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Cooking Papa (Foster City)

Cooking Papa is the latest tenant inside the strip mall, replacing Diamond Harbor (and before that, Mr. Fong's). These guys are no strangers to the scene as Cooking Papa 1 first opened up in Santa Clara a couple years back to a great level of success.

The story is that the guys behind Joy Luck Place San Mateo for whatever reason shut the place down, decided to branch out to do Cantonese comfort food fare (in a way a tip of the hat to Fat Wong's San Bruno who is the forefather of this trend) and the rest is history.

As for the name....apparently it was a play on those iPhone type games Cooking Mama, but decided that the male image, which is predominant in a lot of Cantonese kitchens, plus the fact that it invokes the thought of a fatherly figure cooking for you....

It is also said that the chef has experience cooking from Hong Kong and used to cook and work at a dai pai dong before, hence the signages of "Hong Kong Dai Pai Dong" style eats (in Chinese at the restaurant's window). Given that Foster City is pretty much lacking in Cantonese (and the same goes for nearby), something on this level is very welcome indeed, and the fact that grand opening week was flooded with Cantonese speaking customers is a pretty good sign. For now weekends still look pretty packed but you may find seating a lot easier on weeknights.

Bring cash, they don't take credit cards.

Website: www.mycookingpapa.com and you can check the menus for each location.

Currently the Foster City location has the SC branch staff overseeing the grand opening, supervising, and training. Right now I would say that FC quality so far is a few notches better than when SC first opened (given the time they had to ramp out and work out the SC kinks). Hopefully this keeps up.

There is a ton of stuff on the menu, as much as a HK cafe but without the westernized dishes, it's all Cantonese Hong Kong style. Even though they have xiao long bao here, I would likely skip it, as it is there just for the sake of variety. Their clear broth stewed brisket (listed as Braised Beef Brisket) is really good, and can be ordered as an appetizer or paired with noodles in broth of your choice. The base broth is already a lot better than the likes of Champagne Restaurant (Millbrae), ABC (San Mateo), or even a place like Tak Kee Lee on Noriega (owners supposedly also ran a dai pai dong in Hong Kong). You can actually taste the dried tilefish flavor in the noodle broth, although it lacks the dried shrimp roe flavor which would enhance their won ton noodles (cannot complain otherwise).

Cantonese BBQ: they have Peking Duck, roast duck, Hainan style chicken (don't compare it to Singapore but it's tasty and acceptable), crispy skin roasted pork belly, marinated duck tongue, crispy fried pork intestines.

One of the highlights here is steamed to order cheung fun, available even into the night (although they close at 9:30 pm which is the only downside other than cash only). The carb on carb special known as Ja Leung (fried cruller with cheung fun skin wrapped around it, cheung fun soy sauce, sesame seed, plus two dip sauces on the side) is very well executed, at least the cruller is still crispy, a key point. Wasn't too sold on the beef cheung fun, as the beef wasn't hammered into a paste, and still looked like minced/ground. The fish paste cheung fun however was quite solid with some cliantro.

Those who like congee can pick from 17 kinds (it's basically the same congee base, recooked once the various ingredients are put in to bring it to a boil to draw the flavors out more


Like Fat Wong's they also have a lineup of noodle soups with "mai seen" (thin tubular rice noodles) with their in house fish broth that's quite tasty.

The dessert that's pretty much on everyone's must order plate is their Sa Yung 沙翁, called egg puff on the menu. One order comes with four large pieces of fried doughy goodness, with a sugar donut like exterior, and a very creamy smooth eggy interior. This is one of those old school pastry items from the 1980s and before that is now experiencing a mass revival. Haven't had one in such a long time and thought this rendition was not bad, although I'm sure hong_kong_foodie will think Koi Palace's rendition is supreme. But hey this is Foster City.

Hong Kong milk tea here is not bad, and it tastes similar to a Chinese tea (even though they claim the leaf blend is imported from Hong Kong) but it's quite potent...might make you stay up so don't drink it too late.

They even sell their own mooncakes right now.

Overall a very solid performer of non upscale non seafood Cantonese in the area. Really hoping quality keeps up if the SC branch staff depart after the ramp up/training period is over (or maybe they will stay). I see these guys already outpeforming Champagne Restaurant in Millbrae (even though CR has roast goose).

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  1. Brilliant report. Cheers KK.

    I am very happy to note that I don't have to trek to Fat Wong to get my fix of Cantonese 'soul food'.

    3 Replies
    1. re: osho

      We've been here more than half a dozen times. Tried many of the standards as well as specials.

      Some examples:

      Duck Tongues Appetizer
      Beef brisket Appetizer
      Shrimp and Pork Wonton Soup
      Pork dumplings
      Chicken and roast duck porridge
      Beef chow fun
      Hainanese chicken rice
      Chicken with Salted Fish fried rice

      Another (now) standard order for me is the pork belly, even though this past weekend it was not as perfectly cooked as it has been during my other visits.

      I have to say I am very happy that Cooking Papa is so close to home. Every time I have been there, it has been full or close to it. I daresay it distinctly reminds me of some of the food in HK. I can't find fault with the food nor service. Touch wood.

      1. re: osho

        How was the Hainanese chicken rice? It is one of my fave dishes.

        1. re: Parigi

          By US standards, it is an excellent rendition. As long as you don't expect Singapore hawker centre quality, you will be pleased.

    2. Ample parking and acoustics to enable making conversation within are pluses over the Santa Clara location. Foster City has lagoon water scenery. Quality of food seem consistently good ala Santa Clara. The L7 Braised Pork Hock Lo Mein we had was a winner!

      5 Replies
      1. re: CYL

        (一畫勝千言)………. "One picture is worth ten thousand words"

        "Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours" …….. "A good sketch is better than a long speech”

        N1 – Shrimp Won Ton
        N2 – Shrimp Dumpling Soup
        N5 – Won Ton and Dumpling Soup
        B2 – Half Peking duck
        P1 – Chicken and Roasted Duck Porridge
        D51 – Hong Kong Style Egg Puff

        1. re: CYL

          一畫勝千言..... ahh yes but in this case, the picture won't tell you the shui gow/shrimp dumplings could be on the mushy side on the interior, or the won tons have nice crispy shrimp....or if the duck has fat under the skin :-) With food you really need both pics and words to tell the whole story.

          1. re: K K

            The intent of inserting pictures was to complement discussions. I agree that it takes both written material and pictures to better convey the story. Pictures can neither describe taste or texture, or the freshness of the ingredients. Quotations tend to exaggeration or may not be truly appropriate to the situation; therefore, they should not be taken literally, but seasoned often with a grain of salt.

            1. re: CYL

              Not discounting your efforts or pictures at all, much better than what I can take :-) Thanks for adding them.

              But there is definitely a stir fry / kitchen heat / wok hay problem at CP, hope they can fix it.

          2. re: CYL

            went again sunday morning before 11 and there was no waiting for a table.

            NI-shrimp wonton soup (6.50)
            --8 golf ball sized wontons with whole, fresh-tasting, crispy shrimp within. broth tasted of shellfish. 2 pieces of veggies also present.
            A3-xlb (12 pieces, 10.50)
            --lots of fatty meat within with lots of msg. didn't experience this the lst time
            RR2-rice noodle roll with shrimp (3.95)
            --tasted same as before, whole crispy shrimp within silky rice crepes. above average
            P10-sliced beef porridge (5.95)
            --long slices of thin tenderized beef in a rice porridge seemingly free of msg. green onions and pickled radish on the side had to be added to provide flavoring to the porridge. main porridge had a fresh, clean bland taste.

            today's choices could easily be surpassed elsewhere. these items are not papa's strengths.
            though i couldn't taste much msg except in the xlb, i felt drowsy afterwards.
            no doubt CP uses chicken bouillion/chicken extracts which contains msg. the chicken essence masks the taste but not the effects of msg.

            a yelp review mentions they now take credit cards but not Am EX.

        2. K K and CYL: Thanks for your write-ups - I'm so looking forward to a visit to CP soon,,,

          K K Cafe
          3095 McKee Rd, San Jose, CA 95127

          1. K K: informative, excellent reporting!

            the mooncakes are smaller, is a sixer, comes only in lotus bean single yolk, and has no ingredients listed (14ish)

            lines seem long but cooking papa has the sign in system down pat. electronic signboard indicates which numbers are up, 4 categories (1-2) (2-4) (4-6) (8+) basically numbers are called almost as the table is being vacated

            -chow fun not great here
            -tomato beef chow mein is done the classic, old fashioned way
            -various noodle soups and noodles in fish broth are very good
            -egg puffs are great
            -shrimp rice noodle (rice crepes) same quality as tea houses.
            -parking may be congested on weekends.
            -cash only.

            2 Replies
            1. re: shanghaikid

              Which chow fun did you order? Wet or dry version?

              For better results, I would request using less oil and less sodium/salt/soy sauce. That's if the instructions are followed faithfully by the chef...

              1. re: K K

                C4 chow fun with beef & soy sauce (santa clara)-kind of salty
                c9 singaporean chow mein (foster city) : just ok but singapore rice vermicelli tastes better elsewhere..

                thanx for the tip. may try once more per your instructions. didn't specify which version but the chow fun seem dry but the "taste" wasn't there. not a wow but better than average,

            2. Thanks for the update. I liked Diamond Harbor but I like Cooking Papa too.

              Cooking Papa
              2830 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

              3 Replies
              1. re: Chandavkl

                I certainly do not miss Diamond Harbor, overall sub-par food and execution (and not cheap), but I have to admit their bbq deli shop (which is now vacant with a "for lease" sign), the cha siu (bbq pork) to go was pretty good quality.

                1. re: K K

                  Ever try the curry sliced fish? Mmmm.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Nope. I'm glad you found a gem in that cubic zirconian of a restaurant though! Too bad that didn't even save them.

              2. Thanks for a great report. I was a fan of Joy Luck when they were in San Mateo. I loved the black sesame balls. I hope they have them here. Since I work in Foster City, this sounds like a promising addition to the lack of good cantonese here. Can't wait to try it.

                Joy Luck
                327 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                1. Snuck in a late night snack earlier.

                  Got there around 9 pm, and when I put my order in, the waiter told me "this is the last call, do you want to order anything else?". So I squeezed in a dessert.

                  Finally tried the wontons and shui gow. They translated wontons as shrimp wontons, and shui gow as shrimp dumplings. Passed on the noodles, as I didn't want to risk it. Ordered N17 at $6.50 was a bowl of broth with yellow chives (good dried tilefish flavor and a base stock that was either chicken or pork bones or a hybrid, couldn't really tell, had some hints of dried shrimp or conpoy), and about 3 pieces of pretty plump wontons and 3 pieces of shui gow. Given the fact that a good Cantonese non Americanized wonton broth is hard to find, something that is done on this level with a supreme broth at this price is already notches above other poorly done versions.

                  The wontons were luckily not the "golf ball" versions, nor were they the abominations of miniscule shrimp and too much pork that it qualifies to be a siu mai. There were actually 3 pieces of small but crunchy/crispy shrimp with some pork (not much) in each one and nicely wrapped. Now if they wrapped it with excess skin so that the wontons look like a goldfish with a long spreaded tail, that would be 1) more traditional and 2) more visually appealing and 3) perhaps more ordered. The caveat would be that they would have to make it slightly smaller.

                  The shui gows were a bit of a mystery to me. Quite tasty, but nowhere near as stellar as Ming Tai on Noriega 9 years ago (not sure how they are now, but they made the definitive versions then and replicated the flavor when they had the Millbrae branch). The biggest downer was that each piece of shrimp in the shui gow were limpy and soft, the opposite of the wontons. In fact the shui gow interior filling was soft and limpy overall...the crunch factor is key. Maybe it was an off night.

                  With 15 kinds of cheung fun to choose from, it is always fun to deviate from the straight and narrow (ie the typical choices you get at dim sum restaurants). I'm always a huge beef fan, but knowing how they executed with that, I tried RR9 instead "rice noodle roll with shredded roasted duck". When the order arrived, I was about to return it as I saw mushrooms. But when I tried the mushroom it was really really really good (shitakes). Then upon closer inspection, it looked like they put in more mushroom than duck (and there was duck, including slivers with skin on top). Turns out this was a huge hit, and even tastier than the RR6 (cheung fun with fish paste) and definitely way better than the beef. The only gripe I would have is the texture of the skin...if they could make it smoother, the whole thing would be perfect. The interior already is, and the pairing of mushrooms and duck is a bit of a weird combination but worked so well. Steamed to order, had to wait a while, but even 20 mins before closing down for the night, they still nailed this.

                  The dessert I tried was DS2, Mango Grapefruit and Sago in Mango Sauce. It's called Yeung Ji Gum Loe in Cantonese and it was actually invented by a chef named Wong Wing Chi around the 80s/90s timeframe (along with some Singaporean chefs) who was then working for Lei Gardens Hong Kong before his ascension to the very top of the heap (who has since then moved on to better things). Wong also lays claim to have invented the legendary XO sauce. Anyways, this dessert is heavily cloned and copied all over Hong Kong and only in the last 5+ years or so started being offered by dim sum restaurants and other HK cafe/dessert shops. Not bad, but maybe not something I would order again.

                  There's a heavy rotundo looking dude that would remind one of a Hong Kong version of Fat Albert, and it appears he's the boss of CP Foster City (and maybe Santa Clara). He was chatting up various customers (some might be friends or regulars from SC). There are two large flatscreens (one above by the bar and the other by the back of the restaurant) , showing footage of the staff making various items in their production room (which is behind the kitchen). There was at least 10 to 20 mins worth of footage of their staff pouring in the mix for mooncakes into a mixing machine (Hobarts brand I think?), pressing the molds, and baking them in the oven. So yes, the mooncakes sold by the cashier are indeed made in house from scratch, not trucked in from Santa Clara. Another footage I noticed was of a chef stir frying rice on the wok with a non stop stirring action and of course the flipping action of the wrist to get an even mix.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: K K

                    Absolutely great report with highly detailed descriptions. Truly enlightening and, well, educational. Thank you, K K.

                  2. Thanks for the post. It now on my radar to try very soon. By the way how the roast goose at CR. Got a taste for roast goose after having a real good one in China a couple of years ago. I will report back after I try.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: yimster

                      You will quickly forget about Blue Sky Cafe in Belmont after visiting cooking papa.

                      So far I don't have high hopes of finding half decent roast goose in SF Bay Area that is anywhere close to Hong Kong or China. Maybe it is because Canadian geese or the sourcing/importing degrades the flavors by the time it gets here (but seems to taste ok in say, Richmond Hill). Maybe the BBQ deli chef skills in execution are not quite up to par down here.

                      Happy Deli and Bakery in SF (Ocean Ave) has roast goose now, ditto for San Jose's New China Station on Tully, but even with these pretty decent deli shops, I am not so sure of the quality and taste.

                      CR's roast goose leg lai fun is a disappointment. I would say wait until 6 to 9 months later and see if they can improve and ramp up. Right now I am not too sold on the place after 3 to 4 visits. They have not hit the ground running like Cooking Papa.

                    2. Excellent report, KK! It makes me want to head over there as soon as it opens tomorrow and order FAR more than I could possibly eat.

                      1. We've dined at the SC Cooking Papa just about every week for the past several months, so we were intrigued about the new branch and gave it a try last weekend. We were reassured, as KK mentions, to see several familiar faces from the SC branch making sure things were smoothly. For opening week, the experience, despite the massive crowds, was smoother than anticipated.

                        Food-wise, the Foster City branch is good, but still needs time to ramp up and reach the level of the Santa Clara branch, which itself took a while to get up to where it is today (it was so-so at the start but got a lot better over time).

                        The Peking Duck we ordered uncharacteristically had quite a bit of fat still attached to the skin, and the buns were also off in texture and shape. On a visit just yesterday to the original SC location, the Peking Duck, as always, was cracker-crispy with nary a bit of fat to be found on the skin. The buns were fine.

                        Beef Chow Fun was solidly executed, but it lacked the ample amounts of wok hay that we always get from the original location. When we ordered the Beef Chow Fun at the SC location yesterday, we confirmed that the Foster City's rendition was indeed below their usual standard.

                        The Pan Fried Sole/Flounder was just about as good as we'd remembered from the SC location. Not the best rendition we've ever had, but at $14, is a bargain.

                        Other dishes we tried were about on par with SC, more or less.

                        Overall, despite my quibbles, we were pretty impressed that, in opening week, they maintained most of the magic of the original location (and on the flipside, the original location hasn't suffered in the least!)

                        Hopefully, they'll work the kinks out and bring their new outlet up to the same standard as the original. It's definitely one of the frontrunners (if not the frontrunner) for casual Cantonese fare in the area. What makes Cooking Papa "click" in ways that other similar restaurants haven't is its ability to do a lot of things solidly, making it a very safe bet for a weekly meal without tiring from a place that only does a few things well.

                        Cooking Papa
                        Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Jon914

                          Adding a link for the Foster City branch...


                          Cooking Papa
                          949 Edgewater Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                          1. re: Jon914

                            Jon (and anyone else who goes regularly), what do you think are the strengths of the Santa Clara location besides dried fried beef chow fun and Peking duck w/o fat under the skin? If their wok hay is better than Foster City, then I have some other taste test dishes in mind. I might drop by tonight, but haven't decided yet.

                            1. re: K K

                              re: chow fun in santa clara may be a tad better but other cantonese places do it better. must be the "wok hay", the chow fun just isn't part of the dish, seems like.
                              my singaporean chow fun (foster city) had pretty good, fresh ingredients but the chow fun was just blandish, didn't transmit any currynist, just blandish. must be that emphasis on speed cooking, not firing up the work hot enough.

                              1. re: shanghaikid

                                which Cantonese places best embody the wok breath in the dry style chow fun ?

                                1. re: moto

                                  i've haven't tried much chow fun & tomato beef chow mein in local restaurants lately.
                                  or if i did, i didn't remember it.
                                  cuz the dispoint rate is high.
                                  the tomato beef chow mein is pretty good at cooking papa, santa clara.
                                  if i remember good chow fun, i'll post the findings.
                                  have been getting my dry style beef chow fun at go go wok, santa rosa.
                                  *billl cooks (for me) from freshly delivered chow fun. some eateries take itheir chow fun out of the fridge, nukes it, then stir frys it. the taste is totally different.

                                  bill used to operate gim's kitchen in alameda and rose bowl cafe in oaktown.

                                  remembered sun hong kong/new gold medal's version, oaktown as passable but that was a while ago. gotta retry. had a fixation on tomato beef and most eateries faiied (yep, the new king wah. you!)

                                  just the facts.

                                  1. re: shanghaikid

                                    It is really hard to talk about what "wok hay" really is and means without seeing it in action. To see and taste original wok hay, it has to be experienced at a dai pai dong 16+ hours plane ride away.

                                    Or at a place like this in Macau (which sadly the cook, who is the owner, sold the place last year, and he was very famous for dry fried beef chow fun amongst HK bloggers and media personality types + celebs).

                                    In Hong Kong the de facto noodle/starch dish to measure wok hay is not dried fried beef chow fun, but 豉油王炒麵 (see yau wong chow mein), of which CP has this on the menu as C8 (chow mein with bean sprouts and soy sauce). It is a very basic dish, sometimes with chives or scallions, but only a chef with good wok stir fry skills can draw the flavors out. You also see this a lot in dim sum restaurants (sometimes doing the rounds on the carts or hand held trays), but they probably have turned a little soggy from being covered. It has to be eaten when delivered right to the table, and fanatics use this noodle dish as an excuse to apply more chili sauce.


                                    Two minutes and done. The key is that every single thread of chow fun noodle gets thoroughly colored by the soy sauce (and smothered by the heat).

                                    1. re: K K

                                      K K:

                                      excellent video! i doubt many cantonese eateries cook this way.
                                      looks like a "pow wok" is used but this chef is actually grabbing one end of a 2 eared wok and simulating pow wok cooking. most cantonese eateries use a 2 handle, dumbo- ears type wok. most cook chow mein the same way as chow mein. few even touch the wok with their hands. it's just the spatula and "scoop" doing the work.

                                      cooking papa has a "open kitchen" so one can see how's it's cooked.. gotta check them and other places out next time.

                                      1. re: K K

                                        That's informative.

                                        A favorite chow mein dish of mine is chicken with chives (or scallions and maybe with ginger as well). I don't often see it on menus (but started ordering it from late night menus at a couple of places).

                                        Is that a standard dish, or something for us non-Chinese to order? Any specific place I should look for it?

                                        1. re: jman1

                                          Fried noodles, rice can be rather personal dishes. There are really no standard dishes, just popular or personal favorites. The end result and execution are by far more important than interpretation.

                                          Any place that does good stir fry should be able to custom order a stir fried noodle to your specs. I would give CP some more time (maybe another 6 to 9 months) and see if their stir fry improves. Wasn't too thrilled with my HK style crispy noodle with shredded pork.

                                          Ginger scallion noodles...those are more common in Hong Kong in lo mein form (brothless noodles, or sometimes broth served on the side) and can be exceptionally delicious. Not to be confused with American Chinese version which sounds more like a brothless wor won ton noodle minus the won tons.

                                          1. re: K K

                                            Thanks for info.

                                            One place that I sometimes order this type of stuff is New Sun Hong Kong; I know it doesn't have the best reputation, but it's open late and often convenient. Just tried to look up their menu online and found something on menupages.com.

                                            Just to be clear, if the English menu says, "braised noodles", is that Lo Mein? See that ginger scallion noodles are listed there.

                                            New Sun Hong Kong
                                            606 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            2. I had a light solo dinner at Cooking Papa in Foster City tonight, arriving shortly after the 5pm opening. It was good that I knew the location in advance because the only visible sign was in Chinese in a window. Based on KK’s recommendations I ordered RR9 Rice Noodle Roll with Shredded Roasted Duck and N6 Braised Beef Brisket Noodle Soup, though I was actually brought the appetizer A2 Braised Beef Brisket instead of the soup. This wasn’t a totally bad thing since it left me a little hungry and I added DS1 Hong King Style Egg Puff for dessert.

                              The rice roll was really good. As KK noted it has shitake mushrooms. Some sections of the rolls had only mushrooms, others only duck, and some with both. I quickly learned to try to get both duck and mushroom in each mouthful for maximum effect, though the duck alone was really tasty. The skins were not as slippery and tightly wrapped as the best I have had—they didn’t slide down my throat as nicely. They came swimming in lots of sauce which may have soaked in too much for optimal cheung fun texture though it was so delicious I’m not complaining.

                              The brisket came with pieces of (winter?) melon in broth. The combination worked well though I felt a little carb-deprived without the noodles. The broth was very flavorful and the brisket was tender and cooked just enough with some pieces showing a little pink.

                              The dessert menu on the table said allow 10 minutes for preparation of the egg puffs but mine came quickly which was good since I didn’t think to order them until I had finished the other dishes. By this time it was 6pm-- maybe they prepare some in anticipation of orders as business picks up. Mine were warm when they arrived and very good.

                              Except for the ordering mix-up the service was totally awesome. I’ve never been smiled at so much by waitstaff in a Chinese restaurant. My tea cup was filled for me a number of times, and my water glass was never allowed to go below half full. Food came promptly, and my waitress often checked to see if I needed anything. When I asked for a take-out box for the last egg puff, she put the puff inside a box and had it in a paper bag on my table in less than 30 seconds. When another table left it was only seconds before they had been wished goodbye and 3 waitstaff were re-setting the table. My check arrived in less than a minute, my payment was picked up within seconds, and my change arrived within 30 seconds or so. Since I was there between about 5:15pm and 6:15pm the restaurant wasn’t very full, but still I don’t see how they can afford to keep up that level of service.

                              My impression is that they have brought in the A team in force to assure a successful start to their new venture. This may be one case where the conventional wisdom to wait until a new restaurant has had time to get up to speed is wrong. As far as I can tell they are already up to speed (though I haven't been to the Santa Clara location for comparison). It may make more sense to go now before their attention level drops.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: charliemyboy

                                Nice report, thanks!

                                A2 braised beef brisket appetizer...the broth/juices that come in the appetizer version is pure beef essence goodness. I'm sure those are not winter melon pieces, but "lor bak" or turnips (daikon). Winter melon is mostly used with soups (or savory 'tea" drink in Taiwan). Conversely the beef brisket with noodles broth...is a different animal (likely the one with a bone based stock with dried tilefish), and with that you will probably get less beef juices (although more or less the same quality of tasty brisket...well likely short ribs in these cases). I personally prefer ho fun noodles, they cut it a lot thinner than the prepackaged kind from the supermarkets (e.g. the ones made by Hon's Wun Tun Noodle House in SF and sold to Asian/Chinese supermarkets across the Bay Area) which allow for more broth absorption.

                                Yeah now that you mention it, I do remember a somewhat uneven scattering of shittakes vs julienne roasted duck shreds in the cheung fun. There is also a mixed mushroom cheung fun RR15 at $5. You can also add a type of funghi called 蟲草花 (chung choe fa) to all cheung fun for $1 (thus making an order of RR15 with it to be $6, the most expensive CF in town before Yank Sing), but this is way too hardcore for me to want to do that (plus we don't know where they get this stuff from) and how it supposedly benefits the body. (try entering that in google images...not very appetizing looking).

                                If their braised beef brisket/short ribs are this good, I can only imagine how A16 will be (briased beef tripe and organs)...from some pics of the SC branch I've seen, they even break out the pancreas as well as the stomach (honeycomb).

                                Regarding the comments on the level of service and efficiency: I think these guys took notes from places like Hong Kong's One Dim sum and Tim Ho Wan, their business model and how things are run. They really have it down, think outside the box to maximize the customer experience, and hopefully they keep it up. I don't doubt there is some MSG in the food, but it is not overbearing (like 5 Joy sometimes...)

                                1. re: K K

                                  Thanks KK, for the clarification on the vegetables in the brisket and the differences in the two brisket dishes. I’ll give the noodle soup version a try on a future visit.

                                  Another thing I like about CP is the menu. They have lots of choices but it’s coherently organized in groups that make sense to me and they don’t try to cover too many bases. Unlike Café Salina where I’ve enjoyed the food I’ve tried but the menu is all over the place.

                              2. We went over the weekend - I had the shrimp wonton featured on the first page of the menu, substitute fish broth, substitute rice noodle. I think I wouldn't futz with it again - the fish broth was good (fish-flavor without being "fishy"), but i think I actually prefer the regular noodle to the rice noodle. Ooops. 7 large shrimp wontons with nice, bright flavor. The SO had the braised beef noodle and enjoyed it. I also ordered the sai yung and was not that impressed - I'm a bit of a sucker for egg puffs and these were slightly underfried - a bit wet in the middle. Came out hot though, which is very important for good sai yung. Close to greatness, and I'm sure I'll order them again next time.

                                Service was well-meaning, but very fast and slight abrupt. I could definitely tell that they were trying, and I appreciated that. I had to point at the menu because the waitress did not really speak English, but that's totally fine since the menu is fully translated. It also took a while to get the check, but I think that may have been partly our fault since we didn't finish our dishes (large, filling portions), so they may not have known to come over and check.

                                We saw XLB go by, and the skins looked thick. The clay pots and noodles that went by looked/smelled great. We'll definitely be back to try more of the menu. Get there early - the place was packed and had a large line when we left at 7pm. And again, cash only.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: artemis

                                  Went back this weekend with my kid sister. We got the boneless chicken chow mein with seasonal vegetable, the rice noodle roll with shrimp, and a tapioca milk tea for her. The chow mein was tasty, but not great - a bit greasy, very little chicken given the large volume of noodles, and the seasonal vegetable was 4 very baby bok choy cut in half vertically, which were challenging to eat. That said, the chicken that was there was good. The rice noodle roll with shrimp - nice fresh shrimp with good flavor, though the noodles were a bit sticky and thick if one wants to nitpick. I didn't try her tapioca drink. She liked the food, and took the remaining 1/3 of our noodle dish, supplemented by tofu and extra veg, for her school lunch the next day.

                                  I have to express my appreciation for our waitress, a middle aged asian woman. She was very patient and friendly with my sister while she ordered, and checked on us a few times. This seems like a good place for kids to practice restaurant manners with low risk.

                                2. Thanks to K K and now many other people, this thread is blessed by some really good and detailed reporting. I will certainly have to try Cooking Papa the next time I am in the Bay Area. Thanks to you all.

                                  1. Dropped by for a late dinner last week and ordered a C15 HK Style Pan Fried Noodle W/Shredded Pork. Very sad to see that despite their best efforts on a busy night, the noodles were not crispy enough, and the sauce didn't quite have enough flavor. Although I did not order the dried fried beef chow fun, I can see where people's gripes are coming from....not enough "wok breath" and definitely not enough fire from stir fry, which may be a major weak link until they fix this. Which means that sweet & sour pork is not going to be very good either, and not so sure about the claypot dishes.

                                    They've added the summer specials menu that was previously exclusive to the Santa Clara branch, with a few eclectic offerings that may be closer to what some dai pai dongs serve in Hong Kong (e.g. melon squash and clams soup).

                                    At the back of the restaurant (closer to the rear kitchen side), they added a fish tank. Live prawns, lobster, some sort of cod, and crab. While there are no menu dishes featuring this seafood, I'm guessing they can make pretty much whatever you want with those ingredients.

                                    20 Replies
                                    1. re: K K

                                      I can't speak for the new location, but the sweet and sour pork at the SC location is consistently on the mark. Crispy, juicy inside, not too much sauce with just enough of a sear to make things interesting.

                                      I tried the house special crispy noodles at the SC branch about a month back and found them to be pretty crispy (Cafe Salina, at least a year ago, being my reference point for what I consider a crispy rendition).

                                      Sounds like the Foster City branch still has some kinks to work out.

                                      1. re: Jon914

                                        Thanks. You and I are on the same page. I remember 6+ years ago that Cafe Salina once made the definitive crispy noodle w/shredded pork, mushroom, chive, bean sprouts. Sadly during a recent visit 2+ months ago, that dish was not done so well....too oily and goopy (sauce). Must have been an off night. They have made it on the mark before but without so much oil.

                                        Sounds like I need to make a trip to the SC branch just to have the stir fry dishes, and the SS pork.

                                        1. re: K K

                                          I agree that Salina has also (unfortunately) been on a downhill trend for us in recent months (no more wok hay, some ingredients clearly not fresh, etc.), which is quite sad because they used to do noodles, rice and the "Western" style dishes well for quite while.

                                          One other dish I like off the entrees/stir-fry section of the menu is the Chicken & Salted Fish Patties. I wouldn't consider them to be Cantonese fare, but they were done well and reminded me of Thai fish cakes.

                                          1. re: Jon914

                                            My (admittedly limited) experience at Café Salina suggests there’s a downhill trend rather than an occasional miss. A couple of years ago I had some good experiences and especially liked the pork belly with preserved vegetables. Later that dish wasn’t so good as before. My only recent visit was a week or so ago when I stopped by late at night for emergency refueling. My BBQ pork was dried out and flavorless. I’m pretty timid about sending food back but in this case it was so bad I might have done so if I hadn’t been so tired, just wanting to put something in my tummy ASAP to stop it growling. I doubt I will go back.

                                            1. re: charliemyboy

                                              It seems that for a casual non high end seafood restaurant that also offers roasties (Cantonese BBQ/deli), Champagne Restaurant in Millbrae is your best bet. Having had roast duck and cha siu/bbq pork there, I'd say it is quite decent. Definitely steps above Cheung Hing Millbrae (which is not much of a standard in itself). Hopefully Salina's downward spiral will stop and go back up again, perhaps it is going through another one of those bad phases (like our economy).

                                              1. re: K K

                                                I haven't been to the new casual Champagne restaurant, but I'm quite a fan of the original for dinner (haven't been there for dim sum). All around, a solid menu with some standouts. The head chef did leave earlier this year and took some of the more unusual dishes with him, but the food quality hasn't altered months later.

                                                The reviews on the new restaurant seem a bit more mixed, though, but I may give it a try later on after it settles in more.

                                                1. re: K K

                                                  We ended up giving the Milbrae branch of Champagne a try and were pleasantly surprised. It was pretty good for the things we ordered.

                                                  We stuck to entrees and BBQ rather than wonton/congee/etc. and found the entrees we had (Walnut Prawns, XO Beef with Snap Peas, Wuxi Spareribs Clay Pot) to be pretty close in taste and quantity to their flagship, all at a lower cost ($10 vs. $14-$15).

                                                  The only things that were noticeably a step down were the noodles/rice (we had the Beef Chow Fun and Yang Chow Fried Rice as tester dishes), which were passable but nowhere near what the San Mateo location could put out. If their congee, wonton and other such dishes are also weaker, this could spell trouble since a lot of their business hinges on those dishes.

                                                  We'd come back to try more of the entrees and BBQ but would tread carefully if we were ordering other items.

                                                  1. re: Jon914

                                                    Having been to Champagne Restaurant (it should really be translated as Bistro to reflect the Chinese name) at least 6 times, I still have yet to find dishes and entrees that completely floor me. The best they've done is "pretty good" but no wow. I agree, the roasties are generally their strengths, but out of so many other things I've tried, they are just average to the point where you can easily go to other places and get better tasting renditions. Cooking Papa is a superior eatery in so many ways, that Champagne will really need to work hard in the next 6 to 9 months to overcome all of their obstacles.

                                                    1. re: K K

                                                      Wow, 6 times is quite a lot for the time span they've been open. We're a bit too far away to make Milbrae a regular destination.

                                                      Did you have a chance to try the Roasted Goose again outside the noodle soup? It's a shame that more places don't carry goose. I had one at Yung Kee (in HK) a couple years ago and was hooked.

                                                      1. re: Jon914

                                                        Yeah I'm definitely done with Champagne for a while. The sushi restaurant venture of theirs next door has potential but they were very pushy in trying to upsell me sake and special fish, I'm guessing they learned the bad sales techniques from Hong Kong, and most of the time I walk or drive by, the place looks fairly empty (especially the sushi bar where they really need the customers there). The San Mateo restaurant dim sum isn't good either, in fact very average (on par with ABC), a far cry from Zen Peninsula or Asian Pearl. They really have to figure all this out, or they will be toast.

                                                        Roast goose... it is now slowly showing up in various parts of the bay area, like New China Station in San Jose (Vietnamese Chinese owned it seems) and even my favorite roastie shop in SF has it (Happy Bakery and Deli) on Ocean, but I don't know how good their goose will be. Last time I had a great Cantonese roast goose was in Richmond Hill Ontario...and I doubt that anything in SF Bay Area will come close to what I had up there (let alone a place like Yung Kee in HK), simply because nobody local has been offering (or has a lot of experience) marinating and roasting for enough time for it to be at a good standard.

                                                        Roast goose is quite expensive, the leg cut with lai fun noodle soup at Champagne is $9.50 + tax, with half at $20 and a whole hitting $40 (which is actually the way to go to get the full flavors), it is quite a risk taking adventure at this rate that I'll pass for now in trying. Their roast duck is good (I had half the other day), although the marinade was a tad too sweet for my liking, and at $9.95 or so is a much better value (and lower risk) than the goose. Someone in my family said that the lai fun is better at Cheung Hing nearby (which I find extremely surprising) but I did not reconfirm whether CH has goose or not.

                                                        Zen Peninsula
                                                        1180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

                                                        Cheung Hing
                                                        323 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                                        New China Station
                                                        1710 Tully Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

                                                        Asian Pearl
                                                        3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                                                        1. re: K K

                                                          Thanks for the info!

                                                          I haven't had the San Mateo place's dim sum, only have had dinner there. I agree that ABC is pretty far down my list too. It's never recovered from its fall 10 or so years ago (chef left?)

                                                          I haven't been to Zen for dim sum in a few years. It was hit and miss back then with some really good things (Portuguese egg tarts, made to order bitter melon rice noodle roll) and its misses (even the har gau was a miss several times in a row).

                                                          Asian Pearl is a solid contender (good enough but nothing out of the park) but not quite enough for us to return due to both locations being quite far.

                                                          1. re: Jon914

                                                            Even though Cooking Papa doesn't have those fancy pricier roasties like Champagne such as tea smoked chicken or roast goose, the standard roasties at Cooking Papa Foster City are already really good. Roast duck, cha siu/bbq pork, and the crispy skin pork belly (siu lahm yuk) are solid. The only issue is that the crispy skin pork belly is a sectional roast (ie they don't roast the whole pig, I'm sure it is not practical and too costly to do so) and of course it is not over charcoal. The skin doesn't have that crispy sesame like taste, but for the Peninsula I'd say it is the best (we cannot have it all). I'm not sure what cuts of crispy skin roast pork are given if you order a rice plate, but the cuts of cha siu and roast duck given for rice plates are surprisingly decent....it's always been the case where you get lesser quality cuts dine in on rice plates and better quality meats when you buy them to go a la carte or as riceless entrees, so props to CP for keeping the quality high even for rice plates.

                                                            Maggi sauce marinated duck tongues (including the connectors) seem to be the latest in-dish and many restaurants have this on their menu now (e.g. Tai Wu in Daly City)....never noticed this trend before....has anyone tried it?

                                                            One last comment, if you get a table very close to the bar/drink area, sometimes you can smell the brewing of their milk tea. If they brew a good batch, it can be astonishingly fragrant, and is not a common scent you smell anymore these days even in many Hong Kong cafes in town. You can really taste the tea flavors (versus other places that serve oversteeped tea drowned with condensed and evaporated milk). It tastes best when they brew it strong, but is absolutely lethal when you need to go to sleep at night. The iced lemon tea is less lethal in that regard (and not bad). For a place that claims to import their HK milk tea leaf blend, they've pulled it off.....unlike ABC Bakery Cafe in San Mateo that does the same but the end result is not so good.

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

                                                            Cooking Papa
                                                            949 Edgewater Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                                                            1. re: K K

                                                              Ah yes, the CP BBQ as a whole is solid. We always order a la carte rather than rice plates. Here's how I feel about each one...

                                                              Roast Duck - Crispy skin, not too much fat, meaty enough and the sauce they ladle over doesn't make it too salty. I like it but...

                                                              Peking Duck - I like this even better. The skin's always really crispy with little to no fat attached. It's meaty and not salty. The only time it was a dud was at the FC location on opening week. I'm not a fan of the buns that come with it, but the star is the duck. I think it's the same duck as the roast duck, just sliced differently (correct me if I'm wrong?), but it tastes a lot different just based on the cut.

                                                              Soy Sauce Duck - I prefer the roasted ducks, but it's not bad. You lose the crispy skin and all the fat under the skin being rendered off in this prep. But some like it this way, and it's not bad for what it is.

                                                              Crispy Pork - It's generally good but can fluctuate a little more than we'd like depending on the day. Still, we order it virtually every time. I preferred it when they sliced them into bite-sized squares versus the longer strips they do today. This seems to be one of the most popular dishes (every single table has it) alongside their sugar puffs.

                                                              Crispy Chicken - Good rendition. Moist and crispy skin. No "cheating" like some places do with brining the chicken and having it taste artificial in that respect. It's amazing how many places get this simple dish wrong. It's great to have a place close by that can consistently do it right.

                                                              Sesame Chicken - Yummy and fairly unique for the Bay Area (I've only seen this prep done at Koi and they force you to order a whole one). The skin was crispy and felt like biting straight into the dim sum sesame balls.

                                                              Princess/Concubine Chicken - This was a dud, but not in the texture department - that was OK, but it was excessively salty, even for this dish. That said, I've had far worse in this area.

                                                              Char Siu - Varies between delicious and not so much. The last time we had it, it was unfortunately the dry, lean and salty type.

                                                              Overall, it's our go-to place for HK BBQ (and a few other things). Now, I only wish they'd carry BBQ pork jowl like their sister restaurant (JLP) does...

                                                              1. re: Jon914

                                                                Which one is sesame chicken on their menu? Or is it a special item?

                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                  It's on the seasonal menu.

                                                                  I actually have a picture of this on my camera (and a bunch of others for CP) that I can share next time I upload them.

                                                                  1. re: Jon914

                                                                    I'm still trying to locate my Sesame Chicken picture, but here are some of the pictures I've got.

                                                                    Sweet and Sour Pork
                                                                    Crispy Chicken
                                                                    Pan Fried Chicken Patty (not so HK-style but delicious)
                                                                    Soy Sauce Noodle

                                                                    1. re: Jon914

                                                                      FM 92.3 interviewed CP Santa Clara branch back in June (Cantonese), here's
                                                                      part 1


                                                                      it was mentioned that the pan fried patty with salted fish used chicken instead of pork, because it was deemed healthier and they wanted to do something different (vs tried and true pork). The crispy chicken 吊燒雞 looks good (does it have nam yu flavor?), but it doesn't look too different from 炸子雞 (za zi gai).

                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                        Nope, it doesn't have nam yu flavor.

                                                                        I would characterize the taste and texture of the pan fried patty closer to a Thai fish cake than the usual pork/salted fish patty (which I also love).

                                                                2. re: Jon914

                                                                  I can attest to the tastiness of the Peking Duck. Just had it yesterday and I cant remember loving this dish as much as I did at FC CP. The buns were lovely not too super sweet, the duck skin itself was perfect crunchy fatty goodness. The BBQ pork was nice too, good color, fat content to meat, tender.

                                                                  One dish was a bit of a letdown because it seemed soggy, Ong Choy with Black bean sauce.

                                                                  The dried string beans were a hit too. I like them with the dried shrimp v. pork bits.

                                                                  I want to try a bunch more on the menu. Definitely worth a few trips to investigate all the goodies.

                                                                  1. re: mmerino

                                                                    That's an interesting prep for Ong Choy - usually, most restaurants offer to do it with fermented bean curd and a touch of fresh chili. Unless that is what you meant. It should have looked like this:


                                                                    A decent prep should be snappy all the way through for the stems, not stringy and with the right amount of fermented bean curd added (not too much or too little). Really good preps get wok hay in there too.

                                        2. Well, I finally made it there for lunch today.

                                          We ordered two dishes and a dessert.

                                          Black Pepper Sauce Tenderloin Beef Hong Kong Style Chow Mein. It had wok hey and the beef and vegetables was cooked just right and the noodles was crisp enough. But the only thing I like and did not get was the beef while tender and not over cooked with was not seared. I like my meat with a charred edge to it.

                                          Clear Broth Beef Brisket with Turnips. Cooked prefect tender but still had bite to the texture. None more to say here.

                                          Finally the Sa Yung 沙翁, which was served before the lunch arrive so we had to look at this dishes until we finish the main dishes. But it was still warm when we got to it.

                                          I think I need to return and try more of menu at a later date. Worth another visit. From what we had and the large menu it may better than Fat Wong.

                                          1. They take credit cards now. No need to rob the ATM just for a meal here.

                                            They now have a Mid Autumn Festival "private kitchen style" banquet menu for ten, requiring advanced reservations, although I fail to see anything private kitchen about it

                                            - Combination appetizer platter of Cantonese BBQ/deli (roasties mix)

                                            - Dried scallops and fish maw thick soup

                                            - Grouper two way (or perhaps a type of cod) - stewed head and belly (parts), rest of the body stir fried with beans (or could be sugar snap peas)

                                            - dai pai dong style stir fried crab (no idea on this, could be salt pepper or spicy or ginger scallion)

                                            - empress chicken

                                            - large pea sprout with abalone mushroom (like a king/oyster mushroom)

                                            - baby veg sprouts with fish soup

                                            - Fujian fried rice

                                            - red bean dessert soup with mini sticky rice balls (tong yuen)

                                            Quicky snack... sweet and sour spareribs (instead of pork, custom order) and a dried shrimp cheung fun. SS spareribs was not bad, I just wished they took more care in preparing the pork cuts...some seemed a bit fatty, and a few pieces were too large (not bit sized), and one had way too much bone. Not bad otherwise.

                                            Dried shrimp cheung fun was really nice. There is a consistency issue with the texture of the cheung fun skins for sure...perhaps without much filling inside, you can taste the rice flavors more. I only wish they didn't drown this plain cheung fun with all that sweet soy sauce. They did include a side of sesame and sweet sauce for additional dipping. This was better than a side of white rice.

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: K K

                                              I don't know how often you've been back, but they have some special pre-order dishes now (Foster City only). They even display some of them out on the TV in the front.

                                              One is the Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice - waiter quoted $48.

                                              And another is 焗西米布甸, which Yum's also does. This version is plated in a larger casserole dish.

                                              There are a few more, but I don't recall them - most were live seafood. They also let you order 2-course fish specials on the spot (fish soup + fish congee, fish fillet, etc.) for $35..

                                              I haven't tried any of these because you have to pre-order and reserve a table, but if you or anyone else tries, I'd be very curious to hear about them.

                                              1. re: Jon914

                                                Now you tell me this! Am back in Paris banging head on wall.

                                                1. re: Jon914

                                                  Funny you mention this....we've already reserved a table with a few of those dishes (including whole winter melon soup, it's $60) pretty soon to try them out. I'll report back once it's done.

                                                  1. re: K K

                                                    We had a reservation for a small table last week. Normally they need 8 or more to hold a table, but since we preordered a few of their private kitchen dishes that already shot the bill past low 3 digits, I'm sure they were happy to oblige. Didn't get their back room with the sliding door, but had a table in the corner by the fish tank which was good enough.

                                                    Glutinous rice stuffed chicken - A good execution of this dish. The glutinous stir fried rice was a bit too dark colored for my liking, although more moist than other preps I've had in the past in HK at of course at Yum's. Crispy skin, and they had a large bowl of sauce on the side which had some flavor, but was not thick enough. Probably the best item of the evening. This one was $45

                                                    Whole winter melon soup - A whooping $60 and a good effort. All I can say is that I've had better versions, but this is the first winter melon soup in SF Bay Area in over 10+ years for me so I can't do any recent comparisons.

                                                    Baked sago pudding - eggy and lots of lotus seed paste, having similarities to a mooncake or Chinese sweet pastry. Way too lumpy for my liking. Great flavorwise, but texture wise a disappointment. I think this was $15.

                                                    Exchanged a few words with the lady manager who came to ask us how were the private kitchen dishes. It seems that they "recently" discovered that such dishes exist (or the fact they are experiencing a mass revival in Hong Kong) and want to try their hand at it. Which leads me to believe they do have some level of interest and passion, but simply don't quite have the experience and time to bring the dishes to a good consistent level. I'm sure they can over time, but will take longer since most folks go their for $6 to $8 noodles or $9 entrees, and egg puffs, and probably can't seem themselves gouging on such high end entrees that don't contain any dried seafood. For those who have not had these kinds of dishes much, could potentially be wow'd as they do look impressive if you are minding you own bowl of congee, and suddenly something super exquisite and elaborate looking is carried right past your head to the next table. But for those who are more well traveled and eaten, might find their execution a bit off, although I'm glad they are doing this and offer another option in the area.

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        De rien. At least you and your friends have another option if you come back again.

                                                        Speaking of 魚, we were also very close to ordering a steamed fish, but we skipped on it because they looked rather....sleepy...in the tank. Just have to go with your instincts at times.

                                                      2. re: K K

                                                        Thanks for the report. It sounds like they're still experimenting and ramping up, and like the original CP - has potential to get better in the future if the demand's there. I might try the sago pudding next time I go to Yum's, but it'll be a while before I hop back.

                                                        It's interesting to hear that there's a "revival" of these more labor intensive dishes in HK. My impression is that private kitchens in HK are growing in popularity, and that's perhaps what they're referring to, rather than these dishes in particular.

                                                        1. re: Jon914

                                                          Took another peek at the menu today, and it seems like they've expanded it a lot more.

                                                          Ouch on some of the pricing, though. Have you been back to try other dishes?


                                                          1. re: Jon914

                                                            Yeah that updated private kitchen/seafood menu has been there for almost a month now.

                                                            And you are spot on about the OUCH on the pricing, because you and I both know where we can get something similar for better price, but maybe not quite the same quality.

                                                            Did you know that the double boiled soup is exactly the same price as the winter melon soup, which is $80? They claim it is because they use a ton of material (but still...).

                                                            But anyways, there are people willing to pay higher prices for these rarer commodities in that part of the Peninsula...the restaurant believes it should be reimbursed for these labor intensive preps (although 20+ years ago in Hong Kong these dishes were a bit more common).

                                                            We did go there on Mother's Day (the night before on Saturday). The place was packed to the gills but they executed really well. Preordered a channel rockfish ("red dragon") which was market price $18 / pound, approximately 3.7 pounds.....it was glorious and steamed perfectly. It was a hit or miss of whether the restaurant could get this fish, because it is very hard to get fresh unless you're a big spender like Koi Palace. The head I requested it fried soy sauce supreme style and they did a bang up job with it. The winter melon soup ($80) was leagues above their attempt almost 2 years ago...a vast improvement in execution. Even with 8 of us, there was enough soup leftover for 3 people (and winter melon parts). Also got a 4+ pound lobster, baked in superior broth and that one came out rather buttery. The claw took up the entire small plate (normally used to hold bones), really sweet. Crispy skin roast pork belly was on point, and roast duck was quite popular with our table. We preordered also the red bean soup dessert with tong yuen (which had black sesame oozing out of it), and while it was $18, it was one of the best renditions out there...with ample dried orange peel (chun pei) flavor...very robust but a tad sweet. They did really well by us...but I have to admit that I am also regular and the owner already knows me well by face.

                                                            I wonder what Martin Yan ate that night he went to the restaurant when he did the cooking demo in SF on Larkin Street 2 weeks back...

                                                            Pretty tempted to host a chowdown one of these nights and get the private room to ourselves (if we can fill two tables of ten....). But to partake in some of these delights will cost at least to $50 ish (or more) per person on average!

                                                            I finally tried the Maggi duck lower jaws....total greasefest and filthy fingers afterwards, but otherwise quite delicious (umami overload).

                                                            By the way I asked the owner today about the Mountain View location. It will be at 1962 El Camino Real, and using google map street view it's taking over the Sizzler location.
                                                            Best guess is 6 to 8 months from now. I forgot to ask if he plans on replicating the private kitchen and seafood menu over there

                                                            1. re: K K

                                                              I noticed the new special menu a week ago -- and even took photos, and forgot my plan to post. Hope they reproduce large enough to read. Several interesting items -- other than seafood, the Glutinous Rice Stuffed Squab caught my eye, given how good the chicken version was.

                                                              Ready to join a chowdown...

                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                Ooh, that new location will be so convenient for me! I'll be keeping my eyes out for progress at the Mountain View location.


                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                  A few of us other hounds have been daydreaming about a chowdown starring Cooking Papa's private kitchen items. Say it and we will come!

                                                                  1. re: K K

                                                                    Sizzler is still open. Any news when/if the new branch will open?

                                                                    1. re: ckshen

                                                                      Sometime next year according to the owner. Last chat I had with him, he said the tenants have not vacated the premise (Sizzler), and no remodeling and planning work can start until that happens. So March 2014 may be overly optimistic.

                                                                    2. re: K K

                                                                      Drove past the Mountain View location and signage is up. Unfortunately, there were window coverings so I couldn't tell how much interior work remains.

                                                        2. Had a wonderful meal there last week.
                                                          The legendary dessert Sa Yung 沙翁 (also known as egg puff or Chinese donut; sounds enticing huh?) was very tasty although somewhat oily.
                                                          I would describe the food as creative proletarian. :-)
                                                          My faves were the wonton soups, congee, fried noodle, fried sticky rice, plus many dishes much recommended here.

                                                          I was taken there by Chinese friends who told me the only time one could walk in and get a table was at some god-awful geezer early-bird hour: 5pm. 5pm! People in Barcelona are finishing their lunch !
                                                          We got out at 7pm, a time when back in Paris we do not even start cooking dinner.
                                                          But that became our daily rhythm: eating at 11am and 5pm. Please forgive this former SF resident for saying this: These hours barbaric. :-(

                                                          Another thing I could not get used to was the sense of service (or lack of) in some Chinese restaurants.
                                                          If I like a new dish, I ask questions about it, out of curiosity. My questions are short and should not be too difficult to answer. For example, I asked the waitress where the dessert Sa Yung originates (I am of Chinese origin and asked her in Cantonese, which is neither here nor there). Her answer was: "You are on a need-to-know basis and you do not need to know. All you need is that it tastes good. 妳吾需要知道,我吾知我又吾理;好食就得。" Our table died laughing.
                                                          Oh Timster, we had to wait an hour for our Sa Yung, I mean an hour after we had finished all the other dishes. I asked the Alpha Waitress that there was one dish outstanding. Her answer: "it is made from scratch. It will be ready when it is ready. No use hurrying." We were too scared to say anything after that.
                                                          Less laughable was the waitress who tried to scald a dining companion who told her we had waited for a tea refill for 30 minutes, at the assassins' place next to the quite nice Tong Palace on Clement in SF. We ended up there only because we had meant to go to Tong Palace and one person of our party arrived early and became confused and went next door and reserved a table from hell.

                                                          Need I make this clear. Do not, I repeat, not, go to that assassins' place whose name I have blocked out even if you starve. And you are more likely to encounter an earthquake than starve on Clement street.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: Parigi

                                                            Merci beaucoup for your perspective! I haven't been to Paris since 1992 and have no idea of the food scene, but how would you compare Cantonese in France with Cooking Papa's food?

                                                            It sounds like you went to dinner on a Friday night or weekend... CP gets completely mobbed to bits, and even arriving at 5:30 pm you will wait at least 30 mins. But come in on a random weeknight, scoring a table past 6 pm is super easy as the restaurant can be barely half full or not at all.

                                                            These guys operate like in Hong Kong....no BS, attempt to be super efficient yet unapologetic when it gets hectic or messy. I did actually get a semi apology once (translates to "it was not good intention or a subtle way of saying "my bad") when they messed up an order of mine (wrong kind of noodles) and they swiftly replaced it. Your waitress's sarcastic sassy response to your question is four fold...

                                                            1) she has very little time to go into the history of Sa Yung of which it could be found on the internet in Chinese (e.g. wikipedia Chinese or Chinese blog search)

                                                            2) she is embarassed to say that this revival dish is a bit of a marketing gimmick for food tourists (even me to an extent), but it works, and a few others are copying the idea for their restaurants.

                                                            3) she is trying to brush you off from asking more questions because she just wants to get the next table done.

                                                            4) her choice of words are also somewhat "endearing", assuming the party at your table are regulars and know the staff and owners. Kind of like dai pai dong chit chat but with a Mel's Diner "kiss my grits" kind of attitude. Although I'm sure it will fly over her head if you said back to her: "Pardonnez-moi, je suis Français."

                                                            They will never earn a Michelin star, unlike some interesting choices for those awards in Hong Kong for the past I don't know how many years.

                                                            I've seen Sa Yung sit on on top of the fryer (pre-fried and ready to go) at Santa Clara flagship Cooking Papa during one drink takeout visit. But the difference between fried to order, and just bringing it out from who knows how long it took, is huge. Sounds like the kitchen was impossibly backed up during your visit, and waitstaff were running around operating like headless chickens. Alpha waitress probably quite stressed too.

                                                            1. re: K K

                                                              Very informative reply. 謝謝。

                                                              Yes I agree fresh fry and refry are incomparable.

                                                              And indeed we were more amused than offended by the waitress.
                                                              We did understand she was sassily matter-of-fact, very much the old HK style. (I find the service of today's HK eateries slick and polished, far from the old screaming Canto style.) I was just not used to this no-frill style. :-)

                                                              Canto in Paris

                                                              There was one very creative Cantonese hole-in-wall in Paris called Q-Tea, serving inventive homecooking like 煲仔菜 with superiior duck sausage. It was near my home in the 9th arrondissement, and other hounds and I have chartered the restaurant for our private dining parties quite a few times. It has just moved and has not yet reopened, which means I am broken hearted. I used to get my customized congee when I was sick or on the day of my return from trips. Do you know of a better cure against jetlag? Sigh. I was sooo spoiled.

                                                              There are a few ok Cantonese places like Likafo and Mirama. But I think it is best to wait until you return to SF for your Canto fix. If you are hit hard by Canto food withdrawal or if you want to run into Catherine Deneuve regardless of what and how you eat, then they will do (Mirama for La Deneuve).

                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                Yeah some HK locals are endearing in an infringing weird kind of bonding way
                                                                To make the bonding more efficient and to ensure slightly better service next time, I suggest countering back with equal snarcasm, but not in a face-losing sort of way.

                                                                To an outsider, it is like lip service BS, but that's how it is culturally.

                                                                I once read a HK blogger go to a famous dai pai dong for coffee and toast, and he was out of work and he used to go there regularly for 10+ years, so the owner said hi to him, then "hey long time no see, still out of work?". He replied "yeah man, hard times". Then countered by "you so brilliant! How can that be?". Then he said back "well that's life man, are you guys hiring at the dai pai dong?". "You gotta me kidding me! Seriously, is it that bad?" "Nah man, I write! (blog)". "Eh? Writing can get you paid?" "Why yes it can, anyone with half a brain can write and make a living, look at those celebrity wannabes putting out books!". Somehow that kind of casual interaction creates atmosphere and personable touches that we call 人情味 that is hard to explain and grasp for non HKer types, but I think what the sassy waitress dished out still has a long way to go to fully qualify. At that HK dai pai dong, the customer was on equal level with the owner (instead of owner serving the customer)...at Cooking Papa...seemed like the sassy waitress was trying more to be like boss instead of equal footing :-).

                                                                Cooking Papa's congee is not bad, at least not MSG infused like Law Fu Gei (which was why LFG tasted so damn good in the 80s...I never figured that part out when I was much younger).

                                                                Recently had some takeout from them, the salted fish chicken patties, and found them to be very nicely done (even after reheating for dinner that evening, the ground chicken tasted more like a bouncy paste, like a good fishball).

                                                                If you are still in town, see if your friends can take you to Yum's Bistro in Fremont for a dinner (and pre-order the specials) before you return to Paris. Then you will have at least had two pretty authentic HK style meals.

                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                  Glad to hear that you liked the patties. They're one of my favorites on the menu and are reminiscent of the fish balls you describe.

                                                                  Ditto on Yum's Bistro. I haven't been there in a while but ought to give it another go soon. I put some pictures up a while ago.


                                                                  1. re: K K

                                                                    Sadly am back in Paris doing post-overeating rehab.

                                                                    Hilarious Dai Pai Dong dialogue. Cantonese culture at its best.
                                                                    I do find the HK Dai Pai Dong banter endearing, but the Cooking Papa's waitress's expression did not invite such banter or any banter. :-(

                                                                    The DaiPaiDong people are indeed quite generous, full of 人情味 as you say. A late friend used to write and sell calligraphy to raise funds for his NGO at the HK Flower Market on Chinese New Year's Eve. In the morning he and colleagues would show up in a Dai Pai Dong or Cha Charn Tang for breakfast and the owners who all recognized him would always refuse his payment.

                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                      Yeah that patties dish was awesome. Was not what I was expecting and was exactly how you had described it Jon.

                                                                      Too bad Parigi, maybe next time :-)

                                                                      If you haven't read this already, it's good for some laughs...good ol' outdated DPD jargon


                                                                      Although I'm not sure how waitstaff at Cooking Papa would respond if we used that jargon there to order. Or tell the alpha waitress to "hit airplane/polish silverware" ;-)

                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                        The slang list is awesome.
                                                                        O don't try to get fresh with Papa's 姐姐. She'd slap you.
                                                                        Your list reminds me of a list that I once compiled on HK soccer commentators' invented phrases.

                                                            2. The Foster City and Santa Clara branches are now offering limited quantities of
                                                              Chinese New Year Pudding (aka leen go / nian gao) w/coconnut juice (椰汁年糕) and Chinese Turnip Pudding / Lor Bak Go (臘味蘿蔔糕) at $10.80 per box, just in time for Chinese New Year.

                                                              Picked up one box of the Turnip Pudding from Foster City location, cut some up into thinner slices and pan fried it at home...and it is quite excellent, even surpassing 90% of dim sum restaurant renditions (where those versions taste more starchy and dry). You can really taste the turnip, the freshness, as well as the preserved sausage slices (lap cheong), dried scallops and dried shrimp. Might also be a good idea to steam this then pour a wee bit of soy sauce on it.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                "Picked up one box of the Turnip Pudding from Foster City location, cut some up into thinner slices and pan fried it at home..."

                                                                You are never supposed to celebrate early!
                                                                Celebrate late, fine. It is not good to celebrate early, according to superstition (and we southern Chinese - I assume - are the most superstitious people in this galaxy, right?).
                                                                Choy choy choy !

                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                  Hahaha thanks for the heads up, I guess I am screwed then. If it is any consolation, our family is having Italian on Chinese New Year's eve, because the Chinese places around are going to be 1) packed and 2) upselling themed set dinners of generally poorer quality at a markup. Now if only there were a Kosher restaurant around, then we can return the favor after Jews eating Chinese on Christmas day.

                                                                  I was more interested in eating the turnip pudding to satisfy my appetite for it (and to have a taste) rather than eating it in hopes of a good year. I thought Southern Chinese were supposed to eat and enjoy fresh! (unless it is pickled/preserved right?)

                                                              2. Thanks to you all for the comments over the months. I just signed on for the first time in a while and wanted to see what kind of reviews FC CP had gotten here. I learned a lot from this thread.

                                                                I have been to FC CP about a half dozen times and really enjoyed the food.

                                                                Shrimp Wonton Soup

                                                                Rice Noodle wrapped Fried Roll

                                                                Rice Noodle with Shredded Duck

                                                                Sauteed Beef Filet with mixed mushrooms (really good!)

                                                                Prawns with Walnuts in mayo sauce

                                                                Boneless Chicken Chow Mein (meh)

                                                                Sweet and Sour Pork

                                                                Pork Belly

                                                                Chow Fun with Shrimp and Eggs (just ok)

                                                                And I think we have had the Egg Puffs everytime, this last time they were just warm where before they were always scalding hot out of the fryer.

                                                                Seems like I need to try some of the other dishes mentioned here. I think they have a hit though, on weekends you have to be there before 11 a.m. or you are waiting.

                                                                1. Intoxicated on Sichuan peppercorns at Little Sichuan in San Mateo Saturday night, I left my Amex card on the table when I left... Since we needed to go out to San Mateo to retrieve the card, I was looking for something new and good nearby and saw this thread. Thanks KK (again -- your posts were essential in Taipei last fall!).

                                                                  Really fine barbecue (we did the Peking Duck which was very fresh and good) and excellent shrimp wonton soup. The broth was outstanding -- reminded me of the Taiwan night market soups. Also enjoyed the great variety of rice rolls. We had the mushroom to go with the duck.

                                                                  That was enough for 2 of us, And we will be back,

                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                    I don't know how I've missed this place. I wanted Peking Duck for mothers day and found a couple of posts about CP FC - I trust anything Melanie has to say - and it did not disappoint! I decide to reserve the Glutinous Rice Stuffed Chicken ($45) 3 days in advance and we are so glad we did--it was the star of the meal. It came last so I didn't eat as much as I would have liked to but the leftovers, scrambled with an egg, made an awesome breakfast. The whole chicken is de-boned and then stuffed with no mai kai (the sticky rice with dried shrimp etc in it) and the rosted? something, to make the skin super crispy and the meat soft and the fat rendered. Taking a bite of this is heaven. The rice was nicely toothsome, not too hard nor too soft, and very tasty. It came with a sauce that was really cornstarchy/goopy and major shiitake flavor, which we thought was unnecessary. Much better without it. There is no doubt we will return for this dish. Upside too is that if you reserve the dish you can reserve a table. I also was interested in eating the CP Food Stall Lobster but the lobsters were 3 lbs min and $26/lb (yikes) so we got the same prep on a crab, just $30. That too was terrific, if a bit salty. The crab was fried and showered with chopped scallion, garlic, ginger, dried shrimp, bits of batter (I think) and not sure what else, but the crab itself was tender and flavorful, and not too hard to get at bc the fried shell made it easier to bite. My kids gobbled it. There was no leftover crab but a lot of leftover detritus that I took home with the idea of using it in frid rice this week. I had to get my Peking Duck, got a half (very reasonable at $11) lovely crisp skin with soft fat and meat was tasty and cooked nicely. The white buns were a bit hard, like they'd been sitting there. We also had the roasted pork belly - delicious, downright crunch layer of skin - and the char siu chow fun for the kid (it was good). All in all will return and try other stuff, the folks next to us had som sauteed pea shoots or something like that that looked good, as did the claypot.
                                                                    The whole bill (no alcohol) was $107 which I thought was really reasonable given all that we ate.

                                                                    1. re: Tabetai yo

                                                                      Great post! Excellent point, hadn't put two + two together, that you can make an advance reservation if you pre-order the stuffed chicken dish.

                                                                      1. re: Tabetai yo

                                                                        Thanks for the post! We've been to CP FC quite a number of times, but never ordered anything in advance. I'm glad the Rice Stuffed Chicken was so good--it bodes well for the Roasted Pigeon that my mom has been craving for months.

                                                                        We were actually at CP last night, and my family's consistent favorite is the Egg Tofu with mixed veggies. The "tamale" is another must-have, and everyone enjoyed the roast duck. Jellyfish was a bit disappointing, and the Crispy-skinned roast pork was on the bland side, but everything (including the egg puffs) more than made up for them.

                                                                        1. re: Tabetai yo

                                                                          Times change and CP accepts credit card payment now. Ten of us lunched on a selection of dishes:
                                                                          BBQ Platter 3 ways; Jelly fish, Honey Pork, Roast Pork Belly
                                                                          Pea Shoots with Salted & Preserved Eggs
                                                                          Lobster Food Stall Style
                                                                          Steamed Ling Cod
                                                                          Egg Tofu
                                                                          Pipa Tofu
                                                                          Duck 2 ways
                                                                          Yee Foo Mushroom Lo Mein
                                                                          Egg Puffs
                                                                          Birthday Buns

                                                                          I'll five-star the Pea Shoots with Salted Egg/Preserved Egg as my favorite dish; followed closely by the Food Stall Style Lobster; then...Egg Tofu.
                                                                          Don't wait for a birthday celebration to enjoy the Birthday Buns; there's a birthday everyday on someone's calendar.

                                                                          Thank yous to pilinut and RWCFoodie for meeting with Alan, the Manager, on Monday to pre-order the Private Kitchen dishes and for co-ordinating the emails for lunch.
                                                                          Who stopped after lunch at Creations Express on B Street for mango mochi?

                                                                          Is there a CH thread on "Special Order" menus?
                                                                          Table talk hints of another lunch at Little Shanghai.

                                                                          1. re: Cynsa

                                                                            Cynsa: thanks so much for taking the great photos - Like eating the dishes again! And thanks for starting the post for today's lunch. 10 of us gathered for this lunch. Tab including tax and tip came to $32/pp.

                                                                            My favorites were the lobster, pea shoots w/salted & preserved egg, egg tofu w/veggies, duck 2 ways, egg puffs and Birthday Buns.

                                                                            Lobster: I saw Alan take that big guy out of the tank. On the table about 10 minutes later. Probably the best lobster I've ever had. Sweet, juicy and came out of the shell without any work at all. I would definitely order this again. The crunchy bits of topping included garlic, dried shrimp, preserved mustard or turnip and chopped/ground pork (I think), white pepper, basil and to me it tasted of five spice.

                                                                            Birthday Buns: Happy surprise, these were filled with lotus seed paste & salted egg yolk instead of red bean paste. Yum! (Thanks Cynsa for treating us!)

                                                                            Notes: Pilinut and I pre-ordered the Private Kitchen items in person with Alan, the mgr. Today when we got there I asked him to have the kitchen pace the dishes and they did so we were able to enjoy each dish without having others get cold, made for a nice leisurely meal.

                                                                            Next stop: Little Shanghai??? The spicy/sesame pigs ears, among other dishes, are calling me...

                                                                            1. re: Cynsa

                                                                              It was great to have so many friends together at once, and a treat to take advantage of CP's Private Kitchen menu.

                                                                              My favorite dish was the food stall lobster which RWCfoodie has already described in more detail than I could—all I can add is that it was fantastic. The lobster was not on the PK menu so you don't need to order it in advance.

                                                                              My number 2 was the pea shoots with preserved and salted eggs. The wonderfully intense eggy-ness of the dish was earthy and satisfying. Often the broth of a pea shoot dish is watery, but this broth had a really rich flavor. The flavors of the pea shoots and two types of eggs blended together perfectly.

                                                                              These two outstanding dishes were in my estimation far above the others, but most of the rest of our meal was also very good to excellent. The egg puffs were warm and not overcooked as they had been at a prior chowdown. The birthday buns were a pleasure, with the salted egg yolk filling inside the lotus seed paste adding a nice surprise.

                                                                              The Peking Duck 2 Ways is a nice variation with crispy skin coming as the first course, followed later by the meat minced with lots of nice crunchy items to be rolled in lettuce leaves with sauce and slivers of green onion. It's good but the duck flavor is pretty diluted. It's good for a change of pace, but I prefer the regular Peking Duck with its juicy, hearty meat undiluted by other ingredients.

                                                                              The only miss was the ling cod. Given our ambitious menu we decided to back away from our original plan to get a large rock cod and went with the smaller fish. It had little flavor and nothing to recommend it.

                                                                              All in all, an excellent meal. Thanks so much to pilinut and RWCfoodie for their stellar organizing, to Cynsa for the fine birthday buns and the photos, and to the whole gang for the good company.

                                                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                                                I think the consensus on this meal was pretty clear--possibly unanimous!--with the top dishes being the pea sprouts, lobster, duck, and egg tofu, any of which I'd be happy to scarf down again. I'll add that the char siu and the crispy roast pork were particularly good that day. On the downside, the sauteed fish fillet (ling cod) was the surprise flop. The e-fu noodles, though they had excellent texture, would benefit from more mushrooms and more flavor. The rather bland version of Pipa tofu was not bad--it tasted fresh and clearly had the promised shrimp and fish pastes mixed in--but it failed to generate any enthusiasm.

                                                                                All in all, a very good meal indeed, and I'd say that it's worth the effort to plan ahead to order from the Private Kitchen menu.

                                                                                1. re: pilinut

                                                                                  As a stand alone dish, the ling cod was prepared well - it simply could not beat out the competition of the bold flavors of the duck/lobster/pea shoots with salted egg yolks and preserved eggs. How could it rise to exalted heights?
                                                                                  The e-fu noodles sank to the bottom of my list, but I was so sated by the time it arrived on the table... my tastebuds were dulled.
                                                                                  We could add another hour to our lunch and clear our palates between courses with ice cream or lemon sorbet?

                                                                          2. I'm hearing rumors about a third location opening up in San bruno at 271 El Camino Real. Is it still under construction, or is it about ready to open up? (if it's showing up on a takeout bag, it can't be too far off...)


                                                                            1. So, we went to Cooking Papa one Sunday evening…don’t do this! This, our favorite Chinese place in the Bay Area seemed to be exhausted. Food items were reasonably OK though the XLBs (which arrived within seconds of ordering) were liquid free and the curry beef pot was not interesting. Service was the worst I have seen anywhere in many many years. Example: asked for glasses for beer. Were told they had no beer glasses. We pointed to some water glasses and were grudgingly presented with those. Dishes were almost thrown on the table.

                                                                              This required a revisit a few days later at lunch. Service was as friendly and helpful and competent as always and the food as good as ever.

                                                                              Conclusion, they were exhausted after a long Sunday of service and Sunday evening is a time best avoided at most popular Chinese places on the Pennisula.

                                                                              1. Living only a couple of minutes from Cooking Papa was a huge plus in my life, and one of my last meals there before moving was almost perfect. Showing up just after the 11am opening, I was seated next to the window with a nice view of water. I looked for the Pork Liver and Bitter Melon Rice Noodle Roll I had enjoyed my previous visit but the seasonal specials had changed so I went with a shrimp noodle roll and XLB.

                                                                                One of my few complaints about CP's execution is their frequently sloppy wrapping and cutting of the cheong fun. Most places don't cut all the way through but it's close enough that a few judicious snips with the chopsticks easily finish the job. Most of what I've had at CP has been inadequately cut and so loosely wrapped that it's almost impossible to eat without much of the contents falling out. On this day my cheong fun is perfectly squared, tightly wrapped, and cut almost all the way through, coming apart completely with a single snip of my chopsticks. Not a single bit of contents falls out of any of the pieces as I eat them.

                                                                                On my previous visit the edges of the XLB skins hung over the edges of the metal cups and had cooled enough that they stuck tightly to the metal, tearing and spilling their juice in spite of my care. Today they are perfect, none of them sticking over the edge of the cup, piping hot and soft, with great flavor. Not a single one of the thin-skinned beauties tears before entering my eager mouth.

                                                                                The Hong Kong Egg Puffs were only slightly less than perfect, just a tad more done than I like but still very good.

                                                                                I leave carrying a box with the last two egg puffs and sit down outside on a bench facing the water, enjoying the radiant heat of the Sun which perfectly balances the crisp air, leaving me cozy but not too warm. I'm a bit sleep-deprived and start to drift off as I watch a Western Coot float by effortlessly, riding the current. In the opposite direction two Mallard Ducks paddle energetically upstream. Gulls sweep down over the water and skim over the waves before rising out of view. I am acutely grateful for my near-perfect meal and its languorous aftermath. A gull lands on a nearby post and squawks harshly, an avian alarm clock snapping me out of my reverie and reminding me I must get moving, I have packing to do.

                                                                                As I head back to my car I think of what I will miss about Foster City—my neighbors, being a one minute walk from the Bay Trail, and being a two minute drive from Cooking Papa.

                                                                                1. Was quite disappointed with a recent weekend lunch. Ordered the signature dish- beef pan fried noodle, which had no wok hay, and it's a big plate of grease. The Cheung fun seemed not very fresh and lukewarm, in addition to taking 45 minutes and a reminder before arriving. The dace fish porridge was ok, the dace fish balls could use more fish and less starch. The highlight that day was the soy bean milk.

                                                                                  Not sure if it's an off day. But with that performance we might not go back. And certainly lost a bit of desire to order off the preorder menu (even though it's probably handled by different chefs than the noodle and porridge chefs). The dining room was not full.

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: ckshen

                                                                                    Yikes, that's a 180-degree turn from what I'd expect from them. (I only go to the Santa Clara location.)

                                                                                    I'm most surprised by the slowness part. Cooking Papa serves quickly to a fault, to the point where we'd joke and time them from when they took our order to receiving the first dish, usually within the 2-3 minute mark even at peak capacity.

                                                                                    1. re: Jon914

                                                                                      I'll let in on an observation I've made from numerous visits to the Foster City location. The food is usually good to excellent if the owner is there. He's a stickler for quality and runs a tight ship....but he's actually in Hong Kong now for another week or two so I also have noticed this dip recently with his absence. If you want to do a pre-order dinner, I would do it directly with the owner and go during an evening when he is there (usually weekends, and weekday lunch).

                                                                                      Running a restaurant and trying to maintain consistent quality, especially with a menu this broad, is very very difficult. And even more pressure now that they are Michelin 2014 recommended. But I would say that even on an average visit to not so great visit, is better than going elsewhere (e.g. a HK café). Like Tsui Wah in the Marina complex, where the congee chefs supposedly came from Hing Lung in SF Chinatown (and some friends reported signs of construction/life in Chinatown, hinting at re-opening), was not that great also....and the HK style western side is not spectacular either (heard that the kitchen staff for that side came from Café Mario in San Bruno/Millbrae, another doozy).

                                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                                        good to know. who should we ask for if we pre-order? just 'the boss'? and how does he look like?

                                                                                        regarding the slowness, our guess was that the server / kitchen forgot the order, and that the dish showed up like 3 minutes after the reminder. so perhaps the kitchen was still quick when they got the order.

                                                                                        1. re: ckshen

                                                                                          Come to think of it, it shouldn't matter who you talk to for the preorder, one of his more senior waitstaff should be as familiar with the dishes as well as their cost. The key is making sure that when you dine, that you do so when the owner is present. It's not a guarantee, but based on my experiences, I find that to be more true.

                                                                                          The owner is the guy in the overhead videos making mooncakes (hairnet on), zongzi, and maybe black sesame paste, soymilk, and there may be a shot of him loading some trays for a catering gig, onto some huge container.

                                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                                            This is agony to read. OK, I must come back to SF.

                                                                                            1. re: Parigi

                                                                                              It's even more agonizing when you go to Yum's Bistro with a regular... ;-). Move back from France! By the way I'm on very good terms with the sassy one at CP now!

                                                                                  2. Kind of confusing trying to relate some of the recommendations here to the online menu.

                                                                                    Is the beef brisket noodle soup in which you can taste the tilefish F3 on the Rice Noodle in Fish Broth page?

                                                                                    Is pea shoots with salted and preserved egg E23 on the entree page?


                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                      Yes it is confusing.

                                                                                      N6: (Noodle) Braised beef brisket in noodle soup. You can request egg noodles, ho fun/rice noodles. This is the flatfish/dried tilefish won ton broth

                                                                                      F3: This is the same except the stock is a creamy white fish broth. It appears to be creamy due to the addition of Yuba, because I saw remnants of it in my bowl (I guess it didn't cook all the way through). This combination of brisket and fish soup noodle I do not recommend. Flavor clash.

                                                                                      E23 looks like it is just pea shoots (no century egg) stir fried?

                                                                                      Let me share another recommendation and comment(s). The braised beef brisket is actually the "clear broth" version, in which the juices/stock it is cooked in, has intense beef flavor and although not clear like a consommé, is very enjoyable on a good day if not overly salty. If you have that with the tilefish won ton broth, the effect is lessened. Plus the won ton tilefish broth gets diluted from the noodles and vegetables being cooked separately in boiled water.

                                                                                      "Lo Mein" is the way to go here.L3: is essentially brothless noodles, and you can get braised beef brisket on top of it. They actually pour in a little brisket juice/soup to keep the noodles moist enough. That way you can savor it. The tilefish broth is then presented in a separate bowl and is far more concentrated in flavor than if you were to have it in a noodle soup bowl (which is more diluted). A little house chili sauce on the noodles and the beef, and it really hits the spot. The alternative is you just get the brisket as an appetizer dish A2, and the magic of doing so is that you also get some daikon/turnip. On a good day, the daikon is not bitter and fully absorbs the beef juices/flavor (on a bad day, the daikon is bitter and fibrous). You can also order the noodle separately if you wish...but by separating the items and paying more, you are essentially eating better and maximizing each component.

                                                                                      Hope this helps.

                                                                                    2. Got some takeout a couple of weeks ago.

                                                                                      CP4 clay pot braised beef brisket with turnip 11.50, this was great. I think they substituted daikon.

                                                                                      RR9 rice noodle roll with shredded duck 5.50, as good as everyone says, lots of mushrooms.

                                                                                      R2 Hainan chicken rice 9.25, pretty good though it was better when I doctored some leftovers with homemade old hen broth and schmaltz. Very homey dish.

                                                                                      B3 barbecue platter with two choices 13.50, chose BBQ pork and roast duck, pork great, duck OK.

                                                                                      RR12 XO sauteed rice noodle with house special chili sauce 6.50, nice texture but very bland, didn't detect much XO or any spice. Much better when I ate leftovers with extra XO sauce.

                                                                                      A15 marinated tofu 5.50, a little sweet for my taste. Nice texture.

                                                                                      E20 dry braised string bean in spicy sauce 9.75, pretty good, plenty of dried shrimp but barely spicy. Cantonese, what do you expect?

                                                                                      C4 chow fun with beef and soy sauce 8.50, nice simple homey dish.

                                                                                      E17 stir fried vegetables 9.75, very good version.

                                                                                      Looking forward to trying more stuff.

                                                                                      1. Birthday party of nine descended on the Foster City branch. Here's what we got:

                                                                                        Appetizer plate with roasted pork belly amd char siu - both good, though this order is a little too small for nine people, so order more or separate orders if your party is similarly sized.

                                                                                        Peking duck two ways - good crisp skin with nearly no fat on the underside, came with relatively thin buns instead of crepes; diced duck with lettuce cups seemed to have waterchestnuts and a dose of hoison sauce.

                                                                                        Glutinous rice stuffed chicken - crisp skin with delicious rice with pieces of mushroom and dried shrimp throughout. Heads at other tables turned when this huge dish appeared. The only other version of this dish I've had was at Hakka restaurant. CP's dish seems noticeably larger, and the rice is better stuffed in the chicken skin; this was especially true for the drumstick and wing portions. Hakka's, IIRC seemed more like rice under the skin than stuffed.

                                                                                        Pea sprouts with preserved and salted eggs - good flavor, greens softer than a standard stir fry.

                                                                                        E-fu noodle with mushrooms - lacked depth of flavor, and noodles too limp. If I knew the stuffed chicken dish would be so generous a portion, I wouldn't have ordered another carby dish.

                                                                                        Cooking papa food stall lobster - most commented dish of the night. None of us had this dish before, and found the flavor of pork, lemongrass and basil unique. The lobster itself was cooked very well, but that dried mixture was the star.

                                                                                        Fish 2 ways, soup with thousand year egg and cilantro, and fish fillet with vegetables - the fillet dish came with gai lan; it was fine, but didn't get eaten much with the other dishes. Myself and a couple others thought the soup had a suitable amount of flavor, but a couple others opined it could coax more flavor out of the fish. The cilantro flavor is not dominant.

                                                                                        Cp4: briased beef brisket with turnips claypot - disappointing dish with the brisket still tough and daikon mealy. Came with a heavy gravy. Probably should have asked which version had the clear broth before ordering.

                                                                                        Sp2:  special egg tofu with vegetables - egg tofu is delicious, even if I over ordered dishes with egg.

                                                                                        It was too much food. Everyone seemed happy with the meal. The lobster and stuffed chicken were especially standout dishes. The service was very helpful, even spending considerable care to cut and portion the cake we brought.

                                                                                        Though the online menu has the duck, stuffed chicken, noodles and pea sprouts dishes as requiring pre-order, only the stuffed chicken actually required such action. In fact, when I tried to place orders for those dishes with the chicken, they just told me to order the dishes when I got there.