Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Koi Palace, San Francisco

Yank Sing was nice but we were really looking for a more authentic yum cha experience in the Bay Area without having to drive an hour South to Sunnyvale. A quick search for decent dim sum turned up Koi Palace in South San Francisco located conveniently near one of our regular Saturday shopping locations.

On arrival it was total chaos - the right kind of chaos - comprised of an army of eager Chinese families waiting for brunch. Very little English seemed to be on display but the queuing system was efficient; take a number and watch the electronic board with hungry eyes. 

Once seated the dining room is as chaotic but in a cheery way. There are tables shoved in every possible corner to maximise the number of diners. Bustling waitresses wander by with carts and trays or for the less adventurous you can order from a convenient paper menu with pictures - similar to those given at Din Tai Fung restaurants. 

Hand roasted suckling pig $18USD

Finding good roasted pork with crackling in the US turns out to be surprisingly difficult. This was excellent - the meat was tender and juicy the crackling crisp and separated from the meat for the unadventurous. 

Green onion pancake $4.80USD

Scallion pancakes are much more common in the US than at home presumably due to the regional foods brought by the local immigrant population. This is the largest pancake I've ever seen, light and chewy and not at all greasy. Delicious!

Crispy Taro Puff $3.95USD

My favourite dumpling of all time. Mashed taro is filled with a combination pork and vegetable filling then deep fried. This is an excellent rendition but leaves my friends a little wanting due to the fry oil; I don't mind since this is more for me.

Spinach and Shrimp Dumpling $3.95USD

The wrapper is light and thin, the filling is made from large chunks of prawn with vegetables and water chestnut. Fried slightly on the side and served straight from the steamer.

Xiao Long Bao $9.80USD for 10

I'm impressed that Koi Palace have Northern dishes as well as Hong Kong classics so I order a large tray of xiao long bao. Again I can't help but feel I have been spoilt by the paper thin Din Tai Fung wrappers that leave me wanting for other dumplings but the perfectly spiced and steamed filling of these dumplings more than makes up for it. The SF habit of placing soup dumplings in metal wrappers helps with the inevitable juice explosion.

Char Siu Bao $2.95USD

Well it's just not a yum cha lunch without BBQ pork buns is it? These are light and fluffy and obviously made from scratch on site which isn't always the case for high volume dim sum. The filling is good with plenty of meat and not too sweet. 

Sizzling Mongolian Lamb Buns in Hotpot $5.80USD

I have fallen in love with these Northern style buns after finding them in bakeries in Inner Richmond in San Francisco. A thicker bread style wrapper is seared and filled with seasoned Mongolian lamb served piping hot with Peanut oil and Sesame seeds. My eating companions declare them absolutely fabulous and manage to rival the Pork Buns as best yum cha dish of the day and possibly of all time. 

Egg Yolk Lava Bun $4.95USD

Now these are not to everyone's taste and my man put his down and handed the whole plate to me, but for me this is a perfect morsel. A creamy lard based pastry is filled with a salted whole egg yolk custard; it's like a hot Moon cake. Moon cakes are one of my all time favourite foods - I would like to eat more of this dish.

Durian Puff  $6.90USD

I had mistaken these for a similar radish puff that I used to buy at bakeries in Sydney, but the waitress didn't speak English and I can hardly resist an Asian pastry on an off diet day. Crisp rolls of pastry are filled with a Durian cream custard and then deep fried like a donut. Delicious and without the horror of dealing with the smell in preparation. 

Dan Tart $2.95USD

Another tea time classic; whole egg custard tarts in flaky pastry. I skip these but they disappear in seconds into my friends' mouths. 

What's the summary of Koi Palace? This is easily the best Asian food I've eaten in the US and this is some of the best yum cha I've eaten in my life. It's twice as good as Yank Sing for 2/3 the price. The food was so good I couldn't stop eating until I waddled out the door - calories well spent though I can't remember the last time I had a meal that satisfying.

Service is kind of what you expect - rushed, busy, chaotic and with varying levels of English. Who cares when the dumplings are this damn good?

Koi Palace


Serramonte Plaza
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
Tel: (650) 992-9000

Authentic Chinese tea house and restaurant
Expect to battle hungry Chinese grandmas for a table

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1 comment:

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