Koi Palace in Daly City has been highly praised on these boards by me and others. After a recent experience there, a caution is in order. Especially since this is the second time the kitchen has been way off the mark. Like the previous occasion, the place was jam packed with extra tables squeezed in the aisles. If you see this, head for the door. The kitchen doesn't seem to have the quality control measures to keep pace with above normal demands.
This last time, we had our regular waiter who was great as always. The owner Willy Ng who I've known for almost 10 years, was in the house and greeted us warmly. He stopped by our table when we were still in the "good" part of dinner, so we didn't have a chance to complain when we hit the bumps in the road.
He'd said that they'd had an extraordinary number of drop-ins for a week night and had run out of several items. The suckling pig - our primary reason for having dinner there - was already sold out. Instead we chose the soy sauce chicken/jelly fish cold plate. Not bad, not really good either. The jelly fish was underseasoned and too crunchy and while the chicken had the exquisite silken texture, the flavorings were one-dimensional. Mom was pretty unhappy about this.
Next up was the steamed live LA shrimp at $16/lb. (10 pieces). These were perfect, and Willy timed his visit to our table just right to find us happy with the dish in front of us.
Geoduck clams served two ways ($50) included a light but intensely flavored clear soup with watercress, soft clam belly, silken tofu cubes and mushrooms. This was very good too. But the second dish, sauteed slices of clam with yellow leeks fell off and turned out rubbery. This dish requires split-second timing, and no one was paying attention in the kitchen. Big disappointment.
The beef short ribs in pepper sauce that we've had many times is now served in a heavy cast aluminum pot instead of the traditional clay pot. This was a pale imitation of its former glory - pasty pieces of short ribs that were not even browned properly, inadequate seasoning, and lack of harmony. We will not order this dish again.
The long-awaited honey smoked sea bass was terrible. Overcooked and stringy and the none of the crispy glazed edges, again bad timing in the kitchen.
Total tab was $160 for 4 adults, including tax and tip, no extra drinks or dessert. This is a hefty bill for a Cantonese meal, and totally undeserved for the quality we were received. Is this a one-off or a trend? I'd give the place another chance, but only on a slow night.