SAN FRANCISICO (KPIX 5) — An iconic space in Chinatown once occupied by a bustling banquet hall called Empress by China is debuting as a completely revamped upscale Chinese restaurant. Empress by Boon plans to pump new energy into the neighborhood and attract tourists and locals alike.
After two years of delays, Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon is opening his first solo, modern Cantonese venture on Grant Avenue in Chinatown. The 7,500-square-foot destination takes up the top floor of the iconic building. Ho was the former executive chef of the international Hakkasan chain.READ MORE: Oakland City Council Votes to Defund Police, Stripping More Than $17M from Department Budget
“I always thinking I want to make something good one in Chinatown,” said Ho. “I never expect it’s in San Francisco, but in San Francisco open one is something come everything together, because I love this city.”
He chose a storied space. The landmark Empress of China first introduced fine Asian dining to San Francisco for nearly 50 years, before closing in 2014.
There are hints of old meets new throughout Empress by Boon. For example, a space designated as the tea lounge features a structure with beams from the original restaurant. It was an antique shipped to San Francisco more than 50 years ago from Taipei, Taiwan. Original panels with gold details have also been preserved. Ho wanted to pay homage to the special place it held in the community.
“You can see the view here it’s actually it’s the old San Francisco, and over there it’s very new … it’s the Financial District over there,” added Ho.
Empress by Boon is the latest in a series of restaurants that have transformed old banquet halls into higher end businesses. Ho believes the new restaurant will be a big part of the revitalization of Chinatown. He hopes to draw people to the neighborhood who will patronize local businesses.READ MORE: Post-Pandemic Used Car Prices Soar at Bay Area Dealerships
Multi-leveled China Live opened in 2017 in the former Gold Mountain banquet hall space.
“The Empress is such a historic building and such a historic restaurant that there needs to be a great restaurant in that building in Chinatown and so we’re really happy for those guys,” said China Live General Manager Brian Basmajian. “Another great addition to Chinatown, we know the neighborhood needs it.”
Empress by Boon will also use organic produce and ingredients grown on its own farm in Gilroy.
“I really hope that this restaurant can help everyone and help the Chinatown to get busy, to get more tourist come back,” said Ho.
Empress by Boon opens to the public on June 19th.MORE NEWS: San Francisco City Employees Respond to COVID Vaccine Mandate