Champagne Soup, Millbrae [split from South Sea Seafood Village thread]
- Melanie Wong Dec 12, 2012 07:42 PM
Could you please say more about dear Champagne Soup? Presumably this took over the failing shabu shabu space. I've been to Champagne several times but not the new sibling.
Champagne Soup is easily the best Cantonese restaurant in Millbrae right now. I didn't understand why there were holes on the tables till I remembered the previous hot pot place which got so-so reviews. They are still using the hole/stove to keep dishes like sheep in claypot warm. The menu is modern and adventurous, at a pretty high price point. And the plethora of individual soup bowls! Tasty but the average price is like $10, and so don't look for bargains. The place is small and incredibly cramped but manages to look elegant. Service is often brusque. They told me they would expand the menu to their old location next door soon. You know they are serious about their food when they put a picture of their chef on their menu listing all the awards he has received in China.
Sounds very interesting, Vincentio. Since we don't have addresses here on CH (ahem), I went to Google and was redirected to Yelp for the address. Normally never use Yelp, but the uniformally terrible reviews and 1 stars was hard to miss. What''s going on? Any other CHer been to Champagne Soup?
re: Thomas Nash
Yeah I read through all the Yelp reviews (only 8 so far). Not sure why so many 1-star reviews. Perhaps planted by rivals? :-D But most reviews complain about service, and I can't blame them. As for complaints about price, you get what you pay for. We have minimum wage here, and with supply and demand also working here, great Chinese restaurants are going to demand $10+ dishes even with simple ingredients. Just look at the crowds packing the place. Now I wish the head chef will stay there for a while instead of moving around like those at the other Cantonese restaurants in Millbrae. Maybe wait a few more months for them to "merge" with their other restaurant next door, and I can organize a group dinner there?
I dropped by tonight after dinner to poke my head in and looked at the menu.
They merged the two eateries...Shabu shabu place and the bistro noodles/congee/stir fry restaurant are both no more. The interior is remodeled a bit more to look a bit more upscale, tablecloths and carpet. The shabu area , basically an extension for more seating once the main area (bistro) fills up.
I think the investors really had to gamble big since both projects basically flopped...last 6 months I've driven by the bistro restaurant only to see it mostly empty. I hope they succeed with this project, otherwise I can't think of any other venture.
They do yum cha during lunch as well with your typical varieties, plus a few items that seem a bit classical Guangdong style...stuff like steamed beancurd sheet wrapped around duck feet (old style Luk Yu or Lin Heung Tea House type stuff), preserved sausage in steamed bun, and pretty much the rest is your typical Millbrae dim sum restaurant lineup.
The dinner menu is where things get a bit more interesting. Yes, soup is their theme, but it's actually the double boiled soups. They range from $4.80 to $16 for an individual portion, which is similarly in line to those in Hong Kong (e.g Ser Wong Fun). You can even get a mini "Buddha jumps over wall" deluxe soup for $18. The claypots they have range from the high teens to the most expensive larged sized claypot at $68 (which requires a pre-order, depending on the item), some having really exotic ingredients including snake, rabbit, and chicken.
From further glancing at the dinner menu, the style is more regional Cantonese from Guangdong rather than pure Hong Kong style, at least the executive chef with all the medals he has from all these awards, appears to be from there too or apparently has worked in China, HK, and Macau (then again they promoted Shun Fung the same way, the exec chairman of Asian Pearl/The Kitchen when they were part of culinary wonderland corp before splitting).
The soups certainly look interesting, but I'm still on the fence about the other items.
It's pretty much what KK has said. They've renamed the restaurant and have redone the menu with an emphasis on double-boiled soups, some seasonal clay pots (turtle, rabbit, snake, chicken inside pork stomach), some unusual regional dishes and some carryovers from the original menu to satisfy a family-oriented crowd.
We dropped in last night to grab a quick bite before picking someone up at the airport (without knowing about the change).
Didn't have soup but had the braised duck claypot and 3 "safe" dishes (prawn salad, oil poached fish fillets, fried rice).
My only lasting impression of the duck in special sauce claypot (S: $16.8, L: $29) was not of the flavor (spicy soy-based gravy) but of the boniness of the duck. Flesh-wise, it's nothing like a decent roast duck (Cooking Papa) - is it maybe a different species used? Regardless, it took away from the enjoyment of the dish.
The other dishes were about on par with what they put out before at this location and nothing to write home about.
If we decide to return, we'll try the soup, but based on the soup I've had at their San Mateo location, it's "low sodium" and may not be everyone's cup of tea, as the early Yelp reviews indicate.
My overall impression is one of ambivalence. I like the idea on paper, but based on past visits to the prior concept, I don't have enough confidence in their ability to execute to try the more interesting (and expensive dishes), in the same way that I would trust Koi, Yum's Bistro, or even their San Mateo location to do.
They have soft shell turtle claypot as well (it's named as "water fish" in Cantonese), which is an interesting seasonal winter dish that I tried at Yum's one time....and actually liked the texture of the fatty parts by the skin (almost like a stewed pork belly), but the idea is still too creepy for me to want to order it again. If the sauce in the claypot is really good, the best way to enjoy that is to order some large pea sprouts (cooked) and use that to dip in the sauce and eat.
As far as the snake items, to me based on looking at the Champagne Soup menu, they rely too much on deep fry for the preps, rather than using skill to try and recreate some of the more interesting traditional dishes (maybe HK Flower Lounge will still offer Cantonese style snake soup, and apparently Belmont in China Village is offering that now too, from local Chinese newspaper ads...perhaps the HKFL snake soup chef is now working there?). The snakes are likely rattlesnakes one would get from midwest (much like finding frozen crocodile meat at Marina Supermarket), and likely frozen, but it's still a matter of taking the ingredient and doing what you can with it...but salt pepper frying is not interesting at all.
re: K K
If it's frozen, salt and pepper is probably done to mask the freshness / origin of the ingredient.
Are all snake soups in the area based on frozen meat, or are some imported over from HK? I last had snake soup locally at the Foster City ABC, but that was 10-15 years back (when ABC was at the top of its game).
Champagne Soup has closed and will be reopening as "Champagne Restaurant" with a different Chinese name but seemingly offering a somewhat similar style of menu (dim sum during lunch, soups, Cantonese stuff).
This comes right after Champagne Seafood restaurant in San Mateo went through renovations to become Champagne Buffet.
Let's see how long these projects last.
re: K K
It's the same management, right?
We passed by tonight after eating nearby, and at least on this night, it was filled.
I noticed that they finally gave up on the space to the left (that housed the sushi place), and my mom remarked that the Chinese name matches some place in Redwood City on Veteran's Boulevard that's been around forever. Probably just a coincidence since I can't think of any Cantonese restaurant in that area...