For many years, the only formidable dim sum joints in town were Emerald Chinese Cuisine, China Max (my preferred spots), and Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, all within a mile of one another on Convoy Street. Then Pearl Chinese Cuisine, sister restaurant to Emerald, opened in Rancho Bernardo with little competition nearby… until now.
Simon Lee‘s Fung Fung Yuen (yuen = garden) has taken over Hometown Buffet‘s 10,000 sq. ft. space in the Mira Mesa Shopping Center, armed with poached employees, including their new manager, Michael Tran, formerly with Jasmine (and Fu-An Garden).
I recruited a team of six for their soft opening, Tuesday, August 8 at 10 AM. Vegas and I, worried about a line, went early before Olive, Seoulja, Scribbles, and Maple joined, but only one person was there at 9:15 AM, and roughly 50 when doors opened at 10:10 AM.
The entire staff welcomed the first guests inside with applause and an announcement that all orders within the first hour are 50% off. They herald their prices as lower than competitors by 50-80 cents (small, medium, large, and specialty items were $3.25, 4.25, 5.05, and 8.99, respectively); however, not exactly. Some of their dishes are smaller portions (i.e. deep-fried meat dumplings are 90c/ea. at Emerald; here, they’re 1.08). I’m not squabbling over 18c; just don’t take it for face value.
Anyway, the discount included items from their full dinner menu, and all-day dim sum, which until now, Emerald and Koi Bar & Lounge were the only ones to do so.
Since food was still being loaded onto the carts–yes, carts are back, folks–we spent the next 10-15 minutes looking over the menu, drinking tea, and taking photos; our server, Peter, the nicest man alive, also got us some water.
The dim sum menu only had 43 items, far less comparatively, so like my In-N-Out rule-of-thumb, if your menu is small, it better be mighty!
The rectangular interior has an open-layout, is modern, and the pending sushi and live seafood stations were shiny and spotless. The bar, which will serve beer, wine, sake, and soju cocktails, was not yet ready.
We also agreed unanimously that we won’t like the cart system; we were too spoiled by Emerald’s and China Max’s made-to-order system. Sure, upon eyeing the first cart, nostalgia and excitement washed over us, thinking back on times of screaming dim sum ladies, the anticipation of your favorite cart coming by, the wafting smell of turnip cake being fried. It quickly dissipated after the next cart was slow coming to us. Eventually, the pacing leveled out and we ate at a leisurely pace for the first hour.
Round 1: roasted duck, thousand year-old egg congee, chicken egg rolls, stewed ox, sweet cream buns, fish balls.
Round 2: BBQ pork rice rolls, deep-fried meat dumplings, baked BBQ pork buns.
We came to a screeching halt for round three. The line for a table seemed endless because in less than an hour, nearly all 360 seats were filled. Good thing we had the forethought to come early; some folks were waiting 1.5 hours to be seated, only to find that some dishes already sold out for the day.
When the staple dishes–shu mai, har gow, chicken feet, sticky rice wraps, etc.–were nowhere to be found–Olive took matters into her own hands and started waving down servers and carts to fulfill requests.
We also begrudgingly ate the broccoli Olive ordered to be “healthy,” and because we were so relieved when the shrimp rice rolls and har gow came by, we ordered three of each not knowing if we’d get another chance. Peter, bless his heart, snagged us some shrimp shu mai, turnip cake, and baked egg tarts. Unfortunately, the pork shu mai was on back-order.
Seeing as we were the last table from the first batch of customers (we don’t mess around), we finally called it quits. We were pleasantly surprised to find our entire check was half off. Maybe because credit card machines were down, or perhaps it was just easier, logistically. We left a hefty tip for our new friend and walked out at 12:30 PM.
tl;dr: Service was slow and disorganized, as expected for any soft opening; competitors are safe for now because despite low prices, the food quality isn’t there yet; it’s not a drinking destination, but nice options for a nightcap; wait for them to work out the kinks if you don’t like experimenting.
Roasted duck: luke-warm; mild seasoning; skin was slightly chewy; not too oily; good portion
BBQ rice rolls (3): plenty of meat, cooked well, but lacked flavor; noodles were too thick and slightly soggy; soy sauce should’ve been slightly sweeter
Shrimp rice rolls (3): good sized shrimp; well-cooked; noodles were too thick and slightly soggy; soy sauce should’ve been slightly sweeter
Chicken egg rolls (3): lacked flavor; fried well; I also don’t believe egg rolls should contain anything except for pork and shrimp =)
Stewed ox: flavored well; not tender enough; hefty portion
Thousand year-old egg congee: pre-made in a large pot, so uneven distribution of egg; broth was bland; serves 4-6
Fish balls (3): tender; zero flavor
Shrimp shu mai: filling cooked well; tender; wrapping came apart while eating
Har gow: filling cooked well; rice paper casing was very soggy/sticky; came apart while eating
Deep-fried meat dumpling: on par with competitors; balanced in crispiness vs. chewiness, sweet breading vs. savory filling; dough vs. filling ratio
Baked BBQ pork bun: plenty of meat; cooked well; lacked flavor; bread was soft and sweet; good size
Baked egg tarts: custard was really good; filling had just enough bite while still being soft; crust should’ve been more flakey instead of doughy
Sweet cream bun: bread was good and soft; filling tasted really good; ratio of bread to filling was hit or miss, some great, while some almost lacking
Fung Fung Yuen | 10660 Camino Ruiz, San Diego, CA 92126 | 10 AM – 10 PM, seven days a week