French Concession (Hillcrest)
I heard about a new Dim Sum style restaurant opening in Hillcrest and when we got invited to French Concession, Michael and I perked up with the thought of better Dim Sum in San Diego. French Concession is on 5th Ave. where the old Celadon used to be. To be honest, we’re a little snobby when it comes to Dim Sum. Any San Diego restaurant serving Dim Sum is immediately compared to their competition over 100 miles away in San Gabriel. Could French Concession fill the void for excellent Dim Sum in San Diego?
The first floor has high chair seating and upon encountering the stairs I couldn’t help but wonder how the carts would get from the first floor to the second.
They serve some of the most common dishes you can find at any regular Dim Sum restaurant. But they also serve other items like Orange Chicken and Beef and Broccoli. There were no carts for us today and a waiter came out to explain the menu. Instead of ordering we let the chef decide what to bring us.
Out came the Dim Sum! I think I fasted earlier in the day to prepare for this. Soy sauce and chili oil came out and shortly thereafter the first two steamed dishes were served. The waiter called them the “hamburger and hot dogs” of the Dim Sum world: Pork Sui Mai and Har Gow. The Pork Sui Mai contains pork and shrimp along with mushrooms, all wrapped in a thin wonton skin. The Sui Mai had good flavor but not enough depth for me. A great Sui Mai has that kick of pork flavor on the front and carries strong through the last bite, leaving you with a satisfaction and comfort. This one started okay but fell a little flat towards the end. The Har Gow on the other hand hit the right notes with the shrimp being soft and airy.
My dad loves his Ham Sui Gok, aka, “the footballs” and if it weren’t fried and oily I’d feel better about ordering more for him when we go out to eat Dim Sum. This version wasn’t very oily but it did have a textural thing going on that made it almost too crispy on the outside. When I bite in I prefer a little resistance at first, but then soft, melt in your mouth submission shortly after. This was more of a you’ll eventually win, but I’ll kick and scream and won’t go down without a fight. I enjoyed the pork filling and if it wasn’t as tough on the outside, we’d have a winner.
The Fried Shrimp Dumplings was another one of my favorites. These I didn’t have a problem with texture probably because only the outside edges were crispy. The shrimp to crispy wonton ratio made me happy.
The egg tart is always a welcome change of pace. It was flaky, sweet, and clean.
In addition to the Dim Sum we were served a few other dishes: Honey Walnut Shrimp and Orange Chicken. The candied walnuts were one of Michael’s favorites! The shrimp on the other hand fell a little short on expectations. While the flavor was okay, they were a little rubbery and tough. Surprisingly the Orange Chicken was one of, if not the favorite of the night. It came out hot, flavorful, moist, and had a little crisp on the outside while being soft and juicy inside. We’d order it again and again and again.
It’s nice to see a new Dim Sum restaurant open in San Diego, especially one that encourages the uninitiated to try. The dishes overall were pretty good, and with a few tweaks could be slightly better in my opinion. The ambiance, decor, and cleanliness are certainly a notch above any other Dim Sum restaurant in San Diego. Give it a go and let us know what you think!
3671 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103