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Update: This location has closed.
DIM SUM during the week you say? That's not normal (except in Convoy)! But now there's a new restaurant in Hillcrest called French Concession that IS open with your choice of favorite dim sum items from noon to 10pm, any day of the week. The catch... don't expect any servers pushing carts or the typical round tables with lazy susans. Instead, this place has normal table service and a more 'chic' feel.
When we arrived, we noticed that the restaurant had lights with changing colors (blue, purple) on either side of the building. This makes for a GREAT "light painting" picture, as we would call the picture above, but in reality, it's a fraction of the brightness above and quite dark in the night, and makes it harder to find if you're unfamiliar with the area.
The main restaurant dining area is upstairs with tasteful cream colored seating/tables while the downstairs has small pub tables and a lounge-y feel. You can also order drinks from the bartender. This place has a selection of local craft beer as well as imported asian drinks. We came for the food of course!
Since we are very familiar with dim sum, we decided to order our favorite dishes so we could compare! One of my favorites is the baked bbq pork bun. This one was a nice fluffy bread with a light grazing of butter and tasty pork nibbles inside. As we ate the buns, we noticed that the default utensils were a fork and knife! I suppose we could have asked for chopsticks but personally, I prefer a fork over chopsticks for most asian foods!
Another favorite dim sum item of ours is pork sui mai. Most restaurants will have a pork version and a separate shrimp version. At FC, the pork version includes bits of shrimp mixed inside which is the best of both worlds! I thought this was a great blend, especially compared to Emerald restaurant's, which I didn't like. Also, diners tend to dip items like these into a little soy sauce that is self-mixed with the thick and spicy red chili pepper sauce. We noticed that it's not on the table by default but just ask your friendly waiter for some.
Another tasty dim sum item we ordered is the har gow, which is shrimp in a dumpling-like wrap. This is one that I just like to eat for the huge chunks of shrimp and gluttenous texture, but it's not too different between restaurants. This one is also typicaly dipped in a little soy sauce and mixings.
The fried scallops were recommended by our waiter so we grabbed an order of these. I thought that the fried edges were a bit too much for me but once you hit the middle, it's a BURST of yummy scallop, and plenty of it! If I could, I'd ask for only the center portions and save a few calories too!
Besides dim sum, the restaurant offers a few traditional chinese entrees on the menu. Immediately we looked for another of our favorite dishes: honey walnut shrimp. Here, the shrimps were coated just enough with the sweet glaze, which itself was less mayonnaise creamy than other places, so I did really enjoy this version. The walnuts accompanying them were candied and crunchy. One improvement is that the shrimp underneath could have been a little crispier.
Our last entree was orange chicken. We liked the sticky sweet sauce and juicy tender chicken breast and really appreciated the hot food temperature. Our waiter told us the entrees were medium sized and these two were the smallest. We thought we could handle it all but alas, we were full and only halfway through this one dish. The orange chicken with rice can stand on its own as a complete meal!
The restaurant doesn't feel crowded with its two rows of seating. Our waiter was very accommoding and polite but on that night, he was the only waiter which slowed down the service a little. Also, the dim sum prices start at 5.25 and up so you'll be swapping ambience for a little more money over the typical dim sum places. There is a happy hour between 4-6pm so hit that for discounts on food and drink! In general, it feels more like a place you'd go to with friends to eat and drink so we may drop by again with buddies if we had the mid-week craving.
Disclaimer: we were hosted for this meal but the opinions are strictly our own.
[closed] French Concession
3671 5th Avenue
San Diego CA 92101