This weekend, J and I fulfilled a long time dream of trying Koi Palace for dinner. We've had great dim sum there in the past, but we wanted to see what it would be like to order out of the impressive fish tanks and glass displays at the front of the restaurant!!
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is probably the most unique dish offered at Koi Palace. It's a classic Chinese dish, the kind of thing served to VIPs and on very special occasions. In my bowl above you can see some fish maw and a very thick piece of dried abalone. Neither J nor I have ever been served anything but thin slices of abalone; it's like being given a wedge of truffles instead of a sliver!
The price for the soup was steep: $43 for this tureen. However, a little bit goes a long way. We ordered 4 tureens for 7 people and really should have stopped at 3. The broth was really intensely flavored. I'm sure I'm missing some ingredients, but I saw sea cucumber, fish maw, sharks fin, dried abalone, shitake mushrooms, Chinese ham, dried scallops, ginseng, and mountain yam. What an amazing way to start a meal.
We moved on to a seven pound spiny lobster, which was served two ways. Here's the first: sashimi over ice. Lobster sashimi is almost flavorless, but has a very sweet aftertaste accompanied by a light oceany scent. Just the tiniest bit of soy sauce and wasabi makes this dish really shine.
Then came the visual stunner of the evening: a roast suckling pig!! We knew this pig was overkill for seven people, but we couldn't resist. It was served as soon as it came out of the oven and came to the table with flashing marischino cherry eyes powered by a small battery pack tucked under the pig. We pulled out the battery because it was creepy and distracting!
A close up of the crackling skin. WOW! I can honestly say I've never tasted anything quite like this. It really is the best pig skin I've ever tasted in my life. When the pig is done, the restaurant slices up the skin and removes the fat from the underside of the skin. What's left is a thin, crackly skin that's served with a thick, sweet soy sauce and steamed buns. The crunch on these was amazing!! I think I ate five pieces and had room for more.
Moving on with our unusual dishes, we had mantis shrimp. They were kind of like a cross between a prawn and a lobster, soft and lightly sweet but without a very strong flavor.
The weirdest thing about mantis shrimp is that they are purple on the inside.
By this time everyone was pretty full, and we took a vegetable break. Even the vegetables were good! We had large pea shoots in a savory broth, and every last bit of it was tender beautiful.
We quickly went back to eating seafood. The second preparation of our lobster came out and pretty much did us all in.
By the time the second preparation of the pork came, all we could do was politely take a bite and ask the server to pack it all up. J and I will be eating a LOT of pork this week! But the entire meal was a lot of fun and well worth it. Our dinner came to about $800 for a group of seven, but it really could have served ten. The manager told us about a 10 person banquet menu that features a whole suckling pig, sharks fin, and sea cucumber for under $600 on week nights. It includes a bunch of other dishes as well, and sounds like a real bargain. It's hard to get 10 people together on a week night, otherwise I'd be all over that deal!