Champagne Seafood Dim Sum Restaurant Review, San Mateo
Posted by Foodnut.com
Champagne Seafood Restaurant
88 East 4th Ave (At San Mateo Drive)
San Mateo, CA 94401
Champagne Seafood Restaurant is a new Chinese Restaurant in downtown San Mateo that opened in Joy Luck Place’s old location. The Chinese name for the restaurant translates to First Class Kings Court. They redid the internals and create a large dining room along with several very classy private dining rooms. This restaurant serves lunch Dim Sum and traditional Cantonese Chinese Dinner.
Champagne Seafood has people circling with dim sum that you get food from. During weekdays, there are limited circulating items, so you order from the menu for the most part.
Champagne Seafood Dinner is reviewed separately. This dim sum review is the culmination of many visits from 2009 to 2012 in which we raised their rating. They changed chefs in 2012 and we noticed far more banquets being held.
Be sure to read our Introduction to Chinese Dim Sum.
Decor, Vibe – Champagne Seafood has fancy decor with lots of stylish wall accents, big murals, several Flat Panel TVs, new wide chairs, seafood tanks in the back, and a Hong Kong restaurant-feel. Mostly Asians were dining when we visited for lunch, place was loud, hectic, and crowded like most popular dim sum places. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a table during peak times. Beat the crowds by calling in a reservation.
Champagne Seafood Menu (Click to zoom into any picture)
Dim Sum Menu
Champagne Seafood has an extensive dim sum menu with a lot of more exotic items most place do not serve. Reasonable prices. Some items do not circulate and need to be ordered. Order early on as many items take a while. We would stick to simple items and avoid really expensive things for now.
Crispy shrimp rice noodle roll ($4.50) stuffed with fried dough is very nicely done although it needs to be eaten quickly before it gets soggy.
Lobster Congee ($20.80) is extremely expensive but excellent. It serves up to 6 people. Essentially a fresh whole lobster in piping hot rice soup, this dish features very tender lobster meat. The jok acquired some subtle lobster flavor. The dish is very messy as plucking the lobster meat from the shell is made harder by the fact that the shells are all wet. Be sure to ask for a fork. Note that the marginal congee that is available from the circulating carts is not the same, and should not be ordered.
Abalone Shark’s Fin Soup Dumpling in broth ($6.80) is totally not PC but a reference test dish. One of the few to include Abalone, this version was very good with lots of delicious filling but a more sedate broth.
Deep Fried Meat Dumpling ($2.60) or Ham Sui Gok were hot out of the fryer and very good. Nice minced meat filling.
Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll ($4.50) was had tasty big shrimp, chewy rice noodle wrapper, and a nice soy sauce. Couple veggies on the side too. Try to avoid ordering it if it has been making the rounds too long. They started to add cilantro in Mid 2010.
Deep Fried Sesame seed ball ($2.60) were ordered through the waitress and arrived freshly made. Hot with a thick skin but just the right sweetness of black sesame inards.
Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf ($4.50) was very good. Rice was cooked fine, lots of filling, and a quality egg yolk inside.
They have a special version of Lotus Leaf Wrap ($9.80) glutenous rice which is about twice as big, includes mung beans, scallops, and pork. The version at Hong Kong Flower Lounge is superior though.
Chicken Feet with black bean sauce ($2.60) was made the classic way and hit the spot 100%.
Beef Tripe ($3.50) was a solid hit with lots of good stuff. They were lazy and included some of the more inedible parts.
Steamed Shrimp Dumpling ($3.50) or Har Gow were five smallish bites of dim sum. Shrimp was fair, not top notch. Wrapper was decent. On our last visit when ordering off the menu (during a weekday), they had improved.
Egg Yolk Lava Bun ($3.50) was excellent and reminded us of Hong Kong. Freshly steamed, lots of yolk, and some flavorful yolk at that.
Super Egg Puff ($3.50) is not as nice as Koi Palace’s but still excelled with good crispiness and sweetness at a lower price.
Watermelon Grass Jelly ($4.50) is a seasonal desert with rounded cubes of melon, mango, tapioca, along with small cubes of black grass jelly. The grass jelly dominates the flavors so avoid this if you haven’t acquired a taste for it. Excellent dessert for hot summer days.
Steamed Turnip Cake ($3.50) was a well done small freshly steamed bowl of turnip cake with lots of dried shrimp, chopped up lap cheung, etc. On the small side though.
Beef Chow Fun ($10.80) was a solid version of the classic. Lots of flat noodles, beef, and sprouts. Could have used a little more beef.
Sticky Rice with egg under glass ($3.50) had lots of finely chopped cilantro, Chinese sausage, and a dash of egg. Nice blend of flavors with a lot of cilantro essence.
Egg custard tarts ($2.60) were small but hot from the kitchen and awesome.
Crispy suckling pork ($5.80) has very good crispy skin on top but is very fatty. About 50% fat, 50% meat on this artery clogger.
Blood tofu ($5.50) is an acquired taste but a worthwhile dish here. This dish includes some chewy pig skin too.
Chiu Chow Dumplings ($3.50) had 4 excellent and big dumplings filled with a very balanced combination of peanut, cilantro, and pork. The peanuts added a nice crispy texture to it.
Shrimp and Chives Dumpling ($4.50) were three huge dumplings fresh out of the steamer filled with tasty shrimp blended with chives.
Dried Scallop Pea shoot Dumpling ($3.50) had 4 bite sized super hot dumplings filled with tender filling. We liked this better than their Shrimp Dumplings. In November, 2010, we received three larger sized dumplings instead of four. Minimal scallop flavor, more of a vegetarian pea shoot interior flavor.
Crispy taro puff ($3.50) were solid versions of the classic but on the small side.
Chicken Feet in Medicinal Herbs ($5.50) is not for everyone, but was pretty darn good. Tender cartilage soaked in strong dong wei and ginseng herbs. The broth was potent but delicious.
Bean curd roll was messy and a bit oily but a decent version of this more challenging dim sum dish.
Steamed Pork Spare Ribs ($2.60) had a good quantity, but flavor was on the salty side and broth was marginal. Black fungus to sop up the greasy juice.
Egg Custard Bun ($3.50) were three little buns with a nice custard inside. Nearby ABC Cafe’s are still better.
Steamed BBQ Pork Bun ($2.60) had 3 medium sized buns with lots of meat inside. Decent but not spectacular.
Soy Sauce Chow Mein Noodles ($5.50) was a pretty basic dish with very thin noodles. It is ok but not spectacular. Good for vegetarians.
Steamed Shanghai Dumpling (8pcs for $6.50) were housed in silver foil with all the soup already leaked out. Soggy mess and clearly a big miss. Clearly a Cantonese person trying to cook a Northern Chinese dish. We shouldn’t never order them when such is the case.
Fried Salt & Pepper Tofu Cubes ($6.50) had a lots of quantity but the flavor and texture was lacking.
Rice noodle roll with barbecue pork ($4.50) was filled with chopped up barbecue pork that lacked character. Order the shrimp one instead.
Service was solid with plate changes, tea refills, water refills happening without asking. Dim Sum circulated pretty well during the noon hour, then tapered off. On another occasion we had to flag the waiters a little more. This is not fine dining, so do not expect stellar service. Champagne Seafood Restaurant has a lot of guts opening an upscale Chinese restaurant in the middle of an economic downturn.
Food was solid (especially high end specialties) and prices were reasonable. Lunch was good enough to prompt us to come back and see how dinner is. One weak spot is limited vegetarian items.
The competition across the street closed in October 2011. Champagne Seafood has superior dim sum and a much wider menu especially on the high end. Local top spots Daly City’s Koi Palace and Millbrae’s Asian Pearl Peninsula still rank higher but this place has gotten pretty good.
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