Chowhound Dinner Review - Zen Pennisula 4/15
Well, first post, and I'm not an expert foodie by any means, but apparently, I got stuck with the review, being the last on at the restaurant. Maybe they were pulling my chain. :P But I don't know review ettiquette, so you'll have to give me a pass on this. Laff, anyways this dinner was host by Alice. She had the glory of posing with the live alaskan king crab we were about to eat.
My overall impression was that it was only okay... The crab wasn't bad, but not entirely memorable for me. We had it 3 ways,
- crab legs fried in some coating
- crab legs split open, with just garlic, and soy sauce
- some egg custard crab dish. (I didn't try, cause I'm weirded out by eggs.)
I thought the best one was simply the plain crab. I thought the salt & pepper calamari was pretty good, but I'm always a sucker for salt and pepper. Apparently, Karen, a real chowhound there, told me that it's what chinese restaurants serve when things aren't fresh. oh well. :P
We had 11 total dishes and or including soup. I'll let people chime in for other dishes, but I feel like I've had better dinners for less. Not quite worth the $35 in my mind.
We had a good time, but the food wasn't all that exciting. As everyone said, the plain crab was best -- crab is too delicate a flavor to take much added to it.
Our favorite dish was the orange pork chops, which we did not think were too sweet.
the pork neck was good, and the salt and pepper calamari was good (but not great): it was tender, but a bit greasier than it can be. Most things were either bland or I'm losing my sense of taste. all in all, I'm not a good judge of authentic Chinese food -- I think I prefer it Americanized a bit....
but it was a great group of people and a fun evening.
In detail: twelve hungry Chowhounders showed up at Zen Peninsula in Millbrae on Sunday evening to try live king crab. Since it's at the end of the season, the crabs were a bit small, but we still managed to snag a lively 8.8 pounder. We ordered:
Live Alaskan King Crab Three Ways
1) Steamed legs with garlic (served over clear mung bean noodles with a light vinegar dipping sauce)
2) Body fried with salty egg and kabocha squash batter
3) Steamed egg white custard with crab head
4) "Old Fire" soup
5) BBQ pork neck meat
6) Chicken in wine sauce
7) Zen Special Delight Claypot (napa cabbage, goose web feet, black mushroom, sea cucumbers, etc.)
8) Braised E-Fu noodles
9) On-choy with garlic
10) Salt & pepper calamari
11) Orange pork chops
12) Complimentary red bean soup dessert w/ cookies & custard/lotus mochi
Total per person was $34 including tax and tip. I'll post photos soon.
The crab itself was very tender and sweet, and a lovely relevation after years of frozen king crab legs. However I think I'm a king crab purist and prefer them plainly steamed, especially when they're such high quality, since the various preparations obscured the crab taste somewhat.
My favorite dish of the night was the steamed crab legs -- so good, tho the garlic was a bit strong. The pork neck BBQ was also good, and the crab egg custard was a lovely pillowy texture (though the crab itself just barely perfumed the dish). The mochi were also quite interesting -- I've not had that combination before.
On the down side, the on-choy was overcooked and bland. Service was erratic -- the manager on duty tried to sell us on the most expensive items on the menu, the dishes came out too quickly, and we never received the steamed rice we requested. However I thought for live seafood that $34/person inclusive was very reasonable. If I were to go again for live king crab, I'd go with a smaller group to get more of the crab since the other dishes weren't particularly memorable, and stick to the simplest preps.
It was great to meet fellow Chowhounders at my first Chowdown. I was grateful for kindred spirits who understood my need to photograph EVERY dish and didn't roll their eyes when I whipped out the camera.
I agree with PekoePeony, the steamed crab legs had a bit too much garlic and the flavor of the crab was almost lost.
I was underwhelmed with the orange pork chops - they had 6-8 big pieces for a table of 12 which didn't make much sense to me. They were also too sweet - I was expecting this to be a lunch special with rice or something.
Overall I liked the dinner, I don't think I will order the same things next time but I'm glad that I got to try fresh Alaskan King Crab.
A: Thank you so much for organizing this dinner! It was great fun to see the crabs in the tank, watch one being pulled out and having it brought to the table wriggling on a tray for us to observe close up... It really looked like he was going to get away! For the most part I enjoyed the meal but most especially the crab as the main event; I've never had the opportunity to sample king crab cooked from live. I felt that it was worth it for sure. I'll post some pix later...
P2, thanks so much for putting this together, sorry I couldn't join you. I've been curious about the king crab since my dinner at Zen Pen last year.
For those looking to catch a meal of live king crab before the season ends, I was in China First on Clement in SF yesterday, and it had a couple live ones in the tank. Price is $18/lb.
About 3 weeks ago, I had to pick up my BF from the airport on a weeknight, and we decided to have dinner there. We opted for the $16/lb-snow-crab-cooked-2-ways dinner (vs $30 Fri-Sun). The legs were steamed with garlic and clear mung bean noodles/fun see/fen si. The rest was stir-fried w/scallions and ginger served over flat noodles (the gravy made it into lo mein). Both dishes were very fresh testing; we were 75% full after the legs, and my BF devoured the leftover of the 2nd dish the next night. The bill was way above $100.
It is curry crab that you sure not order, spices will hide the freshest. But salt and pepper will not hide unfresh crab. Salt and pepper is less messy for most to eat which is easier to eat. The other crab ginger with green onion if better to most but you need a bid.
Plain crab (steamed maybe over ming bean) will show the true favor of just the crab.