Annie Ho was starting to feel busy on the third day of business since her restaurant’s grand reopening. But she couldn’t find anything to complain about.
“Seeing people eating my food happily, then I will be happy,” Ho told The Standard on Monday, speaking in Chinese.
HK Lounge Bistro, a dim sum and Cantonese restaurant with a nod from the Michelin Guide, has returned to San Francisco after a four-year closure. It reopened last Friday in SoMa, miles from where its original location stood. Hong Kong Lounge II in the Richmond District burned down in 2019. Many fans of shrimp har gow and steamed red bean buns assumed it had closed for good.
Even though the English name of the restaurant has changed slightly, Ho keeps the Chinese name, 穗香小館, which means “Aroma of Ear of Wheat—Canton.”
Compared with its predecessor, a frequent name on the top Bay Area restaurant lists, the new location is smaller, and the menu and cooking techniques are each a work in progress. For example, Ho noted, the steamed pork bun (cha siu bao) has used a new way to mix the northern Chinese cuisine’s dough to increase the softness of the bun skin.
Many other iconic dim sum items can be found here, including steamed pork ribs, chicken feet, shrimp dumplings and rice noodle rolls. Additionally, it offers Cantonese-style wok-fried dishes and simmering soup.
Albert Cheng, a longtime customer of the former Hong Kong Lounge II, attended the opening last week and said the place serves the best Cantonese food in the Bay Area.
“Finally, the phoenix rises from the ashes!” Cheng said. “They have the freshest ingredients, and the food is handmade. Even the siu mai is hand-chopped for the best taste and mouthfeel.”
Ho, a 35-year veteran in the Bay Area Cantonese food industry, insisted that her goal is to use the best ingredients. On her new menu, sliced rib-eye is used in the traditional beef chow fun (or wok-fried rice noodle). She also started the first Hong Kong Lounge, which is still in business in the city but owned by others.
Reflecting on the past four years, Ho said things have changed a lot because of the pandemic, and the cost of running a restaurant has soared. But she’s confident that things will get better.
"Even though the price has changed a lot," Ho said with a smile, "many customers are looking forward to eating here again."
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