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Gau Poang - San Mateo

With so many wonderful Chinese places now to choose from in San Mateo (Joy Luck, Chef Wai, Shanghai East), I don't know how my husband and I ended up here last night. We thought we'd try something new, and figured some of the other places would be way too crowded, but what a mistake that was.

I know we should have just left when we noticed that 98 percent of the customers were Caucasian (as am I, so don't get mad). I know some people think that's wrong to say, but it does tell you *something* about a Chinese restaurant. And there were no Chinese menu items tacked on the wall.

But we sat down and ordered and found the food to be anywhere from mediocre to inedible. The won ton soup had bbq pork so red that the dye must have affected the soup broth, which had an odd sweet-and-sour flavor and a dark pink color. The chicken wing appetizer was made up of chicken legs that were tough, chewy and doused in way too much vinegar. Mongolian beef was passable, but served over those white "crispy noodles" that look like styrofoam packing material. The orange roughy in garlic sauce, which we ordered from the "House Specials" section was basically in another sweet and sour sauce. We didn't finish it because the fish was so lackluster. Even the steamed rice was both hard and gummy at the same time. Truly, we would have had a better meal at the Panda concession at Hillsdale Shopping Center.

The bill with two beers and before tip was a whopping $50. Ugh! We could have had something so much better at one of the other San Mateo Chinese restaurants. What fools we were! :-)

Gau Poang
12th & El Camino
San Mateo

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  1. Thanks for the warning -- we hadn't tried this place either.

    1. Don't feel bad about your observation (or should I say profiling), sometimes gut instinct is your best friend.

      Wendy san, thanks for taking one for the team. Isn't this the location that used to be Dongbei House (RIP)?

      For way better northern style Chinese, head over to Everyday Beijing up the street from Santa Ramen. If you get a fresh noodle dish there, ask to make sure it is wheat noodle and not the yellow/egg kind. The wheat noodle is excellent and reminds me of great Japanese soba. The yellow kind tasted nothing like the wheat version (perhaps they ran out of whole wheat flour that day).

      4 Replies
      1. re: K K

        I pass Gau Poang every day, and haven't had the guts to try it. Thank you, Wendy, for , as KK said, "taking one for the team". It is appreciated, as are your always informative, judicious posts. And I'd second KK's recommendation of Everyday Beijing as well. I just got back from my second visit, and It was very good. I went with a couple of friends who are native speakers of at least 3 Chinese dialects, and they pronounced it very good, authentic Beijing home-cooking. Stand-outs were the cold pork foreleg with garlic, cumin lamb, non-greasy onion pancake, and a pan-fried glutinous dough filled with ground beef and a bit of broth. I had the noodles with bean sauce on my first visit, and the noodles were very good.

        I hope our suggestions help console you for your disappointment at Gau Poang.

        1. re: pilinut

          Next time, try Oceanic on the east side of El Camino Real, just south of 25th Avenue. Very tasty food, they use just a little oil, and they have brown rice!!
          The Chinese Chicken Salad, to me, is the best around here.

          bbqman

          1. re: bbqman

            Thanks so much for the recommendation of Oceanic. I will put it on our list.

        2. re: K K

          Arghh! How could I have forgotten about Everyday Beijing? I've been meaning to try it.

          Yes, I think the former name of Gau Paong was Dongbei House -- that is what it said on the plates Gau Paong uses.

        3. I agree with your review - I tried it a couple of months ago and came to the same conclusion. It has a HUGE customer base though, largely by caucasians who enjoy its Americanized chinese cuisine. The owners there are real sweethearts too - it's too bad the food isn't good, because I'd love to be a regular here. I also agree with the Oceanic plug - they have good food, good service, and yummy garlic noodles!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: alina555

            I definitely agree with the Gau Paong reviews. For some reason it was heralded as so great on another site. The first time I went it was pretty good. But the second time it was atrocious. The bok choi and mushrooms was tasteless, as if it had been steamed only. The shrimp in the fried rice had been overcooked to where it was really mealy. And their special beef just tastes like fried batter. For 30 bucks you could get a really good email somewhere else. But I have to say the people working there were really nice. But I will spend my money elsewhere, where for Chinese Im not sure yet!

          2. Oh Wendy_san,

            That's how Mongolian Beef is served everywhere (else)- on deep fried cellophane noodles. I remember when we made this at home when I was a kid and I always thought we were being exotic. :)

            1. Aside from the nice staff the food was just awful. The shrimp in the fried lice was 'mealy' and the baby bok choy with black mushroom sauce was just water. For the price it should be much better. I could have made better at home.