french concession / hillcrest – san diego, ca
Last month I was invited to check out the new French Concession restaurant in Hillcrest – an operation that’s got a menu chock full of tasty sounding dim sum items. It’s not the traditional dim sum as there are no carts being pushed around but rather a menu full of various offerings that you choose from. I’ve never had “real” dim sum with carts and all, but one day I will (oh, yes I will).
My friend, Laura, came with me on this adventure since (as documented previously) she is my seafood-loving friend and there were lots of seafood items I wanted to try. When we first got there, some kind of event/party was going on downstairs and there was no hostess to greet us. We ended up wandering upstairs and running into Lynn from oh-so-yummy who gave us the scoop. We eventually got seated and settled in after that bit of confusion! It looks like there’s a bar area downstairs while the restaurant proper is up the stairs. I’m sure on other days there is a hostess to greet you!
I thought the interior was very posh and pretty. The white booths reminded me of the seating at the now defunct Airr Supper Club. I also liked the pop of orange in the ceiling and the pretty green wallpaper. It was a bit dark in here but the spotlights helped out so we could see and add to the atmosphere.
[shrimp rice rolls / $5.95]
We had a lot of shrimp items that night. Our waiter told us that pretty much everything was good but that the shrimp items were especially good. I loves the shrimps so bring it on, I said!
We tried the shrimp rice roll first. I had never had this before so I wasn’t sure what it was. I was imaging something like sushi – made with rice – not a noodle that’s made with rice flour. Tricked me! I enjoy rice noodles actually so it was a pleasant surprise to get this. I had to get a fork because chopsticks and I are not good friends. The wrapper had a nice chew.
[fried sugar cane shrimp – shrimp mousse & spices coated in panko on sugar cane / $7.95]
I was terribly curious about what this was so that’s why I ordered it. It looks like a chicken drumstick to me!
In fact when you slice/bite into it, you find there’s a shrimp mousse on the inside. It has a panko breading and the sugar cane almost acts like a stick so you can eat it. The mousse is not cream – it’s quite firm and tastes like a happy seafood concoction. The outside is crisp and it holds it’s shape. I really liked it even if it looks kind of weird on the inside. I chewed on the sugar cane a little afterwards, too, just for fun.
[har gow – shrimp in a wheat and potato starch dumpling skin / $5.95]
Har gow is one of my favorite dumpling/dim sum items. I like that you need clearly see the shrimp inside!
This again has the “shrimp mousse” inside but then a whole shrimp is also tucked in with it giving you two different textures inside the dumpling skin. The skin was very nice and chewy – I enjoyed this one a lot.
[buddha’s delight – mixed vegetable stir fry with tofu & water chestnuts in a garlic sauce / $12]
To offset the amount of shrimp and seafood we got, we decided to order some veggies to have something different to munch on between the dishes. This mix of vegetables and tofu came in a nice garlic sauce. I kind of picked around the cabbage since I’m not a fan, but the other veggies were crisp and fresh.
[steamed bbq pork buns / $5.25]
Hey, look – not a shrimp dish! These steamed pork buns were very tasty. I’ve always liked the steamed buns for how chewy and spongy they are (without being weirdly mushy). The pork filling had a good flavor. These were a good version.
[honey glazed walnut shrimp / $12]
Haha, back to shrimpy land! You’ve seen this dish everywhere and I wanted to see how French Concession’s version did it. I thought this was a little too heavy on the mayonnaise and not enough of the other flavors mixed in to balance it out. The shrimps and the glazed walnuts were good, but I was sort of taking the sauce off a little since it felt too heavy to me.
[fried scallops with shrimp mousse, scallops & spices wrapped in wonton skins / $7.95]
Now these were another item that I went “huh?” when they were delivered to the table. I guess I was thinking of “pan fried” scallops and not this!
This dish has wonton wrappers that are filled with a mixture of shrimp mousse and tiny little scallops. It’s stuffed in between wonton wrappers and sealed, then fried until crisp. I really liked these though I think it would be better to call them fried shrimp and scallop won tons or something since the shrimp is much more prominent in this item. Laura couldn’t taste any scallops in the one that she tried and the chef offered to make it for her again, which she accepted. But again, she still didn’t really taste it on the second try either. I was able to, but they are indeed quite small and hard to make out. But despite that, I thought it was very delicious! Very crisp, crunch with a nice all-seafood filling (no veggies or other fillers that I could detect) and it came with a nice little mayo based sauce for dipping. Yum!
You can see the dipping sauce I referred to above next to the candle. It was quite yummy! This is our whole spread of yummy goodies that we tried that evening and we were stuffed at the end! The only other thing I would say is that the prices are a bit higher than you’d expect for dim sum. Usually you consider dim sum to be in a lower price range but these are pretty tasty, handmade versions of dim sum items. I’d be great for sharing though and sampling a few items though and since it is damn tasty and has some things I haven’t seen at other places, it is worth it!
3671 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at French Concession. Our meal was complimentary. I was not paid for this review and all opinions stated here are my own.