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San Francisco restaurateurs George Chen, Cindy Wong-Chen, and managing partner Richard Miyashiro are pleased to announce their newest concept: China Live San Francisco.
China Live San Francisco is set to open in the heart of the city’s Chinatown in early 2015. The concept will be a 20,000-square-foot culinary and cultural destination that aims to offer unparalleled access to Chinese gastronomy in the City by the Bay.
Much like New York’s famed Eataly, China Live will provide guests with curated retail, a café, and a variety of dining options prepared at exhibition kitchens on the ground floor.
On the ground floor is The Chinese-Market Restaurant, which is a 155-seat market-restaurant serving traditional Chinese dishes that focus on using sustainable, organic products. At China-Market Restaurant, guests will find five specialized kitchens including a noodle bar, dim sum and dumplings, charcuterie and barbecue, seafood and raw bar, and a rice table and seasonal vegetable kitchen. Additionally, guests will be able to purchase the ingredients in their meals from the open and interactive Retail-Market, which will sell a range of products from spices, teas, condiments, produce and to house-cured meats and poultry as well as cookware and cutlery.
Also on the ground floor will be a more intimate, 28-seat café serving Chinese teas, specialty coffee and drinks, and Asian pastries and small bites.
The second floor, which is designed to feature separate spaces, is where guests can enjoy the fine dining restaurant Eight Tables by George Chen. The restaurant is a 40-seat restaurant that offers an evolving 12-course Chinese tasting menu designed by Chen. Also on the second floor is a 42-seat bar serving craft drinks with a private room available for larger parties.
China Live San Francisco will be located at 644 Broadway (between Columbus and Stockton).
China Live: San Francisco's Exotic Dining Destination - Recipes
I had one of the most pleasant meals, great taste, awesome service, really well decorated. A must if you enjoy Chinese food
So glad you enjoyed - hope you return!
95 - 99 of 605 reviews
If you are in the mood for Chinese cuisine, but are intimidated by the plethora of older, grittier and arguably more authentic restaurants in Chinatown then China Live will be the perfect for spot for you. Upscale, modern decor with several cooking stations open to view (you’ll need to book a table if you want to watch up close), the hip, young (mainly non-Chinese) crowd in this place can get pretty loud, but clearly everyone is having a good time. We didn’t book ahead and walked in at peak time (7 PM), but only had a 5 minute wait for a couple of seats at a bar facing the the front window. Probably not the best seats if you don’t want the foot traffic outside watching you eat, but it was quieter and easier to have a conversation that in the heart of the restaurant. The wait staff were knowledgeable and attentive and ready to advise on the diverse offerings. We ordered the Betelnut Minced Chicken Lettuce Cup, Sichuan "Working Hands" Dumplings with Sesame Butter and Peppercorn-Chili Broth, Yangzhou Fried Rice with BBQ Pork and Sweet Baby Shrimp, and Tamarind Laced Sweet & Sour Basil Glazed Pork Ribs. All were excellent and were delivered with surprising speed, though I’m sure our waiter helped in this regard since he probably recommended some items that he knew could be ready quickly. (All told we were in and out in 45 minutes, never really felt rushed.) Special shoutout to the fried rice that had virtually no detectable oiliness. (Necessitated eating with a spoon, however.) The ribs were luscious and tender, with a delicate background flavor of five-spice, but I did find myself wishing the sauce had a bit more punch and tang. All in all, this is the place in Chinatown where I would take guests when I didn’t want guesswork and wanted every dish ordered to be a winner. Fortunately, the rest of Chinatown remains full of those older and more mysterious Chinese restaurants that are so fun to explore.
Wow - thanks much for the kind words - so glad you enjoyed - hope you return!
China Live is a elegant restaurant and wedding venue located in the heart of Chinatown in San Francisco, California. They offer couples an interactive culinary experience, while explaining Chinese gastronomy. They can host both intimate ceremonies and grand receptions. China Live is a unique venue offering guests gorgeous views of Chinatown.
Facilities and Capacity
Couples can accommodate up to 825 guests at this spacious restaurant. The ground floor features the Oolong Cafe, Market Restaurant & Bar and Retail Marketplace. On the second floor, Eight Tables by George Chen, an upscale restaurant, is featured, along with a craft cocktail bar overlooking Broadway Street and the Gold Mountain Lounge. All together, China Live makes up 30,000 square feet of space and offers four indoor event spaces to choose from. Neutral decor throughout their banquet venue allows each couple to decorate as they see fit.
This unique culinary and cultural destination just opened up in 2017. They offer all-inclusive packages, event planning services and event rentals to make your planning process stress-free. China Live’s goal is to demystify Chinese ingredients and recipes, while educating your guests on the history behind them. In addition to providing an in-house caterer and in-house bar, they will also provide cake for your celebration. Additional services include:
In addition to hosting lavish weddings, this city venue is also happy to host an intimate elopement. Rated “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater in 2017, China Live will also host the following events:
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Located in Oakland, California, The Terrace Room at Lake Merritt is an enchanting and historic wedding venue. Guests .Marketplace Restaurant China Live 888 event space with city view 888 event space on our 3rd floor Wedding appetizer and cocktail reception post ceremony in our china live marketplace. China live baked char siu pork crunch buns from china live&aposs 3 star restaurant. China live has an extensive beer, wine and cocktail program with multiple bar options. Sichuan &aposworking hands&apos dumplings, sesame butter, peppercorn-chili broth Sesame soft serve with mango shaved ice Cold Drinks Bar Cocktail at Cold Drinks Bar Gold Mountain Lounge Gold Mountain Lounge dinner Gold Mountain Lounge dinner Ceremony in 888 Event Space Ceremony in 888 Event Space Ceremony in 888 Event Space View from 888 Event Space Dinner in 888 Event Space 888 Event Space 888 Event Space 888 Event Space 888 Event Space Lounge in 888 Event Space Dance party - 888 Event Space Dance Party - 888 Event Space Dance Party - 888 Event Space Marketplace Restaurant Marketplace Restaurant China Live 888 event space with city view
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Recommended by 100% of couples
We hosted our wedding reception on 8.18.18 at China Live. It is THE perfect balance of beautiful event space and great restaurant (I did not want to deal with a production-heavy venue that required us to bring everything in and there are very few restaurants in the city that can fit 100+ guests + dancefloor).
The space and food are incredible, AND the planning leading up to it was seamless and easy. They have everything you need in house - no renting chivari chairs for an extra $12+ a pop. They have a ton of tables options as well as lounge furniture (which was actually secured the week of our event ensuring we wouldn't have to spend on pricey rentals).
Nicole (the event coordinator) is a rock star among rock stars and makes this venue exceptional. Responsive, organized, thoughtful, she has a great sense of style and is fun. I'm not kidding. party planning was fun with her - she was constantly throwing out ideas for us that I had never even conceived of/knew were an option (e.g., see above re: securing the clutch lounge furniture, sorting out a modified version of their signature cocktail to fit our budget, fixing the menu to serve snacks in cute to-go chinese boxes so guests could keep moving around, directing us to photos on their roofdeck, generally keeping me sane while I was fretting about decor - which actually wasn't even that necessary because the space is lovely, etc.)
While we only threw a party focused on dancing and food, after going over all the options it's clear the possibilities for this venue are endless - so many beautiful spaces and surprises (a gorgeous speakeasy, a more intimate richly decorated events space, of course the larger event space with a great view of the city, fun nooks and crannies to explore, and the entire lower restaurant and shop beneath).
I would recommend this venue to anyone who love Chinese food and/or culture. It really was a special and memorable event. My husband and I are proud China Lif-ers .Sent on 10/10/2018
Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco’s Newest Chinese Food Emporium, China Live
If you have any connection to San Francisco, chances are you have heard about the recent opening of China Live. It’s San Francisco’s newest Chinese food emporium, and the opening has taken the city by storm. The operation is a huge, multi-faceted experience that people often refer to as the Chinese version of Mario Batali’s Eataly in NYC. It’s a bastion of food, fun and culture that San Franciscans have happily embraced.
What Is China Live?
A lot of big food halls get compared to Eataly. It’s the epitome of an all-in-one marketplace for fine dining, shopping and drinking. But China Live is probably the closest comparison you will find. It was developed to be an interactive culinary and cultural destination for locals and visitors in San Francisco. It provides an in-depth exploration of Chinese gastronomy, offers insight into Chinese ingredients and recipes, and education on the history and influence of Chinese culture across the world. It’s a great way to expand your horizons and go beyond the usual menu offerings.
What Can You Find at China Live?
China Live is more than just a restaurant or grocery store. It features a serious array of offerings that you can spend hours exploring. Here’s what you’ll find:
The Oolong Café is a 25-seat counter service cafe with a rotating selection of superb Chinese teas, coffee and small bites. It features a gorgeous Ming Dynasty-inspired mural that highlights lots of San Francisco landmarks and is the perfect place to stop for an elegant afternoon break.
The Market Restaurant on the first floor features a seasonal menu that changes every day to reflect the available ingredients and whims of the chefs. The main dining area features chairs and tables that were all handcrafted in China. Grab a seat at the bar to get a close-up view of the chefs preparing savory dishes.
Eight Tables by George Chen
With the opening of Eight Tables in October 2017, this restaurant offers an unparalleled San Francisco fine dining experience. Their prix-fixe eight-course tasting menu showcases George Chen's mastery of Chinese food.
The bar has a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with an awesome array of tap beers, wines by the glass and signature cocktails. They offer Malaysian style cold brew coffee and custom Marin Kombucha.
Cold Drinks Bar
This is a sleek, secret bar located on the second floor of China Live. This luxuriously intimate space with a focus on Scotch whiskey. Most cocktails feature a single malt and are served to you by elegant, tuxedoed bartenders.
The retail area of China Live is truly something to behold. It’s a majestic collection of unique flavors and experiences that you can take into your own home. You can find spices, teas, condiments, produce, cookware and cutlery – all of the highest quality. If you’re just here to browse, ask a guide to help you explore and learn more about the products and Chinese cooking.
888 Banquet and Event Space
China Live even has a banquet and event space for guests who would like to host a party. Space can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 825 people.
A new rooftop bar will soon round out all the drinking options at this massive Chinese food (and drinking) hall.
Head to the Bar Central for a specialty cocktail, such as the French Concession, Sichuan Smash or (Not) All the Tea in China. At Market Restaurant, people love the Xiao long bao (soup dumpling), Taiwan red braised beef and tendon noodle soup, and Sichuan “working hands” wonton in mala chili broth. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the Chrysanthemum salad with star fruit and tea vinaigrette or the Yangtze river grass-wrapped fried cod. At the marketplace, check out the soy sauces that include organic black bean soy sauce and white soya essence. They also offer jarred pickled sea beans and whiskey barrel-aged fish sauce.
How to Get There
China Live is located in the heart of Chinatown in San Francisco. To get there, you can take a taxi directly to 644 Broadway. You can also take BART to the Montgomery Street Station and walk from there, or transfer to the #8 Muni bus and depart at Columbus Ave and Kearny Street. It’s about a 35-minute drive from San Francisco International Airport.
While you’re in the area, there are plenty of other things you can see and do. Head toward the water to walk along the Embarcadero and see the historic Fisherman’s Wharf. You can get a great view of Coit Tower from there as well. If you have enough time, you can even hop on a boat to Alcatraz for a guided tour of the famous prison. You can head further into town to visit the Cable Car Museum or head north to visit North Beach, the historic Italian part of town that runs along the coastline. And, of course, you are in the heart of San Francisco's famed Chinatown.
China Live: A food emporium of epic proportions in San Francisco's Chinatown
1 of 11 Luis Cardenas applies a coat of paint inside the tea cafe as construction work enters its final stages at China Live in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
2 of 11 Chef Niu seasons pans used exclusively for shen ziang pork baos as preparation work is in the final stages at China Live in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
3 of 11 Renderings of China Live. AVROKO Show More Show Less
4 of 11 Chefs prepare the kitchen for the opening of China Live in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
5 of 11 New employees attend an orientation meeting in the main dining room as the grand opening of China Live approaches in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
6 of 11 Chef Zhao seasons pans used exclusively for shen ziang pork baos as preparation work is in the final stages at China Live in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
7 of 11 Executive chef George Chen walks through the barbecue kitchen as the grand opening of China Live nears in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
8 of 11 Fragrant green peppercorns are stored in a jar while preparation for the opening of China Live is in its final stages in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
9 of 11 Executive chef George Chen views the wood counters for the retail section as the grand opening of China Live nears in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
10 of 11 Asian herbs and spices are stored in the kitchen while preparation for the opening of China Live is in its final stages in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
11 of 11 Products that will be sold in the retail area and used in the restaurant are displayed at China Live in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. George Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
Less than 100 hours before its opening party, China Live was almost as busy as a football stadium 10 minutes before kickoff.
Inside George Chen and Cindy Wong-Chen&rsquos 30,000-square-foot Chinatown restaurant and market complex, armies of workers painted walls, sliced lengths of wood and picked their way among the nests of wires. Servers-in-training swarmed from kitchen station to kitchen station as managers described the dishes each would produce. Cooks seasoned their pans and hoisted jars of imported Sichuan peppercorns up to the shelves above the wok line.
The country, let alone San Francisco Chinatown, has never seen a Chinese food emporium of China Live&rsquos scope and lavishness. The complex was inspired by Eataly, an Italian culinary wonderland whose first U.S. location, a 50,000-square-foot market with almost a dozen restaurants and food stands inside, opened in New York in 2010.
Construction willing, the first floor of the 644 Broadway complex, which occupies half of its total footprint, is set to open Wednesday. That will include Oolong Cafe, which specializes in Chinese and Taiwanese teas, as well as a retail market selling foodstuffs and tableware, and Marketplace Restaurant, a sprawling, casual restaurant that will serve dishes from all over China and Taiwan prepared with what Chen calls &ldquoour modern China Live twist, being in San Francisco.&rdquo
The remaining components will unfurl over the coming months. Later this spring, the second floor, whose interior walls are still skeletal, is projected to open, with a bar, a cocktail lounge and Eight Tables, a haute-cuisine restaurant that Chen hopes will rival four-star restaurants such as Benu and Saison. Afterward comes the banquet room on the third floor. Dreams of a rooftop bar and omakase sushi station remain unformed.
Executive chef George Chen meets with his kitchen staff as the grand opening of China Live nears in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Chen's ambitious project on Broadway Street includes a tea cafe, restaurants and retail space all under one roof. Paul Chinn/The Chronicle
The success of Eataly, along with Chen&rsquos own charisma, may have inspired backers from a Singaporean hospitality company to fund China Live. Chen won&rsquot say how much he has spent so far, only that it&rsquos north of $20 million.
The 50 best San Francisco restaurants to eat at right now
October 2019: Summer is behind us and it's time to eat with abandon! The fall update to our list of the best restauarants in San Francisco swaps out some older eateries to make room for exciting new spots and this time we've topped out at 50(!) stellar restaurants. For Instagram-worthy dining, we&rsquove added the Ghirardelli Square dim sum parlor Palette Tea House (#15), downtown fine dining at O' by Claude Le Tohic (our new #1 spot!) and Nari (#2), the latest modern Thai spot in Japantown. In accordance with the comfy season, comfort food takes new shapes and forms from American classics at Corridor (#26) and hearty vegetarian dishes at Wildseed (#39) to warming bowls of ramen in SOMA and meaty favorites at Al&rsquos Deli (#18). Last but not least, Aziza (#8) returns to the scene, filling a void in the Richmond neighborhood.
It&rsquos no exaggeration to say that San Francisco is one of the best cities for food in the world. But with so many interesting dining destinations packed into just 7x7 square miles, it can be as overwhelming to decide where to eat as it can be to choose from our list of the best things to do in the city. But we&rsquore here to help, with 50 picks for the greatest places to eat in this city right now: the freshest, most memorable, most inventive. The ones changing the gastronomic landscape and the ones that have been holding it up for decades.
Our experts scour the city for great dishes, great value and insider info (like a certain restaurant&rsquos off-the-menu homemade Spam). So, the EAT List is a unique, authentic snapshot of SF&rsquos ever-evolving dining experience right now: we update it regularly, whenever somewhere we think is truly spectacular opens. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a pop-up-turned-permanent joint in a shipping container: if it&rsquos on the list we think it&rsquos terrific, and reckon you will too.
Eaten something you love on this list? Share it under the hashtag #TimeOutEatList to show your appreciation.
Voted Restaurant of the Year by EATERSF in 2017, China Live is billed as an interactive culinary and cultural destination in the heart of San Francisco&rsquos Chinatown. With veteran restaurateur George Chen (Betelnut) and his partner, Cindy Wong-Chen, at the helm, this $20 million, 30,000-square- foot Chinese food emporium has been compared to Mario Batali&rsquos Eataly complex in NYC. This will most definitely land on all the "must-see" destination lists for visitors to San Francisco &ndash and the excellent food, ambiance and unique gifts sold in the Marketplace will keep locals returning often.
One is instantly transported upon entering the doors of China Live. There are many dining and imbibing choices within the large complex: The Oolong Café is a 25-seat counter-service cafe offering Chinese teas, coffee and small bites. The Market Restaurant is a 120-seat, full-service restaurant with a daily seasonal menu of dim sum, Chinese barbecue, salads, noodles, rice bowls, seafood, soup, stir-fry and dessert. Bar Central has a wide selection of drinks, including cocktails, wine, beer, custom Marin Kombucha and non-alcoholic beverages. Marketplace is the retail area of China Live and offers a well-curated array of spices, teas, cookware, cutlery and gift items.
Upstairs on the second floor, visitors can enjoy the Cold Drinks Bar, a sleek bar overlooking Broadway Street offering drinks with a focus on Scotch whiskey, served by tuxedo-clad bartenders. Eight Tables is the elegant dining space for a prix-fixe eight- course tasting menu overseen daily by owner George Chen. The Gold Mountain Lounge is a private dining/lounge space. There are also banquet and event rooms available for private parties, with space up to 825 people.
Hipster, vibrant Chinese elegance.
Everything. The Marketplace is met with awe for its sheer size and beautiful displays of unique food, kitchen items, and gifts. The food is so authentic and fresh it&rsquos surprising how each plate can be even better than the last. Menu highlights were Peking Duck with Kumquat Glaze, Traditional Condiments in Sesame Pockets Sheng Jian Bao 'SJB' (pan-fried pork dumplings) and Shanghai 'Fat' Chow Mein Pork, Shrimp, Chicken and Seasonal Vegetables.
Regardless of where you are seated — in the middle of the room at an intimate table for two, at a shared community table or at the bar watching the chefs — the ambiance makes you feel like you are a part of something lively and special. The open kitchen spaces keep the restaurant abuzz with activity, as you observe chefs preparing specialty dishes amidst your dinner conversation and fine dining. The award-winning interiors are the work of New York based, design firm AvroKo.
China Live is firmly committed to being a good neighbor. It is involved mainly with three local charities favored by Chen: Chinatown Community Development Center, which works to build community and enhance the quality of life for San Francisco residents Chinatown Community Children&rsquos Center, which provides early education and other social services for new immigrant and bilingual/bicultural families in San Francisco and On Lok, which strives to improve the quality of life and quality of care for older adults and their families. By dining at China Live, patrons can help generate revenues that benefit these and other local charitable organizations, to the tune of $60,000 so far. Eat good food and do good for the local community &ndash a win-win!
Celebrate Lunar New Year in style at hot, new China Live
The Peking Duck, Kumquat Glaze, Traditional Condiments in Sesame Pockets at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The dining area of Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The dumpling station at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The Chinese New Year’s Red Dumpling Scallop, Shrimp, & Pea Tendrils at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The seating area of Cold Drinks bar at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Cold Drinks’ bar Year of the Dragon cocktail the Not Too Sweet, Benromach 10-year-old scotch whiskey, lemon juice, ginger honey, dragon eye bitters, Angostura bitters, smoked and served in a cedar wood box garnished with fresh mint leaves is photographed at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Yong Zhu adds the finishing touches to Cold Drinks’ bar Year of the Dragon cocktail the Not Too Sweet, Benromach 10-year-old scotch whiskey, lemon juice, ginger honey, dragon eye bitters, Angostura bitters, smoked and served in a cedar wood box garnished with fresh mint leaves at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The seating area of Cold Drinks bar at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Cold Drinks’ bar Year of the Snake cocktail the Dear Irene, Speyburn 10-year-old single malt whiskey, lemon juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth, coconut syrup, Blue Curacao garnished with a flower is photographed at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Yong Zhu pours Cold Drinks’ bar Year of the Tiger cocktail the She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, Speyburn 10-year-old single malt whiskey, seaweed infused vermouth, Cardamaro, orange bitters garnished with seaweed caramelized lemon peel at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Cold Drinks’ bar Year of the Dog cocktail Lucky Dog, Absolut Elyx vodka, olive juice, Ancho Reyes Verde, Compass Box Peat Monster, fennel bitters and a basil garnish is photographed at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Most of the bottles on the Cold Drinks bar at San Francisco’s China Live food and market hall are filled with Scotch. (Mary Orlin/Bay Area News Group)
The Sheng Jian Bao pan fried dumplings at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Filling is prepared in the dumpling station at Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The Black Tree Ears & Soya Beans, Ginko, Hot Mustard at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The Oolong tea cafe at San Francisco’s China Live features hand-painted blue and white tiles inspired by Ming Dynasty china and depicts local scenes such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower. (Mary Orlin/Bay Area News Group)(Mary Orlin/Bay Area News Group)
Desserts on display at Oolong Cafe inside Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The Sesame Cheese Cake at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Desserts on display at Oolong Cafe inside Chinatown’s China Live food hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Signature sauces for sale at Chinatown’s China Live Marketplace in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The 8 Treasure Tea at Chinatown’s China Live food hall is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Chinatown’s China Live Marketplace is photographed in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Until now, veteran San Francisco restaurateurs George Chen and his wife, Cindy Wong-Chen, were best known for Betelnut and Shanghai 1930. But their latest and most ambitious project, China Live, may well be the couple’s legacy.
The 20,000-square-foot epicurean destination has brought renewed energy and style to Chinatown since it opened last March. Comparisons have been made to New York’s Eataly, and it’s easy to see why.
On the street level, there’s Market Restaurant and Central Bar, a bustling fine-dining restaurant with four exhibition kitchens and eight specialized stations the casual, tea-centric Oolong Cafe and two retail areas brimming with condiments, kitchen tools and high-end jewelry.
Upstairs, you’ll find the luxuriously hip Scotch bar, Cold Drinks and the high-concept Eight Tables by George Chen, a private, dinner-only (tasting menu, $225) experience made to look and feel like you’re dining in the chic mid-century home of a second generation Chinese-American family.
In celebration of Chinese New Year, Market Restaurant, Cold Drinks and Eight Tables are offering supplemental menu items through the end of February. Here’s our guide to eating and sipping your way through China Live, whether you visit for new year celebrations or any day of the year.
When you enter China Live, you’re essentially standing in Oolong Cafe, a casual 25-seat counter-service cafe featuring a rotating selection of high quality and rare Chinese teas, as well as coffee, grab-and-go bites and reinvented Chinese baked goods and pastries, such as the Black Tea Tiramisu and Sesame Cheesecake ($7 each).
Rare Chinese teas are paired with reinvented Chinese pastries at the Oolong Cafe.
The spotlight is a Ming Dynasty inspired mural with Bay Area landmarks — Transamerica Pyramid, Golden Gate Bridge — hand-painted onto blue and white tiles. People come here for the artisanal teas, which are sourced directly from farmers in Taiwan and Greater China, including the woody Dong Ding “Frozen Peak” High Mountain oolong tea and the earthy Dragon Well green tea. Teas are served in custom-designed glassware and teapots ($3.50-$6 glass $10-$15 pot) with suggestions for the exact brew temperature and steeping time.
The Dragon Well green tea was a lovely accompaniment to our Banana Milk Chocolate Cream Puff ($7), which was served cold but came to life and revealed its sweet banana flavor when we waited and let it to come to room temperature.
Keep in mind that Oolong Cafe gets very crowded, especially on weekends, because the hostess stand for Market Restaurant & Bar is situated there, with plenty of diners waiting to be seated. (By the way, you can order from the Market Restaurant menu while seated in the cafe.)
Details: Open at 11 a.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. on weekends at China Live, 644 Broadway St., San Francisco https://chinalivesf.com.
Market Restaurant & Bar
This 120-seat, market-driven restaurant is the heart of China Live. The focus is on elevated traditional, regional cuisine using organic and micro-seasonal ingredients, and the menu is divided into small ($6-$24) and large plates ($16-$60), which are great for sharing. In the dining room, trendy concrete floors have an unmistakable sheen. Tables and chairs are made from reclaimed Northern Chinese elm wood and the ceiling is stenciled with Chinese characters.
Watch dim-sum masters and dumpling experts at work as you dine.
Ask for a seat at the bar overlooking the dumpling and dim-sum station, so you can watch master dim-sum chefs craft the restaurant’s most popular dish, Sheng Jian Bao (four for $9) or pan-fried pork dumplings in the biggest cast-iron pans you’ve ever seen. These morsels are hot and juicy on the inside and toothsome on the outside. They’re in such demand, you’ll want to put in your order the minute you meet your server, otherwise you’ll be waiting a while.
Peking Duck is another home-run. The stone-oven roasted duck comes with a sweet kumquat glaze and sesame-studded, pita-like pockets (three for $14 or five for $19) for stuffing. Round out your light meal with a small cold plate, like the utterly delicious Black Tree Ears and Soya Beans ($8): Thin, snappy black mushrooms tossed with soybeans and plump gingko nuts are served in a hot mustard sauce. Cold mushroom salads have been a staple in Chinese cooking since the 6th century. Under Chen’s masterful vision, we get to taste them and so much more in a modern and exciting environment.
Details: Open at 11 a.m. weekdays and 10:30 a.m. weekends. A limited number of tables are available by reservation the rest are walk-in only.
Exit the front doors of China Live, head up the stairs, following the black bats stenciled on the wall, and you’ll hit the gold door to Cold Drinks, a dark, swanky, hush-hush spot recalling Old World Shanghai glamour and overlooking Broadway.
A flower adorns Cold Drinks’ Year of the Snake cocktail made with Speyburn 10-year-old single malt whisky, lemon juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth, coconut syrup and Blue Curacao.
Inside, chrome and gold accents bounce off tufted, mocha- and mink-hued chairs. It’s definitely a luxurious bar — the bartenders wear custom, locally made suits and tuxedos — so don’t show up in shorts and Nikes. This is your chance to dress up and explore one of the country’s largest selections of scotch. You’ll pay for it, too: Most of the drinks are in the $16-$22 range, or you can go really big with the Royal Salute Rob Roy, which will run you $52. It’s made with Royal Salute 21-year scotch, Glenlivet 12, Barbera Chinato, Lustau Vermouth and Angostura bitters.
Exploring the New China Live in San Francisco’s Chinatown
China Live is the shiny new food destination on Broadway.
One of the highly touted new dining destinations in San Francisco has added a spark to the city’s traditional Chinatown with a buzzing marketplace and restaurant. China Live has arrived.
China Live, in the former Gold Mountain dim sum restaurant space on Broadway, is a two-story food emporium that some have compared to New York’s Eataly. It’s not as expansive as Eataly, but China Live hopes to combine Chinese delicacies with a shop for Chinese-inspired housewares and culinary supplies.
Opened a couple of weeks ago, China Live is the dream of George Chen (of the former Betelnut) and Cindy Wong-Chen. The beautiful space accented with reclaimed Chinese elm is primarily a first-floor restaurant known as Market Restaurant, along with the Bar Central and a shopping area known as the Marketplace. At the entrance is the Oolong Cafe, which would do well during the day but since China Live is only opened from 5 p.m. right now, most people use the Oolong Cafe as an area to hangout while they wait for a table. (UPDATE: China Live started serving lunch on March 14, 2017, so go get your lunch on.)
A second-floor restaurant to be called Eight Tables has yet to open, so for now all the food is dished up at the Market Restaurant, which has a changing menu featuring dishes created at stations surrounding the dining area. There’s a wok station and a charcuterie station that features a Chinese earthen oven where pork is slow cooked.
Restaurant consultant Joey Altman worked with Chen to develop the food program.
On Friday night, I checked out China Live with my niece Margot. We started at the bar, where I had the Singapore Sling ($13) while Margot had the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai ($13). There’s a real tiki lounge feel to the menu, and while I appreciate my tall Singapore Sling, it felt a bit light, almost watery (maybe too much pineapple juice?).
At the bar you can order the entire menu, and we started with the xiao lung bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings. China Live offers up the priciest dumplings in town with just five pieces for $9. Still, they were a delight, with a thin skin that keeps their shape and the tender pork filling falling apart in my mouth and blending with the rich consomme. They might not have the aggressive flavor of other places, but the structure and taste were on point if you like your soup dumplings delicate and refined.
We moved over to the dining area and tried a variety of dishes, starting with the signature Peking Duck with Kumquat Glaze ($16), which are served in sesame bun pockets (think pita bread) and comes five to the plate. While Margot and I both enjoyed the crispy duck skin with refreshing cucumber julienne strips, we both felt there were too much of the kumquat glaze, overpowering the delicate flavor of the roasted duck. If you get this, ask to have the glaze served on the side so you can put how much you like. You will thank me.
The eight-spiced beef cheek in lettuce cups ($14) was a light, refreshing dish with tiny cubes of beef cheeks. And the lotus buns with pork belly, sauerkraut and peanut glaze ($10) were tender and easy to eat.
Lotus buns with pork belly ($10)
Sesame soft serve topped with mango shaved ice, $9
Some of the main dishes seem heavy (lots of rice) and expensive ($24-$28). We tried the three treasure bao zai or claypot rice ($19), with shiitake mushrooms, greens and lap cheong. The thinly slice lap cheong of Chinese sausage was nice, but there weren’t enough of it compared to the huge amount of rice in the claypot. At least the rice was perfectly cooked, soft and tender but still keeping its shape, almost like glutinous rice in lo mai gai. We balanced our meal with a plate of yu choi ($12), or Chinese market greens with garlic.
There are four types of dessert, but you have to order the sesame soft serve with mango shaved ice ($9), done nicely in the style of Taiwanese ice (which means light and fluffy shaved ice that gives it a silky texture). There are toppings that provide crunch, making the overall dish a great ending to a meal.
After our meal, Margot and I checked out the marketplace, which as you might expect, showcases beautiful housewares at premium prices (think Ferry Building).
China Live, of course, was buzzing for a Friday night with a lot of people curious to check out this new space. It’s interesting to see Chinatown regulars wading into China Live early on but are often turned off by the high prices. But China Live is following the trend started by Brandon Jew’s Mister Jiu restaurant on Grant Avenue, which brought sophisticated dining to Chinatown. These are the kinds of eateries that have bolstered neighborhoods like the Mission and Hayes Valley, so maybe it’s time Chinatown gets some love?
Where to Eat and Drink in San Francisco’s Chinatown
The coronavirus crisis hasn’t spared any cuisine or any neighborhood in San Francisco, but the city’s Chinatown — and its Chinese restaurants in general — bore the brunt of the burden weeks before the region-wide fallout.
Even so, any reports of Chinatown’s demise are premature. Yes, many of the big dim sum houses were closed for a while, and the streets are much emptier without the usual tourist foot traffic. By now, however, most of the restaurants have reopened for takeout and/or delivery, including some of the neighborhood’s most beloved, long-enduring spots. Some are even featuring new offerings — like 3rd-party delivery or frozen to-go dim sum — for the very first time.
Here are 19 new and classic Chinatown spots that are open at the time of publication, perfect for satisfying your dim sum or barbecue rice plate cravings.
As of publication time, some of these restaurants offer seated, outdoor dining. However, their inclusion should not be taken as endorsement for sit-down dining, as there are still safety concerns. Studies indicate that COVID-19 infection rates are lower for outside activities, but the level of risk involved with outdoor dining is contingent on restaurants and their patrons following strict social distancing, face covering, and other safety guidelines.