The Chef Who Led a Global Dining Empire Sets Out on His Own in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Before it became known as a nightlife brand associated with globetrotting DJs and elaborate bottle-service presentations, Hakkasan was a global pioneer of contemporary Asian food. Ho Chee Boon, who was Hakkasan’s international executive chef, opened restaurants for the high-end hospitality group in London, Moscow, Bangkok, New York, San Francisco and beyond. Under Ho’s leadership, Hakkasan restaurants earned Michelin stars in both London and New York.

Now in 2021, a year that’s seen hospitality behemoth Tao Group acquire Hakkasan (which closed its New York and San Francisco restaurants in 2020), the Malaysian-born Ho is writing his own path at a new buzzworthy restaurant in San Francisco. On June 18, Ho will open Empress by Boon with modern Cantonese food at the former location of Chinatown’s iconic Empress of China restaurant.

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Chicago’s Chinatown restaurants reopen slowly as fear of the coronavirus still lingers

Chinatown in Chicago was hit first and hard by the coronavirus. Not so much by the virus itself, but fear of the unknown. Masks had sold out and Lunar New Year events were already canceled by the time the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city was announced on Jan. 24. Data now shows confirmed cases have remained relatively low in the Chinatown area compared with ZIP codes with the highest numbers in Chicago.

Business has still dropped dramatically. Most restaurants have tried to stay open — some never stopped serving bubble tea, bao and dumplings for takeout and delivery. The few bars — all karaoke — went dark until recently. Less than half of the restaurants have reopened for indoor dining and hardly any have room for outdoor dining.

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