608 Dubuque Ave
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Newly Crowned Best Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco?
Why did we dine here? – HL Peninsula recently opened next to Lowe’s of South San Francisco. This is a large and opulent restaurant that is typical of ones in China. High ceilings, huge TV screens, and many private rooms. (Reminds us of J Zhou in Tustin) There is no other place like this nearby. They are part of a restaurant group that has several locations in Vancouver and China. Yes, China money is flowing in and we are benefiting from better restaurants.
They opened a sister restaurant, HL Peninsula Pearl, about 6 miles away, just south of the Airport, in Burlingame, it has a slightly different menu. We have some notes about that location below.
Fusion Delight in San Leandro is another example of a ritzy new Chinese spot.
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Be sure to read our article How to order in authentic Chinese dinner
A friend had been here several times and raved about it, so it was time to check it out.
- It only has 3 stars on Yelp, something typical of marginal Chinese restaurant service.
- The restaurant is located literally next to the South San Francisco Caltrain station. This station was undergoing major renovation, so you need to walk around the mess to get to the restaurant.
We dined at HL Peninsula for dim sum lunch last in February 2020. Come early or else you will wait a long time, especially on the weekend. They open at 10:30 am on weekdays, 9:30 am on weekends. This place is a zoo during peak times.
We ordered a combination of traditional dim sum dishes along with some large dishes. We probably should have focused more on small dishes, so we would have more variety.
HL Peninsula has a large menu with everything from traditional dim sum, Cooked Chinese dishes, sushi, congee, and much more. Lots of modern dim sum dishes that you see in China but not elsewhere around San Francisco. Some traditional dishes are missing, like Sesame Balls.
HL Peninsula gives top Chinese spot Koi Palace a run for its money. Clearly they do the modern special dishes and cooked Chinese dishes well. They have less variety in the traditional dim sum department. This place deserves to be on your short list.
Insider Tip – Make reservations or go early, this place is popular.
Cuisine – Chinese Cantonese
Location – South San Francisco next to Lowe’s
Opened – February 2018
Service – HL Peninsula had slow service as expected. Long delays ordering and for the food to arrive. They even forgot our rice.
Verdict – HL Peninsula impressed us the moment we walked in. This is not an ordinary restaurant, they are gunning for top dog, Koi Palace.
The food was very good as expected, HL just needs to work on their service. If you are looking for really good Chinese food in San Francisco, add this to your short list. We are definitely returning for dim sum lunch.
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Maybe
HL Peninsula Signature Dishes – Sesame Chicken, Fresh Seafood from Tanks, and much more
HL Peninsula’s Menu is a typical huge one from China, with beautiful pictures. Yes the food will not match the pics! Classic Cantonese dishes to modern Chinese ones. Even Japanese dishes and South east Asian ones. Prices are not cheap, they have gone up from 2018 to 2020.
HL Peninsula Dim Sum Lunch Food Picks:
Shrimp Dumplings – Har Gow (L $5.70) had 4 large dumplings with large shrimp. Flavors were good, though the wrapper was thick.
Spinach and Shrimp Dumplings ($5.70) are a variation on Har Gow and done just fine here.
Chiu Chow Dumplings ($4.50) hit the spot with lots of pork and peanut in side. Thick wrapper that did not fall apart.
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns ($3.90) are reasonably priced and possessed a fluffy top. Finely chopped pork inside.
Fried Glutinous Dumpling with pork (S $3.25) were 3 medium sized thick dumplings cooked perfectly. Wow, some of the best around here. Crispy, not too much meat.
Crispy Wild Rice Noodle Rolls with Shrimp (DX $8.20) looked wild with the purple taro colored wrap, but proved to be excellent. Crispy fried shrimp inside the velvety blanket.
Shrimp Rice Noodle rolls are good, but we would re-order the one above instead.
XO Sauteed Turnip Cake in XO Sauce ($10.20) hit the mark. A nice variation of the usual turnip cake along with a little bit of heat.
BBQ Pork and Preserved Ginger Puff ($4.50) had a shiny, crispy flaky crust and a hint of ginger inside. Most versions do not have this.
Fried Glutinous Dumpling with pork ($3.90) took a while to arrive, but were steaming hot out of the fryer.
Taro Puffs ($4.70) were more deep fried goodness. Fresh and hot.
Pork Spareribs in black bean sauce ($4.70) are a little more pale than most spots, but the end results are good. Large quantity too.
Roasted suckling pig slices ($22) are expensive during lunch but had a really nice crispy skin. Comes with sugar and plum sauce.
Sauteed Okra w/sambal belacan sauce ($9.70) is not served in very many spots around here. This is well done and not really spicy.
Pea Sprout and Tofu Skin in broth ($9.70) is great for vegetarians. Very pure.
Fish Fillet Congee ($22) was a HUGE dish, enough to feed a table of 10. Really well done jook with lots of tender fish. We had to bring home a huge plastic jar of it.
Love of Matcha Tea ($5.50) is a mochi rice dumpling filled with goodies. A lot better than the Tosenka, which is too sweet. Missing from the menu in June 2019.
Pandan Flavor Custard Tart ($4.70) are a small green colored egg tart. Weird looking but less sweet and very well done.
Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls ($4.70) are medium sized soft pillows of sweetness.
Red Bean Cake (L $5.50) was a nice eggless dessert with lots of red bean in a not too sweet pudding base.
Coconut rabbit pudding ($4.50) had 3 really cute little rabbits. Condensed milk flavor was strong.
Beef brisket with turnip in bouillon (Q $9.70) looks huge as it comes in a pot with a burner underneath. Really flavorful broth with tender turnip. The beef was a bit tough but had good flavor. In June, when the turnips were out of season, the resultant dish was a big bland.
Chinese Tender Green with oyster sauce (TX $8.50) was reasonably priced for such a huge dish full of greens. A nice balance to all the other dishes.
Pan seared Eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste (Q $9.50) was also a huge dish priced well. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and the sauce was not overpowering.
Steamed Fish fillet with chili ($12) was excellent. A bit of heat and lots of tender fish on a bed of vermicelli noodles. This dish could easily cost $20. Shocking their prices are actually reasonable.
Pan seared turnip cakes (M $4.50) were average. Edible but not special like other dishes.
Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with dried scallops ($6.20) was average. Flavors were muted.
Herbal Turtle Essence (M $4.50) looked like a real turtle. It was not too medicinal and was bathed in a pretty sweet ginger sugar sauce.
Baked Creamy Tapioca Pearls Bao ($6.20) was just plain weird.
Next time we will try:
1007 Winter Melon in grape syrup (L)
HL Peninsula Dinner Food Picks:
Sweet Corn Soup with Chicken ($15) hit the spot. Pretty large bowl.
Boiled Soup Du Jour ($28) was Black chicken soup on our day. Nice long boiled deep flavor. Lots of chicken for you to pick on.
BBQ Combination Platter ($27 Medium) gets you multiple options. The suckling pig was sold out. The roast duck and pork belly were really well done. The char siu was just ok, not sweet and very dark colored.
Suckling Pig & BBQ Combo ($32) featured their well done pig with a thin crispy skin. Be sure to use the sugar and plum sauce they provide.
Crispy Sesame Chicken ($17 half) was also very good. Really tender chicken that remained moist and meaty. A must get. It looks nothing like the menu’s picture!
Whole Squab ($18) was good but not excellent. Not dry, but not moist. The kitchen does this better.
Simmer Sliced Beef Tenderloin in Spicy Chili Broth ($18) did not look like the menu’s picture, but proved to be a huge bowl of tender beef in a numbing (not really spicy) broth. Lots of little mushrooms.
Prawn in Basil Sauce with sizzling rice ($18) featured about 10 medium sized fresh prawns along with some crispy rice nuggets.
Fried rice with scallops and egg ($24) was well done and pretty big in quantity.
Pea Shoots in Supreme Broth ($22) was also huge and cooked correctly.
Boiled Milk Pudding with red bean ($6) came to us nice and warm and was also really good.
Complimentary Red Bean Seaweed dessert soup
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Scallop with black truffle & asparagus ($28) did not have much truffle essence. The dish was fine otherwise.
HL Peninsula Pearl
1590 Old Bayshore Blvd
Burlingame, CA 94010
In November and December 2018 we dined at HL’s sister restaurant. It is slightly different and located a couple miles away, just south of San Francisco (SFO) airport. The menu is different although it has the same theme of modern Cantonese cuisine. They took over El Torito and made it very nice inside.
HL Peninsula Pearl Dim Sum Lunch Picks
Fried Sticky Rice Pork Dumpling ($4.75) – Pear shaped and freshly fried.
Roasted Pork Belly (Q $9.50) – A nice small portion of their super crispy skinned pork.
Warmwood Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls ($7.50) looks ugly with the dark green herb wrap around it, but its crisp inside and a must order. Seasonal.
Fish Fillet Vermicelli Soup ($22) is a large pot full on thin noodles and lots of tender fish.
Steamed shrimp dumplings ($5.75) had 4 large har gow topped with fish eggs. Really well done.
Chiu Chow dumplings with peanut ($4.50) were 3 tall dumplings also topped with fish eggs. Good but not as good as the shrimp dumplings.
Steamed Chicken Feet in black bean sauce ($4.75) hit the spot.
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns ($4.75) had 3 small buns without much meat, but good texture and flavor.
Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($4.75) – Old school, just ok.
Pan Seared Pork Baos in clay pot ($6.50) were tiny and lacked soup.
Dinner Food Picks
Cucumber Salad ($7) crisp and clean.
Double Boiled Soup Du Jour ($28) had strong bold flavor, definitely long boiled.
Mushroom & Cage Free Chicken Stew ($22) was also very good. Tender chicken with lots interesting mushrooms. Tons of bones, but meat on the bone is the tastiest! It is even better the next day.
BBQ Combo platter ($48) with incredible Suckling Pig and Roast Pork Belly, almost on par with Hong Kong. The char siu roast pork was just okay though.
Roast Duck was excellent. Juicy, tender meat, perfect.
Roasted Squab was also spot on. A tick below Asian Pearl’s.
House Special Fish Broth Rice Noodle is a huge bowl of broth and silky noodles. Also recommended.
Galangal Pig Trotter is an acquired taste but hits the mark with its strong vinegary sauce. Not too spicy.
Steamed Mixed Vegetable includes taro, yam, corn, potatoes and more. Nice and healthy.
Almond Souffle is shocking to see here but too big and not delicate.
$388 Banquet for 6
During Chinese New Year in February 2019, we ordered one of their fixed price table dinner. Having been impressed with their food, we trusted this important meal to them. The serviced sucked as expected. The place was full and the kitchen never delivered our Peking duck!
Delicious Tapas – Wood Ear Mushroom Salad looked simple but was surprisingly good.
Roasted Suckling Pig & BBQ Combo Platter – Not as good as previous visits. Just average.
Fish Maw & Fresh Crab Meat Bisque – This soup was filled with ingredients in strong gelatinous broth.
Dried Scallops in Turnip Ring & Black Moss w/oyster sauce – A solid dish with really well done scallop stuffed turnips.
Braised Abalone & Sea Cucumber over Tender Green (6 pieces) – Yet more pea shoots! Nicely done tender abalone.
Roasted Crispy Sesame Chicken – Highly recommended as usual.
Steamed Catch of the day with preserved vegetables – Pre cut up fresh fish made it easier to eat.
Dried Scallop & Sea Urchin wild grain fried rice – The uni really kicked this dish up to the next level.
Mango jello shaped like little pigs for the Year of the pig!
Both HL Peninsula’s kick up classic Cantonese Chinese food to another level in the San Francisco area.
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