Empress by Boon
838 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108
Why did we dine here? – Empress by Boon has garnered a lot of attention as the latest flagship restaurant opening in San Francisco Chinatown. The chef used to work at Hakkasan, which has closed in San Francisco. It’s been impossible to get a reservation ever since the early days making it San Francisco’s toughest reservation. We gave the restaurants several months to get into a groove. Only indoor dining and dinner on our first visit in September 2021.
We returned for their Prix Fixe $78/person dinner in Late October 2021. Looks like the crowds had moderated a bit. The bar was way more open, even at 7pm on a Saturday.
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Insider Tip – How to score a seat without reservations: We walked into the bar and dined at the communal table on the far side. It has a great view of San Francisco and Coit tower. The place has a Clubby feel with loud music, it basically reminds us of Hakkasan!
Cuisine – Chinese
Location – San Francisco Chinatown
Opened – 2021
Service – The bartender was our server, he was pouring two drinks at a time and barely had time to serve us. Typical forgettable pandemic service.
Verdict – Our experience at Empress by Boon did not include their signature prefix meal. The food was roughly what we expected – decent, not authentic hard-core Chinese cuisine like a HL or Koi Palace.
This restaurant is great for those hesitant to visit traditional Chinese restaurants. Judging by the clientele which is mostly non-Asian, some of whom would probably not have come to this neighborhood with out this signature restaurant.
You can find reasonably decent food, and some incredible views. Hopefully restaurants like this can help rejuvenate Chinatown.
Prices are on the typical side for cutting edge restaurants like this. Don’t expect a bargain. The prix fixe meal is actually cheaper than we expected. It’s funny that 2 tables near us left after they saw the menu. Did they not know what they were signing up for?
Is this restaurant worth a 5 minute drive? Yes. 30 minute? Yes. 1 Hour? Maybe
Empress by Boon Signature Dishes – Prix Fixe Menu $78
Empress by Boon’s Menu is only available in the Bar. Short and concise, not many options for vegetarians.
Empress by Boon Food Picks:
Prix Fixe dinner ($78/person) is a much better experience than a la carte at the bar. Pretty good variety and quantity of food.
Crispy Truffle Rice Puff
Burgundy Fall Truffle, Shimeji Mushrooms
Jasmine Smoked Short Rib
Beijing Dumpling – Alternate: Mushroom Dumplings
with housemade vinegar
Steamed Rockfish – Alternate: Eggplant on Tofu
broth and red chili
Lobster and Mushroom Stir Fry
Chinese chive flower, bean curd and crispy yam
Prawn Noodles with XO Sauce
The low points were the fish course being fairly bland. The main entree lobster was tiny and also not very special. Short Rib bun was very good as was rice puff. All in all, a good experience for those wanting to experience fine dining Chinese style. At $78 it is not cheap but is on par with restaurants of this caliber. 8/10
Pipa Duck ($48) was an add on to dinner, shared by the entire table. Beautiful crispy skin with a thin layer of meat. Light coating of plum sauce. No buns. Decent, not overly greasy. 8/10
The blue rose ($14) rum, lychee, Rose syrup, Ming River Baijiu, lemon, sparkling wine what is a fruity cocktail on the rocks, easy to drink and hidden power. 8.5/10
Paper wings ($14) vodka, St. George spice pear, Calvados, lemon, Sichuan peppercorn, Tiki bitters was an interesting cocktail with a slight hint of peppercorn. 7.5/10
Steamed Zucchini shrimp dumpling ($12) had three medium sized green dumplings that was surprisingly good. 8.5/10
Crispy Sea Prawn roll with kumquat and plum sauce ($18) is like a deep fried roll of chopped prawns. And they come to to an order, and are crisp on the exterior and tender on the inside. 8/10
Seasonal vegetable ($18) were pea shoots sautéed in garlic. Also surprisingly done well and reasonable quantity. 9/10
Lotus rice ($18) is fried rice with Chinese sausage, dried scallop, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms. Surprisingly large portion, fairly bland, just OK. 7.5/10
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