Empress By Boon opened in San Francisco’s Chinatown a year ago. Despite unforeseen challenges to the restaurant industry, as well as a rise in hate crimes against the Asian community, Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon succeeded in completing his first year in business.
With an impressive culinary background that includes successfully opening several restaurants worldwide, including Hakkasan Hanway Place in London; Yauatcha Soho London; Turandot in Moscow; Breeze in Bangkok and the launch of Hakkasan New York, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Empress By Boon quickly made a splash in the city’s buzzy restaurant scene.
This restaurant replaced the former location of Chinatown’s historic Empress of China banquet hall and has been completely reimagined with show stopping design elements. Originally constructed in the 1960s, the restaurant initially opened in the top two stories in 1966, serving upscale Cantonese food.
Today, Empress By Boon is a 7500 square foot restaurant that features several stunningly ornate, unique dining areas with one-of-a-kind city views. It continues to serve world class Chinese food as well. From the elegant tea lounge underneath a skylit pergola to the classy, bar area with flashy red leather stools, there’s a lot that goes in to this restaurant’s ambiance. Facing North Beach is a long dining room with blue booth and there’s yet another large dining space over looking the Financial District.
This summer the Chef Boon launched a prix fixe menu that includes standout dishes such as the Grilled Alaska Black Cod with Empress Farm’s cauliflower, soya, honey and walnut; the New England Lobster with a sweet chili sauce; Braised Crispy Short Ribs with bean curd and fish sauce; and Dried Scallop and Peanut Rice.
We chatted with Chef Ho Chee Boon on his first year in business, his inspiration for the current menu and more. Here’s what he had to say.
How has the first year of business been? Has it exceeded your expectations?
These last few years have been extraordinary tough on the restaurant industry, so we feel very fortunate to have opened successfully with everything going on and continue to welcome back new and repeating guests. All things considered, we are very pleased with many people have come to love Empress by Boon
What do you think Empress By Boon’s impression on Chinatown’s revitalization has been? How has it been welcomed into the community?
We have breathed new life into this landmark location and once again created a gathering place for the Chinese community and beyond. We hope to be here for years to come to create the next generation of memories centered around great Cantonese Cuisine in this very special city.
Locals and travelers alike are very excited to have Empress by Boon as a next chapter in San Francisco Chinatown. Our goal is to give everyone who walks through the doors on Grant Ave have an exceptional, special, dining experience. We hope to continue to make contributions to the society.
What was the inspiration for your new summer menu?
I am very particular about seasonal food. In the summer, I like to use some ingredients that reduce body heat. Things like cucumber, watermelon, mint, fresh lily bulb, bitter melon, etc… In our prefix menu, highlights with new dishes such as Summer Truffle Puff, Crispy Tiger Prawn with Sesame Vinegar and Watermelon, and fresh lily bulb will in our new summer menu too
What inspires the regular menu?
I have always cooked Cantonese food and love Cantonese food, I like to innovate with different ingredients, but the way of cooking has to be Cantonese techniques. Many people ask me where the inspiration comes from and I really don’t know how to answer, maybe its mostly experience?
Anything new in the works for the future?
We will always be evolving and offering new dishes for people to try. Each season brings inspiration to our kitchen and I get so excited each time we change the menu.