My sister told me about a list of top 10 Chinese restaurants compiled by a Los Angeles-based attorney and accountant, David Chan, who has meticulously documented each and every one of his over 6,000 restaurant visits in an Excel spreadsheet (full list here – note that they are all located in California). According to this list, Koi Palace in Daly City ranks #1. I have been to Koi Palace a few times many years ago, but have always been reluctant to return due to the massive lines and Hong Kong-style crowds. After salivating over the pictures online, I convinced AK that we would go right before opening hour on Saturday to try our luck.
We arrive at 9:45 a.m. in the morning, and the scene was already insane! Even before the restaurant is officially open at 10:00 a.m., tons and tons of people are jockeying for position both inside and outside the restaurant. I guess it was shrewd for the restaurant to at least open its doors early to release some of the nervous energy, which was palpable. We gently shoved our way inside, but it really was a little unpleasant being constantly on guard, eying each new entrant as a potential line-cutter (I know, here my F.O.B.-ish tendencies really come to the surface). Thankfully, the restaurant officially started acknowledging its guests right on the dot, and we were quickly seated. We wasted no time in ordering up a storm (the perfect size for dim sum is really a party of four).
We started off with some pork and leek dumplings, followed by Sichuan-style chili oil pork dumplings – since these are not really native to Hong Kong, the skin was thicker than usual, and the sauce not spicy at all (even for me). However, both dishes were delicious.
We also ordered a plate of the roast duck, which is usually a great Hong Kong specialty. It did not disappoint! The meat was so juicy and the skin was extra crispy. (Even the leftovers were great – I incorporated the duck into some chowmein I made the next day.)
The true star of the show was the har gao (shrimp dumpling) in XO sauce. The shrimp filling was tender but flavorful, and the XO sauce, a mix of dried fish, dried scallops and chili sauce, really put it over the top. Probably the best har gao I’ve had in recent memory. I would come back just for this!
Last but not least, I had to have my favorite–egg tarts! The version served here consists of a thicker, flakier shell and a custard-y interior. It looked so good that I forgot to take a photo before diving into it (thus the missing bite). I almost ate another one on the spot, but held myself back with much difficulty. You can tell I didn’t even notice that the photo was blurry! (Or was that my vision?)
So, was it the best Chinese restaurant I’ve had in the U.S.? Probably not for me (the top honor will probably have to be a place in LA). However, it was definitely a solid contender and worthy of an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
365 Gellert Blvd.
Daly City, CA 94015