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Champagne Seafood Restaurant Dim Sum - San Mateo

f
Foodnut8 Nov 25, 2009 04:03 PM

Full Blog post with a bunch of pictures:
http://www.foodnut.com/492/champagne-...

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Champagne Seafood Restaurant is a new Chinese Restaurant in downtown San Mateo that opened in Joy Luck Place’s old location. The Chinese name for the restaurant translates to First Class Kings Court. They redid the internals and create a large dining room along with several very classy private dining rooms. The chef is Kam Pui Lai. This restaurant serves lunch Dim Sum and traditional Cantonese Chinese Dinner. Champagne Seafood has people circling with dim sum that you get food from, no carts.

Decor, Vibe – Fancy decor with lots of stylish wall accents, big murals, several Flat Panel TVs, new wide chairs, seafood tanks in the back, and a Hong Kong restaurant-feel. Mostly Asians were dining when we visited for lunch, place was loud, hectic, and crowded like most popular dim sum places. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a table.

Picks:
668 Abalone Shark’s Fin Soup Dumpling in broth ($6.80) is totally not PC but a reference test dish. One of the few to include Abalone, this version was very good with lots of delicious filling but a more sedate broth.

607 Deep Fried Meat Dumpling ($2.60) or Ham Sui Gok were hot out of the fryer and very good. Nice minced meat filling.

648 Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll ($4.50) was had tasty big shrimp, chewy rice noodle wrapper, and a nice soy sauce. Couple veggies on the side too.

609 Deep Fried Sesame seed ball ($2.60) were ordered through the waitress and arrived freshly made. Hot with a thick skin but just the right sweetness of black sesame inards.

641 Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf ($4.50) was very good. Rice was cooked fine, lots of filling, and a quality egg yolk inside.

603 Chicken Feet with black bean sauce ($2.60) was made the classic way and hit the spot 100%.

619 Beef Tripe ($3.50) was a solid hit with lots of good stuff. They were lazy and included some of the more inedible parts.

629 Egg Yolk Lava Bun ($3.50) was excellent and reminded us of Hong Kong. Freshly steamed, lots of yolk, and some flavorful yolk at that.

636 Super Egg Puff ($3.50) is not as nice as Koi Palace’s but still excelled with good crispiness and sweetness at a lower price.

OK:

614 Steamed Shrimp Dumpling ($3.50) or Har Gow were five smallish bites of dim sum. Shrimp was fair, not top notch. Wrapper was decent.

602 Steamed Pork Spare Ribs ($2.60) had a good quantity, but flavor was on the salty side and broth was marginal. Black fungus to sop up the greasy juice.

631 Egg Custard Bun ($3.50) were three little buns with a nice custard inside. Nearby ABC Cafe’s are still better.

Pans:

671 Steamed Shanghai Dumpling (8pcs for $6.50) were housed in silver foil with all the soup already leaked out. Soggy mess and clearly a big miss. Clearly a Cantonese person trying to cook a Northern Chinese dish.

Service was solid with plate changes, tea refills, water refills happening without asking. Dim Sum circulated pretty well during the noon hour, then tapered off. Champagne Seafood Restaurant has a lot of guts opening an upscale Chinese restaurant in the middle of an economic downturn. Food was solid and prices were reasonable. Lunch was good enough to prompt us to come back and see how dinner is.

Compared to the competition across the street, HK Causeway Bay, Champagne Seafood has superior dim sum and a much wider menu. Local top spots Daly City’s Koi Palace and Millbrae’s Asian Pearl Peninsula still rank higher. Hopefully in time, this place will become even better.

  1. pilinut Nov 25, 2009 05:04 PM

    Thanks very much for the post! I last walked past the place a couple of weeks ago and could have sworn they wouldn't be ready until January. I'm glad I have a new Cantonese place downtown as I miss Joy Luck and wasn't tempted to return to Causeway Bay.

    1. a
      artemis Nov 28, 2009 11:39 AM

      i went this morning and will not return until multiple uphill reports. overall, lousy. we had the siu mai, har gao, scallop and chive, salt and pepper fried tofu, char siu bao, and sai yung (egg puff donut).

      thick, gummy wrappers on the siu mai (4 to an order), har gao (5), and scallop and chive dumplings (3). the fillings were dull, lifeless, and mostly tasteless with mealy shrimp. no life, no brightness, little flavor. the char siu bao (3 to an order) had thick, dense dough with scant pork filling. when opening up the bao, pulling off a "petal" would only have a couple flecks of pork on it. the salt and pepper tofu was expensive ($6.50) and consisted of a small plate of tiny cubes of fried tofu that tasted only of oil (though not oily). no tofu flavor and vastly overpriced. the sai yung (3, much smaller than koi palace) were ok but not eggy at all.

      $26.50. after much labor to get our bill at all, we got a bill for $9.50. of course that wasn't right, but it took a while again to get the bill fixed. i guess i expected them to be more appreciative in pointing out their error, but they just presented another bill for $17 to combine with the $9.

      the room smells of paint but that will dissipate eventually. the room does look nice, and all the tableware is monogrammed with the restaurant name. still, the kitchen of joy luck was much better than champagne seafood. i miss that kitchen.

      i'm not going back to CS for several months at least, and then only if others who took the plunge are more satisfied.

      2 Replies
      1. re: artemis
        t
        Tabetai yo Feb 19, 2010 08:36 AM

        Agree.Needs work. Maybe it will improve but for now there are far better places to go. Darn, this was so convenient.

        1. re: Tabetai yo
          Melanie Wong Feb 19, 2010 08:39 AM

          How long ago did you try it?

      2. Chandavkl Nov 28, 2009 11:49 AM

        Thanks for the report that many of us were waiting for.

        1. K K Nov 28, 2009 03:02 PM

          We went yesterday around 10 am and while it was not yet fully packed, the consensus is that they need maybe 6 more months to ramp up properly.

          The new paint smell gets worse when you peek your head into any of the 3 private rooms. This just leads me to conclude they were behind schedule in opening this place, and perhaps rushed it to start operating.

          I wouldn't say the dim sum was horrible, but execution could have been better. Then again they're new. All Chinese restaurants in San Mateo so far have grand opening blues to overcome.

          The beef cheung fun we had included two stalks of choy sum as well, and skins were a tad bit thick and clumpy.

          A mini side of salted pork bone congee was delicious, but it was so small and the dim sum cart lady either knew what it cost or made a mistake. We got charged a big item for it...$4.50! Should have inquired about that one...

          The steamed lor bak go (turnip cake) was excellent. Perfect consistency, although a small portion, nice and solid, good daikon flavor. The only rendition that surpassed this was a Hakka style steamed turnip cake that ABC Foster City served only once (and never again). Side sauce with cilantro enhanced the experience.

          Seen Jook Guen (fried yuba veggie roll with oyster sauce) - not bad

          Sing Gua Tong Bao - basically sponge gourd (squash) xiao long bao, no shrimp and no pork inside. $6.50 for 8 pieces. The interior was done nicely, soupy and juicy, but the skins were too dry (oversteamed) and on the thick side. The effort was there otherwise, 18 pleats and all. But form factor was on the ugly side. Why they also offered "Taiwan" style lobster XLB ($30) is beyond me (when Taiwan doesn't have lobster XLB, but shrimp versions do exist).

          The tofu fa was terrible. Instead of the silky smooth top ends, they seemed to be just regular tofu cuts by the edge (which were obviously not smooth). No ginger sauce, just cane sugar sweetener that was actually a tad bit watered down.

          Definitely needs more work.

          I asked a waiter if Koi Palace had a hand in this restaurant, and he firmly denied it. This contradicts what some management folks at KP had told a family member at Little Shanghai dinner one time.

          Basically the waiter said that Champagne Seafood is owned by the group that owns Lingzhi Daan, which I believe is either the company or distributor in Hong Kong (and maybe abroad) for those Lingzhi / Reishi mushroom pills designed to combat or prevent cancer amongst other ailments (of which Hong Kong celeb from the 70s/80s, Lisa Wong Ming Chuen endorses Lingzhi Daan). This is interesting because that partly explains one or two items on the dinner menu having Chinese name Lingzhi in it.

          Recognized at least 3 Champagne waitstaff (and managers) who are ex-Joy Luck Place.
          Waiter said several other employees are ex-Koi Palace, and that the menu may have some KP tones to it.

          I believe the effort is there, although the prices are a bit on the high side. These guys are trying to do something different or at least offer authentic Hong Kong style dishes and preps you won't found outside of Koi Palace or some other high end seafood place. Although I thought the cold plate foie gras and various dishes with truffles were overkill.

          Lastly, why the name Champagne? The Chinese name of the restaurant in Cantonese in Seung Bun Wong Ting, and Seung Bun in Mandarin is Shang Ping, which sounds like the bubbly grape.

          1. b
            Big Daddy T Nov 28, 2009 09:38 PM

            I would not even give them one star. Went twice in two days...dinner and dim sum lunch....
            We ordered $58.00 bowl of Old Formula Sharksfin...came in a shallow plate over a burning candle bowl....the shark's fin had no taste and it is very small piece....chicken soup on the side came late and had a bunch of cilantro in it.....not even worth $20.00...
            Foie Gras was a nice big piece but they covered it with gravy so hardly knew we were eating foie gras....$18.00
            Squab has a nice crispy skin but inside the meat was dry....
            Mustard green was tough and parboiled in water. Had to use fork and knife to cut apart.
            Steam abalone was smelly and tough ...not worth $18.00 a piece.
            Dim Sum was a disaster today.....many patrons have the same opinion. The shrimp har gow must have been frozen before as the skin was gluey and shriveled up. The Ja Siu Bao (baked barbeque pork bun) had a gluey skin and got stuck to the back of our front teeth. How can anyone ruin the chow mien and chow fun.... the beef and large stalks of 4 pieces of vegetable was slapped on top of the plate of fun that was not even well flavored ...was still white in the serving plate and had to be mixed in our own dish. The chow mien (we ordered both side fried) was not golden fried...but barely tossed in the wok. The Siu Loon Bao that came in silver cupcake foil was a mess......the bottom-fried bun with meat in the middle was all flour and all white.... Chinese broccoli....the stalk was hot and the leafy part was cold....how can that be...just like the white flour fun over chinese fried doughnut - the doughnut is hot but the flour wrapper is cold.....puzzling.
            We had high hopes as long awaited but will not waste our money on this place. HK Causeway (opposite corner) is so much better and the food is freshly made and hot .
            A lot cheaper also.

            1. bbulkow Feb 18, 2010 10:19 PM

              Finally ate here today.

              I'm not a Dim Sum expert like KK; I liked Champagne quite a bit.

              Plenty of dishes that I haven't seen elsewhere. We ordered off the card instead of taking what was walked around, which I think is the right move. We ordered a few classics like shiu mai and BBQ beef, but mostly less popular dishes.

              Just the *idea* of a noodle wrapped doughnut sends shivers down my spine. The dish was peculiar, and perhaps with a different quality of noodle would have been outstanding, but it was still good.

              Same story, over and over. Some kind of Har Gow with pea sprouts. A funny fried object that looked like a shrimp on the outside but was made of potato on the inside.

              Since the majority of the dishes were new to me, it's hard for me to comment on how well executed they were. I liked them. I preferred the dishes to HK Causeway Bay, where the classics might be a little stronger and the prices a little lower, just because I enjoy novelty.

              Regarding the expense, the 4 of us ate for about $15 out the door, leaving fairly stuffed. There was no wait, and all through lunch there were tables available. Our table was the only non-Asian table, as well.

              I'd be interested in other opinions from those pickier about their Dim Sum --- whether this place has licked the "opening blues".

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