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Any recent dim sum experiences South of SF?

  • anyhow Oct 27, 2010 09:29 AM
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We recently tried Asian Pearl in Millbrae. Left home late and got into the waiting line, and then ... delicious variety of HOT, fresh dishes. We will definitely return with a larger party (for more choices).

I appreciated K K's comments about low-MSG content and our meal was more pleasant than at other places.

Please share your news and views, we cannot try everywhere ... we trust 'hounds to guide us. Thanks.

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  1. Glad you liked Asian Pearl. This place gets a lot of mixed reviews (especially on Yelp) from lunch all the way down to dinner, and may not appeal to everyone. But the low MSG/no headache/no thirst/no dulling the senses for the rest of the day experience, as well as really tasting the natural flavors of the food (being brought out by good execution)are also critical factors for me.

    It is said that the Richmond (East Bay) location of Asian Pearl is the better one, although it is too far out of the way for me to try.

    People will likely recommend Koi Palace next for dim sum, but their MSG usage is much much higher, despite having a more extensive and elaborate lineup. Also if you don't go uber early and on a weekday, you're likely not going to get the best experience (the only advantage of going on a weekend is perhaps more varieties, but you also have to fight for parking and elbow space while waiting in the lobby). As popular as this place is, it is not a place I would highly recommend.

    I would suggest trying Zen Peninsula next. Another place with mixed reviews. Portions are smaller but the touches are more refined. Some say that Zen Pen is a lot closer to the modern dim sum experience in Hong Kong.

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

    Zen Peninsula
    1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

    Asian Pearl
    3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

    6 Replies
    1. re: K K

      Not exactly related to the original question, but I am going to ask anyway- except drinking water all day after consuming a meal with lots of MSG, is there anything about Koi's dimsum while you are eating that signals to you that they added a bunch of MSG?

      I am trying to figure out how to tell MSG. Have had dimsum meals that required me to drink loads of water afterwards but didn't think about the link to MSG at the time.

      I am guessing some soy sauce contains some form of MSG in it.

      1. re: ckshen

        I don't think there's an easy way to tell while eating, unless you have a very sharp and trained palette like a pro chef, and it is sad that the only way to tell is afterwards when it is too late (pretty much the rest of us). As far as the thirst issue, try drinking Coca Cola with the meal. Blasphemy I know, but this is from experience from eating dim sum in HK during the 80s growing up. Tea aids in digestion and is way better for you, but it doesn't kill the MSG effects as nicely, unfortunately.

        Yes soy sauce does contain some glutimates. It is what the kitchens do with it (seasoning) afterwards that makes some dishes taste even better....e.g. the cheong fun sweet soy sauce, or the thicker soy sauce that goes over spareribs rice tin pots, or even the oyster sauce on yau choy or gai lan (especially if bottled), and I'll bet that house made XO sauce has some too.

        You can only assume the worst, that every dim sum kitchen is doing the MSG thing to some extent, and I'm sure this also happens in Hong Kong.

        Give Asian Pearl a try, and see if you get as thirsty afterwards.

        1. re: ckshen

          msg usage in dim sum is noticeable most of the time. my tells:
          -1/2 the places it's obvious by the msg overload. usuallly the meat is bland or salty, seasoning is usually msg and/or salt.
          -meat is very tasty, sweet tasting, probably msg induced
          -one is drinking lots of tea and/or water. the cause is probably excess saltiness or msg.
          -aftertaste in mouth after the meal usually indicates some msg was used. another alternative interpertation isn't inspiring.

          1. re: shanghaikid

            I get a sensation of pressure in my cheekbones from MSG.

          2. re: ckshen

            I'm suspicious when the meat tastes good initially but then doesn't taste fresh as you continue to chew. If it tastes extremely salty, sweet, and/or savory yet there aren't any of the flavor notes of the fresh protein, there is a good chance that the cooks are masking old food with sugar, salt, spice, and msg. Another clue is when it seems to taste good, but doesn't smell particularly good.

            Some people are better at it than others. And I think that some people have gotten so used to crutch of MSG that they prefer it to fresh food. It helps to have a standard. Buy some live shrimp, crab, or freshly killed chicken. Cook it by steaming and eat it plain. Then compare it to the same protein that maybe has been sitting in the refrigerator for a 2-3 days. It is still safe to eat, but it lacks the sweetness of the freshly killed meat.

            1. re: sfbing

              excellent points!

              our family gets live shrimp when it goes on "special" ($5.99/lb ish). quickly boiled in bubbly hot water. it taste fab au naturale. or use simple garlic dosed in hot oil, hot chile sauce from bottle or whatever one likes, etc.

        2. Here is the correct link.

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

          1. Here is the correct location link for Millbrae's Peninsula Asian Pearl

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

            3 Replies
            1. re: anyhow

              Also try The Kitchen. They recently remodeled and our last 2 visits have been solid. Menu has also changed.
              Pics:
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/foodnut/...

              Farther down, Champagne Seafood, San Mateo has solid dim sum.

              -----
              Champagne Seafood Restaurant
              88 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

              1. re: Foodnut8

                While I've only had dim sum at Champagne once, during grand opening month almost a year ago (which was not that good at the time), we had dinner there a few months ago and the food was quite stellar (and no MSG aftereffects). The brown (purple?) rice healthy fried rice was divine and you can tell the chef invested his skills and resources in a good superior stock with which to use in the fried rice. One freelance writer for Sing Tao Chinese newspaper praised this new executive chef who has 20 years experience cooking in HK, Beijing, and claimed to have served some foreign political leader from France, though I doubt the same guy does dim sum.

                During The Kitchen's prime days before the split and remodeling, I also recall not going home as thirsty.

                1. re: K K

                  We had dimsum at Champagne a few weeks ago, and it seems to have gotten better since our last visit a few months ago. Been hoping to try dinner, or at least the non-dimsum items as they seem very promising.

            2. I am heading down with two others to the South Bay on Monday and am wondering if there is an overall favorite dim sum restaurant currently.

              Was originally planning on Hong Kong Flower Lounge which I have never been to, but have always enjoyed Koi Palace in Daly City. I have never been to the others in Millbrae either, ex. Zen Peninsula, Asia Pearl.

              Whats the best down there? Koi Palace?

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

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

              Zen Peninsula
              1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

              7 Replies
              1. re: benv

                Koi Palace still rules the roost.

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

                1. re: benv

                  Depends who you ask. Asian Pearl and Tai Wu/Mr Fong's are my current favorites south of the city. I've found Koi Palace very uneven.

                  -----
                  Tai Wu/Mr. Fong
                  950 King Plz, Daly City, CA 94015

                  1. re: Windy

                    We had dim sum at Tai Wu /Mr. Fong's this Saturday. There were lots of offerings, no lulls, everything we had was good. The service at Tai Wu/Mr.Fong's is the best of any Chinese restaurant we have ever experienced. They are fast, friendly, helpful.
                    I had one short blast of feeling like I'd had some MSG, but then it went away. Not sure what that was about.
                    by the way, Saturday at 11 am it wasn't crowded. by noon it was packed.
                    the address came up as Foster City, but it's not there, it's at King Plaza, I think in San Bruno?

                    1. re: Kim Cooper

                      It's in Daly City, on the San Bruno border, off Skyline. But very close to the southern edge of SF.

                      It's linked in my post above to avoid confusion with Mr Fong and Tai Wu (related? in Foster City).

                      1. re: Windy

                        There are four units in the Tai Wu group. Three located in the King Mini Mall. The other located next to the 99Ranch market off of Foster City Blvd. The Hong Kong style bakery in the same mall in part of the group.

                        Mr Fong is the English name and Tai Wu is the Chinese name.

                        -----
                        Tai Wu Restaurant
                        1080 Foster City Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                        1. re: yimster

                          Thanks yimster

                  2. re: benv

                    Tried Asian Pear in Millbrae for the first time today. I agree with K K's initial assessment of "tasting the natural flavors of the food" and "good execution." Flavors were nicely balanced, and the dishes were more refined than most places.

                    Won't do a blow-by-blow but one standout dish for me were the fried taro dumplings, which were as clean, crispy, balanced and well-flavored as any I've ever had. To me, this dish is frequently executed very poorly so to get one done so well was a real treat. Tripe was also terrific - great snap and tenderness, with a subtle ginger/pepper broth that complemented without dominating. Most of the steamed dumplings had great filling, and good skin texture but integrity lacked a bit and fell apart more easily than I would have liked, which was too bad since I also found them slightly thicker than optimal.

                    In comparison, I'd say that the execution was possibly just a touch above Zen Peninsula, and AP also gets points for the very low to no MSG usage which was very obvious during and afterwards. The selection is somewhat more limited than Zen, though, so I think overall those two are the ones I'd return to the most in the area, depending on my mood. HK Flower Lounge is a bit clunkier, and Koi for some reason just doesn't quite do it for me - the execution seems to be just a bit below (I agree with Windy's note on uneveness), plus it gets points off for having a crazy wait at any reasonable hour on the weekend. Still need to try Champagne Seafood.

                    -----
                    Zen Peninsula
                    1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                    Champagne Seafood Restaurant
                    88 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                  3. As long as there's new life in this thread, let me ask what the boards opinion of HK Saigon Seafood? I went there with a group of coworkers, got there early to get a table, and had a fun lunch. Realized that I do not like duck tongue, but I liked the chicken feet a lot. Nice break from what has been a dim sum rut for me. But I'm no judge of dim sum, so what's the low down?

                    -----
                    Hong Kong Saigon Sea Food Harbor Restaurant
                    1135 N Lawrence Expy, Sunnyvale, CA

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: BernalKC

                      Hong Kong Saigon rates highly in my book for value and good taste. haven't been there in about a year so don't know if they're raised their dim sum pricing.

                      of course, they use msg. nevertheless, the meats they use are fresh.

                      1. re: shanghaikid

                        That jibes with my experience. The tab for a group of 8 of us was shockingly low for someone used to paying Ton Kiang prices. Everything was piping hot, fresh, and tasty (and undoubtedly loaded with MSG) with a nice mix of dishes. I hope to return -- and I hope to return with my native-speaking colleague who handled most of the ordering for our group and clearly negotiated to get a few dishes - snow cloud dumpling?, thousand layer cake, duck tongues (bland and ick all at once), super-fresh egg custard...

                        1. re: BernalKC

                          h.k. saigon is afffilated with saigon seafood harbor at 3150 pierce st. richmond.
                          lido seafood , newark (near ranch 99) is another project these folks are working on.

                          0f course saigon can't compare with koi, ton kiang, nor yank sing, but it's a nice place to go weekly.

                          1. re: shanghaikid

                            Saigon Seafood in Richmond is way better than Ton Kiang for dim sum. It's been too long since my last visit to the Sunnyvale branch for me to offer an opinion, but I'm glad to hear it still pleases.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I always considered the Richmond branch of Saigon Seafood (both pre and post fire) to be a cut above the Sunnyvale branch, which could reconcile the differing opinions.

                    2. Mings in Palo Alto is an event to remember. Very well run and great food.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ROCKLES

                        Does this mean the food's gotten better?

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          Until a year ago, I used to go to Ming's regularly but only because of proximity. With all due respect re: ROCKLES's comment, I hope Ming's has greatly improved because it was not good (average flavor, inauthentic) and maybe the most average dim sum I've had in the Bay Area.

                          I'm no expert, but I would not recommend Yank Sing or Ton Kiang (overrated and do people still use the term "yuppy"?).

                          I thought HK Saigon was good, and I also liked Koi Palace.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            a few years ago. heard thru the grapevine that the doctor who owned jade villa, oaktown sold same and subsequently bought ming's

                            don't know the present status.

                        2. I've been to Koi Palace, HKFL, Zen Peninsula and Tai Wu/Mr. Fong and they're all very good, but different. Another place that I like a lot is King Wah in Daly City.

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

                          Zen Peninsula
                          1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                          Tai Wu/Mr. Fong
                          950 King Plz, Daly City, CA 94015

                          King Wah Restaurant
                          209 Southgate Ave, Daly City, CA 94015