Last night four friends and I had Chinese New Year's Eve dinner at Koi Palace in Daly City. It was the fourth time I've tried dinner at KP and though I'm a huge fan of their dim sum, I've never been impressed with their dinners. However, last night redeemed them somewhat.
We arrived slightly early for our 8.30pm reservation and the place was packed! What a huge contrast to the CNYE dinner I had the previous year at Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae, which wasn't that full despite the a major holiday. We had to wait 25 minutes for a table at KP despite our reservation.
The service was even more atrocious than usual at the beginning but got better as the evening progressed and the restaurant became less full. We weren't given a regular menu though we asked several times, and had to ask five times for water to be brought. In the end we ended up picking items from the 10-course banquet menus which we picked up at the front since we didn't have a normal menu. This is a bit dangerous since one can't tell how much each dish costs.
We started out with two orders of the xiao long bao ($5 per order of 6). Despite KP being a HK restaurant, I feel the XLB at KP is one of the best in the Bay Area. Unfortunately this night they were a letdown -- all 12 were crowded into a container meant for 10 and most of the dumplings had overly soggy, broken skins. In the future we'll stick to ordering XLB for dim sum only at KP.
Suckling Pig Luxury Platter ($35) was a good portion (it was meant for 10 people after all and we only had 5) of crackling, crispy skin and succulent, silky pork. It was really good and worth the price considering they sell a 1/4 size dish for $15 at dim sum. Also included were a few slices of perfectly flavored (not too salty, not too sweet) but slightly dry chau sui and some unmemorable jellyfish.
Next came the Crab Meat Supreme Shark's Fin Soup. We asked for five bowls and were surprised to get larger American-sized bowls of it when we were expecting the standard Chinese little bowls of soup. We were even more surprised when we got the bill and the total came out to be $70 ($14/bowl) for the soup!! The soup had large, generous chunks of crabmeat but I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more shark fin. It was quite good but not the best I've had.
Next was the Whole Mini Abalone in Oyster Essence. Fortunately we asked the price when ordering and was told each 2 oz abalone was $30. We then regretted not having 10 people for a banquet menu since one included 10 whole mini abalones in one dish and the whole dinner was only $588 -- a much better deal! In the end we decided to get 2 abalone to share rather than the original plan of an abalone each, but that worked out since the abalone were a bit larger than I expected. I've not had whole abalone before but thought they were quite good. One friend who's tried them several times before thought the preparation was well done and the quality good, but she personally prefers a stronger oyster sauce rather than the more delicate flavors in ours.
Then we had Shanghai Crab 2-Ways ($30). This is Dungeness crab prepared Shanghainese-style (not real Shanghai crab like we hoped). The first way had the top and legs very lightly battered and deep-fried, and the second way had the inner meat gently cooked with egg whites and mixed with raw egg yolk at the end. Most of us had a crab with egg white dish before, but this preparation surprised us with its super fluffy moistness and lightness. The server said there was also dried and fresh scallops in the preparation. The battered crab pieces was also very good and perfectly fried, though I prefer a slightly stronger flavoring on the shell. This was when I started to understand the delicate, refined cooking style at KP and why it's one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area for dinner as well.
The Garlic Flavored Pea Vines were perfectly cooked but I personally prefer a stronger garlic flavor.
The Enoki Mushroom E-Fu Noodle ($12) was very tasty but the noodles were extremely soft. I'm not sure if this is the typical preparation but my bf (who loves his noodles soft) adored this dish.
By this time we were pretty stuffed but lastly came the Ginseng Chicken with Sticky Rice ($30), which we tried to take off our order earlier but was told it was too late. None of us was that fond of this dish.
Total was $350 including four beers, tax, and tip ($70/person).