For chef Lijun Han, bringing more diversity to the food scene in San Francisco’s Chinatown has always been his passion.
After years of planning, his brand new restaurant Z&Y Peking Duck, which focuses on an iconic Northern Chinese dish, has finally opened on Jackson Street, adding a unique flavor to the historic neighborhood with an extensive history of immigration from South China and long dominated by Cantonese cuisine.
“I always thought that Chinatown should have an authentic Northern Chinese restaurant,” Han told The Standard in Chinese. “We want to offer good Northern Chinese food to San Francisco.”
Han sources his ducks from Long Island, New York, where the ducks are the highest quality. And every Peking duck served on the dining table has undergone a 24-hour preparation effort in the kitchen, which includes soaking, blow-drying, freezing, brushing the skin with sugar water to ensure a crisp duck and, finally, baking.
“I built a very expensive oven that I can’t show you,” Han joked. “It’s my business secret.”
After the ducks are baked, the chef slices them tableside and serves them to his guests with onions, cucumbers and a special house sauce, all wrapped in steamed pancakes. A whole Peking duck costs $69, while a half duck is $40—although a fancy $158 upgrade with a caviar supplement is also available.
Han, 51, has been in San Francisco’s food scene for decades. He was the executive chef at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco in the early 2000s, with experience cooking for top Chinese officials visiting San Francisco. Han also cooked for the visiting Chinese delegation during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.
He opened Z&Y Restaurant in 2008, which is across the street from Z&Y Peking Duck. Han said the name of Z&Y comes from the previous business at the same location, which was a Yunnan style rice noodle place before 2008.
He also opened Chili House in the Inner Richmond District in 2012. Both restaurants specialize in spicy Sichuan cuisine and have won praise from the Michelin Guide. But neither has a full Michelin star, as only one Chinese restaurant in America, Mister Jiu’s, has been awarded that designation.
However, Chili House was forced to close temporarily because of a fire in the building months ago; Han said it will likely reopen in a year’s time. Z&Y Restaurant made headlines during the pandemic for a different reason, as the business was accused of underpaying immigrant workers. Management paid $1.6 million to settle that case.
Z&Y Peking Duck is now softly opened, as the downstairs area, which can host private parties of up to 50 people, is still under construction. The restaurant’s grand opening will be in a few weeks.
“I hope I can still get the Michelin recommendation,” Han said. “One star? That will be great.”
Z&Y Peking Duck
📍 606 Jackson St., SF