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Dim Sum at Koi Palace in Daly City

Melanie Wong Nov 5, 2008 09:42 PM

Seeing Dave MP’s detailed report on his first visit to Koi Palace for dim sum,
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568137 , I thought I’d post about the weekday lunch my mom and I had there two months ago. This was a couple days after the chowdown as Koi Garden in Dublin, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/556148 , which was a good opportunity for a fresh comparison.

Mom and I arrived at 1pm and had a short wait before a table was ready for us. Mom enjoyed tasting the samples of moon cakes in the display for the moon festival.

Because we were on the late side with few things still circulating, most of what we tried was from the checklist. For tea, we selected an organic oolong, $1.50 per person.

First up was an order of har gao. They looked the same with thinnish, chewy wrappers encasing whole shrimp. But they tasted different, and BETTER, than my last visits to Koi Palace. My issue with KP had been the heavy hand with salt and MSG to give the dumplings a more robust flavor profile instead of letting the natural ingredients shine through. But a problem now, the unvarnished sweetness of the shrimp was not mucked up by flavor boosters. Same story with the pan-fried shrimp and chive dumplings, very clean flavors.

The Bee's nest taro puffs, $3.60, were especially good, if on the small side. Very light and frilly crust, well-seasoned mashed taro, and tasty meat filling. The most greaseless example I’ve ever seen.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/2849582451

The tour de force of this meal turned out to be the steamed XO diced mushroom and pork dumplings, $4.50, a new one for us. The dough used for the wrapper has the soft tender texture as used for xiao long bao. They’re pleated a little differently to seal them and ovoid in shape rather than round. I got a surprise biting into the first one when some chili-red broth squirted out. Duh, the little metallic cups they’re served in should have been my clue that they’d be juicy. This was a great way to present these tender dumplings to eat them out of hand, and with the subsequent ones, not a drop of the delicious broth was lost. Imagine a sweetly porky XLB revved up with spicy and savory XO sauce, what a great combination!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/2849582459/

We also liked the chiu chou dumplings, more freshly steamed than the example in Dublin for a more tender chewiness. However, my mother found them a little too spicy. I thought they were great filled.

The deluxe trio dumplings, $4.50, were well-made presenting three different flavors nestled in little shrimp boats, but the flavors were too bold and salty. One was the same spicy XO sauce dumpling I’d had in Dublin, plus one topped with pork and preserved vegetable and another with tiny salted fish.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Service was pretty good, but for the delay in getting our bill added up. The staff was friendlier and more attentive than previous visits. The noise level was quite high even though we were in the side section, but was manageable once the room emptied out. Execution on all our dishes was spot-on even if some of the more intense styles didn’t suit us. Koi Palace is at the top of its dim sum game.

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Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

  1. daveena Nov 6, 2008 06:39 AM

    Koi Palace's XO pork and mushroom dumpling is definitely one of my Top Ten tastes of the year (although I misidentified them as the "XO spicy sauce dumplings" in my Feb post - those turn out to be the shu mai-like dumplings topped with dried scallop), along with the bits of crab mustard encased in fritter batter from the carapace of the deep fried Dungeness that comes with an order of the crab XLB.

    7 Replies
    1. re: daveena
      Melanie Wong Nov 6, 2008 07:05 AM

      daveena, I just looked up your post again, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/488267 , and see that you experience the same trajectory of juice from these dumplings. Yes, they are bursting with soup! I've been going to Koi Palace once or twice a year for as long as it has been open, and this was the best lunch I've had there.

      Wish I could figure out a way to have these soupy, spicy dumplings alongside the foie gras siu mai and macanese custard tarts from Zen Peninsula in Millbrae.

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        Carb Lover Nov 6, 2008 07:33 AM

        Melanie, your recent dim sum posts have single-handedly intensified my craving for dim sum! The cruelty is that I'm stuck in the dim sumless land of Santa Cruz. Bleak. May have to venture over the hill soon to feed this craving...

        1. re: Carb Lover
          wolfe Nov 6, 2008 07:56 AM

          If possible try a week day. Went on a Monday at about noon,10 minute wait for the family twosome. My daughter's "diet" is now meat and veggies, no rice, little soy, no wheat, etc. The waitress suggested the addition of bok choy to the beef dish on the regular menu and we were presented with a mound of delicious tender beef surrounded by the cutest baby bok choy, leaves in stem out, in a star burst pattern. Delicious. Along with my delicious but pedestrian choices I also had my first in restaurant XLB. Once again the waitress was a big help as my pronunciation was off but my description lead her to point out the Shanghai steamed dumplings on the check-off menu. I probably would have found it over time and with a magnifying glass. From my reading here they must be near the top of XlB, delicate skins, tasty ,juicy. I had the house tea and could not agree with the Yelper who didn't like the candle warmed teapot,we loved it, no cold tea. Previously having done weekend dim summing, I must consider week day dining a retirement benefit.

          1. re: wolfe
            t
            tipatat Nov 22, 2008 06:02 PM

            If you are a fan of variety, I don't recommend going to dim sum during a weekday since the selection is usually reduced by a lot (even items on the checklists are sometimes not available). I'd agree with other early birds and go early, usually 9-10:30am should be fine and Saturdays are usually less crowded than Sundays. Going late you might find out they have run out of favorites, and even though going early they might not be ready with all the dishes yet, just eat leisurely and your favs will show up.

            Happy Dim Sum!
            Tipatat

            Check out my Dim Sum Photo Guide iPhone App at http://www.tipatat.com/dimsum

            1. re: tipatat
              Dave MP Nov 23, 2008 12:27 AM

              That's a cool application - though it seems like it might also be useful to have the Chinese characters, in addition to the transliteration. Is that an option?

              1. re: Dave MP
                Xiao Yang Nov 23, 2008 06:55 AM

                I expressed that wish earlier to tipatat. He/she can grab the names of a lot of them (albeit in simplified form characters) from Beijing's draft standardized Chinese menu translation guidelines (mostly items in the 150-400 range):

                http://is.gd/8FUi

                1. re: Xiao Yang
                  t
                  tipatat Nov 24, 2008 02:37 PM

                  Thanks for the link and the feedback. I didn't see your previous response since that thread was removed. I am actually looking to add audio first but will look to add chinese characters as well.

    2. Senor Popusa Nov 6, 2008 07:10 AM

      I tried and failed to get food at KP on Sunday. We called at 10:30 and got a number on the list. Arrived at 11, and traded that in for a written number. They said to expect to get seated at noon. At noon they said another half hour. Someone in our party had a hard stop in the early afternoon so we had to bail and ended up having a good quick meal at Udippi Palace in the mission instead. We carpooled so we all had to leave, not just the ones with the pm appointment.

      So what time should one call and or arrive to get in without waiting hours? I had a feeling that the 30 more minutes could have easily turned into another hour. I'd like to try it am am willing to wait, just preferably not for 2 hours....

      4 Replies
      1. re: Senor Popusa
        daveena Nov 6, 2008 08:06 AM

        I try to get there around 9-9:15 and ask for a table near the kitchen, so I can see (and get first dibs on) everything coming out. Fortunately, you can do pretty well just ordering the check-off list (and if you're stuck int he back room, you have to pretty much rely on the check-off list, as not much circulating stuff makes it back there). I think it's definitely worth getting up early for.

        1. re: daveena
          Senor Popusa Nov 6, 2008 08:23 AM

          What time do they start serving on the weekends? Getting up early I can handle, waiting an hour I can handle, waiting 2 hrs is a deal breaker for me.

          1. re: Senor Popusa
            daveena Nov 6, 2008 08:32 AM

            9 AM - I think the room fills by about 10, although my first time there was the weekend of Chinese New Year, and the room filled by 9:20 (there was a huge crowd of people already waiting at 9 AM)

            1. re: daveena
              Dave MP Nov 6, 2008 09:56 AM

              If you are willing to get there before 9:30 AM, I think Koi Palace is wonderful for breakfast. Everything is fresh, there are lots of good things going by no matter where you sit, since everyone in the restaurant will have arrived recently.

              the times I went, I didn't feel rushed at all..it's spacious and relaxed once you are inside. Like others have said, it's really the waiting that's the problem. Once you're in, it's great!

      2. c
        CYL Nov 6, 2008 08:18 AM

        We were at KP last Monday. We had intended to be there at opening in order to avoid the crowd, but, were a few minutes late. In spite of being a little late, we were able to walk right in and got a table immediately with absolutely no wait. This isn't my first time at KP, so I wasn't about going to be overly impressed with the offerings; in fact, I had anticipated possibly a drop-off from my earlier visits. As it turns out, I must say that I was impressed in experiencing consistency in the high standards of their product and service. The crispiness of the bird's nest taro was still superb. I was surprised at the crispiness of the crispy glutinous puff. The har gao still with its thin wrapping was bulging with two jumbo flavorful shrimps. The XLB and don tart were good, but did not stand out in comparison.

        1. Har Gau
        2. Bee’s Nest Taro dumpling
        3. Crispy Glutinous Puff
        4. XLB

         
         
         
         
        7 Replies
        1. re: CYL
          Xiao Yang Nov 7, 2008 07:08 PM

          Are those foil cups the XLB are sitting in? I can't imagine steaming xiao long bao in foil cups.

          1. re: Xiao Yang
            c
            CYL Nov 8, 2008 10:53 AM

            Yes, they are little tin foil cups. I presume it's a KP thing as I have not seen it elsewhere. I assume KP saves and reuses them – not a throw-away. I suspect that the cup does not impair steam significantly in conducting heat transfer to the XLB during cooking. The individual cups eliminate sticking between neighboring XLBs. It makes the entire process of consuming a XLB down to a neat little operation. Place some vinegar on the XLB in the cup, hold the cup with fingers and raise cup to lip. Continue to proceed on to sipping to slurping until the XLB is fully deposited into the mouth. With the cup, there is minimum possibility for breaking the skin of the XLB and spillage of tasting vinegar or XLB broth.

            1. re: CYL
              Dave MP Nov 8, 2008 11:36 AM

              I think they are a good idea, especially for XLB. Makes it a lot neater. But I sorta assumed they wouldn't re-use them....how would they wash them all properly? It would be interesting if someone could find out. It would be great if they did reuse them, but I assumed they were just thrown away.

              1. re: Dave MP
                choctastic Nov 8, 2008 12:49 PM

                They're thrown away. A lot of L.A. joints do this with XLB as well. I started seeing this trend a couple of years ago.

                I gotta say, the XLB in that pic still look as terrible as the ones I've gotten previously at KP. At least they won't burst this way though.

              2. re: CYL
                Melanie Wong Nov 22, 2008 02:15 PM

                I like the little cups a lot too, great idea. The same were used for the XO mushroom and pork dumplings I described in my original post. Since the cups don't touch the side of the dumpling, only the bottom, I don't think it affects the steaming process.

                Here's a photo of a similar use at Hunan Restaurant in Fresno, in this case a shrimp forcemeat encasing a molten center of stock.
                http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  Xiao Yang Nov 22, 2008 09:53 PM

                  I would worry that the impermeable foil cups would cause the dumplings to sweat and the bottoms to stew a bit. In any event it seems entirely pointless.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang
                    Melanie Wong Nov 30, 2008 05:36 PM

                    I found the cups quite useful as CYL describes above for eating the dumplings out of hand like a bonbon and guarding against loss of any of the precious stock.

          2. c
            CYL Nov 6, 2008 08:22 AM

            Since we were visiting KP on the occasion of a birthday, we were looking for a noodle dish. We’ve had their crispy pan fried chow meins before, but have a preference for chow fun. In the past, we had the prime rib chow fun. It’s a bit on the goopy side with excessive sauce, but, for some reason, they do not offer it anymore. They now only have a prime rib lo mein, so we gave it a try. We found to our surprise that we liked the lo mein as well if not a little bit better than the chow fun. The mein does a better job at absorbing the yummy sauce (still XO) and flavoring the starch.

            1. XO Sauce Prime Rib Chow Fun
            2. Prime Rib Lo Mein

             
             
            1. l
              lamster Nov 6, 2008 11:01 AM

              Thank you for the wonderful post Melanie! I live in Daly City and I often trek to Yank Sing because they take reservations... I can't deal with the wait at Koi Palace. Has anyone tried to do dim sum take out with Koi Palace? What is the wait like for take out?

              1 Reply
              1. re: lamster
                Melanie Wong Nov 7, 2008 04:41 PM

                Many of the places in Millbrae take reservations for dim sum, so you might want to head south instead.

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