Monday, September 20, 2010

Dim Sum at Koi Garden in Dublin

Not Quite Polished Dim Sum Tea House
4288 Dublin Blvd., Suite 213, Dublin
Ulferts Center
PH: 925.833.9090
Open daily for lunch and dinner
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
Web site

I'm on a long weekend because my Mom and sister is in town for a few days, and it's my chance to catch up on my Chinese dining because for my Mom she's more excited about a new restaurant than Coit Tower.

On Saturday, I decided to take her to Koi Garden in Dublin since my sister had a rental car and I had yet to try this East Bay outlet of the extremely popular Koi Palace. I've taken my Mom to Koi Palace a few times and she always loved the variety of dim sum so I was hoping its sister outlet would deliver.

Joining us were my uncle and aunt, and another aunt and cousin visiting from Los Angeles. Getting dim sum is usually fun with a large party, but I always get nervous about how much of a wait it would be for a party of seven.

First off, it took awhile to find the strip mall that houses Koi Garden. There's no clear signage with the street numbers, so you really just have to know that you're going to the strip mall that has the Bank of America branch up front. After we finally got there around 1 p.m., we walked into the restaurant on the second floor of the complex and got a number.

There actually weren't that many people waiting for tables, and the restaurant didn't look too packed. The design was a contemporary Asian styling with several spotlight areas for family tables. This was where we ended up sitting at after a few minutes of waiting.

Koi Garden's dim sum is served up the same way like Koi Palace, where women walk around with trays of specific dishes. You can also order dishes off of the paper menu. We did both.

Here's just some of the dim sum that made it to our table:

This was one of the first dishes that came strolling by, a shrimp dumpling with XO sauce. I have to admit, I didn't try this because I'm not a fan of this type of har gao because of the glutinous skin. It looked interesting, though.

This is one of my favorite things, the custard buns. I typically like these baked, which Koi Palace does well in Daly City. But at Koi Garden they just had the steamed version. Still, I love the creamy sweet custard filling inside.

My cousin ordered a bunch of food and she asked me what I wanted and the only thing I mentioned was the xiao lung bao, which are the Shanghai type dumplings with soup inside the dumpling. They're my favorite at Koi Palace, and it's made the same way at Koi Garden with the dumplings sitting on their individual silver lining. There seemed to be extra soup in the Koi Garden version, so there was a large burst of soup and flavor when eating this.

We also had potstickers, which had a nice blackened bottom. These were huge with a lot of filling.

I know, you're wondering what this black thing is. No, it's not black soup. It's a dessert item made with grass jelly. It's basically like black jello, but with an herbal flavor. It's eaten with a douse of simple syrup.

Gosh, it seems like we ate a lot of dessert items. This was another one, which is a favorite of my Mom's. It's called a Thousand Layered Cake. It's not exactly a thousand layers, but it looks like so that's how it gets the name.

We actually had a lot of plates. My cousin went a bit overboard with the ordering, getting double orders of things like siu mai, daikon cakes, three versions of the stuffed noodles (beef, shrimp and char siu), and jellyfish. My Mom also got a couple of plates of chicken wings and chicken feet, and there were also more fried items that I skipped. It was way too much food. (Since I didn't pay, I actually didn't pay attention to the prices, but it's definitely on the high end of dim sum in the Bay Area.)

Two things I noticed about Koi Garden and how it compares to Koi Palace: 1) there were fewer specialty dim sum dishes. They had the coffee ribs, but all the other dim sum seemed pretty standard and there weren't as many trays circulating the room, and 2) the service is awful. For some reason, the servers weren't attentive and when you ask for things, they give you a look like it's such a bother. It was really surprising giving the sophisticated surroundings.

In the end, it was nice to check out this outlet of the popular Koi Palace. But next time my Mom sweeps into town, we'll probably head to Daly City than Dublin. At Koi Garden, the setting is newer and cleaner, but the service and straight-forward dim sum makes the trek out to that area of the Bay Area a bit of a chore.

Single guy rating: 3.5 stars (solid dim sum but lacking in service)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Koi Garden on Urbanspoon


foodhoe said...

I've been wanting to check this out, but have heard it is not as good as the original. However, it is in my neck of the woods and without the hour long wait, maybe I could overlook some of the drawbacks! And I would love not having the rows of people standing in the dining room waiting for you to leave. Now I'm craving dimsum...

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you could eat jellyfish. Did you try it? What's it like? -- David

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, it is close to you so it's probably easier to get to. But there's a reason there's an hour wait for Koi Palace. At Koi Garden, I heard Sundays could be a long wait too, and if that's the case, it might be better to drive to Daly City.

David, I love jellyfish. Been eating it since I was a kid. The jellyfish is cut into thin slices like noodles and then blanched, so it remains a bit crunchy. It's pickled or served with a soy vinaigrette. I mostly like the crunch. (I'm pretty sure they use the non venomous jellyfish.)

Jenster said...

I love jellyfish, too! We recently ordered it at dim sum and it was so nice and refreshing.

When I was little my mom would try to give me grass jelly for "dessert" but I refused to touch the stuff for the following reasons:

1. It was black.
2. It was called "grass jelly."
3. My mom called it something else but I knew it was called "grass jelly" because that was the name printed on THE CAN.

Yes, my mom would buy grass jelly in a can and dump it out and slice it, but you could still see the indentation of the can on the sides of the slices, kind of like cranberry jelly out of the can. There's only so much a kid can take when it comes to "dessert." ;)

Single Guy Ben said...

Jenster, that's too funny! This definitely was home-made because I didn't see any ripple marks on the edge from the can! But funny how with dessert, once you pour maple syrup or sugar on top, then it's all good! ;-)

Emily said...

Dim Sum in San Francisco can be so hit or miss. I've had experiences ranging from horrendous food poisoning to exceptional and exciting dining. Nothing beats a BBQ'ed pork bun in my eyes. Love the blog!


mysimplefood said...

It is always lovely to find a good Chinese restaurant!! :)

Carolyn Jung said...

I didn't even know there was an outpost in Dublin. Still, from what you write, it seems like it's still more worth it for me to make the drive and to fight the throngs at the original location instead. ;)