the ee-fu mein noodles came out and the fresh, hand-picked crabmeat was dry, I was sorry that it, too, had sat under the heat lamp for a minute past its prime.

Bill for 7 was around $25 each, with lots of leftovers (since we didn't know how much to order).
Maybe I'd return for dinner, but not for dim sum.

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