Sunday, October 30, 2005
Dim Sum Battle Champion!
The results are finally in! After countless miles driving around the South Bay in search of great dim sum, we've decided on the Champion! The Dim Sum Judging Committee, consisting of four core members who attended all three sessions (Jan, Caity, the Papa Bear and me) and many guest judges, visited three finalists over three weekends. The finalists were chosen from information I gathered from my online research as well as recommendations from friends and they were Dynasty in San Jose, Koi Palace in Daly City, and Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae.
With scoresheets in hand, we assigned points on the following criteria: Freshness, Richness, Repeatibility, Overall satisfaction, and Final Impression. Freshness was based on both the freshness of the ingredients and the resulting final product. In other words, freshness of the shrimp inside was scored alongside the moistness of the wrapper for a shrimp dumpling. In the Richness category, we gave dishes with the most optimum oiliness a 10 with those too rich and those without enough oil scored low. Repeatibility is a simple measure of 'do you want to eat more of it?' Overall satisfaction was the score given right after eating the dish and Final Impression was the score given upon reflection while we waited for the check.
What we quickly learned was that it is very difficult to judge deliciousness when one is hungry. We constantly found ourselves stopping and asking whether we really thought the dishes were well-made or if we were just hungry. The Final Impression category was helpful in making that assessment and we often found our Final Impression scores to be lower than our Overall Satisfaction scores.
Koi Palace takes the cake in terms of commitment required to eat there with a ridiculous two hour wait and slow table service. Is it worth it? We didn't think so and won't likely be back again, although Koi Palace had some stand-out performances, like the vegetarian tofu skin roll. The tofu skin (yuba) was moist and succulent with a more broth-like sauce than the thick, corn-starchy sauces that many other places have. With each bite, the yuba resisted with just the right texture to provide pleasure and released the delicious soup from the soft, juicy innards.
Since this is my absolute favorite dish in dim sum, I almost voted for Koi Palace as my favorite... ...until the xiao long pao came. Since Koi Palace had a large selection of Northern-style dim sum, I had high hopes for their XLB. Unfortunately, this was the worst, I mean - THE WORST - XLB I have ever had. It was all dried up and the pork was a strange consistency. Yikes!
In the end, the Core Committee decided that Dynasty was the Champion with speed of service, variety of dumplings, and cost performance as added factors. Hong Kong Flower Lounge was consistent with scores in the B+ range for everything, but they just didn't have anything that stuck in our minds. Koi Palace is definitely unique with some dishes scoring in the A/A+ range and some scoring in the C-/D+ range. For consistently good, fresh dim sum, we'll be going to Dynasty for now!