Koi Palace / Daly City vs. Dublin (locations)
Is one better than the other?
They're close enough to be considered about the same. Unless you plan to order live seafood, the differences are subtle unless you go frequently enough and order the same dishes for cross comparison.
- The seafood selection in Daly City is much better, so if you plan to splurge on that, go with Daly City.
- The Dim Sim menus are slightly different. Each branch has branch-only specialties. I find that at Dublin, they tend to send out more unannounced or experimental dishes that are off-menu. One time, I had these delectable "crab cakes" and several times, a sublime sample of crispy roast pork that's the best I've had this side of the Pacific.
- Quality-wise, the dim sum is about the same in both. The differences you might perceive are within the tolerances of visit-to-visit variance.
- I have to give the nod to Daly City for its dinner prep being slightly better overall, but it's really close, and you aren't missing out if you go to Dublin. It used to be that Daly City was better when Dublin was just opened, but it's many years past that, and they're more or less about equal.
- I feel that the service is better/friendlier at the Dublin location. Perhaps it's because the place is smaller, and the clientele is different.
- If you're going for Dim Sum, Dublin is easier to get into, especially if you arrive within the first hour.
My recommendation is to go to the one that's more accessible to you. For me, they're both almost an hour's drive away, so I prefer the Dublin location since it's easier to get into.
This isn't specific to Dublin, but here's what I've ordered over the years.
I order for a family of 5, so it typically works out to 6 dishes overall. 2 BBQ, 2 seafood, 1 regular dish and 1 rice/noodle.
1) "BBQ" is one of Koi's strong areas. You can't go wrong. We order 2 items from this area.
- Char Siu ($8). Ask for "boon fay suhw" which is a request for a fattier cut.
- BBQ Cheek Meat + Jellyfish ($15). Jowl (neck) meat done char siu style. This tends to run out quickly because it's really tasty.
- Soy Sauce Chicken or Concubine Chicken ($12 for half)
- Suckling Pig ($18). Shatteringly crispy. One of the best renditions in the area.
- Squab ($15). Ask for it "pay pah" style, which is marinated in soy sauce. Otherwise, roasted / fried is the usual alternative.
- Roast Duck ($12 for half). They do a good roast duck, and I prefer it to their Peking Duck.
Alternatively, you can order a combination platter, which combines 2 or more of some of these choices (Char Siu, Duck, Chicken, Suckling Pig) into 1 plate at a slight discount. I think you get to pick what goes in despite it saying "Chef's Choice" on the menu.
2) Live Seafood. You can splurge, or you can hand pick some value-oriented (in relative terms) choices which are just as good.
- Princess Clams (Gwai Fay Pong) ($8 each). Giant clams which are chopped up, steamed in the shell in soy sauce on top of a small bed of vermicelli. Count on doing 1 per person. A lot of places do this, but Koi's are the most succulent, sweet, abundant and perfectly cooked (a lot of places tend to overcook 'em).
- Shanghai Crab ($36). One of the must-tries on the menu, and if you order 1 dish from my reccs, this is the one. Takes a live crab and stir-fries the meat with egg whites, dried scallops, scallions. The legs are battered and deep fried in salt + pepper and served on the side.
- Lobster Noodle ($30). A lot of places do this, but Koi has a knack for infusing the noodles with lobstery goodness. You can have it on top of Yee Mein (common choice), but I prefer mine on top of tcho-mein, which are the thicker "abalone" noodles.
- Past these "cheaper" picks are the usual steamed fish, prawns, geoduck and other things that will drag your bill into the hundreds. If you're hosting something special, they're great, and I've had them, but the choices above are just as satisfying IMO.
3) House specialties. Koi's strengths mainly lie in BBQ, Seafood and Dim Sum, but they have some great regular dishes.
- Stir-Fried Sticky Rice ($12). They offer this for dim sum, and their version's my favorite around here. You can order this at dinner for a bigger portion, and this one has "wok hay"
- Wine-Stewed Ox Tail in Pumpkin ($24). Pricey but it's a delectable braise of fall-off-the-bone ox-tail and an addictive gravy. Served inside an edible kabocha "bowl"
- Walnut Prawns ($16). Why order a pedestrian dish here? It's done really well here. They use nicer prawns, keep the batter airy & crispy and even the sauce is a bit more balanced here.
There's a lot more they do well than I mention here, so if you'd like more, just let me know.
4) Set Meals
Koi does a Peking Duck Dinner for 4 for $78 that serves the Duck 3 Ways (soup, skin + bins, meat + noodles), Steamed Fish, Steamed Crab and XLB. It's a nice way to sample what they do on the cheap. (One caveat is the last time we had this, they used a Spanner/Garfield crab here, and I rather disliked that, but every other time it's been a regular crab.)
They also do more expensive dinners for 6 ($99), 8 ($138), 10 ($248), but IMO, you're better off going a la carte at that point since you may not care for some of the dishes they've picked.
re: Melanie Wong
Yes, Just Koi rebranded as Koi Palace Express fairly recently. It's Koi's downmarket take on Cooking Papa-like fare (BBQ, congee, wonton, rice, noodles), and a lot of what they do is rather good. If we lived closer, I'd be there a lot more often.
The BBQ is essentially the same as what you get "upstairs", so that's a plus. Their congee/jook base is one of the better ones (creamy texture, dried scallop infusion), and they have a good handle on their fried rice and noodles (good ingredient balance, usually good amount of wok hay).
I asked this question, since I/we have a friend living in Pleasanton, so we have made the Dublin Koi the place we go to for dim sum.
I have only been to the Daly City Koi for dim sum once, ages and AGES ago, and didn't think the crazy wait (almost 2 hours) for a table was worth the effort.
Thank you for your replies to this thread... ^^
Dublin is closer to me but I have had better dim sum at the Daly City location. Menus are different so it is hard to compare. Both are popular so expect lines.