The Building That Will Transform Chinatown in 2015

Aug 19 at 11am

“Our goal is to demystify Chinese food,” says restaurateur George Chen, touring through the construction site at 644-660 Broadway Street, the future home of China Live. “A lot of people think it just comes in a white carton with some mystery brown sauce on it.”

Chen, the owner of Betelnut and Shanghai 1930 restaurants, is the founder and executive chef for this new 20,000 square-foot multi-purpose space that’s been likened to New York’s Eataly for Chinese food. But China Live seems destined to provide a more credible and dynamic experience here in San Francisco.

A city with close to 500 Chinese restaurants has obvious affection for that nation’s food, though there’s a lot of monotony to be found amongst those menus. China Live plans to highlight cooking from all of Greater China, which should expand the local palate beyond the old standards.

China Live will have incredible rooftop views that you’ll be able to enjoy from within a glass-encased lounge. A place for craft cocktails will be hidden somewhere in the building, a space Chen describes as a “Bladerunner bar.” You’ll have to figure out where it is, but we’ll just say that you shouldn’t ignore any staircase.

It’s often hard to see the potential of a place when it’s just bones, but Chen’s vision for this ambitious new project is so vivid, we’re already excited for the debut, which is at least seven months out. Among its many pronged elements, there will be a retail store full of carefully sourced ingredients that should give home chefs bright new inspiration, a casual cafe that opens in the morning, five exhibition kitchens offering all-day grazing on quick items like noodles, dim sum, and dumplings, and a high end tasting menu dining experience called Eight Tables by George Chen accessed by a separate entrance off-Broadway.

China Live also happens to have incredible rooftop views that you’ll be able to enjoy from within a glass-encased lounge. A place for craft cocktails will be hidden somewhere in the building, a space Chen describes as a “Bladerunner bar.” You’ll have to figure out where it is, but we’ll just say that you shouldn’t ignore any staircase.

Education is going to be a big emphasis here; employees are called “guides” and there will be follow-up to your purchases. For instance, if you buy a wok, you may be emailed a link to a video showing you how to season it properly. Technology will also help to create a more seamless shopping experience; you’ll enter your items into a tablet and they’ll be assembled for you at checkout so you don’t have to wander around with everything.

Though this will clearly be the most opulent debut in Chinatown in decades, Chen says they don’t have the goal of gentrifying the neighborhood, and must make something that’s authentic to the Chinatown community. He does admit that prices will average around 20% higher than what’s in the area, but it will be for food and products that are not already widely available elsewhere.

Is it spring 2015 yet?

Images courtesy of China Live

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