Here’s a precursor to my post. The carts are GONE. No!!!
Although San Diego dim sum could never come close to comparing to SGV (San Gabriel Valley) or the Bay (SF or Oakland – Chinatown), I felt my cravings could always be temporarily satisfied at Emerald Chinese Cuisine. They have been a staple in the Convoy area for decades now and their prices were always decent. We had our go to dishes that were pretty good here, but the last time we came by (a month ago roughly) we found the doors shut.
I was happy to see the closure was only temporary due to remodeling. I figured that was a good thing since the restaurant was pretty run down by then. We finally made it back up yesterday and found a new restaurant inside… literally.
Everything from the carpet, chairs, tables, ceilings, and wait staff have changed. Hmmm… looks nice, but am I going to like this?
We sit down and the first thing we notice is there are only about half the people inside than normal. Next it’s incredibly quiet. Why? Because there are no more carts and loud pushy Chinese women hawking their dim sum plates. What!?? Although this has been a slow trend trickling out of Hong Kong the past decade, I certainly thought Emerald would be the last to convert. (No carts is supposed to be “higher class” because the plates are served to you fresher… I don’t buy it.) The way you order now is to fill out a scan tron and give it to your server.
Next, I look at their menu and my jaw drops. The price for tea is $1.50 per person now (more than double before). Checkout the dim sum prices now too… super expensive. Not too long ago, they would have specials on Mondays and Wednesdays where all sizes would be priced as a small. I’m pretty sure those days are gone! Regardless, these prices are not sustainable in my opinion which they are going to find out very quickly.
We ordered our typical favorites, including har gow (shrimp dumpings), lo mai gai (sticky rice), har cheung (rice noodles with shrimp), and hom sui gok (deep fried dumpling with ground pork and shrimp). I think the har cheung was the best of these and we liked the veggies on top. The har gow was okay. The hom sui gok was smaller than before. And the lo mai gai was bland and lacking in flavor.
I was excited to at least get a good pork siu mai (open top steamed dumplings) which is my favorite. However, this was overcooked and the outside skin soggy (shouldn’t happen!). The flavor was just okay, but not better than before.
The ngao yok (beef ball) was also just okay. The texture was a bit inconsistent as there were a few fibrous chunks in there that shouldn’t have been.
And finally we tried their shrimp siu mai (open top steamed dumplings) which I did not care for at all. The skin on the outside was once again overcooked and texture was a bit pasty. I’m going to say without a shadow of a doubt the chef has changed! Oh yeah, the menu is now more limited and a couple dishes my Dad requested were not even available.
As you can see we didn’t order too much. We had a couple add on items later, but guess how much it cost for 3 adults and two kids? $70!! Are you kidding me?
The truth is I’ll be going elsewhere next time (probably China Max). Why the heck would we pay almost double for a lower quality dim sum experience? Sorry Emerald, you’re going to have to figure out another way to finance your remodel. And while I don’t know for sure, it certainly seems like the ownership has changed hands. Huge changes like this don’t typically happen otherwise. I hope they figure it out someday, but it’s going to be quite awhile before I return.
As you can see even my son was ready to leave!
Emerald Chinese Cuisine
3709 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 565-6888