empress by boon
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Empress by Boon (San Francisco, CA)

Empress By Boon was one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in San Francisco this year. Delayed by the pandemic, it finally opened in June and has been busy ever since. The restaurant occupies the top floor of the original Empress of China, which opened in the 1960s and was home to generations of special occasions and banquets for the Chinese American community until its closure in 2014.

Ho Chee Boon is the chef of this restaurant, best known for being the former executive chef of the worldwide chain of Hakkasan restaurants.

one market octopus
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One Market (San Francisco, CA)

One Market restaurant, located at the beginning of San Francisco’s longest street, has been a standby in the Financial District / Embarcadero for almost 30 years. Originally opened by noted local chef Bradley Ogden (who would go on to open a few restaurants in Las Vegas), the kitchen’s been helmed by Mark Dommen since 2004. Dommen led the restaurant to Michelin star recognition from 2008-2012, although it hasn’t been able to crack the list since.

mott32 lobster mapo
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Mott 32 (Las Vegas, NV)

Mott 32, a Chinese concept based in Hong Kong, opened at the Palazzo in 2019. There are a handful of locations across the world serving a refined take on the cuisine. Its most famous dish is probably its Peking duck – aged 48 hours and smoked in apple wood, but there are a number of other signature items like its char siu, a lobster mapo tofu, and a triple-cooked wagyu short rib.

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RH Restaurant (Corte Madera, CA)

While in Marin County one evening last week, I was spontaneously looking for a restaurant to go to that would have good food and a good vibe. Enter RH Restaurant, which opened in October of last year. The RH restaurants are an extension of the home furnishings company (formerly Restoration Hardware) that is based here in Corte Madera. There’s a dozen of these across the U.S. and Toronto.

The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the furniture store, partially indoor and partially outdoor. As one would expect, the ambiance was elegant highlighted by chandeliers dangling throughout the space. Indoor landscaping and even a fountain heightened the look & feel.

house of prime rib
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House of Prime Rib (San Francisco)

I’m not sure when I visited House of Prime Rib last, but it’s probably been close to two decades (!). Opened in 1950, the restaurant was already an old standby when I grew up, but has certainly solidified its status as an SF institution at this point.

I’d largely been getting my fill of prime rib from Lawry’s in Beverly Hills. The restaurants are very similar in their old English aesthetic; in fact, for a long time, I thought Lawry’s was a copycat of this place (I subsequently learned that Lawry’s predates this place by over 10 years).

sushi ondo
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Sushi Ondo (San Francisco, CA)

Sushi Ondo is part of a wave of San Francisco restaurants doing more reasonably-priced omakase meals (~$100). While I haven’t found anything quite like Sugarfish around here, I have been interested in what kind of quality / value these restaurants can offer. Sushi Ondo opened in 2019 and is part of a group of restaurants that includes Sushi Hon, Barnzu, Sushi Hakko and Izakaya Hon.

Florilege Tokyo
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Florilege (Tokyo, Japan)

On this most recent trip to Japan, Florilege was the choice for our lone fine dining meal in the country. The Michelin two-star restaurant, ranked 59th best in the world, was opened in 2009 by Hiroyasu Kawate after cooking at well-known Quintessance.

One of the unique aspects of the restaurant is that the vast majority of the seats surround an open kitchen. Diners are able to watch all of the action, and dishes are served directly by the cooks.

chili egg nest @ Gaggan
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Gaggan (Bangkok, Thailand)

I wasn’t sure I wanted to try Gaggan. Despite it being ranked the “fifth best restaurant in the world” and garnering two Michelin stars, I felt uneasy about dining at an Indian restaurant in Thailand. It just seemed very counter-intuitive. Further, its 6,500 THB/$200 price tag is downright expensive compared to almost any other fine dining restaurant in the city. Regardless, I made the plunge and settled in for 25 courses of Gaggan Anand’s unique interpretation of Indian cuisine.

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