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The Kitchen Millbrae - any recent updates/comments?

Curious if someone has dined at The Kitchen since June/July, as an online article in Chinese says they have remodeled recently (a large investment despite the economic downturn), and one of the chefs there named Au Kam Wor 歐錦和 is supposedly some master of abalone and seafood. Or did the remodel happen back in April?

Supposedly this chef dude has come up with a series of new dishes (or revival I should say), such as

鮑參翅肚盤菜 - abalone, sea cucumber, shark's fin (optional I think) New Territories style "poon choy". I saw a pic in some freebie local magazine at a tea shop earlier today and the abalone pieces are resting on top of some chicken, and I think I saw mussels and other things. The ad claims that this master chef is comparable to Dai Wing Wah in Hong Kong (a very very very famous restaurant for poon choy). It must be a bit fluffed up (and perhaps gimmicky)....but anyways this is ridiculous....$188 per dish.

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  1. My Cantonese mom and ancestors will hang their heads in shame, but I never got the big deal about abalone, sea cucumber, and shark's fin. All expensive ingredients. I eat them all, but don't think they are worth whatever premium the market supports.

    That being said, I'm also interested in the status of The Kitchen, as I live close by and it's always in the mix of restaurants from which to pick for a dinner to treat the in-laws. The past couple of times I went (a year to two year ago), the quality and experience were sliding rapidly downhill.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cary

      Other than texture, I agree that sea cucumber and shark's fin don't have much to offer. And shark's fin has this environmental issue to deal with aside. But abalone tastes really wonderful. Good canned abalone tastes great on its own or in simple cooked dishes like porridge. Dried/Preserved abalone does taste like a million bucks when prepared by skilled chefs, in my humble opinion. ;-)

      But I also agree than high-end Chinese restaurants charge way too much for these dishes.

      1. re: vincentlo

        Good to hear from my two Canto brothers.

        I'm curious if Chef Au was part of the Culinary Wonderland, supposedly he is/was some chairman of a "world cooking" group, whatever that means.

        I didn't know about Poon Choy (yes ignorant me) until Anthony Bourdain's episode in Hong Kong of No Reservations. But honestly I think taking a low key suburban style celebratory village style food item, and toppling it with high end dried seafood is a bit too much, especially in these harder times. I'm all for offering something unique that nobody else is really doing, but one can only take so many gimmicks. Or like that "yellow fur chicken and won ton" claypot that is doing ad rotation for Washington Bakery Chinatown, on KTSF Ch 8 (cable) weeknights....sounds good on paper as it looks remotely similar to the good Sichuan or Shanghainese restaurants in Hong Kong that use mature chicken, jing hua ham, pork bones to stew a beautiful claypot soup. I bet WB's version will be missing some jing hua ham and pork bones too. :-(

        -----
        Washington Bakery & Restaurant
        733 Washington St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: vincentlo

          You're right. I forgot how good abalone in jook can taste.

      2. Went to Hungto and the Kitchen for big dinners on back to back july nights. The consensus was that the quality of the ingredients was noticeably better at the Kitchen, but that the cooking had slipped a notch. BBQ items were pretty good, and there was a remarkably tasty fish clay pot dish, but stir fries were flabby.

        Service was pushing us to order more food and more expensive items and then irritably tried to fit them all onto the lazy susan at the same time. The mini-fireball tableside when our server turned on a hot pot burner for 5 minutes and THEN proceeded to ignite it while ignoring our warnings may have got the meal off on the wrong foot.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sfbing

          Thanks, I was hoping to hear better. Dim sum at The Kitchen about a year ago was slip-shod, so it was definitely in need of some improvement.

        2. Due to several negative comments about the Kitchen on this board I hadn’t intended to try it but when friends whose dim sum knowledge far exceeds mine suggested it for lunch yesterday I took the chance to form my own opinion.

          Based on the few items we had I think The Kitchen may be worthy of another try by people who have given up on it. We paid less than $10 per person (pre-tip) and got a lot for the money.

          This was my first experience of chicken feet with abalone sauce and I really enjoyed it. The flavor was more delicate than most chicken feet dishes and the meat was so soft it just melted off the bone. The feet were very small but we got a lot of them.

          The fried taro puffs were better than what I had a few weeks ago at Asian Pearl but still not the best. I haven’t had a taro puff I thought was really great in a long time so maybe I am being too picky or have lost my taste for them.

          The sesame mochi balls with red bean paste might have been better if they had been warmer when we got them. The BBQ pork bun was about average.

          The Taro with Fish Porridge (on the Lunch Special menu) was one of the best bowls of jook I have had in a long time (though admittedly I don’t eat it often). The fish and taro flavors went well together and the bowl contained many pieces of very tender fish. At $8 for a very large bowl this was a steal.

          We paid only $29.28 total before tip for a lot of food for three people.

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

          The Kitchen
          279 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

          12 Replies
          1. re: charliemyboy

            I had dim sum at the Kitchen on 1/24/14 and was generally satisfied. Not the best ever but definitely well above average. I wouldn't hesitate to go again.

            I chose it because I was meeting someone in the area and it was the first place we found that had nearby parking. My dining mate is not adventurous so in general we stuck to the standards: har gow, siu mai, chia siu bao etc. I did slip in some marinated duck tongues which were enjoyable, a smoked/star anise flavor profile, and we had fried shrimp dumplings, the little squares with the mayo in my picture, which were a nice change of pace. And, not a clinker in the bunch.

            I will attach a couple of snaps of the menu (fuzzy, sorry).

            The clientele was almost entirely Asian and the dining room was about 3/4 full at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. Afterwards I read the reviews on Yelp and was somewhat mystified by undeserved harsh criticism of both the food and the service.

            The Kitchen is a solid choice in my opinion.

             
             
             
             
             
             
             
            1. re: otis

              So you managed to slip in some duck tongues, eh? Thanks for posting, as I've heard from friends that the food has improved in recent months. Not surprising with other HK houses closing and their staff moving on.

              1. re: otis

                I had a rather different experience with dimsum in January. the dimsum were all very generously sized, but the flavors were lacking.

                the ingredients that went into har gow/ siu mai were disappointing because the shrimp and pork didn't signal particularly good quality or freshness.

                The 'lotus leaf wrap' or law mai gai, was very disappointing. it was very heavy in certain soy sauce/ flavoring that i found quite repulsive and left me feeling rather nauseated for the afternoon.

                we actually weren't full when we left. but did not have the desire to order more given how we felt at that point about what we had. so we will not be returning.

                1. re: ckshen

                  Is the Kitchen's dim sum similar/identical to Asian Pearl's? The menu posted above looks identical, so I'm curious...

                  1. re: Jon914

                    Asian Pearl Millbrae reopened a couple+ months back after remodeling. Went back recently and the yum cha quality took a dip despite the nicer digs. I went to The Kitchen last year and thought it was pretty awful and have no plans on returning.

                    I don't have high hopes for the upcoming Tai Wu across the street myself. Zen Peninsula is probably the best of the lot but still not quite there despite the changes (but kudos to them offering black sesame rolls, not sure if that is a regular item on the menu).

                    1. re: K K

                      And we've had reports that Zen Pen is not what it used to be either . . . and I can attest to that from a lunch a little over a year ago.

                      Our HK restaurants seem to be on a downward spiral.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Hi, Melanie, if it's any consolation, we've had at least 2 meals at HK Flower Lounge in the past few months, and it has improved. Cantonese restaurants on the peninsula are like the moon, waxing and waning. . . I must have been through at least 4 full cycles with HKFL by now. I hope they stay good for at least a few years.

                        1. re: pilinut

                          I'm glad to hear this from you. An acquaintance told me last week that HKFL is top of the heap in Millbrae right now. Sounds like its time to return.

                      2. re: K K

                        Oh, KK, I wish I had checked with you guys before going there last night with a cousin visiting from NY! Especially after claiming that Chinese food here is better than Manhattan's. Embarrassing.

                        The Kitchen was not good. We ordered the Asian Pearl Empress chicken, the roasted pigeon, giant clam sautéed in special sauce, rib eye with sesame, and mustard greens with ham. The chicken was really tough. I like chicken--especially cold chicken--with some chew to it, but this bird must have run a few marathons in its day. The pigeon was probably boiled in brine a few days ago, fried, and fried again to make sure we got a less than mediocre bird.

                        The clam dish had the most flavor, but what kind of clam it was is a taxonomic mystery, and I suspect it was already cooked before they sautéed it. The mustard greens were passable, served in a ham broth with small chunks of thoroughly boiled and re-boiled odds and ends of ham bone.

                        Beef rib-eye was tender, cut into cubes and served atop fried egg tofu which would have been nice had the sauce been something like a rich black bean or black pepper sauce instead of a feeble, misapplied version of sweet coffee sauce. The sesame mention in the menu appeared as purely decorative sprinkle of seeds. The dominant flavor was sugar.

                        We did not attempt dessert, and we will not attempt a return visit to The Kitchen, nor to Asian Pearl, for a good long time.

                      3. re: Jon914

                        The two used to be under common ownership. I don't think that's the case any more, but I guess the history is still reflected in the menu.

                    2. re: otis

                      I only went here once a few years ago and thought it was ok but I like Yank Sing so much better.

                      Someone told me their favorite thing to order is some pastry thing (warm) with pineapple filling. I'd like to try it .. is dim sum only available for lunch?

                      1. re: walker

                        Typically dim sum is only available for lunch. A handful of places will offer it at dinner, e.g., Ton Kiang.