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Zen Peninsula dim sum

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Today was my first time at Zen Peninsula. I've been holding on to Fook Yuen, despite some recent stumbles, and Hong Kong Flower Lounge as my regular dim sum places. I have never been a fan of Koi Palace since I'm unable to get past the overly gummy rice wrappers on seemingly every dumpling I order. For me, Fook Yuen and HKFL were the places to beat, and I think Zen Peninsula, after one visit, shot to the top of my personal ranking.

The ingredients are incredibly fresh. Everything tasted as it should: shu mai tasted like pork, not like unidentifiable ground meat; the chive-and-shrimp dumplings tasted like chives and shrimp, not like green stuff and generic shellfish. I had some things I haven't seen elsewhere, like rice crepe with conpoy (dried scallop) and pea shoots (the leafy kind, not the grassy kind). The BBQ pork in pastry was very light, though a little too sweet and wet for my taste. Two black sesame items stood out: black sesame paste in glutinous rice ball was strongly flavored and the paste was thicker than usual, which I liked. Then there was what I can only describe as a black sesame gelatin sheet rolled up around a squirt of egg custard -- my description sounds gross, and it looked garish & quivery, but it tasted deeply of both sesame and egg and the contrast in textures was lovely.

My only quibble: some of the steamed rice wrapper dumplings were too thin. Not gummy like Koi Palace, but too thin such that it couldn't hold together the generous fillings. Also, the flour wrappers on the wontons in hot chili oil and on the dumplings in soup were also too thin and got a little mushy.

All in all, excellent. It was nearly empty when I arrived at 10:30 Saturday morning, and maybe half-full when I left at noon. Why isn't it more crowded?

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  1. Can one ever be too rich or too thin? Think that applies to dim sum wrappers as well! (vbg)

    On a Saturday, 10:30am is ahead of the crowd, though it does suprise me that it didn't fill up by noon time. I've heard because this is a slow week with fewer than usual reservations on the books at Zen Peninsula, it's running a king crab special at $18/lb. (close to cost) from now until Friday, 11/24.

    Was it cart service or menu order? Used to be menu during the week and carts on weekends.

    ZenPen dim sum report -
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. Forgot to mention that. There were a few carts, but mostly we ordered off the menu. I wonder if they make the order/cart decision on an hourly basis depending on the crowd?

      And, speaking of crab, the crab and pork dumplings were very generous with the crab.

      Yes, wrappers can be too thin! I like all my starches thick & hearty: I'll take rice cakes, Shanghai noodles, potstickers, and thick spaghetti over bean thread, angel hair, and rice vermicelli every time.

      1. ZP's dining room capacity is easily bigger than that of The Kitchen and maybe the downstairs of Fook Yuen. Unless there's a rush, it could take time to fill that place up.

        1. Having read all the positives about ZP, we stopped by Zen for dim sum today and were completely underwhelmed.

          We had:
          Shrimp rice crepes - The crepes were way too thick and the shrimps tough and oversteamed.

          Shark fin & pork dumplings in broth - Reasonable rendition with nice thin skin with the exception of the broth that was too oily.

          Green tea sesame mochi - This is probably the worst sesame mochi i have ever tasted. The mochi was rubbery tough and hard to pull apart and the sparse sesame fillings dry. Also, no hint of green tea with the exception of the coloring.

          Fried Taro Dumpling: This actually tastes quite good with crispy crust and slightly moist though sparse fillings of pork.

          Salt & pepper tofu with seaweed - A departure from some other restaurants' version in that they use meshed/blended tofu. The end product however, does not taste very good.

          Maybe we ordered the wrong items (should have tried the fois gras siu mai) but all in all a rather disappointing experience considering that there are so many great dim sum places in the vicinity.

          1. I went there on a Saturday morning last month and got there right at 10 am, and was told that I'd have to order off the menu as it was too early for the carts. When we left around 11, a few carts and trays were starting to come around.

            I thought the dim sum was excellent, and the experience was particularly enhanced by the fact that we went there immediately before getting on a 10 hour plane flight. We took the leftovers with us, and while cold dim sum isn't my favorite, it's still a million times better than United Airlines' food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JoyM

              I also agree that their dim sum is quite good. What's more is that on top of the usual suspects like ha gow and siu mai, they have 30-40 new style dim sums that sound quite interesting. The stir-fry rice cakes with snow cabbage and pork was a hit with my mom yesterday (I was less enthusiastic about it). Can't wait for a return to try the new items.

            2. I just return to Zen Pen for the first time in a long time for a after Thanksgiving meal.

              I too found the Har Gow skin a little too thin. There is a time for eat dim sum between too hot and a little too cold. The skin was a little too thin in that it fell apart whne picking up at the right temperature for ideal dim sum tasting. As it cool and firm up just fine but it was a little too cool for my taste, but it is just one person opinion.

              Otherwise the dim sum was just fine. I still like Joy Luck in San Mateo as my favorite still.

              I found while the dim sum was very good the side dishes were even better.

              Love the Wasibi Beef, a not too hot touch of heat with tender beef and bell peppers.

              Salt and Pepper Shrimp (shell less was just fine but I for one like it with the shell).

              But the best side dish I like was French Fries made from the Janpanese Kabortia (sp) squash.

              1 Reply
              1. re: yimster

                We haven't been to Zen in several months. (Overall, we prefer Joy Luck, too. Koi Palace has some dimsum items that are better than Joy Luck, but the wait, the crowds, and the noise seriously detract from the enjoyment of the food at Koi Palace.) I'm glad to see that they are still doing the fried kabocha: it's the one with a thin batter and salted egg yolk coating, isn't it? That's my favorite dish there, too! I agree that the small side dishes are very good--probably better than the classic dimsum choices.