San Francisco’s Chinatown Welcomes New Culinary Destination, Empress By Boon
After nearly 30 years of experience in the food industry at some of the world’s best Asian restaurants, Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon is opening his eponymous restaurant, Empress By Boon, in San Francisco’s Chinatown on June 18, 2021.
Chef Boon’s expertise includes his role as the international executive chef of Hakkasan and the spearhead of all subsequent openings of Hakkasan. Additionally, Chef Boon has successfully opened several restaurants around the world, including Hakkasan Hanway Place in London, Yauatcha Soho London, Turandot in Moscow and Breeze in Bangkok. In 2012, the launch of Hakkasan New York brought it to the United States
Chinatown continues to heal and come alive after a difficult year of pandemic and Chief Boon and his team are here to help bring a full-fledged revitalization to life. Chinatown is a historic district of San Francisco. As one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States, it deserves to be a thriving neighborhood, with a passionate food scene to further add to its continued growth.
Empress by Boon will be a modern Cantonese restaurant that seeks to showcase the inimitable flavors of Cantonese cuisine in a refined and upscale way. Chef Boon’s cuisine will incorporate ingredients not typical of Chinese cuisine, which is sure to impress and surprise diners who are likely expecting strictly traditional Chinese dishes.
This restaurant is further distinguished by the fact that Chef Boon will use organic produce grown on the restaurant’s farm in Gilroy, making Empress By Boon one of the premier Chinese “farm-to-table” restaurants.
Empress By Boon replaces the former location of Chinatown’s famous Empress of China. Before it closed in 2014, the original Empress was the haunt of stylish dining in the region for more than half a century. Today, the iconic space has been completely reinvented by Chef Boon and his team with modern design elements as well as restored original elements. The new restaurant offers guests a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that continues to honor the origins of this beloved monument.
The expansive 7,500 square foot restaurant features several unique and amazingly decorated dining rooms with stunning and unique views of the city, which is sure to help it establish itself as a culinary destination. Chef Boon and the team’s mission is to provide guests with a welcoming and authentic place in Chinatown to celebrate and enjoy modern and seasonal Cantonese cuisine.
We sat down with Chef Boon to talk about the opening of his eponymous restaurant, the inspiration for his dishes, his goals as a chef and more. Here is what he had to say.
How does it feel to finally be able to open your doors and cook for your guests?
I’m just thankful that we can finally open up. Throughout the pandemic, I have been truly moved by the hard work and dedication that first responders are committed to helping us all. I see this as my opportunity to contribute something. Even though it doesn’t compare to what they provided us, it is a way to feed the neighborhood while providing jobs for so many people.
You have lived and cooked all over the world. Why did you choose San Francisco to open Empress by Boon?
I was fortunate enough to visit San Francisco for the first time 10 years ago as we prepared to open Hakkasan, and I immediately fell in love with the city. I had visited other parts of the United States, but they did not compare to the people I have met here. The experience planted the seed for me to one day have a restaurant in San Francisco.
What have you missed the most about not being able to open and cook?
The time I have spent on my own outside of the kitchen is more than what I have experienced for over four decades, and I would rather not relive something like this again. It really made me realize how important my family is, and especially my 81 year old mother, and how important they are to my creative process.
What is your goal as the boss of Empress by Boon?
It’s very simple actually – I want to do what I love, and that is cooking, for the people of a city that I love so much. I want to give something back to the many people who made this place so special to me.
Why is it important for you to reopen this legendary place in Chinatown?
I had the chance to dine at Empress of China when I was preparing to open Hakkasan. From the moment I walked in and saw the space and the view, I knew I wanted to open a restaurant here someday. It was remarkable that a few years later I was approached with the opportunity to do just that.
What will the guest experience be like at Empress by Boon?
I create what I enjoy when I go out to dinner, it may be different all over the world, but the simplest elements are great food, attentive service and a lively atmosphere.
What inspires the dishes at Empress by Boon?
This is the opportunity for me to create and offer dishes that I have always thought of but never had the opportunity to put on a menu. With our own farm to support the restaurant, it will really allow me to constantly change our menu so that our customers never get bored and always get a seasonal menu.