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Jul 24, 2001 01:43 AM

Best place for a Chinese banquet in SFO

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Thanks to all who have answered my recent queries. I now feel confident enough to ask about arranging a banquet in SFO. I need a restaurant which has a nice private room for a banquet of 30 persons. I need ambience but not an exhorbitant price. For example I was interested in Koi Palace in Daly City until I discovered they charge $1000 on top of the food for the banquet room. I visited the Empress of China and I note that it has been mentioned here a few times for the view, but what about the food???It looks like a jaded tourist trap to me. Anyone had good experiences there?

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  1. Can't help you with Empress of China, as I haven't eaten there for several years. But I can warn you off Harbor Village in SF Embarcadero Center. I attended a Sunday banquet for 50 people (5 tables) in one of their function rooms a couple months ago. What an embarassment for my host! Service was unfriendly and sullen and only two of the 10 dishes were up to par. I've had better meals for less than $10 a head in Chinatown dives.

    Normally I'd send you to R&G Lounge in SF, but they're going through an expansion and remodel now. Have also heard about uneveness in the kitchen and some surly service lately.

    I noticed a couple private dining rooms at Silver Wing in Cupertino. They're adjoining, so perhaps they can accommodate your numbers. Here's link to my post, you can search on the main page to find more. Joy Luck in the same shopping center is set up for banquets too.


    1. If this is the restaurant at the top of a relatively tall building in Chinatown, please don't go there. It is a tourist trap to say the least. I went there for lunch with some of my husband's family (Caucasian Americans from the Midwest and the South) when they came to visit and we went up to the city for sightseeing.

      The fire alarm went off blaring toward the end of our meal. All the customers were looking alarmed, but the staff went about their normal business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. They didn't inform us in anyway whether there is really a fire. We debated on what to do then decided to leave payment in cash and left quickly, with the alarm still sounding loudly. We had 3 young children with us. Our guests didn't say anything, but I could tell they were quite displeased with the staff's lack of caring and response.

      I was SO embarrassed...

      5 Replies
      1. re: Nancy Acton

        Poor baby! You were witness to a rare treat...and you had visiting tourists with you. It is called a "Chinese Fire Drill", and is a real treat. Sorry you were disappointed in the food, since I find Empress quite acceptable. You must understand (and I am sure Melanie will bear me out), food in a place with ambiance that must cater to tourists to survive, isn't as tasty as at your favorite Chinatown dive. You must make a choice. When I have arranged banquets for visitors from midwest, etc, I must make sure the food is not too exotic. (Once I arranged a rather large banquest at a Hunan place in Wash DC, and asked the owner to take it easy on the Hunan spice. Big mistake...NOTHING was the least bit spicy, or tasty). They all like Empress. You can get good banquet fare at many Chinatown places...but the ultimate enjoyment is often up to you, if you choose the menu. You can't judge a major SF Chinese restaurant by the one meal you had with a few guests...fare for squeamish tourists is not the same as for sophisticates. The most difficult question I've had to answer over the years is which is the best restaurant in SF???

        1. re: Jim H.

          Jim, it used to be the case that you had to trade off ambience for deliciousness in Chinese food (e.g., Kan's). But with the palaces to Cantonese cuisine springing up in the 'burbs, I don't think that's the case any more.

          My last experience with Empress of China was more than 5 years ago (link below). Its reputation among my family is that it's nice for big banquets when you can take over a couple floors. If that's not a factor, there are better meals to be had in equally nice surroundings with less kitsch and for a lower price.


          1. re: Melanie Wong

            You are right that there are better spots...and I am probably not familiar with the newer ones. Over the years we would use Tao-Tao, Great Eastern, Four Seas, Golden Dragon (except right after the shootout). I always found the Empress to be very reasonable, great ambiance (tourists are very impressed with the view of Coit Tower from the VIP room). The food, alas, never quite compared to Jackson Cafe...but those days are gone. I've pretty much duplicated Jackson chow mein, but I have to make my own HK style noodles. The one facet of a banquet at Empress I dislike is the insistance of the headwaiter that HE serve the Peking Duck...that is usually my function at most banquets. I usually recommend Empress because the VIP room holds 20-30 persons, and those are the size groups that seek my advice.

            1. re: Jim H.

              Hello Old Venerable Peking Duck Maestro,

              Finding a place for 20-30 is what's hard. It's easy to get a round table for 10 people, or book a whole floor for 150, but those in between numbers are hard.

              Too bad that Yank Sing had to vacate its Battery St. location. I'd used it several times for 40-100 person banquet dinners.

              Actually the best time to be at Golden Dragon was right after the massacre. The logic was that the gangs had already hit that place and wouldn't be back for a while. For those reading along here, this was several years ago - SF Chinatown is perfectly safe and gang members are all high tech moguls now. Walked by GD recently and it looks very junky with dusty and ragged edge special signs in the windows and the bbq counter is gone.

              Have you been to Four Seas recently? Don't hear much about it. I haven't eaten there since I was a child.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Hell...I haven't been to Chinatown lately. Four Seas never was too great. The problem, as you point out, is accomodating medium crowd (20-30). If someone is really interested, call around and find out what kind of deal you can make. On a week night, if you know Chinese banquet fare, you can get an amazing deal. Order by table, usually for 10 (don't try to squeeze in 12 unless you want to make two enemies for life), and tell them what you want and how much they charge. Nobody makes money when the place is empty. Problem is, they usually won't handle 7 or 8, you pay for ten per table. Maybe Melanie can add some pointers. Setting up banquets is a lot of fun, and is the way to go with Chinese food. Also, it may be the only way to get Peking Duck.

      2. ABC Dim Sum makes great seafood and the duck is wonderful. It's located in Foster City 10-15 miles south of the SF on 101. But the food is great and reasonably priced, they have banquet facilities and the service is friendly.