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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A few featured dishes of Red Hot Chilli Pepper restaurant in San Carlos, Hakka noodles, left, gobi manchurian, center, and spicy paneer, right.

A few featured dishes of Red Hot Chilli Pepper restaurant in San Carlos, Hakka noodles, left, gobi manchurian, center, and spicy paneer, right.

Nicola R Parisi/Nicola Parisi

For Mission resident Saptarshi Guha, who developed his palate in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), Chinese food means gobi Manchurian: deep-fried cauliflower florets draped lightly in a spicy, tangy sauce. “It is an adored dish, and it absolutely must be crispy. That is rule number one,” he explained. “If you stop at one bite, that is not good.”

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