Crystal Jade's first U.S. restaurant is a large 200-seat dining room in the Embarcadero Center.

Crystal Jade’s first U.S. restaurant is a large 200-seat dining room in the Embarcadero Center.

The story: Crystal Jade Jiang Nan is a mega-chain from Singapore with more than 100 restaurants across Asia. This month, it opened its first U.S. restaurant in San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center 4 in the space that was once the longtime home of dim sum favorite Harbor Village.

Why I went: I was in the Embarcadero area with my friends Jeanne and Tat with plans to take an Alcatraz cruise. But because of a ticketing mishap, we had the wrong tickets for the day, so our plans were foiled. So we ended up going for lunch and since we were in the area I suggested we try the dim sum at this newly opened spot. I often went to Harbor Village and enjoyed the dim sum and the view of the waterfront, and longed for a suitable successor.

The vibe: The large restaurant with a 200-seat dining room and adjacent bar is the result of a $14 million renovation with design by Ken Fulk (The Cavalier). The luxurious surroundings are accented by the large service staff (Jeanne commented how there were so many people taking care of just a few customers), and the prices cements this as a premium dim sum spot (probably rivaling in cost with Yank Sing, which long holds the title of the most expensive spot in the city for dim sum).

A plate of lo bok gau or pan-fried turnip cake ($6) that was massacred by our server who was supposed to just cut the pieces in half but they fell apart into smaller pieces. It had a nice flavor though.

A plate of lo bok gau or pan-fried turnip cake ($6) that was massacred by our server who was supposed to just cut the pieces in half but they fell apart into smaller pieces. It had a nice flavor though.

The menu: For dim sum, Crystal Jade has a disappointingly limited menu, with maybe a dozen or so items. It does include a special kurobuta pork xiao lung bao (Shanghai soup dumplings), serving up four delicious dumplings for $9. Other than the XLBs, all the dim sum items can only be ordered from the carts that circle the dining room. You can’t order from the menu like you do at some dim sum spots. With a limited menu, what this means is you see carts carrying the same items again and again, providing very little variety to the dim sum dining experience.

The booze: I’m not focusing on the cocktail menu since I arrived for lunch, but as I mentioned earlier, there’s a full bar adjacent to the dining room that would be a fun spot for after-work drinks and a view of the Embarcadero.

My favorite dish: I really enjoyed the puff pastry that made up the traditional BBQ pork puffs (three pieces for $7.50), with a beautiful golden shell and flakey crust encapsulating the tasty barbecue pork filling. I also thought the XLB was decent, although I’ve had better for half the price.

Scallion and shrimp dumplings were difficult to eat because the rice paper skin was sticky, causing the dumplings to stick to the paper liner or fall apart as we tried to pick them up.

Scallion and shrimp dumplings were difficult to eat because the rice paper skin was sticky, causing the dumplings to stick to the paper liner or fall apart as we tried to pick them up.

Insider tip: At least for dim sum, Crystal Jade automatically adds a 15 percent service charge no matter the size of your party. So don’t over tip thinking you have to add tip to the total.

The last bite: While Crystal Jade lives up to its premium reputation and has created a beautiful space with an open balcony with a view of the Ferry Building, the limited dim sum and missteps in some dishes (especially the rice wrapper dumplings that are too sticky) fail to live up to the quality of Harbor Village at its peak. Dinner might be a different story, but for dim sum this is a high-priced destination building mostly on its elegant surroundings and city view.

The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps

2-snaps

 

 

The deets: Crystal Jade Jiang Nan, Four Embarcadero Center, Suite 1, San Francisco. PH: 415.399.1200. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Reservations, major credit cards accepted.(15% service charge automatically added to bill.) www.crystaljade.com

Crystal Jade Jiang Nan on Urbanspoon

My favorite dish of BBQ pork puffs ($7.50) that had a flaky shell and tasty filling.

My favorite dish of BBQ pork puffs ($7.50) that had a flaky shell and tasty filling.

This fried rice dish was promoted as "sticky rice fried rice," which I never had before. But when I tried it, the rice was like normal rice and wasn't sticky at all. Plus, it needed more seasoning. ($8)

This fried rice dish was promoted as “sticky rice fried rice,” which I never had before. But when I tried it, the rice was like normal rice and wasn’t sticky at all. Plus, it needed more seasoning. ($8)

Crystal Jade's version of the traditional and basic siu mai ($7.50) came topped with an unusual red-colored roe that didn't look natural. Typically premium siu mai is topped with a large shrimp or orange-colored fish roe.

Crystal Jade’s version of the traditional and basic siu mai ($7.50) came topped with an unusual red-colored roe that didn’t look natural. Typically premium siu mai is topped with a large shrimp or orange-colored fish roe.

A server pushes the dim sum carts. You can only order from the carts, so with the limited menu you sometimes see the same things circle before something new comes along.

A server pushes the dim sum carts. You can only order from the carts, so with the limited menu you sometimes see the same things circle before something new comes along.

Special shrimp and scallop dumplings ($12.50) had nice big chunks of sweet scallop but the skin again fell apart because of sticking to the chopsticks.

Special shrimp and scallop dumplings ($12.50) had nice big chunks of sweet scallop but the skin again fell apart because of sticking to the chopsticks.

My friend Tat likes to eat this traditional black bean chicken feet dish ($5.50).

My friend Tat likes to eat this traditional black bean chicken feet dish ($5.50).

Close up look at the kurobuta pork xiao lung bao (four dumplings for $9).

Close up look at the kurobuta pork xiao lung bao (four dumplings for $9).

The adjacent bar was quiet on a Saturday morning, but I'm sure it gets busy at night.

The adjacent bar was quiet on a Saturday morning, but I’m sure it gets busy at night.

 

2 Responses to Dim Sum Review of Crystal Jade Jiang Nan in San Francisco

  1. Julia says:

    Awesome review Ben! Love the pictures! What restaurant have you had the best BBQ pork puffs? Remember to add it to your Besty List!http://www.thebesty.com/focussnapeat

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Looks like a beautiful place. But that is surprising about the limited menu. I wonder if they’ll have more offerings after they’ve been open longer? Let’s hope so!