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Empress by Boon Unveils Design Details

Publish: April 22, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO (April 22, 2021) - Empress by Boon, the 7500-square-foot culinary destination spearheaded by Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon, has unveiled design details for the landmark location at 838 Grant Avenue in the heart of Chinatown. Scheduled to open in June 2021, the expansive restaurant has already been providing exquisite private catering and dining experiences for families in preparation for its public grand opening. The exciting new space occupies the former location of Chinatown's iconic Empress of China, which served the San Francisco community with an elegant dining experience for nearly half a century before closing in 2014. Reimagined by Chef Boon and Lily Jordan, managing director of UK-based design studio Atelier LLYS, the well-known space has been brought back to its former glory by incorporating modern design elements while embracing restored original features, creating a welcoming atmosphere that pays homage to the history of the cherished landmark.

"In many cases, the design and atmosphere are just as important to the dining experience as the culinary components, especially with a historically beloved location such as the Empress and its significance to the local community," said Chef Ho Chee Boon. "We are proud to be the first fine dining concept to open in San Francisco's Chinatown since the city's reopening plan went into effect and to give locals and visitors alike a place to enjoy Cantonese fare and create lasting memories for years to come in a beautiful space."

Envisioned by Atelier LLYS, the restaurant will feature modern elements alongside repurposed features from the location's predecessor, including the intricately carved panels and the original wooden pergola positioned at the entrance. Occupying the top floor of the 838 Grant Avenue in the heart of Chinatown, the restaurant boasts striking views of the district and the city skyline from three vantage points. As each view is vastly different, this gave Atelier LLYS the opportunity to design spaces with distinct atmospheres that highlight the unique aspects of each perspective.

The new bar and tea lounge face into the restaurant to activate the space, while curved booths in a rich blue tone are slightly elevated to afford views out the north‐facing picture windows of historic Telegraph Hill. There is a screened dining room to the east featuring city vistas, maroon accent hues, and a more communal feeling with a chef's prep table at the center of the space. These entities are connected visually through latticed screens and physically by a glass‐walled central corridor that shields the kitchen activity. The primary design motifs are more spatial than material, with the focus on connection, flow, and transition from one scene to another to create a cohesive environment. The building's original architects incorporated Chinese exotic revival ornamentation into the façade, including circular moon gates and exaggerated pagoda‐like cornices that found their way into the restaurant's new design by the use of circles and elemental geometries in the screens and walls.

"When we were approached by Chef Ho for the design and first visited the site, we were thrilled and honored by the thought of bringing the historic Empress back to its former glory for the community," said Lily Jordan, managing director of Atelier LLYS. "We knew the breathtaking city views and the special history of the landmark location would shape our design story and direct our focus to melding new and old, preserving striking antique design details with modern geometric screens, walls and artwork to create a pleasing and immersive guest experience."

Empress by Boon features two private elevators to bring guests from the bustling Grant Avenue ground level to the elegant and refined ambiance of the sixth-floor restaurant. Upon arrival, the focal point of the entrance area is the antique central gazebo from the original Empress of China - a galvanizing piece of Chinese woodwork with real patina -- and a stunning terrazzo floor that dominates the space. Atelier LLYS chose to retain it as a lounge that acts as both a pivot between the buzz of the bar and the more subdued dining rooms, and also an experiential facet of the space that will be sure to attract social media moments for guests. The design team thoughtfully selected materials that complement the subtle darkness of the original aged wood and create crisp, modern lines in jewel tones that enhance rather than clash with its distinctive octagonal form. Additionally, large murals designed by graphic artist Lucy Wright are filled with soft pastel shades and billowing organic forms to soften the space.

Empress by Boon will feature tableware by RUYI, a contemporary Chinese tableware from French heritage tableware brand LEGLE, to bring the design full circle. The delicious cuisine served, and the fine tableware used become intrinsically linked — allowing diners to experience the prosperity and elegance of attending a Chinese banquet.

Empress by Boon is conveniently located at 838 Grant Avenue (between Washington and Clay streets). For more information on Empress by Boon, please visit

About Atelier LLYS

Atelier LLYS is headed by Lily Jordan. Lily has directed the agenda for excellence in design at esteemed international restaurant companies, including working with Alan Yau at Hakkasan in London and at Danny Meyer's Shake Shack in New York City. Trained as an architect, she takes a rigorous approach to designing interiors and is passionate about expressing brand integrity through the built environment.

About Empress by Boon

Empress by Boon is San Francisco's newest, must-visit epicurean destination in the heart of Chinatown offering a seasonal menu in modern Cantonese gastronomy. Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon applies traditional culinary techniques to fresh ingredients from local purveyors and the restaurant's own farm to produce distinctive contemporary dishes infused with Cantonese flavors.

The expansive restaurant with several unique dining areas occupies the former location of Chinatown's celebrated Empress of China with striking city views. The original Empress served the San Francisco community with an elegant dining experience for nearly half a century before closing in 2014. Reimagined by Chef Boon and team, the iconic space was brought back to its former glory by embracing modern design elements while incorporating restored original features, creating a welcoming atmosphere that pays homage to the history of the beloved landmark.