A few years ago, I went to Chinatown in San Francisco, and was told that I must try the dim sum. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous. I like gyoza just fine, but the idea of a steamed, doughy dumpling with filling was a little strange to me. Of course, once I tasted the seasoned fillings and saw all of the offerings, I realized that I enjoyed dim sum. However, I have not had dim sum since that experience, as it is a rare find here in San Diego.
Recently, the former Celadon restaurant in Hillcrest has been reinvented by owner Alex Thao as a dim sum restaurant, French Concession. Offering a full menu of dim sum and American Chinese favorites, this restaurant is a stand out in the saturated restaurant market of Hillcrest.
The drink list features an impressive array of local beers.
The dim sum plates were first to be served. The Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce was served wrapped in a thin dumpling, with sauce poured over the serving. Although a bit clumsy to eat, the broccoli was crispy and the dumplings soft.
The shrimp and spinach dumplings were served wrapped in a translucent skin of dough, showing the delicious filling. The dough had a very sticky consistency, and the filling was delicious.
The gyoza, was of course, consumed quickly and enjoyed. I love fried dough filled with seasoned meat! These gyoza were homemade, filled with pork, chicken, and mushrooms. Very good.
The shrimp sui mai is another standard dumpling favorite often served at most Asian restaurants. These were steamed and served as five. The flavor of these dumplings was very subtle, and the shrimp was whole and hardy.
Another item that is sure to be popular is the pork steam buns, served in a set of three with scrumptious barbequed shredded pork filling.
The stand out of the small plates for me was the fried sugar cane shrimp. Served on a sliver of sugar cane, the shrimp is diced and rolled together and seasoned, then deep fried. These shrimp were served in a set of three, and were unlike anything that I’ve ever tasted.
The main courses were equally impressive: orange chicken and honey-glazed walnut shrimp. The orange chicken was flavorful, and possibly the best orange chicken that I’ve eaten. However, the walnut shrimp really stole the show. The walnuts were perfect and crunchy, and the shrimp was delicious covered in the sweet sauce.
Dessert was a must: thick, traditional egg custard mini pies with a flaky homemade crust. They were rich, but not overly so, and were a perfect end to the meal.
Definitely a great addition to Hillcrest’s dining scene. It will be interesting to see what is in store for this new endeavor.