365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
Koi Palace is a popular Cantonese Chinese restaurant in Daly City, California. (Just south of San Francisco) The Peninsula is ground zero for some of the best Chinese food in the SF Bay area. It has been around since 1997 and specializes in wide selection of Dim Sum for lunch and special dishes for dinner.
This restaurant also has locations in Dublin and at Thunder Valley Casino. We came for dinner and have previously reviewed Koi Palace dim sum lunch. Our return trips included the latest in 2018. Yelp reviews emphasize lunch and do not factor in where this place falls in the Chinese restaurant pecking order.
Avoid this restaurant during Chinese New Year (Usually in February) unless you want to hit the crowds, poor service, and possibly sub par food quality.
Be sure to read our article How to order in authentic Chinese dinner
Fresh Seafood Tanks – not as impressive in 2012 (Dead fish)
Decor, Vibe – Koi Palace is a busy and a noisy Chinese restaurant with lots of families and friends eating together. It is less noisy and crazy at dinner time. Avoid Holidays as they are even more crowded. Always come early to prevent getting delayed, even if you have a reservation. Above average decor and cleanliness for a place like this. Lots of flat screen TVs, big tanks of seafood by the entrance.
Koi Palace Menu Pictures
Menu was updated in 2018. Koi Palace has an extensive a la carte menu as well as Set menus that can range up to mega bucks. Special shark’s fin and abalone dishes can be super expensive. The set menus that are per table and not per person are the ones to check out. They have added some seasonal specials on tabletop flip menus.
Koi Palace Chinese New Year 2016 Special menu $448 for Party of 10
Going against our own advice, we dined here in 2016 during the Chinese New year rush. They removed the lower priced set menus during that period! Our table was available 30 minutes later our reservation, the waiting area was packed like sardines. The first 4 dishes came right away, then we had to wait 30 minutes for more food. Quality was fine surprisingly and the waiters were upbeat.
BBQ Combo Platter
Scallop Crispy Roll with lettuce Cup – A new dish with almost like a deep fried twinkie filled with scallop and shrimp. Very heavy dish.
Tender Cube of Beef with Wasabi Aioli
Bird’s Nest, Fish, Maw and dried scallop soup – Heavy, thick soup, but good.
Dried Oyster, Black Moss Braised with Whole Scallop – A must for Chinese new year. Frankly I don’t know what the fuss is about.
Whole Lobster steamed with Garlic & Enoki Mushroom – Superb as usual. Mushrooms instead of vermicelli noodles was interesting.
Peking duck substituded for Steamed Free Range Chicken
Steamed Fresh Catch of the day – Fantastic fish. Fresh out of the tank and steamed to perfection.
Enoki Mushroom Braised with E-Fu Noodles
Happy New Year Gold Bun – Yellow colored buns filled with sweet egg filling.
Koi Palace Dinner Food Picks:
Deep Fried Alaskan King crab
Live Alaska King crab done two ways ($202 for 8lbs at market price) had deep fried crab legs with a salty egg tempura batter that were simply awesome. Even better and less salty than Hakka restaurants crab. The legs were pretty cracked to make eating a lot easier, and the meat was tender and delectable. Frozen crab legs are not in the same ballpark. The second cooking style with steamed yam noodles and garlic. This dish was also superb with the freshness of the crab being highlighted. The noodles soaked up all the delicious crab juices. We had called ahead to reserve this beast. Gather 8 of your closest friends and split the bill!
Peking Duck Dinner ($118 on weekends, $105 weekdays) is a fixed price package for roughly 4-5 people. It was sold at a good price and has ample food for even more than four people. If you are a rookie at Chinese Cuisine, try this no brainer meal. This meal includes:
Shanghai Steamed dumplings – Eight hot dumplings fresh out of the steamer. Pretty tiny but had flavorful broth and meat inside. Nice metal baskets helped them keep their shape, which we consider cheating! Not authentic at all. Try a Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae, Yank Sing in San Francisco, or Din Tai Fung. Check out our Best Shanghai Steamed Dumpling Page
Peking Duck done 3 ways or “Duck 3 Taste”:
Roast Duck Skin with buns – Not a lot of meat to this preparation. Koi Palace cooked it perfectly. The skin, bun, and plum sauce made for a great combination. Beijing has Peking duck that is far superior. Check out our Da Dong Review of the real deal. They started to use golden color buns with egg in 2017.
Duck Soup with Greens – Intense duck flavored broth, tender Chinese broccoli, mushrooms, and tofu made this a very good soup. Its great they can do their version of head to tail cooking.
Prime Mushroom with duck shreds and rice noodles – Surprisingly, this was excellent. Nice balanced flavor with all 3 items. Shitake mushrooms were delicious.
They switch preparation #3 to Fish Maw braised with duck filet. Very boney ‘clay pot’ that came in a metal pot. Be prepared to take your time eating this technical dish.
Steamed Crab in garlic sauce – Very very messy but a well cooked version of crab. We like it better than traditional scallion crab. Great garlicky sauce and rice noodles, so make the flavor soak in.
Steamed Fresh Fish – Fresh catfish from the seafood tanks. Freshly steamed and cooked perfectly. Not a huge fish but good nonetheless. Lots of bones though. A must selection with the Peking Duck dinner.
Alternate: Baby Bok Choy in clam broth. Stellar dish with tender veggies in a lite supreme broth. Large clams topped off the dish, but seem out of place.
Soup of the day changes daily of course. Cantonese folks are famous for needing soup to complete meals.
Daily Soup – Chicken Pork Soup ($10) was a tasty, long boiled soup with a strong meaty broth and tender chicken, herbs, abalone, and wai san herbs.
Daily Soup – Shark fin Cabbage Soup ($10) was dominated with cabbage flavor, small dollup of sharks fin, and Virginia Ham. A decent soup, but the other soup was better. Now banned.
Winter Melon Soup ($25 Small) was pushed by the waiter, so we succumbed and ordered it. This very good soup comes served in a small wintermelon and is full flavorful ingredients including crab, mushrooms, and pork. The small version serves 5 people.
Sweet Corn Soup ($14) sounded like cream of corn but was a piping hot pot of well done corn soup with a hint of sweetness. Not on the menu any more, but we still could order it.
Crispy Tofu Cubes with Garlic and Herbs Egg Yolk ($8) is a deep fried dish hits the mark of crispy and tender, with a big hit of salted egg flavor.
Hand Roasted Suckling Pig Slices ($18 small) was pretty expensive for what we got, but the skin was crispy and the meat tender. They hand remove most of the fatty layer under the skin. Most pieces were bone in for maximum effect. You can order the Whole Suckling pig for $190, half of a pig is also available. It is quite a site to behold, as the pigs eyes are now flashing LED’s. There would be no difference in meat quality though as they roast the pigs starting around 5pm each evening.
Suckling Pig Combo Platter ($35 for Medium) has the same roast pig along with excellent roast pork (Cha siu) and a giggly Jellyfish. The roast pork is still an order of magnitude below the quality of versions in Hong Kong.
Roasted Duck ($12) was above average, no surprises. Average quantity but good flavors and lots of moist meat.
Dried-Scallop Egg White Fried Rice ($16) is a great alternative to boring rice. Medium strength flavors with lots of fluffy egg. $18 with scallop balls.
Mandolin Hand Roasted Squab ($18 each) with raisins was excellent. Nice crispy skin, juicy meat made for a classic dish. Lots of juices flowing to the plate below. Slightly salty so no need for seasoning salt. Use your hands to eat this! Yes it is messy but worth it. Gotta fly to Vancouver for better squab! They included a dipping sauce that was not necessary.
Crispy Roasted Duck ($6.90) was from the Tabletop Traditional Appetizer menu. Excellent, juicy, full of flavor, a small affordable and wonderful dish.
Smoke Sea Bass ($28) is a popular dish here, but frankly not as good as R&G Lounge in San Francisco.
Spring 2013 menu roasted lamb ridge in Xingxang style ($32) was extremely expensive full of fat but an excellent dish. Lots of fatty lamb meat and ribs that are carved tableside. High quality lamb with a minimal amount of gaminess.
Table Top Fall Classic Creation Menu – Chef’s Special Sesame Chicken ($14 for half) was recommended by our waiter. Lightly fried yellow feathered chicken with a sesame seed crust. Juicy, tender, and full of sesame seed flavor. A very nice combination. This dish took a while to arrive.
Table Top Traditional Appetizer Menu – Five Spicy Ginger Chicken Feet ($6) was a mound of simple looking chicken feet with lite ginger flavor on a bed of five spice flavored crunchy red beans. Great dish for cartilage and tendon lovers.
Table Top Seasonal Special – Pan Grilled Jumbo Sea Scallops with Herbs ($9 each, minimum 2) has 2 MASSIVE scallops that were lightly seared and served in a light sauce. We have not seen scallops this big in a while.
Eight Treasures Egg Tofu ($14) comes in a super hot clay pot. The dish is full of Egg Tofu, Shrimp, Chicken, BBQ Pork, Squid, Scallop, Baby Corn, Mushrooms, and a thick brownish gravy. A treasure trove of items cooked just right. This is a pretty good sized dish.
Pan Fried Pot Stickers ($5) were very good. More northern style ala gyoza than Cantonese style.
Crispy Salmon Skin ($8) was like shrimp chips, fried and crunchy. How could it not be good?
Fujian Fried Rice ($18) was excellent. Full of ingredients including fresh shrimp, mushrooms, scallops, green onions, and a perfect gravy. A very filling alternative to white rice. One time we ordered this dish to go and they were nice enough to separate the rice from the topping. We wish other restaurants would do this!
Stir Fried Sticky Rice ($14), a lunch dish migrated to dinner. Lots of BBQ pork, some egg, and well done like most other dishes here.
Steamed pot rice ($2) is individually steamed and served, not usually the case.
E-Fu Noodles ($14) were simple but freshly made and cooked perfectly. Very tender and plentiful. One of the better ways to get starch without hitting rice.
Sweet and Sour Pork Pineapple ($16) sounded Americanized yet hit the spot with its thinly slicked pork with a thin eggless batter and the real chunks of pineapple. Lots of onions though.
House Renowned Concubine Chicken ($24) looks extremely pale, but is worth ordering. Nice garlic dipping sauce, and exceptional flavor to the chicken.
Mushrooms, Foie Gras, Soft Egg Tofu ($28) was ordered the day before the foie ban. They lightly batter their foie and pan fry it, making for a tasty delight.
Coffee Spareribs ($20) is there classic dish available both at lunch time at dinner. Crisp, Meaty, Slightly sweet, somewhat coffee flavored, with a dollop of whipped cream. Hong Kong Lounge II also has these.
Wine Stewed Ox-Tail in Pumpkin Bowl ($34) is overpriced but a nice looking dish with both tender pumpkin and savory meat on the bone.
Angus Beef Loin Bathed in Supreme Beef Broth with Daikon ($34) was a very good dish, with quality meat and soft daikon cubes. Huge bone added for effect.
Pea Shoots or Pea Vines in Supreme Broth ($20) was excellent, pricey but bathed in a broth that was worth drinking at the end! Must get.
Soup Top Wild vegetables ($16) in supreme broth was a spinachy, ‘organic’ vegetable served in a very water but somewhat flavorful broth. We were scared but this was a pretty decent dish.
Ong Choy ($14) or water spinach is similar to pea shoots and was cooked in a special broth and was spectacular. The veggies were perfectly cooked, while the broth accentuated the ong choy. ($18) for a version in supreme broth. This makes the vegetables a lot more flavorful and less boring.
Garlic Pea Vines or Pea Shoots ($22) was extremely expensive and just average. Pea shoots were not very crunchy. On another visit the quality improved to excellent, so make sure pea shoots are in season before ordering.
White Fungus in Young Coconut Bowl was a rich and velvety coconut soup with chewy fungus served and cooked inside a young coconut. Order this early on as it takes time to cook. Be sure to scoop the soft coconut meat inside the shell. This is enough for 3 to 4 folks to sample.
Mango Pudding ($4) for 4 pieces, came with sweetened condensed milk and tasted good. On another occasion we nicely asked if there was any free dessert soup like other restaurants. The kind waiter brought us complimentary mango pudding and banana jello pudding. No desert soup is available on the weekends.
Sesame Filled Glutinous Balls ($5) took a while but were hot and freshly made. Black filling was not too sweet. It was chewy but not too chewy.
Sugar Egg Puff ($4.30) – 4 pieces. A signature dessert here with powered sugar on top. Crunch and fresh out of fryer. A must.
Herbal Turtle Essence Jelly ($4) was pretty medicinal in 2018. Very sweet syrup.
Family Dinner For 8 ($148) was ordered in the Summer of 2012. A good value with a ton of food. The meal includes the following dishes:
BBQ Meat Combo – their classic combo with excellent roast duck.
Seafood Fish Maw Soup – Almost like a Westlake soup base with some fish maw and egg drop.
Honey Glazed Walnut Prawn – Nice white glaze, a bit stingy quantity wise.
Stir-Fried Diced Chicken with veggies – The one dish that didn’t work. Do they use leftover chicken?
Pan-Fried Pork Chop in Maggie’s Sauce – Thin boneless pork chops, fat trimmed off, slightly sweet sauce.
Braised Sea Cucumber With Boiled Mushroom In Oyster Sauce – Excellent mushrooms and slightly bitter greens.
Steamed Fresh Catch of the Day – Excellent fish even though it looked pale.
Steamed Crab w/ Roasted Garlic – At this point we were pretty full, but the exceptional vermicelli noodles soaked in the crab juice made this awesome.
Snow frog fungus was our complimentary dessert. It was cooked well, looked beautiful, but the soup was far too sweet.
We had a $399 ten person C Banquet meal in February 2010 and list a couple stand out items. See our Full Koi Palace Dinner Menu Picture Set for pictures.
- Suckling Pig BBQ Platter with crispy pig, roast pork, seaweed, roast chicken, and vegetarian roll was excellent. All items were top notch especially the crispy skin roast pork.
- Deep Fried Shrimp filled Crab Claws are freshly fried and hot out of the kitchen. Crispy exterior, tender interior, excellent.
- Squab Meat Stir Fried with mixed mushrooms had fried squab decorating the edge of the plate plus thin chewy slices of meat, snap peas, and bamboo shoots. A nice blend of flavors.
- Whole Fish maw braised with duck web and Riji Mushroom was jiggly and jaggly but tasty. Nice big mushrooms were very meaty and fresh.
- Prime Mushrooms over seasonal greens had four types of fresh mushrooms, bok choy, making this a variety full dish of greens.
- Tender Beef Cubes sauteed with burgundy wine sauce with mushrooms was a nice dish full of tender steak cubes. The mayo-like sauce on top was not necessary though.
- Australian Spanner Coffee crab was a variation on the standard dungeness crab, this one is a lot more flat and there is less meat and more shell. Messy as usual.
- Steamed Rock Cod arrived boneless, and came with fungus. Excellent tender fish that was cooked perfectly.
Pan Fried Pork Buns ($5 for 6) were tried because we wanted to see how well a top notch Cantonese cook could make a Northern dish. These were pretty well made and had a nice crunchy bottom, but very thick skin and tiny amounts of meat inside. All in all a good effort but not like ones at a Mandarin Chinese restaurant.
Enoki Mushroom Prime Rib ($18) with an ugly looking dish with a heavy mushroom flavor. The meat was stuck together and slightly gamey.
Pork rib Pomelo Peel ($18) sounded like a good dish was more of a standard chopped pork ribs a la dim sum, with some strongly flavored, pomelo patties.
Koi Palace had service that was a little better than average for a place like this. The head waiters know their stuff but cover many tables. The servers and bus boys are always running around and need to be hailed. There are times on peak evenings, when they are simply overwhelmed. We had to ask for more water, tea, the bill, etc. In 2015 we noticed that they continue to try to improve the service.
The best service we have had in a Chinese restaurant is at high end places outside the US, including 3 Michelin star Lung King Heen in Hong Kong. Chinese restaurants in the US simply are not in the same high end fine dining realm and hence do not focus on service. Even Chinese restaurants in Vancouver, BC had higher end service and better food. The breath of items was excellent, more extensive and more inventive than nearby places in Millbrae.
Comparing Koi Palace to other San Francisco Bay Area Chinese Restaurants
Koi Palace is still the best Cantonese Chinese food in the San Francisco Bay Area. Food is top notch but not cheap. There are some forgettable dishes, so check our recommendations. Having been to Hong Kong recently, we can declare that the best food in Hong Kong is another level above what we got here and so was the service. Runners up to Koi Palace include R&G Lounge in San Francisco, and Asian Pearl in Millbrae and Richmond.