Saturday, October 29, 2011

Joy Luck Place/Champagne Seafood Restaurant

San Mateo, CA

(No official web-site. They are located at 88 East 4th Ave.)

What is better than Chinese breakfast for lunch?[1]

Here's a little known fact, Cliff, "dim sum"[2] in Chinese actually means "breakfast rolls".

I skipped an "official" breakfast this morning as I knew I was going to have an early lunch with the Hallowe'enie Birthday Girl, Amy[3]. It was Amy's choice as it was her birthday meal, after all (don't worry, I made sure she paid for the entire meal at least), and she decided on a popular, local dim sum place (within walking distance of her apartment, which is always nice). 

Now the name of this place is either Joy Luck Place or Champagne Seafood Restaurant. Amy says it is called Joy Luck Place, but their menu says Champagne Seafood Restaurant. The Chinese symbols above their entranceway do not look anything like the symbols on their menu. As the extent of my Chinese is limited to pointing at stuff on the menu, I have no idea what the symbols actually mean, but the name really doesn't matter as this place is a very popular place and people know how to find it easily enough.

As one of their names would imply, they are not just a dim sum place, but a seafood restaurant. This was evident by several large fish tanks in the back of the restaurant. They had tanks filled with prawns, lobsters, crabs, and a few different types of fish (that I have no idea which kind they were). It was very interesting to see the size of the prawns. I had never seen them live and swimming before. Many of them were at least six inches long or larger. I know you can usually pick out a specific lobster or crab for your meal, but I am not sure if the same thing goes for prawns, though.


They have a regular menu that you can order off, but most people just end up getting what the numerous servers, who are walking around with trays and carts, are serving. We were offered Shark's fin soup several times, among other exotic dishes, while we were waiting and eating. We came for the dim sum, however, and made sure we got a few different types.

Amy is not a stupid vegetarian, but she went along with my dietary restraints all the same. The first thing we recognized off the servers trays that was sure to be vegetarian was the Chinese Broccoli[4] w/ Oyster Sauce. Luckily, this comes with the oyster sauce on the side for dipping; I forewent this fishy sauce and Amy tried a little bit of it and really didn't like it and joined me in the aforementioned forewental. We both ended up just dipping them in the Chinese hot mustard and red pepper sauces that they had provided us.

Next we ordered a simple Soy Sauce Chow Mein. This was also off the wandering servers trays; it went well with the Chinese broccoli while we were deciding on what else to order.

(I didn't take a picture of this entry. It's noodles and stuff. Chow Mein.)

We decided to order a few things off the menu so we wouldn't be unnecessarily surprised (I tried talking Amy into trying the Chilled Chicken Feet, but she was not having any of that): Vegetarian Dumplings (4) and Pumpkin Buns (3), both off the Steamed portion of the menu; and Special Spring Rolls (3) off the Pan-Fried, Deep-Fried & Baked portion of the menu.

I liked all of these a lot. The vegetarian dumplings were overflowing with a lot of junk: corn, carrots, mushrooms, and a few other tasty things. As it 'tis the season, the pumpkin buns were a very good choice, too. I really liked these a lot; Amy liked them, but not as much as I did, so I had two to her one. I would go back just for the pumpkin buns alone.

There was no way we were going to leave there without any dessert dim sum. They have a lot of really interesting choices: Coconut Pudding in Coconut (which I assume had a little coconut in it); Deep Fried Milk w/Almond (???); Deep-Fried Sesame Egg Yolk Lava Ball; and Green Bean Pudding among others. If it were my choice, I would have ordered the Green Bean Pudding, as it sounded the most interesting and disgusting. But this was the Hallowe'en Princesses' day, after all, so I had to settle for the Deep Fried Sesame Balls (4). Now some poor old sesame is walking around funny and can never have kids.


Actually, this would have been my first choice, too. They were very good and served fresh and hot. They were filled with either a sweetened black bean or red bean paste.

When all was said and done, the sum of all these dims added up to a very tasty breakfast/lunch indeed.

Glen Bacon Scale Rating: Dim sum (overall) ~ 6.6; Pumpkin Buns ~ 6.8; Deep Fried Sesame Balls ~ 7.0

[1] The answer is, of course, cold Chinese dinner for breakfast the next morning.

[2] Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day:

I was just kidding about dim sum meaning "breakfast rolls", but I could easily eat several of their dessert dim sums for breakfast; especially those pumpkin buns. "Dim sum"/
點心 actually comes from two Chinese words that combined mean "touch the heart".

[3] One of the all-time best dates to have a birthday on, for sure.

[4] This is actually called "Kai-lan" and is mostly a leafy vegetable, and unlike it's close relative "the vile weed", this is actually very tasty and I would order it again any day.


  1. You totally HAVE to go back and have the green bean pudding! Not only does it sound disgusting and vile, but I just want a picture of it and a report back on it because it sounds so much like what they would have served in the Mari chow hall!.

  2. I really wanted to try it. I know I would like it. I doubt I will get back there again soon as it's not in San Francisco, but a little ways away.

    They also had a couple of other desserts that I want to try: "Ginseng & Red Date Pudding", "Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Black Sesame Paste", and "Deep-Fried Sesame Egg Yolk Lava Ball" ~ all sound very interesting.