Monday, July 30, 2018

Koi Palace Express, SFO

Update Review, July 2018

Another day, another early afternoon arrival at SFO, with my logical side saying, "you should probably get lunch, at least to eat in the cab in a bit, its past lunch time here", and with my body saying, "its 6am, and you've already had two breakfast courses, what on earth are you talking about? Let me sleep!"

On these days, I always wish there was a Napa Farms Market *outside* security so I could grab something reasonably light (they really do make some tasty stuff).  The options in the food court in the International Arrivals terminal are ... limited.  Burritos, Wendy's, greasy Chinese ... and Koi Palace, which I often resort to (see previous reviews below).

This time I tried something new, a grab-n-go item since the lines for the hot food were really long, and, I really didn't think I wanted a full hot meal anyway.  I was impressed with the quality of the fresher food.
Vietnamese Spring Roll. $8.95.
Grab-n-go chilled items are limited to a few types of sushi (like the California roll I have reviewed before), a chicken salad (also tried that), and, an item I don't think I had seen before, fresh spring rolls.  And, of course, the mango pudding (I had my first time)

The idea of something lighter like this was quite appealing after my ~24 hours of flying, and feasting out of boredom on every flight, in every airport lounge, in every airport along my journey.

They only offered one variety: shrimp.

The serve was two massive spring rolls, not appetizer sized at all, with a pot of peanut sauce on the side, for $8.95.  For airport food, this was actually pretty reasonable.
Vietnamese Spring Roll & Peanut Sauce.
The rolls were well constructed, nicely wrapped up.  They didn't fall apart, not even after a few hours when I had the second one.  The rice paper wrapper was soft and pliable, not too thick, not dried out.

The shrimp were 3 pieces in each, right along the skin to show off, but were cut in half, so, this was actually only 1.5 shrimp total in each roll.  The shrimp was fine, not rubbery, properly deveined, but not exactly substantial.

I'm fairly certain the spring roll sauce was the same I had with the kale/cabbage/chicken salad before, and I liked it this time around too.  A bit oily, and it did separate and require mixing, but, good flavor from the soy and peanut. I think it really was just soy/peanut/sugar/salt, not really spiced in any way, but still, good enough.
Vietnamese Spring Roll: Inside.
The rolls were generously stuffed with greens (mint, lettuce, cilantro), shredded carrots, batons of cucumber, and vermicelli.  And ... apple slices.

All ingredients were fresh and crisp, and in good proportion.

The apples were a bit weird.  They were fresh, juicy, not turning brown, and added a refreshing bite, but, apples?  Usually I see something like jicama instead.

Overall though, very well made, very fresh spring rolls.

Update Review, February 2018

Sometimes, I get off a flight ravenous, because the in-flight options were less than spectacular.  Usually when that happens, I'm traveling domestic, in terminal 2, where I have plenty of great options air side to grab a quick bite on my way out, like Napa Farms Market or even Pinkberry.  But on my recent trip from Sydney, it was international, which meant, I wasn't able to get food until I cleared customs and everything, and thus was left with the pre-security food court.

Options were limited.  I considered just getting in a cab and heading home, but, I wanted salad.  It had been a long, decadent time in Sydney, and my body was clearly missing vegetables.  And, then, once I saw it, I wanted sushi.  So I got these things.  From Koi Palace of all places.

Sometimes, you just want what you want.  Even if it doesn't make sense.  Koi Palace is a good restaurant, but, their SFO outpost hasn't impressed before, and, um, salad and sushi is not at all what they specialize in.

They had only one salad, pre-packaged, and it had chicken.  I still got it.  The sushi I wanted was a California roll, even though made with imitation crab, even though made with avocado that I'm allergic to.  Just go with it.

My selections I'm sure weren't actually very good, but, I enjoyed them at the time.
California Role. $10.95.
The sushi was pretty basic, imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, seaweed wrapper, rice, sesame seeds.  I was impressed by the amount of crab filling actually, which I think is why I decided I wanted this.  I like "krab"!

And the krab was fine, shredded, pretty standard.  The rice was fine.  The ginger was fine.  The soy sauce was a packet of Kikoman's.  The wasabi was fine.

All, fine.  Worth $10.95 for 8 pieces?  Nah.  But it was airport sushi, from a Chinese restaurant.  It was what it was, and I liked it at the time.
Kale Salad W/Chicken. $12.95.
I was really, really craving salad though.  They had one type of salad, just called a "Kale Salad w/ Chicken", but I'd call it more of a Asian kale and cabbage slaw with grilled chicken and peanut sauce.  Which might be a bit more of an indication of why I picked it.  If it was just kale and chicken, meh!
Kale Salad w/Chicken: Close Up.
The base was shredded cabbage in assorted colors, shredded carrot, and shredded kale. All very crispy, and what I was in the mood for, it turned out.

On top was sliced  almonds, which I appreciated for the crunch, but I would have preferred something like fried wontons.

The dressing was very thick sesame peanut sauce, like you have with spring rolls.  In fact, I think it really was just spring roll or satay sauce.  Very thick, not a dressing, but quite tasty.  I thinned it with some soy sauce to make it a bit more dressing like, and used the rest to dip things in.

Original Review, June 2017

While I do a fair amount of airport dining, I don't usually dine at the San Francisco airport, particularly landside (not sure I've EVER done this actually), as it is my home base, and I usually just head home for food once I arrive.  But on a recent flight I was delayed taking off in Boston, and by the time I arrived in San Francisco, it was dinner time, and I didn't have anything waiting at home.  It seemed easier to just get a bite at the airport.

I was in the International Terminal, which has two landside food courts (North and South).  I actually almost went to Wendy's, as I haven't had Wendy's since I was in high school, and fondly remember my order of Biggie Fries, Small Chili with Cheese, and a Junior Vanilla Frosty (each from the $1 menu at the time).  But the International Terminal has been trying to bring in better options, and more local offerings, so I needed to check those out.

I headed to Koi Palace Express, an offshoot of the popular Koi Palace in Daly City.  They also have a second Express location airside in the International Terminal.

It ... was mediocre, generic food court food, and served at airport prices.  Not recommended.
Hot Wok Table, Dim Sum, Sushi.
The majority of the offerings were served from a steam table, as combo meals or individual entree, like any other generic Chinese food court offering, with items such as orange chicken, kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, etc, served with fried rice or lo mein.

They also had dim sum items available, again pre-made, on display in steamer baskets, including har gaw, pork bao, sui main, and sesame balls.  , They do make xia long bao to order.  The menu also listed other cook-to-order noodle dishes and rices, but they didn't have descriptions, and I never saw anyone order these.

The cold case had pre-made sushi rolls, seaweed salad, mango pudding, and drinks.

I'll admit, I was skeptical, as this looked like any food court asian offering, and really nothing like Koi Palace.  Do they even have sushi normally?
BBQ Pork Bao. $6.50.
After my long flight, what sounded good to me was simple, comforting, fluffy carbs.  So I got the BBQ Pork Bao, served 2 to an order for $6.50.  Ooph.  Not exactly dim sum prices.
Pork Bao: Inside.
The bun was good, soft, not dried out, not slimy, slightly sweet, very fluffy.  It tasted reasonably fresh.

But I didn't like the filling.  I was expecting BBQ pork, you know, little bits of pork in a strangely red sauce.  This was more like minced pork with onions?  The flavor just wasn't at all what I wanted.

Since I didn't care for the filling, I didn't really want these, even though I thought the dough was well done.  Would not get again.
Soy Sauce Chow Mein. $4.25.
My travel companion also sought simple comfort food, and for him, this was chow mein.  While most folks got this as the side to their combo meals, he went just for a side of the noodles.

The noodles were served from the steam tray, but were decent.  Basic noodles, not mushy, simple soy sauce flavoring, a few bits of green onion.  I thought this was really boring, but he seemed to enjoy, and they were good for what they were.
Mango Pudding. $6.50.
Finally, I wanted a sweet treat.

I was going to get the sesame balls or egg tarts, but, they really looked like they had been sitting there for far too long, so I opted for the mango pudding from the fridge instead.  Plus, I love pudding of all types.

It was thick and gelatinous, more like jello than what I think of as pudding.  It had some little bits of mango that I enjoyed, but was very, very sweet.

Overall, it was fine, but, I really wanted coconut milk, whipped cream, or something to compliment the otherwise boring pudding, so I brought it home, and added coconut whipped cream.  I enjoyed it much more this way.
Koi Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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