[Daly City, CA] Koi Palace

I feel Koi Palace is a pretty well known restaurant by now (has it really been around for over two decades?) and I haven’t really seen much feedback these few years. It feels like an institution and often not really thought about or really reviewed.

Nevertheless, an advertisement caught my eye as we were finishing up dim sum.

The idea of winter melon soup always appealed to me though I rarely ever have the whole item double boiled. Nevertheless with family we tried out the Summer Set menu for a table of five and opted for the weekday version (A slight price discount).

Starting off the meal, we had the Maine lobster and fresh fruit salad. Quite light on the mayo-like sauce really allowed me to enjoy this dish. The fruits were refreshing and the lobster meat wasn’t overcooked.

Following that, the roasted suckling pig came out. Very nice crackling skin, and pretty moist meat. Surprise was the marinated soy beans. I think they do a good job at KP, but I can’t really rank it around the bay area (nevermind elsewhere) since I rarely order the dish.

Initially when I saw this dish, I couldn’t figure out what we had ordered. Turns out these were the lightly fried maitake mushrooms with garlic chips. A surprising favorite giving its uh… unique look. There was this intense morels-like taste to them and the sauce was similar to a sweet honey sauce, which went very well with the maitake mushrooms.

Following those appetizers, the shanghai crab roe dumpling brought a nice touch of hot broth to the mix. I couldn’t really detect the crab roe flavor, but the dumplings itself had good porky taste to them.

Ah the star of the show…

This wasn’t what I quite envisioned for the wintermelon soup, as I expected a larger melon with all the soup inside it. Nevertheless, the soup was quite delicious. I think I’d still give a nod to Yum’s Bistro version as they actually include a notable chunk of dungeness crab.

Probably the most disappointing main dish we encountered at KP. The pomelo pretty much fell apart and didn’t really seem to have any flavor (probably soaked it too long in water and not superior stock?). The sauce was great, just the texture wasn’t quite there for me. The goose webs were okay, though I’m not a fan of these so not a good judge.

Next up, was this tempura shrimp wrapped with a shrimp paste mixture and then encrusted with corn and finally deep fried. Very tasty. The exterior didn’t have a ton of extra batter, and the corn gave off a nice sweet taste along with the crunch. The interior shrimp paste gave a pleasant soft juicy texture, and the surprise of an intact firm shrimp gave one more final texture change.

To finish up our meal, we had a mixed seafood over vermicelli with fish soup. I very much enjoyed our carb item of the night; the vermicelli absorbed the soup and had enough bounce so it wasn’t a mushy pile of noodles. The cilantro and green onions gave a good aromatic fragrance mixed with the seafood (shrimp, scallops, and squid/cuttlefish).

Onto dessert! First off was the soft tofu with a ginger sugar syrup. Not exactly part of the summer set, but a nice light dish. Tofu was silky and quite enjoyable .

I was way too full from eating and its really not my thing, but my folks enjoyed the egg custard. Its pretty much the one you have from lunch.

To cap off the desserts, we have this… peach resin syrup with lotus seeds. I’m not a big traditional dessert person, so I must admit, this was the first time I’ve tried this item. Nevertheless, I was not a fan. The dessert had a thick mouthfeel, however it was not super flavorful (lightly sweet). Felt like I was eating very lightly flavored knox gelatin. I couldn’t quite get a hint of peach (though I suppose it was technically just the resin from the tree). The snow fungus also amplified the gelatinous nature of everything.

Overall though, I think Koi Palace still crafts a very good dinner especially this summer set. I’d probably be just happy with that soft tofu pudding and opt for a steamed fish somewhere in the meal, but cannot complain. I do enjoy breakfast dim sum (we only eat right when it opens, otherwise… we are not waiting in line). Once in a blue moon, we also go to KP and enjoy their peking duck dinner. Their steamed catch of the day can be well anything, as we had an eel, sea bass, and just regular bass. Nevertheless, its still steamed just right. All in all, KP still has a nice (if not expensive) touch in having a tasty meal.


Thanks for your review. I love this place. The foods are ranging from good to great, and not overpriced (especially compared to Vancouver and Toronto). Interestingly, several people have said that they love Koi’s Soup Dumplings. Yet, to me, the soup dumplings is one of their weaker dishes. I really like the char siu and the char siu bao (bun), and I like most of the steamed rice rolls. I always love to eat steamed live fishes (usually grouper) for dinner.

I think there are just too many specialized soup dumpling shops that do nothing by soup dumplings. If you ever come to New York City, Shanghai Cafe in Manhattan has cafe meat soup dumplings which you can definitely taste the crab meat and crab roe

Thanks for the report. For Koi, its actually not too expensive, $53 a person. Of course they keep the cost down by not having too much high end seafood. The duck set menu is pretty economical for 4.

I think for melon containing soup it most likely require a full banquet table of 10 to find a melon small enough as a container.

Quite an undesirable combination. One’d hope that if its falling apart, at least it has been cooked enough to absorb some flavors.

Any local recs for a better pomelo skin rendition?

Koi Palace is certainly not a shanghai dumpling specialist.

I can’t let go any insinuation that one should go to NYC just for soup dumplings. There are a lot of dumplings in the bay area. Not as storied as the San Gabriel valley, but certainly more than Flushing.

There are a dozen places, maybe two or three, who are specialists, right in the bay area - including Din Tai Fung. XLB has been covered exhaustively, It’s a thread unto itself, but my personal favorite right now in summer 2017 which minimizes my travel time is the new Chef Zhao in the Embarcadero Plaza in Palo Alto ( not Chef Zhao Bistro in MV which is hard-core szechuan ). It’s right near the freeway, and they also have Sheng Jian Bao. Near Koi Palace the most recommended is Shanghai Dumpling Shop ( derp! Wonder what they specialize in! ), which has long lines and I’m a little underwhelmed in the depth of their soup taste. A few of my other favorites are iDumpling ( RWC, Northern dumplings ), Panda Dumpling ( San Carlos, but takeout to Savanna Jazz, nothing better than soup dumplings, jazz, and bourbon ), Su Hong Palo Alto ( crab dumpling ), Bamboo Garden ( Mountain View ). I have eaten some of the Sunnyvale etc places and they are better - it’s just a long hungry drive past a lot of good dumplings to get to slightly better dumplings.

Anyway. If one wants to go deep into soup dumplings, Koi Palace isn’t the place.

I know, but I have heard many times that “Koi’s best dim sum is the Shanghai Soup Dumplings”. I am not criticizing Koi Palace. I actually thought that statement undersold Koi since Koi other dim sum are so much better in my opinion.

As for my recommendation for Shanghai Cafe, I don’t mean one has to go to NYC to get soup dumplings. Speaking from my experience, I have tried many soup dumpling places. Many places are excellent, but most places (even the excellent ones) do not have flavorful crab meat soup dumplings. The crab meat soup dumplings taste just the same as their pork meat soup dumplings. Since the original poster has some complaints about the crab roe soup dumplings, I thought I can share my positive experience at Shanghai Cafe.

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Koi Palace is a Cantonese 燕翅鲍, so of course you don’t expect good xiao long bao. Unfortunately, they used to package XLB with their dinner sets and they were among the worst I’ve ever been served.

Ah, thanks for the clarification regarding the XLB recs. Re: crab taste, I find great difference between different restaurants regarding the taste, too. I can vouch that the XLB at Su Hong Palo Alto are very, very different and crabby.

Re: Koi Palace “best dim sum in XLB”. They must really dislike the rest of the Dim Sum at Koi Palace?

Well… it is personal opinion. Who to say McDonald is not better than In-N-Out, right? It is just that like In-N-Out better. Anyway, the statements were made on Chowhound back when I was asking and search for Dim Sum restaurant in SF. (I grew up in the Bay Area, but hadn’t been there for a long time). I am grateful that they help me to point to Koi Palace. We just differ in what we like best. Again, in all honesty and not to sound snobby, Koi’s Xiao Long Bao is not horrible. I have had worse. It is just that I like >90% of their other dim sum better – just my personal opinion.

“XLB. Both the regular and crab are delicate, always soup filled and delicious.”
“Koi Palace has 100% crabmeat xiao long bao which should not be missed”
“Koi palace. Heavenly XLB. Just go.”

Good to know about XLB at Su Hong Palo Alto. I will like to try them sometime when I get to visit there.

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I agree with you fully that XLB is not the strength of Koi Palace! Not sure where you have found those quotes… Yelp?

And… “always soup filled”… high standards indeed :slight_smile: But I actually know what they mean. If the skins are too thick, you might get bad balance, if you have thin skins, they might pop and leak.

I tried their XLB during dim sum service once, and thought they were mediocre.


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Yikes! How the mighty have fallen.

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BTW, have you dined (not dimsum) at the other two Koi locations. If you have, how do you rate them versus Daly City?

Thanks for the review. I haven’t been to Koi Palace in awhile but that roast suckling pig is delicious, probably the best thing I’ve had there. Lobster dish looks interesting.

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[quote=“Chemicalkinetics, post:2, topic:10621”]
Thanks for your review. I love this place. The foods are ranging from good to great, and not overpriced (especially compared to Vancouver and Toronto). [/quote]

Haha, I thought this place was actually expensive compared to Toronto and Vancouver (then again, might be due to my recent visits and the excellent exchange rates for those in the US).

[quote=“Chemicalkinetics, post:2, topic:10621”]
I really like the char siu and the char siu bao (bun), and I like most of the steamed rice rolls. I always love to eat steamed live fishes (usually grouper) for dinner.[/quote]

Yeah they do a good job on those dishes you mentioned. I do recall ordering an Austrlian grouper (or north star grouper?) at least ten years ago and costs a pretty penny at 45 bucks a pound. My dad was staring at the bill blankly for a few moments… oops.

Yeah, price wise, it wasn’t the worst haha. I also agree, the duck set is a pretty nice one since when I order some random fish they tend to be at least 20 or so a pound nowadays and they tend to go up with the better textured fish.

Yeah :frowning: We saw a ten table dinner as we walked out and they had the whole melon.

I honestly haven’t really ordered this dish haha. I’ve seen it the few times I’ve been back in Hong Kong and it was seemed interesting. Just never seemed like the right opportunity to order it. I can’t recall where I’ve read it, possibly it was K K on CH and I think he mentioned that Yum’s or Cooking Papa might serve a rendition, I don’t recall how it turned out though.

I haven’t gone to the Dublin one since it first opened, and I haven’t tried the Milpitas one. Honestly, they’re way too far if I’m like 15 minutes away from the Daly City location haha.

Ha. It may be due to the stronger US dollar recently. When I was there, the exchange rate was around 1 to 1.1. On top of it, Canadian VAT/HST/GST was higher than is San Francisco sale tax. I was referring to restaurants like Lai Wah Heen, Crown Princess…etc. Take Lai Wah Heen for example, shrimp dumplings is $8, pork dumplings (siu mai) is $7, steamed rice roll is $9.5…etc.


As for live seafood, Koi Palace price is pretty normal compare to its neighboring SF restaurants and to NYC restaurants.

Maybe I’m a little guilty of this, but I did enjoy them for the longest time and still order them to this day. I think the quality nowadays seems to be lower than the previous decade but among the Cantonese dim sum parlors they still do a good job. The crab one that I ordered maybe once a year was delicious and had that sweet crab taste from the dungeness crab, though I do think it has gone down within the past three years. With regards to the other dim sum places that have XLB, I haven’t touched Yank Sing’s version of the XLB for years mainly since I find them exorbitant in pricing and have no access to a business account… I did try Crystal Jade’s version roughly a few months after its initial opening and thought they did a better job than KP but… its pricing was similar to that of Yank Sing.

Ohh! I’ll keep that in mind. I know my aunt really enjoyed the one at Joe’s Shanghai and still raves about it, but I did not like it when I had it. Thought it was too greasy, large, and to my shock and horror possibly a little too soupy.

Woah thanks for the recommendations. I rarely venture south of San Mateo for food, but will keep an eye out if I’m in the area. As for Shanghai dumpling shop, this is the one in Milbrae correct?

I actually really like Koi’s version of their Abalone and Smoked Ham dumpling soup (replaced their shark fin soup dumpling). Similar to a mini buddha jumps over the wall. Way before the shark fin ban, I liked the Shark Fin soup dumpling at New Asia.

Though I don’t think they’re the worst ones ever, I always wondered about the statement that because its only a Cantonese restaurant that you would not expect a good XLB. Not to dwell on the place of origin, but there were quite a bit of immigrants from the Shanghai region that did immigrate to Hong Kong in the past (and last I recall, the chef at KP as from HK). I figure there would be some incorporation of skill in regards to the XLB. I’m guessing maybe this might be a matter of taste as chemicalkinetics later alluded to (e.g. his McDonald and In & Out example).

Ooof yeah 1:1.1 is on the high end. When I last went felt like a 15-20% off haha. I haven’t tried lai wah heen though I’ve been meaning to last time I was in Toronto with the folks. Tried Crown Princess though and thought it was okay. I was more awed by the decorations than anything else. In Toronto, I liked Skyview for their dim sum and char siu a lot more. Maple Yip and O’Mei were delicious for dinner. Do you have any other recommendations in that area? I’ve been meaning to go back to Toronto soon.

Hm that is true, I’ve noticed that local restaurants seem pretty much on par nowadays. I’ve had pretty good steamed grouper at HK Flower Lounge last time I went and prices seem on par with Koi. I wonder if its due to less exotic selection at KP nowadays.

I don’t dispute the fact that you can get good XLB at a Cantonese dim sum place; Yank Sing has excellent XLB. They are a relatively new addition to dim sum menus, however. Twenty-five years ago, when I launched a massive search for xiao long bao in SF after my XLB epiphany in Shanghai, there were only three places that had the dish: the grandiose Wu Kong in the space that now houses Yank Sing, the Taiwanese-owned Fountain Court at 5th and Clement, and a hole-in-the-wall at 32nd and Clement, Shanghai King (which had the best). I spent three months in Hong Kong in 1997, and don’t recall a single instance of XLB being served at a Cantonese dim sum place, though I found it at several Shanghainese restaurants. There was a definite segregation of cuisines then which may have since lessened (there as well as here). The lack of xiao long bao on dim sum menus may have been due more to lack of familiarity or demand. It’s worth noting that San Francisco’s Cantonese population (unlike Vancouver’s or Toronto’s) historically came directly from Guangdong without a sojourn in Hong Kong, which might reflect of tastes as well as acquired skills.

To be fair, my one experience with XLB at Koi Palace was at least 15 years ago at dinner (I never ordered it at dim sum). I lifted one dumpling with my chopsticks, the skin broke, and a round ball of meat that looked like the inside of a golf ball fell out, bounced (I kid you not), and rolled off the table.


I agree they’ do a good job for a dim sum restaurant, and even better than most shanghainese places. The filling quality is still very good, but the skins are no longer formed by hand.