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Best Chinese - Millbrae?

I grew up in the Richmond District and now live in LA, In LA we have a fantastic concentration of Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley - of all types and varieties. I have searched the SF boards and see mentions of Millbrae as maybe the hot spot for the best Chinese food in the Bay Area -- but the posts I am finding are fairly old. When I was growing up, I don't think that was going on yet.

In any event - I am back in the City a lot now and I am dying to try out this Millbrae scene. What are the best places ? I'd love suggestions about where to go and what to order. Thanks!!!

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    1. re: wolfe

      Thanks for the tips .... but I'll pass on your bitchy tone.

      1. re: lalaw05

        Chillax and welcome home. I'm sure no harm was intended.

        1. re: lalaw05

          The search engine is not user-friendly at the moment and the default settings hide the most recent information quite often. This has been reported to the site management as you're not the only one to have trouble with it.

          Welcome home!

      2. The way I understand it, MP/SGV/Alhambra etc... offers a wider variety of regional Chinese, some Cantonese, but it is more about better non Cantonese Chinese in general.

        Millbrae is more of a dim sum seafood restaurant row that it is now known for, probably better than most dim sum restaurants in SF city, where you have

        HK Flower Lounge
        Asian Pearl Peninsula
        South China Seafood Village (formerly Fook Yuen, a branch of the one in SF on Irving Street)
        Zen Peninsula
        The Kitchen

        as your top contenders in the area, with APP and ZP being generally a bit more refined, but HKFL is still popular after all these years. The Kitchen also gets very crowded on weekends. Of course there's Koi Palace in Daly City that is the most exquisite, but gets mixed reviews (it has the edge over the competitionfor having some real exotic expensive seafood, live in the tanks, but is generally more popular for its dim sum by Chinese and non Chinese alike).

        Millbrae is still very Cantonese centric, as you have three to four Hong Kong style western type cafe places (not as dense and many as SGV/MP though), plus the new Gourmet Hunter which focuses a little more on Macau style Cantonese (more rustic feel) that I think is really good, but the flavors could be a bit of an acquired taste for those not used to it.

        Regional Chinese wise, not too many varieties. Shanghai Dumpling Shop, a chain of the one in SF, Cantonese run, very popular amongst Cantonese and non English speakers, but I find their food generally inconsistent and unrefined. Better Shanghainese can be found in San Mateo a few exits south on 101. There's a Sichuan place across from SCSV but I haven't tried it. There's Five A's cafe for a general mix of Northern Chinese in Burlingame a block south of SCSV, but I'm not a fan.

        If your game is dim sum or Cantonese dinners w/seafood, Millbrae will do you just fine. For regular stir fry, nothing fancy, my vote is Gourmet Hunter. For a quality bowl of congee, noodles, simple stir fry, there's Fat Wong's to the north in San Bruno, or the HK cafe's do the fried noodle/rice plates for cheaper (Cafe Salina being the priciest, but generally does it at the highest quality).

        For better Shanghainese, head south to San Mateo, more choices within downtown, but you really want to go to Little Shanghai. For Beijing style food, Everyday Beijing. Taiwanese....some like Little Bee but for similar yet much better fare, 5 Joy in Foster City (about 15 mins south of Millbrae).

        More regional Chinese suggestions here (beyond Millbrae and San Mateo)

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693343/

        2 Replies
        1. re: K K

          KK, I think you're referring to Gourmet VILLAGE in Millbrae.

          But in any case, it sounds like you've tried Gourmet HUNTER in Milpitas. Would love to hear about it when you have a chance.

          -----
          Peninsula Asian Pearl
          1671 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

          Gourmet Village
          465 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Haha good catch. Yes I meant Gourmet Village.

            Have not tried Gourmet Hunter yet in Milpitas. Must be one of those Cooking Papa spinoff types...

        2. Well, The Kitchen in Millbrae is the same Kitchen that bombed out in Alhambra, so that's a useful reference point. Certainly you won't go wanting for excellent Hong Kong style seafood/dim sum in Millbrae. I think Zen Peninsula compares very favorably with the food in the SGV, Hong Kong Flower Lounge, too. I really like the South Sea Seafood Village location in the Richmond district, but I'm not so sure about the Millbrae branch. Didn't particularly like Asian Pearl in Millbrae. Besides the places on El Camino Real, also check out the smaller places on Broadway. Bottom line is that there are a lot of outstanding options there and you need to check them out for yourself.

          -----
          Hong Kong Flower Lounge
          51 Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

          Zen Peninsula
          1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

          Asian Pearl
          3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

          South Sea Seafood Village
          195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl

            I think ZP seems to be consistently over-rated on this board for dim sum. Unless one seeks the exotics like foie gras siu mai, AP, HKFL, SSSV are probably better bets in my opinion (for good execution of basic dim sum fares). Tai Wu gets my first vote in this area but it's more out of the way. Not commenting on the regular dinner menu.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              South Sea Seafood Village in SF is in the Inner Sunset district, not the Richmond district. I like it, too.

              --NancyB

              -----
              South Sea Seafood Village
              195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

            2. Thanks for the very helpful comments! I think we'll try APP Saturday. I can't wait!

              1. Fook Yuen used to be one of the best in my opinion, but it is no more.

                -----
                Fook Yuen
                195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA

                11 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I daresay Fook Yuen was the best Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area when it opened up in the early 1990s, but the way Chinese food evolves if you don't reinvent yourself every so often, the newcomers will pass you up. In this case it was about five years later when Koi Palace opened up and surpassed them, and you have to hand it to Koi Palace for staying on top for over a decade.

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

                  Fook Yuen
                  195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Chefs come and go too, and I don't doubt a few departed from FY over the years (including Mr Boson Yum himself, now in Fremont with his own Bistro, who is quite the legend, and a former FY executive dinner chef). I agree that FY was awesome in the very early 1990s and recall going there for dinner a lot. FY's major downward spiral in quality I recall happening back around 2002. That was when Sea Harbor (now occupied by The Kitchen) had the best shark's fin dumpling in town as well as black bean sauce stewed chopped fish head/cheeks (Yu Wan).

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      I am subjective in this matter because I lived in that area for a long time in the 90's. Fook Yuen wasn't as fancy as Hong Kong MayFlower, but the food was great. (I mostly went for dim sum). The atomsphere was nice and yet down to earth. The service was good. The dim sum ladies more of less recognized me. So it was just a personal favorite aside from the fine dim sum.

                      -----
                      Fook Yuen
                      195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Back in the 90s I would frequent the smaller and lesser-known HKFL (same English name, different Chinese name) in Millbrae, but apparently it was replaced by a different restaurant. I'm actually still kinda confused about the ownership of the list of Cantonese restaurants (Fook Yuen, Asian Pearl Peninsula, The Kitchen, etc.) and which chefs moved from which restaurant to which in the past decade or so. All I remember was when The Kitchen opened, those chefs were really passionate about preparing the best dishes. Are they still there?

                        -----
                        Asian Pearl
                        3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                        1. re: vincentlo

                          Sorry Vincentlo,

                          I don't live in California no more. Others may able to help you on this.

                          1. re: vincentlo

                            Well there was no real way to keep track of the chefs, unless you were regulars at all of the big name places (like some of the Chinese VIP golfer types who like eating out a lot). For some reason they all knew each other from the 90s...some of the staff/chefs would work somewhere then re-surface elsewhere. There may be some tips from Norcal's Sing Tao newspaper's food and wine critic (who actually used to be a TV actor in Hong Kong in the 50s/60s before settling in SF many years ago), but I don't follow his articles or subscribe/read that paper.

                            Culinary Wonderland used to own all the Asian Pearls and The Kitchens. Basically the APs and The Kitchen went their separate ways, despite maintaining the same menu. About a year ago I asked about this at the AP in Millbrae and management flat out denied it (but I already had some insider rumor info on this which turned out to be true). Very messy, whatever happened....The Kitchen closed down in Southern California, the smaller non seafood restaurants like Macau Cafe/Orchid Bowl Cafe in Richmond's Pacifc East Mall closed for good. Chef Shun Fung, the head cheese and chef with the real skills, basically now stays in his restaurant in Sacarmento according to family, supposedly not even a Kitchen/AP kind of place, and that's more or less it.

                            Some of the folks from Millbrae's The Kitchen apparently left and went over to Gourmet Village, hence a very similar menu but at least the specials menu is blatantly not the usual stuff you see, and at least to me, in a good way.

                            Fook Yuen...now that's a mystery that hopefully will have some answers....how they went from 1990s powerhouse into decline and closure.

                            I too remember HKFL in the early 90s, was really good. And before they moved to its current location, they were in the space where Asian Pearl is now. Then they separated into two places, one called New HKFL, and then old HKFL, which became HK Pavillion for a short time before flopping.

                            1. re: K K

                              "Fook Yuen...now that's a mystery that hopefully will have some answers....how they went from 1990s powerhouse into decline and closure."

                              SImple. I live closed to Millbrae in the 1990's and moved out it in the early 2000's.

                              1. re: K K

                                The chef from Fook Yuen was the opening chef at The Kitchen. That's when FY took a big dip in quality for me.

                                -----
                                Fook Yuen
                                195 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA

                                1. re: K K

                                  I was at Asian Pearl two weeks ago for dim sum and thought it wasn't as great as I remembered from a year back. It was still better than the last time I went to Koi Palace though, and half the price. But nothing shone except the donut puff balls.

                                  HKFL was consistently good (if not innovative) right up until they sold ~3 years ago. I ate there regularly for dim sum over 20+ years. Mayflower is not as good and much more chaotic.

                                  I miss the warmth of Fook Yuen in the behemoths. Guess it's time to follow the chefs to Gourmet Village...

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

                                  Gourmet Village
                                  465 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

                                  1. re: Windy

                                    But if you're looking for dim sum, you won't find it at Gourmet Village.

                                    -----
                                    Gourmet Village
                                    465 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Oh well. The search for dumplings continues.