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).
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.
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
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
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