Ladies and gents, I’m happy to report that Mister Jiu’s (28 Waverly Place) is now open in Chinatown. I’d like to give a slow clap to Brandon Jew and his entire team for getting this beast of a project open — it was a huge undertaking and will continue to be so as the project ramps up, but you gotta start somewhere. And when you’re opening in a historic space in the city’s most densely textured neighborhood, the scale of the project would make most well-seasoned restaurateurs question their sanity.
Jew says it has been an amazing experience to get this project up and running — it’s an enormous team, from the landlord (Betty Louie of China Bazaar) to his architect to kitchen team to construction to graphic designers to the Chinese community. He has reached out to many people along the way, and his family has been an immeasurable help.
SHOPPING WITH GRANDMA
Brandon Jew is a San Francisco-born Chinese American (his family’s last name was originally Jiu, but immigration messed up the spelling). He remembers shopping in Chinatown with his grandmother, an all-day project, as they would go from place to place, only buying the best on her very specific grocery list. She taught him a lot about how to cook and source, something that has stayed with him on his culinary journey (which includes a year cooking in Shanghai, plus learning about Italian cuisine at Quince and California cuisine and whole animal butchery as he cooked in places like Zuni Cafe and Bar Agricole).
NO DRIED SCALLOPS FROM A JAR
Jew’s cuisine at Mister Jiu’s will reflect his multifaceted culinary journey and experience — this is not about creating a facsimile of a Chinese restaurant, that’s not how he was trained. He will be integrating his Cantonese family roots, Chinese American experience, and California training. We’ll be tasting his interpretation and memories of many classic Cantonese dishes, plus dishes from other regions, too, but with his own perspective and ingredient sourcing.
For example, his XO sauce is made with La Quercia prosciutto, Oregon bay shrimp, and Mexican bay scallops they dehydrated. Jew has learned the importance of knowing where your ingredients come from, and isn’t inspired to buy dried scallops from a jar in a shop where he doesn’t know a thing about them or even how long they have been sitting around. It’s about the integrity of everything used in the kitchen, so the kitchen’s four dehydrators have been running full time.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Of course Jew is going to be under a lot of scrutiny from the Chinese American community: it’s a big deal for him to be opening a new restaurant on such a big scale in the historic Four Seas location. It’s a legacy building, one that is so important to the community — so many families and friends dined there, making a night out of it with dinner and entertainment. As Jew says, “This place deserves people in it and celebrating again.”
SAN FRANCISCO CHINESE
The menu is a choose-your-own banquet menu that starts at $69 for five courses. You can select dishes like crispy daikon cake with oil-cured black olives and shiitake mushrooms; hot and sour soup with fish cake, nasturtium, lily buds, and green tomato; cheong fun (rice noodle roll) with Mendocino sea urchin and sprouts; Four Seas fried chicken with sorrel, hot mustard, and red chile; plus supplemental dishes like Heart Arrow Ranch barbecue pork (char siu pork belly, black garlic spareribs, mantou buns, cucumber, and daikon pickles) and tea-smoked Liberty Farm duck (pancakes, peanut hoisin, chopped liver, 12-day aged duck breast, confit legs, and gizzards).
As you can see, it’s not about being “Chinese-Chinese, but Chinese for San Francisco,” as Jew puts it. He didn’t want a Chinese experience you could have anywhere; he wanted it to be specific to San Francisco, using quality and local ingredients in a Chinese format. He also wants to keep things simple enough so that the ingredients can really shine.
They are making so many things in-house, including all the noodles, buns, pancakes, and sauces, and are building the pantry as they go along, which will include making their own lap cheong sausage (they are butchering whole pigs). He also will be working with farmers to grow vegetables for the restaurant and plans to grow plants on the roof.
He has quite the team with him, including sous chef Sara Hauman (previously Huxley; she worked with Jew at Bar Agricole) and desserts by pastry chef Melissa Chou (formerly of Mourad and Aziza). In the ultimate plug-and-play move, the beverage director and bar manager is Danny Louie, previously at Chino, who also has some great San Francisco-Chinese-American roots — his father was a bartender at Cecilia Chiang’s The Mandarin. The two of them will be working closely on creating culinary ingredients for the bar. Congrats to John Herbstritt, who has made the move from the wine aisle at Bi-Rite Market to the role of wine director at the restaurant.
Hours for now: Tuesday–Thursday 5:30–10:30 p.m., Friday–Saturday 5:30–11 p.m., bar opens at 5 p.m. A portion of the dining room and the entire bar are reserved for walkins nightly.