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Thoughts about dinner (not dimsum) at Koi Palace? [Daly City]

My dad, grandfather, and grandmother will be visiting SF for the first time over Memorial Day weekend and I'm trying to arrange for one very nice Chinese seafood dinner. My dad is a huge aficionado of live and exotic seafood. As a point of reference, he goes to Sea Harbor on Rosemead in LA's San Gabriel Valley so often that they have a table set aside for him, so I'm trying to choose a restaurant capable of comparing favorably to what many consider to be one of the best Cantonese seafood/banquet restaurant in Southern California. http://www.yelp.com/biz/sea-harbour-s...

Can anyone comment on Koi Palace with respect to fresh seafood, selection of live, exotic seafood choices, and overall preparation? I think the most important factor will be availability of seafood options not often seen in the US (i.e., more than the lobsters, crabs, geoduck, live shrimp, etc. that most good Chinese seafood restaurants will carry.) KP came to mind because I recall (and Yelp pictures confirm) that KP sometimes has Mantis Shrimp, and I'm hoping that it will have that and other similarly rare items when we go. See: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/kn2iEL... . Of course, preparation and service are important too.

If anyone has been to Sea Harbor in LA and Koi Palace and would be able to make a comparison, that would be great, but I know that's a lot to ask. If you have a negative experience or impression of KP, I'd also appreciate getting recommendations for alternatives within a 30 minute drive of the Union Square area fitting the parameters described above. I've only been to KP for dimsum and know that quality at dimsum is not necessarily representative of dinner.

Thanks much!

- Pei's husband

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

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  1. Koi Palace of course very good for seafood, but in the past Asian Pearl has been great with Shark Fin and other in season shell fish. I have good luck with both but if given a choice I would be go to Asian Pearl where I thing the food is better but Koi setting is better. Service is about the same. The only place I could compare with Koi is Asian Pearl in Millbare.

    The seafood in not the same here as in So CA so if it is a first if can be a treat.

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

    Asian Pearl
    3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

    1. If your dad gets the special table it sounds like a challenge..however it is abalone season in NorCal so that's a plus. I'm sure Koi Palace serves it, as well as Great Eastern and R&G Lounge. I'd call to confirm if you have to impress on that scale and ask about other stuff.

      Also, it's a hole-in-the wall but if that doesn't matter I'd go to Yuet Lee. Talk to them about special stuff/abalone as well or go there for a different dinner.

      BTW, I have been to Sea Harbor for dinner but not Koi.

      Here's a link about abalone at Koi Palace: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/317174

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

      Great Eastern Restaurant
      649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. Koi Palace's seafood tank is easily bigger than Asian Pearl's (Millbrae) in terms of size, variety, and exoticness, although I would say that AP's general dinner is no slouch in the non seafood department. But if exotic seafood selection is more important to you (e.g. being able to see what you want and order how you want it cooked, whether it be the 7+ pound snow crab or some rare deep sea fish with some fancy Chinese name), then stick with Koi Palace.

        There may be other restaurants that could whip something up with advanced notice (ie where they have to procure the fish from elsewhere to bring it back), but do not have it in stock, although much further away than your suggested driving distance maximum.

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

        Asian Pearl
        3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

        1. Reporting back...

          We had a fantastic dinner for 7 on Sunday night. $800 was our admittedly steep bill, but it was well worth it for the level of cooking we experienced.

          Buddha Jumps Over the Wall: we over-ordered this item and got 4 tureens for 7 people. 3 tureens would have been perfect. I have only had this dish once in my life, but the older folks said it was very good for a restaurant outside of Asia. The broth itself was deeply flavored, unctuous, and a perfect balance of all the ingredients. The soup included large thick chunks of dried abalone, sea cucumbers, fish maw, dried scallops, really thick shitake mushrooms, sharks fin, Chinese ham, and probably more items that I did not identify.

          Lobster 2 ways: I love lobster sashimi, and Koi Palace's was sweet, tender, and refreshing. The deep fried garlicky preparation (bi fung tang) was also delicious. I noted that KP manages to make the spices and crust fragrant without killing the affecting the lobster inside the shell.

          Mantis Shrimp: we asked for the salt and pepper preparation for this and were surprised when a light scent of cinnamon wafted off the plate. I've never had mantis shrimp before; they were lightly sweet but very mild. As with the lobster, the most impressive thing was that the heavily flavored crust did not overpower the fresh seafood inside.

          Roast Suckling Pig: the winner of the night was definitely the roast suckling pig!! It was unanimously voted the best preparation of pork skin any of us had ever tasted, easily beating out 99% of the peking ducks out there. The whole pig is brought to the table, with the skin pre-sliced for serving in a bun with duck sauce and a dish of granulated sugar. Words elude me when I try to describe the skin: it was shatteringly crisp, crackly, airy, and absolutely perfect. I could have eaten a whole plateful.

          Pea Sprouts: even the vegetables were perfect. They seemed to have used only the most tender greens and poached them until they were just tender but still emerald green. The soupy preparation was very nice after all the heavy foods we were eating.

          Kabocha coconut soup: we were much too full to order some of their more unique desserts, but the kitchen sent out some complimentary house dessert that we ended up really liking. Aside from being a beautiful yellow, the soup was much more interesting than the standard red bean or tapioca soup. I unfortunately left most of mine behind; I hope they took that as a compliment to the rest of our very excellent meal!

          Consensus: we purposely avoided ordering dishes that are also available at Sea Harbor, but everyone agreed Koi Palace's quality was just as good, and much better priced.

          photos: http://www.chezpei.com/2010/05/koi-pa...

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

          1. My friend pre-ordered the "superior dinner" with suckling pig:

            http://www.koipalace.com/blank.html?d...

            It was written down in the reservation book, but the order didn't get in, so we picked another menu ($588 for 10).

            Another weird thing: maybe a third of the way through the meal, some schlubby 20ish Pentecostals came in with a guitar and started singing "Auld Lang Syne" over and over. They couldn't really sing or play guitar but they played for maybe 45 minutes and collected money.

            The good:

            Stir-fried scallops and prawns with veggies was HK seafood at its best, perfectly fresh, perfectly cooked.

            "Catch of the day" (some sort of whole white fish) with ginger and yellow chive, again perfectly coooked, didn't step on the delicate flavor of the fish.

            Suckling pig slices, I don't get the sweet red beans and can do without the sauce, but this was the best version of this dish I've had.

            Presumably you could eat very well by ordering other dishes of this calibre a la carte.

            The OK:

            Deep-fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp and topped with "minced pork drizzles" (seemed like shredded dried pork and mayo), not as good as the simpler regular stuffed eggplant on the dim sum menu but tasty.

            Sea cucumber and chicen sauteed with ginger and scallion, chicken was tasty, sea cucumber was just a texture.

            Main lobster, Chardonnay wine, and ginger over e-foo noodle: this was tasty enough, but kind of a waste of lobster.

            The bad:

            Shark fin's soup: the fin of course has no flavor, just an unusual texture, and in this case it was served in a thick, almost equally tasteless cornstarch-thickened goo. The red vinegar made it edible but what a waste of money.

            Whole abalone braised with bailing mushrooom and mustard green: whatever they did to the abalone brought out its worst qualities. It ended up with the texture of veal kidneys and a metallic, livery flavor. Easily the worst abalone I've ever had. The mushrooms and greens were good.

            Mango gelatin molds: meh.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              "They couldn't really sing or play guitar but they played for maybe 45 minutes and collected money".
              Perhaps this was another example of paying them to stop.
              Was the lobster the principal course or was it from Main( east of New Hampshir)?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The most prized abalones are sun-dried, then rehydrated and braised. Quite a delicacy and can cost $100 or more apiece for the best quality which will have honeyed, caramel flavor, deep sweet-briny taste of the sea, and a toothsome texture. It's nothing at all like fresh or canned abalone, if that's your only frame of reference. Some chefs also make dishes using our local small farmed abalone to try to make them taste like dried abalone. I have observed a racial divide in opinions on dried abalone and all sorts of Chinese dried seafood, so your take does not surprise me.
                http://www.cla-japan.co.jp/shop/abalo...
                http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthr...
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825932
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2755...

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I usually like dishes with dried Chinese seafood, and I can see how that might concentrate the abalone flavor in a good way, but this was canned (house brand, for sale in the lobby). I have nothing against canned shellfish, either, it can be great.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I've not had the housebrand abalone at Koi Palace, but yes, the canned ones tend to taste metallic. Interesting that it would be braised further, as I've mostly had canned abalone sliced and added at the last minute in stir-fry or just warmed through in soup.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      "Whole abalone braised with bailing mushrooom and mustard green" is the description on the menu. "Braised bailing mushroom and steamed mustard green with a can of abalone dumped on top" might be more accurate.

                      Now I'm curious to try dried abalone. Where's a good place to get it? Maybe preorder at Sun Hong Kong?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I ran across this abalone menu page for ABC Sea Food in Milpitas.
                        http://order.zonicordering.com/MTU1MA...
                        Haven't had abalone there. But pre-ordering would be the way to go.

                        I missed a friend's banquet at Sun Hong Kong in the fall. Here's the menu: Lobster Bisque, Lobster Pieces w/ Garlic, Lobster Meat w/ Egg White, Stir Fried Salmon w/ Tofu, Sweet and Spicy Fried Chicken Wings, Steamed Black Bass, Pan Fried Noodles w/ Scallions, Clay Pot Fried Rice, Chinese Greens in Garlic Broth, Pork Crackin's, Roasted Pork, Stir Fried Frog w/ Veggies. No abalone, so can't ask him for an opinion.

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                        ABC Sea Food Restaurant
                        782 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035

                        Sun Hong Kong
                        2439 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I wonder if this is the same KP's own canned abalone that K.K. raves about.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Looking at that menu today, I realize that they probably lied to us about the order not getting in. They roast five a day, probably they just gave ours to someone with connections.