When I was kid, I remembered we'd go for Dim Sum every weekend. It was something that I looked forward to, but ultimately could get pretty expensive. With the proliferation of Chinese restaurants in the late 1980's into the 90's, Dim Sum became more accessible in terms of options and pricing. However, in the late 90's up until the present, we began to see the "higher-class" establishments offering up nicer decor, better service (sometimes) and more refined food. Of course this also meant the rise in prices. So if you thought Kirin, Victoria, Shi-Art and Grand Dynasty are expensive, in comes Peninsula which is managed by the Top Gun Group, yet still part of the same corporation from China.
Sure, the pricing is indeed higher here, but the service we received was attentive and courteous. Also, the ambiance, decor, napkins and even the toothpicks were top-notch. Furthermore, the tea was super hot and full of leaves ensuring a rich flavour. The first dish to hit the table was the Pea Tips simmered with gingko nuts and fried garlic. This was a well-prepared dish with tender pea shoots that still had a bit of crunch. The flavours were mild where the bitterness of the gingko and aromatics of the garlic came through. Next, we had the Prawn Rice Noodle Roll with flowering chives which wasn't particularly good. The rice noodle itself was too soft and broke when we tried to pick it up. As for the shrimp, it was overcooked being rubbery and dense. Except for one super salty shrimp, the rest were quite bland.
Onto the Braised Beef Tendon Korean Style, I wasn't sure what they meant by that as it didn't taste particularly Korean. Rather, it was pretty typical of most versions in town. With that being said, the texture was on point being soft while still maintaining a slight chew. However, there was one piece that was a little underdone. As for the taste, it was more sweet than salty while the peppers on top did affect the overall flavour as well. With the same peppers on top, the Steamed Chicken Feet in abalone sauce were not very attractive (not that chicken feet are ever attractive...). Nearly every piece had detached skin while the cartilage underneath was far too soft. The essence of abalone was evident though as the dish was on the milder side.
When the Haw Gow showed up, there were 6 dumplings rather than the usual 4. There goes my argument about not having anymore kids... I've always stated that 2 kids is perfect as there are only 4 haw gow in a steamer... Anyways, these were pretty decent with a thin chewy skin (it was probably a touch too chewy). The filling was comprised of whole shrimp that exhibited a meaty snap while being sweet with a significant sesame oil aroma. Then arriving with 5 dumplings, the Sui Mai didn't help my argument much either. These were a bit too firm for my tastes as the pork was packed in tight with the shrimp. The meat was chewy and somewhat dry while the shrimp still had a sweet snap. I found that it tasted too much like pork where some shiitake would've helped add depth of flavour.
With an interesting presentation (a cherry with whipped cream???), the Pan-Fried Shredded Taro and Daikon Radish Cake were aesthetically-pleasing. The uniform sear on both sides of each slice ensured there was caramelization as well as a light crunch for texture. The cake was soft, yet not mushy and benefited from enough seasoning including Chinese sausage. I found that the shredded taro dried out too much from the cooking process though. Also presented in a different manner was the Dried Scallop with Red & White Sticky Rice where it was not wrapped in lotus leaf. Instead, it sat atop a leaf while in a hot pot. I found the rice to be dry and chewy, which wasn't too bad. The addition of dried scallop added another layer of aromatics in addition to the Chinese sausage and ground pork. And about that pork, it was too chewy in my opinion.
Something that wasn't too chewy was the Steamed Spareribs in garlic black bean sauce. There was a meaty bounce to the rib pieces when it wasn't cartilage (where there was too much of it). The dish was not lacking impact as the garlic and salty black beans really came through. The diced peppers on top managed to be noticed as their flavours seeped into the meat below. At first, my son was thrilled to see his favourite dish arrive - Deep Fried Garlic Shrimp Spring Rolls. After a few bites, he was not so enthused as they had added a good amount of cilantro into the shrimp mix. We felt that was unnecessary, especially with a delicate ingredient. If this was a hot and sour soup for instance, the bold flavours would stand up to the cilantro, but not here. Despite this, the shrimp had a meaty snap while being garlicky as advertised.
Initially, we were wondering why the Seafood E-Fu Noodle was $21.80. Well, when it was presented in a large hot pot filled with diced scallop, shrimp and dungeness crab, it made more sense. In fact, one taste and we really didn't mind the price at all. The noodles soaked up all the flavours of the soy, sugar, sesame oil and seafood (which was cooked just right). The crunch from the carrots and green beans as well as the flowering chives added the necessary textural contrast to the soft noodles. Our last dish before dessert should've been classified as such because it was super sweet. The BBQ Pork Buns featured a filling that tasted like they forgot it was supposed to be a savoury dish. Even the kiddies complained it was too sweet. On the other hand, the steamed bun was fluffy and the pork itself was lean.
So finally for dessert, we had the Mango Pudding which was served in a glass with a dollop of whipped cream. We thought the texture was good since it wasn't firm like Jello. Rather, it was more pudding-like and furthermore, it did taste like actual mangos (especially the sweet aromatic finish). So $113.00 later before tip, we had these thoughts about Peninsula: the food wasn't great, but ultimately still better-than-average. If we judged it on food alone, the restaurant shouldn't be rated 51% on Urbanspoon. Furthermore, the service we got was very good. Was it worth the price? Well, yes and no. If you look at it from a value standpoint, of course not. But if we consider the operating costs, the location and everything including the food, it isn't completely out-of-line. My recent visit to Shi-Art yielded nearly the same prices and the food wasn't as good. But I think Peninsula appeals to a specific clientele that happens to roll with a whole lot of money.
- Decent eats (despite some issues)
- Attentive service
- Nice attention to detail
- Yes, it is pricey no matter how you look at it
- If we look at the food and price together, there are lots of other places to choose