(The ground-floor cafe. Renderings courtesy of China Live)Even in a famously food-loving, high-rolling city like San Francisco, this is big news: China Live, an ambitious 30,000-square-foot culinary destination in the city's Chinatown district, is sure to be one of the hottest epicurean launches of 2015. Slated to open next spring, the restaurant, cafe, and retail space is often described as "the Chinese version of Eataly," but there's much more to its appeal—including interiors by design-world golden child AvroKO. Let's take a look at what makes the space so special.
(The noodle bar at China Live's Market Restaurant)China Live is the brainchild of charismatic restaurateur George Chen and his wife, Cindy Wong-Chen, who with partner Richard Miyashiro have dreamed up an interactive immersion that will make you rethink what you know about Chinese food. Granted, most of us are well aware that the cuisine is much more sophisticated and diverse than the offerings at our local takeaway spot; but this philosophy is brought to life here in a whole new way. (Bonus points for the San Francisco Film Society residency program on the top floors, which will turn the landmark Chinatown building into a true cultural hub.)
First up, the ground-floor retail area, where tasting tables and demos are fully integrated into the curated wares—spices, specialty ingredients, produce, cookware, and condiments like you've never tasted before. The playful, high-design nature of the experience carries through to the adjoining 105-seat Market-Restaurant, which features an exhibition kitchen and four specialty stations: Chinese charcuterie and barbecue; a wok station; noodles, buns, and dim sum; and pastry and dessert. Next to it, a 25-seat cafe serving Chinese teas, coffee, and small bites showcases a backdrop of blue-and-white tile that has us craving the same look for our home kitchens.
(An amuse-bouche course on custom china created for Eight Tables, the fine dining restaurant)Upstairs on the second floor is a 40-seat bar that's described as "Asian-influenced dystopia," which we're translating to mean a Blade Runner–like aesthetic, or perhaps something out of a futuristic Wong Kar-wai movie. The chinoiserie-styled Madame's Parlour, a lounge and private dining room, is also on the same level. But the true gem of China Live—and accessed via a separate back-alley entrance—is Eight Tables, the intimate fine dining restaurant featuring an evolving 12-course tasting menu dreamed up by Chen and his chefs from Shanghai. One look at the exquisite presentation of an amuse course, above, is enough to make us want to drop everything and go. We're counting down the days till China Live opens; see you there, San Francisco.
(China Live Market-Restaurant)