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

Pei May 22, 2010 05:34 PM

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. yimster RE: Pei May 22, 2010 06:50 PM

    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. m
      ML8000 RE: Pei May 22, 2010 07:11 PM

      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

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

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

      1. K K RE: Pei May 24, 2010 09:32 AM

        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.

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

        Asian Pearl
        3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

        1. Pei RE: Pei Jun 1, 2010 08:53 AM

          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...

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

          1. Robert Lauriston RE: Pei Dec 28, 2011 10:57 AM

            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
              wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2011 12:10 PM

              "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
                Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2012 08:35 PM

                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
                  Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Jan 6, 2012 09:02 AM

                  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
                    Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2012 10:09 AM

                    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
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Jan 6, 2012 11:35 AM

                      "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
                        Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2012 11:52 AM

                        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.

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

                        Sun Hong Kong
                        2439 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                      vincentlo RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 28, 2013 07:27 PM

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

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Robert Lauriston RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 25, 2013 09:56 AM

                    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.

                  3. Robert Lauriston RE: Pei Mar 25, 2014 08:54 AM

                    Michael Bauer went for dinner with Cecilia Chiang last week. She pointed out that there were two levels of service, VIPs were seated in a better-kept dining room with more efficient service.

                    http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                    39 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      b
                      budnball RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 09:42 AM

                      Yeah I read that and thought, there is no way I will eat there. Unclean tables and carpet, servers in dirty clothes. The article did not feel like a hit piece, but a wake up call.

                      1. re: budnball
                        c
                        chezwhitey RE: budnball Mar 25, 2014 05:15 PM

                        I don't know if it will change much, they've been doing this for as long as I can remember and still the people come in droves.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                        n
                        nocharge RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 11:05 AM

                        Any restaurant that doesn't give the duo of Michael Bauer and Cecilia Chiang VIP treatment must be the epitome of "clueless".

                        But I had lunch there last month and any suggestion that this place is one of the finest Chinese restaurants in the US is a total joke. Mediocre.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          K K RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 11:13 AM

                          Ahhh yes, bringing the worst of Hong Kong to the Bay Area. It has been like that for a while now.

                          R&G Lounge has private rooms upstairs, but they require a minimum charge. If you are paying for a private room, you better get really good service.

                          Koi Palace is very well known in the Chinese community to be like a canteen for the VIP Hillsborough golfer crowd, and hosting dinners for Asian/Chinese celebrities, politicians, and other VIPs. There's a reason why they have $1000 wine bottles in stock, and frequent diner cards of varying levels that accumulate points to redeem for gifts or other things/services.

                          Yung Kee in Central Hong Kong (at one point, was the place to go for high end banquet and roast goose) has an upper floor for American Express Black card members only (also requiring some ridiculous minimum credit line) to make a reservation. Of course the food will be the best. But the walkins on the ground floor and takeout customers will get lower quality food, still tasty on some level.

                          All I can say is this....a few weeks ago my friends and I were dining at Yum's Bistro. At the table behind us was the food and wine critic of Sing Tao local Chinese newspaper, and he was hosting a large party that included the folks of Benu (including Corey Lee who I didn't recognize at first). I'm sure they ate and drank way better than Bauer and Chiang.

                          1. re: K K
                            j
                            Jon914 RE: K K Mar 25, 2014 02:29 PM

                            Ah, favoritism in Cantonese restaurants. It stretches back to the beginning of time. Virtually every Cantonese restaurant I've been to from the top to bottom plays its favorites. It's repugnant to many, but it's just part of the culture.

                            - Favorite customers get to skip the line during dim sum service. They huddle somewhere in the back of the restaurant far away from the host stand, so you usually don't see this. Attempts to point out open tables that are held for regulars are met with half-lies about them being "reserved."

                            - Favorite customers get treats throughout the meal, like complimentary XO sauce at the start and real desserts at the end (mango pudding, almond cookies), rather than the usual red bean soup.

                            - Managers kiss up and spend lots of time at certain tables, change their plates frequently while completely neglecting others.

                            - Customers "bribe" the hostess with little gifts, hoping to become favorite customers in the future.

                            - Sometimes, favorites get more generous portions than the norm, or they get the "prime" picks of certain dishes. Many restaurants cook dishes in batches (waiting for multiple orders), and they come out at the same time, so it's easy to notice this.

                            - This isn't about favoritism, but it is about service. Generally, service at these restaurants is poor. But they are *awfully* quick any time it comes to the check. They are efficient in serving it and more so in taking your money and seeing how much you've tipped. Contrary to the negligent service they provide, they're watching the whole time.

                            @KK - Ah, Yung Kee. Don't they also segregate based on whether you're a tourist or not?

                            1. re: Jon914
                              K K RE: Jon914 Mar 25, 2014 04:25 PM

                              No idea Jon, about Yung Kee. I only know what I've read or heard about. Basically unless you know a VIP and know what to order, or tight with the owners (well Kinson Kam is gone, hence the food sucks now), you are potentially stepping into a landmine. I would however go just to try their signature mini bowl of wonton noodle soup, supposedly done right, but even that can be controversial with some folks.

                              What you say is exactly true for Koi Palace.

                              I know people who are fairly generous with giving staff red packets. Offering wine pours to the floor managers (if they bring their own) and in return not paying for corkage.
                              Or favorite customers not getting charged for tea during dim sum (which they make it back in tips).

                              I'm sorry, but my friends are laughing like mad when Bauer pulled out his "secret" weapon who turned out to order unfortunately some really ho hum items that are not the strength of Koi Palace. Plus if it was just them two, it's not like you can sample a lot either. For example I would not order suckling pig appetizer and get a few slices for money....for something of that situation, it would have called for a larger party and a whole roast suckling pig, probably even pre order it in advance. Not saying that you have to go big or go home, but it is a matter of ordering right where it counts.

                              Geoduck....well ordering sashimi is safe, but does not in anyway showcase the culinary talent of the kitchen team. This is why the other restaurant in the East Bay outshines.

                              1. re: K K
                                m
                                ML8000 RE: K K Mar 25, 2014 04:57 PM

                                Excellent point about the size of the dining party. A good Chinese meal really should be 8-10 people, so you taste many things. Two people is 3 dishes at most.

                                1. re: ML8000
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Mar 25, 2014 05:06 PM

                                  Judging from the spacing of the wine glasses in the photos in Bauer's blog post, his party was at least ten people.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    m
                                    ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 05:13 PM

                                    I guess Bauer's money wasn't green enough

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      j
                                      Jon914 RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 05:19 PM

                                      The lazy susan on the table's also a dead giveaway that it was a large party.

                                2. re: Jon914
                                  m
                                  ML8000 RE: Jon914 Mar 25, 2014 04:39 PM

                                  It's not just Chinese or Canto restaurants but it is an old school thing, i.e., you take care of me, I'll take care of you...and it's becoming far less prevalent.

                                  I don't know why anyone is surprised. Same exact thing happens with VIPs at non-Chinese restaurant but perhaps not in the same way. Regardless, this type of service does cost more. I don't imagine the Olsen twins private dinner at Marlowe was free...although maybe they didn't eat much! (that's a joke)

                                  My uncle does the "bribe" thing well and he's ABC. He knows a couple of waiters at R&G and yes, they do treat you better...but you have to drop coin after the talking and demand for good service. No gifts or talking to the owner, just tip the waiters well and remember their name, something a former waiter knows.

                                  As for not treating MB and CC well...BFD. Now he understands how most people eat in SF, instead of a recognizable critics. Seriously, talk about a two tier system. Maybe that's why MB doesn't review ethnic places...because they just don't suck up, or care who he is. Oh well.

                                  1. re: ML8000
                                    K K RE: ML8000 Mar 25, 2014 10:32 PM

                                    All excellent commentary everyone.

                                    But my point still holds. The best game of KP was not ordered correctly (so much for the secret weapon), and "best game" doesn't mean spending $$$$$$$$, it is more about knowing what to order and maximizing that experience and value.

                                    We don't know for a fact if they picked a slightly less sleepy fish from a less murky tank directly themselves, or they picked a fish that happened to be moving from a just as murky tank. Maybe KP picked a fish on their behalf and they got bait and switched (shown the lively demo fish, but got a sleepy one).

                                    If I were Michael Bauer, I would contact Ronald Mar (the freelance food and wine critic of Sing Tao newspaper) to get him to navigate Koi Palace, even though that will probably never happen for a number of reasons. His next best approach and this would have been a total no brainer, would be to have Martin Yan as his guide. Why? M.Y. China is a partnership with MY and the Koi Palace folks, so of course there is a special relationship there, whether Bauer disliked MYC (or not) or whatever he thinks of Martin Yan.

                                    Cecilia may be a celebrity in her own right, but based on the photos they showed of what they ate, I would not have ordered those dishes she did, regardless of how many people were actually at her table.

                                    As far as cleanliness, that is definitely unacceptable if the chairs/carpet/seafood tanks are unkempt. That's just no excuse and irresponsible of them.

                                    With the Milpitas KP location coming in the near future, perhaps expansion plans are becoming too ambitious with quality and consistency sacrifice, because there will always be crowds willing to accept less for more, allowing them to get away with way more.

                                    1. re: K K
                                      Porthos RE: K K Mar 26, 2014 12:13 AM

                                      Regarding the lethargic fish. If it was red rock cod, they are often lethargic looking and look like they are about to expire, all bunched up on the bottom of the tank. It's not until the net goes in that they start to swim and move about.

                                      I've questioned a manger at a Cantonese restaurant before who showed that indeed the fish start moving once the net goes in. Even the ones that are upside down and look like goners start to swim quite vigorously.

                                      See JL's photo of red rock cod at Seafood Paradise in SoCal. Look lethargic and half dead, very much alive.

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8543...

                                      1. re: Porthos
                                        K K RE: Porthos Mar 26, 2014 09:44 AM

                                        Yeah channel rockfish/red cod/red dragon....maybe deep sea fish know they have no space to move around and try to conserve whatever they have left, either that or the murky water makes them drowsy. Either way you can taste the quality after steaming it if it is still viable.

                                        Koi Palace gets a fair abundance of these, but chances are you pay $$$ vs much less at a neighborhood restaurant. Hard to say if you are necessarily getting better quality from the ingredient to the execution.

                                        But I have seen other species of fish (along with channel rockfish) at the KP tank closest to the standing lobby area, all looking sleepy. Some even huddling together in various hilarious looking positions.

                                        The bottom line is: I wish they could keep their tanks pristine, like Star Seafood (a chain restaurant in Hong Kong). 30 Alaskan King Crabs in one tank, and an adjacent tank holding maybe several thousand dollars worth of sealife around the world....crystal clear and see through, nothing to hide. Granted the small fish tanks at Yum's Bistro is also murky, but I have much less to worry about in general.

                                        1. re: K K
                                          Porthos RE: K K Mar 26, 2014 10:07 AM

                                          I wish they could keep their tanks pristine, like Star Seafood (a chain restaurant in Hong Kong)
                                          ==============
                                          Now name one Cantonese restaurant in SF, LA, or the US that has more variety and better quality fish than what Koi Palace has on any given day. LA's high end boasts 3-4 tanks. 6 if you're lucky at a place like New/Capital Seafood or Sam Woo Irvine. The tanks at the much touted Sea Harbour are often empty. And this is LA.

                                      2. re: K K
                                        ckshen RE: K K Mar 26, 2014 12:15 AM

                                        I have to say, some of their tanks look murky recently and since they put the tanks right at the front door, it especially has no reason to happen. Didn't notice anything unusual about the carpets/ chairs, however. but i didn't look.

                                        The problem with KP and other higher end Cantonese banquet restaurants in the Bay Area is that, they don't have competition from truly top end Cantonese places. All of the nicer cantonese places here are roughly on the same level. As a result, the bar for competition in every aspect is lower. 'I am the top dog anyway, why should I do more?'

                                        With that said, its hard to see the Bay Area support a true top-end banquet-size Cantonese restaurant that can give Koi and others a kick in the backside.

                                        1. re: ckshen
                                          K K RE: ckshen Mar 26, 2014 09:48 AM

                                          KP also gets in a fair share of tour buses worth of people from China, perhaps from real estate purchasing tours (vs say, going to Hokkaido just to eat seafood, hot pot, and Hokkaido hairy and king crabs....). They come during lunch and in dinner as well at random.

                                          In recent years the menu (at least the specials) has slanted a bit away from Cantonese and diversified into regional Cantonese and a few regional Chinese. Because they are business people and know that there is a lot of money from Mainlanders as well as immigrants who are local.

                                          And those folks would be happy to dine at KP just because and regardless of what MB has to say, and also part of the equation of keeping the place in business.

                                        2. re: K K
                                          j
                                          JonDough RE: K K Mar 26, 2014 09:49 AM

                                          I went to the Dublin KP last month. The restaurant & fish tanks were clean. Service was a little chaotic though.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    c
                                    chezwhitey RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 05:13 PM

                                    Frankly, I'm shocked whenever I don't get awful service at a chinese restaurant(especially cantonese) which makes the ones that are actually friendly really stick out. Rudeness won't stop me from going there if the food is really good, but the line, good but not great food and price at Koi will.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      PeterL RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 06:07 PM

                                      I agree with Bauer's assessment. Unfortunately, maybe because of lack of competition, the "best" Chinese restaurant does not even come close to the top tier down in LA. I am more familiar with the Koi Palace in Dublin. Yes they are popular, but every time I go I cannot take my eyes off the stained chairs. I mean, really? I don't mind different levels of service, as long as the lowest level don't suck. Unfortunately the reputation for Koi is that if you don't order the expensive stuff the service really sucks. And what about the greasy table and dirty fish tanks? That's just unacceptable.

                                      1. re: PeterL
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: PeterL Mar 25, 2014 06:12 PM

                                        Bauer's supposedly been revisiting the place at least annually since he put it on the top 100 list in 2003. Have things taken a dire turn for the worse in the past year? Or maybe on previous visits he just didn't notice the rundown fabrics and dirt as he passed through on his way to the first-class dining room.

                                        There was so much else wrong with the meal I posted about above that I didn't mention how dingy and rundown the place looked.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          h
                                          hyperbowler RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 26, 2014 06:09 PM

                                          I wonder if he's been there for dinner ever. At lunch time it's so chaotic I could imagine not having a chance to look at the carpet, etc.

                                          I also wonder if the Michelin inspectors tweet about their cleanliness motivated him to look a little closer:
                                          http://sf.eater.com/archives/2014/03/...

                                          He's name dropped Cecilia Chang a few times in the past year, and if she helps educate him about Chinese cuisine, he'll be better prepared to review upcoming upscale Chinese restaurants.

                                          That said, he was exaggerating when he said his "secret weapon" would tell him "what to order and avoid." Maybe it's the best stuff on the menu, but he ordered pretty much what he recommended in his 2011 re-review: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/listing...

                                          1. re: hyperbowler
                                            b
                                            BoneAppetite RE: hyperbowler Mar 26, 2014 06:32 PM

                                            Hear, hear Hyperbowler.

                                            1. re: hyperbowler
                                              Robert Lauriston RE: hyperbowler Mar 26, 2014 06:38 PM

                                              Seems like he mostly went for dinner. The capsule reviews didn't say anything about dim sum beyond the hours until 2008.

                                              Bauer might well have had Cecilia Chang with him on every visit back to its first appearance in the top 100 in 2003. He didn't used to say who his dining companions were.

                                              1. re: hyperbowler
                                                m
                                                ML8000 RE: hyperbowler Mar 26, 2014 06:56 PM

                                                The name dropping is interesting, so you have to ask why.

                                                Cynically it's there for a bit of cover, i.e., "hey I brought Secret Weapon and I still got a crappy meal," or, "we brought a Secret Weapon who knows how to order."

                                                I've never read a local review where the critic brings a secret ethnic weapon/critic to guide or verify a meal. I've seen it on food TV shows but it's usually within the travel genre, expose type TV, visiting a far away place.

                                                Seriously, MB has been at the Chron and in SF for over 25 years. He's the editor of the Food section and the big cheese critic...and he needs help with Chinese food? I'd be curious if P Unterman or someone like Jonathan Gold brings help?

                                                Nothing wrong with that, I can see bringing someone who speaks Cantonese, but again...why drop names?

                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                  b
                                                  BoneAppetite RE: ML8000 Mar 26, 2014 07:11 PM

                                                  That's right -- when you're in the service "business", you're shelf life is short unless your skills are special. Really now, hiding behind an old Chinese lady to validate your ill-formed knowledge about a cuisine the "Chinese lady" never mastered is . . . . well, you fill in the blanks. . .

                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                    h
                                                    hyperbowler RE: ML8000 Mar 26, 2014 07:14 PM

                                                    Agreed--- nothing wrong with that, as long as the reviewer is there to add insights and it would be possible for the reviewer to order the same meal on a future visit by themselves.

                                                    I've read a few articles where Chowhounds have accompanied reviewers to restaurants whose cuisine the reviewer was unfamiliar with.

                                                    As far as I can find, There hasn't been a full review of Koi Palace in over a decade. It's possible he hasn't given them a full review because he knows of their shortcomings and would have to take them off the list top 100, leaving only one Chinese restaurant, Yank Sing.

                                                    1. re: ML8000
                                                      Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Mar 26, 2014 07:42 PM

                                                      Marion Cunningham was one of Bauer's frequent dining companions (in his pre-name-dropping era) and he learned a lot from her.

                                                      http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                ckshen RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2014 10:40 PM

                                                'I’ve always heard about the two levels of service at Chinese restaurants, so I found this enlightening.'

                                                Bauer has been receiving the higher level of service at other restaurants he goes to because of his identity, so he's been living this treatment.

                                                I am not surprised if Koi didn't recognize or didn't care that Bauer was there. What was perhaps a bit suprising was that Cecilia Chiang, who have more industry cred, didn't get better treatment. but it could be that if they went on a busy night, the restaurant was full of highroller regulars that they couldn't/ wouldn't worry about them. After all, the high end cantonese meals that these highrollers have can easily make French Laundry looks economical.

                                                1. re: ckshen
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                                                  nocharge RE: ckshen Mar 25, 2014 11:30 PM

                                                  What kind of "high roller" would waste his hard-earned money at a restaurant that MB thinks may have questionable hygiene located in a particularly ugly strip mall in Daly City?

                                                  If I were a woman, I probably wouldn't date that kind of a guy.

                                                  1. re: nocharge
                                                    ckshen RE: nocharge Mar 26, 2014 12:01 AM

                                                    Cantonese cuisine uses ingredients that can get pricey very quickly- cold crab, live coral trout, certain kind of abalone, etc. To certain folks, eating these things means status. of course, to other folks, eating these things means nothing. so it really depends on what kind of guy/ gal one is.

                                                    like others mention, if one's dropping that kind of money, they probably give the newest/ cleanest stuff to use along with the best service.

                                                    1. re: ckshen
                                                      n
                                                      nocharge RE: ckshen Mar 26, 2014 12:16 AM

                                                      That's fair enough and it pretty much goes for all restaurants: Spend a lot of money and you will be well liked. My issue is more like how a place in an ugly strip mall in Daly City would attract anything more than "high roller wannabes".

                                                      One of my old girlfriends used to work as a private chef in Hillsborough. If you can afford one of those, no need to go to a dirty place in a Daly City strip mall for dinner.

                                                      1. re: nocharge
                                                        ckshen RE: nocharge Mar 26, 2014 12:26 AM

                                                        I think live seafood sourcing won't be simple for the private chefs of 'highrollers' who dig Cantonese food. Exotic live seafood is not exactly easy to find and kept alive at home. Easier to just go to KP where there are rows of tanks of this stuff. and besides, culturally in Hong Kong, you go out and host/ entertain/ impress your friends in a banquet restaurant. so some of that culture likely carry over to 'highrollers' here who like Cantonese food.

                                                        1. re: ckshen
                                                          j
                                                          Jon914 RE: ckshen Mar 26, 2014 12:32 AM

                                                          As ckshen says, it's a cultural thing. There are many well-heeled Chinese families that don't enjoy eating at home no matter what and will make the trek to entertain themselves and others. Koi's just about the only place locally that stocks the exotic seafood and has the menu breadth that these families are looking for.

                                                          1. re: ckshen
                                                            n
                                                            nocharge RE: ckshen Mar 26, 2014 12:48 AM

                                                            I can perfectly see the logic of that. No argument. The question would more be like why would bona-fide "high rollers" want to hang out at a dirty place (according to MB) at a very ugly strip mall in "glamours" Daly City?

                                                            San Francisco used to have Harbor Village in Embarcadero 4. Lots of affluent Chinese families would go there for Sunday dinner. Alas, that place has been gone for a while. But it was in a prominent space near the Embarcadero in San Francisco, not in some kind of crappy shopping mall in Daly City.

                                                            1. re: nocharge
                                                              Melanie Wong RE: nocharge Mar 26, 2014 01:00 AM

                                                              Because the concentration of wealthy Chinese families is in Millbrae, Hillsborough, San Mateo, Cupertino, etc., not in San Francisco. They don't want to scratch their luxury cars in City parking lots.

                                                              Harbor Village was not profitable. Koi Palace presumably is.

                                                              1. re: nocharge
                                                                ckshen RE: nocharge Mar 26, 2014 01:04 AM

                                                                i would speculate that the restaurant probably has to balance serving the high rollers and the regular folks. and hence the location that's not in the fanciest corner of the bay area with lower rent, that can translate into lower prices for the regular folks.

                                                                In Hong Kong, where there can be the top notch Cantonese restaurants on the top floor of some tall building with sweeping view of the harbor, where the entire restaurant can be supported by regular highrollers and infrequent high roller wannabes. There are enough VIPS/ celebrities, lawyers, bankers, doctors to support fancy location restaurants. Here, there just aren't as many of those types who're able to drop that kind of money regularly, so the restaurant has to serve the 'regular' folks who may balk at the otherwise higher prices at a fancy location if the regular folks are to go there regularly.

                                                        2. re: nocharge
                                                          Melanie Wong RE: nocharge Mar 26, 2014 12:33 AM

                                                          I'm having a number of convos with other Chinese-American friends about MB's conclusions, and we feel this is another example of an ethnic divide. MB's ideas of hygiene don't equate. The high rollers are indeed there, who else can spend $500+ per person on dinner? They have no trouble getting dates. ;-)

                                                          More than 10 years ago I talked with KP's owner saying he needed to up the service to match the food. He said that he spends his expense dollars on better ingredients and the chefs he brings in from Hong Kong. His Chinese customers don't care so much about service, they're there for the food so he spends a minimal amount on the front of the house. And I couldn't disagree with him.

                                                          http://www.decadeonline.com/insp.phtm...

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                            Ridge RE: Melanie Wong Mar 26, 2014 07:26 AM

                                                            I have to prefice this by saying I have never been to Koi palace for dinner but go there regularly for dim sum. I don't expect the level of service one would expect at Chez Panisse. I have found the service efficient(usually) and what would would expect from a big Chinese Restaurant. I think comments about the ugliness of the mall are exagurated. The restaurant space itself is pleasant and I have never noticed any hygiene issues. I go because the dim sum rings more authentic to me than other Bay Area dim sum places. And I almost never agree with Bauer on anything so I am not surprised by his review.

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