I was curious and decided to try lunch instead of dinner the following day. Just a note, parking lot is shared with Lowe’s and relatively ample. I arrived at HL Peninsula right when it opened and we got seats. Around 70% of the restaurant was sitting down already and I noticed that they actually have three private rooms on the right hand side right when you enter. The place reminds me of a few places in Vancouver and Toronto or Sea Harbour down in LA.
For the most part though, the place is quite roomy with high ceilings. Fish tanks are to the left of the entrance, though I’m not certain they want the public to venture forth and look at the tanks (they weren’t super full when I went, but I do recall geo duck, crabs (dungeness and king), lobster, and fish (black bass and I think I saw a turbot).
As alleged on some of the yelp reviews, people have mentioned plasticware with the cups and plates. I have attached a picture and from a visual stand point, it doesn’t look so obvious. But once you pick up the teacup (or uh… hit it against something) you can tell that the cup is extremely light and in some cases with enough light, you can actually see through it. A little bit of a let down since the restaurant appears to be more towards the high end category (Well… if we travel back 200 years ago, these things would be a marvel technically) but not a huge deal.
Their menu can be found online, but they have additional daily specials (a few items are also found within the dim sum menu) that are printed out. Price wise they are pretty high (comparable to Crystal Jade, Koi Palace, Dragon Beaux etc.) and have some interesting variations; traditional dim sum items are not too common.
Anywho, we started off with some basics. The pork and crab roe siu mai was pretty well done texture wise, though I felt it was a little bland (just a pinch more salt imo).
Next up we got the steamed beef meatballs with a dash of worcheshire sauce (at the time they didn’t have a little side dish for the sauce, but we don’t mind it placed directly onto the dish). They were steamed well, but I still find the first batch to be a little underseasoned.
Following that, our shrimp dumpling arrived! They were extremely juicy (additional soup? I don’t believe a dumpling would exude that much juice just from the shrimp) and had good texture.
After that, our steamed bbq pork buns arrived. A nice pillowy bun and the innards had good texture without the bbq pork gristle. However, the bbq pork taste just seemed a little lacking.
A bit bizarre of a start, I felt a few dishes were a little underseasoned but maybe that’s just the first hiccup.
Our meal took a bit of time, but eventually our next dish appeared. This is a little twist on the classic rice noodle roll. The noodle roll as you can see is a dark purple (from the wild rice) and within the noodle rolls are shrimp with a crispy exterior. Excellent when fresh and crispy, don’t wait too long when eating or you end up with slightly soggy shrimp mush. Soy sauce was sweet and savory as most dim sum restaurants goes (Looking at you Champagne… I have no idea why yours was more acidic…). Overall a nice dish, similar to Dragon Beaux’s rose red fish-chip rice noodle roll in terms of texture.
Out of curiosity we ordered the Shanghai dumplings just to see how it compares to other dim sum parlors and well… they felt pretty mediocre. The texture was a little too solid (now that I think about it, could it be due to the meat being refrigerated for a while for other places?) and the soup seemed a little one dimensional and mainly salty. Beyond that, the dumpling was juicy and I do like the little tin foil cups to hold the dumplings.
With another ten minutes or so, we had ordered the charcoal sweet crepe roll. I think it looks more interesting than it tastes, but in any case, the crepe itself was sweet due to the powdered sugar. I presume activated charcoal was mixed into the crepe, so there really wasn’t too much taste in that. The crepe was a bit dry and on the chewy end. Inside the crepe, was a peanut meal mixture that gave a little textural difference, similar to the fillings of a dragon beard candy.
Next I ordered a chive and shrimp dumpling soup which just turned out to be well… chive and shrimp dumplings over a bed of romaine lettuce and a dash of soy sauce. The dumplings were pretty good, though I don’t know where the soup went…
In that instant that we finished, the pan-fried mugwart leaf dumpling appeared. My folks compared the texture to mochi and the fillings inside the dumpling was pretty much the same peanut mixture in the charcoal sweet crepe roll.
We were still waiting for our xo stir fried radish cakes, so we decided to order the baked bbq pork buns. Though a little different in size, the bbq pork filling was better than the steamed ones (more savory). The exterior was not the crispy crunch that you would expect from Tim Ho Wan, but it reminded me a little of the Mexican bun that is found in Chinese bakeries. I prefer the ones in Dragon Beaux just a bit more.
At last, our XO sauteed turnip cakes arrived. I really don’t know why it took so long, but I hypothesize that the stir fry cook didn’t start work till a bit later (most of the bay area dim sum restaurants seem to have the fried rice and other stir frys avaiable after 10:30/11). In any case, each radish cake itself had distinct strips of radishes and less overall dough but the shape held together. The bean sprouts were sweet and gave a nice textural crispness to the softer turnip cakes (I wish they were pan fried a little longer). There was a hint of XO sauce but not too much sadly.
For my first impressions of the restaurant, I like to think that a large portion of the delays is the restaurant trying to figure things out (I spent over an hour and a half there most of the time waiting). Food quality seems to be pretty good, so I’ll probably check the place out in maybe half a year and see how things continue. Besides the odd plastic ware, everything looks very new. Some dishes weren’t available, as we wanted to try the lotus root cake with foie gras paste, but nothing egregious.