There have been changes brewing around Convoy Street. The Kearny Mesa strip is best known as a restaurant row specific to Asian eateries, and even as new businesses have started taking over some of the storefronts, this remains the case.
4681 Convoy Street, Suite A, Kearny Mesa
But there seems to be a shift in attitude among some of the newer spots. They're not some low-key ethnic eateries making do with bare walls, tile floors, and picture menus. Nor even family-style restaurants decorated with traditional, cultural artwork. New restaurants are embracing marketing and design trends similar to those we see a lot of downtown, and making playful interpretations of traditional dishes.
Take Steamy Piggy. The Chinese dumpling specialist features a dining room trimmed with wood, decorated with hanging planters and light bulb fixtures. There's a greened-in patio outside, and a glassed-in counter near the front door where customers can see the dumplings being pressed and folded by hand. And there's recurring piggy iconography to make the place distinctive to social media users.
There is far more than dumplings on the menu, but these are the big draw. The steamed dumplings come in a variety of colors and flavors, ranging from seven to nine bucks for an order of six. Fortunately, an option lets you try seven distinct flavors for $9.50. That's what I did.
There's the standard pork and cabbage, and a pork and chives option distinguished by green skin that's been colored with spinach. The brawny burger dumpling plays off a cheeseburger: beef, onion, and cheese, with skin colored black with squid ink. Pork and shrimp is colored pink with beets, curry chicken colored orange with carrots, and vigor veggie colored purple with cabbage. The last is an egg and cheese — standard color, but folded round versus the standard pea pod shape.
What I didn't know when I ordered is that the curry and veggie dumplings were sold out, so the kitchen provide substitutes, giving me a chance at least to try one with pork and kimchee (designated by half green skin).
All the dumplings were made well, seared to a light crisp. The restaurant touts "all natural ingredients" and no MSG, which sounds good at least, and I suppose the lack of curry and veggie dumplings available suggests the place lives up to its vow to make its them fresh, from scratch, daily.
While I found the egg and cheese option a little unusual, I did enjoy having scrambled eggs steamed up inside a thin wheat wrapper. Among the more traditional takes, the super savory pork and chives stood out as my favorite. The surprise was the brawny burger. It didn't taste like a burger, but the minced beef and onions worked well in a dumpling setting. Plus, it turns out I like a little cheese in my Chinese food.