Happy Hour Chowdown Report: Empress of China, San Francisco Chinatown
Thursday’s happy hour gathering at Empress of China’s cocktail lounge for 50% off drinks and appetizers may be the first chowdown where both co-hosts were AWOL at the starting time. Others in our party, good chowhounds all, soldiered on in our absence. They’ll need to fill us in on what they ordered/tasted. Eventually “mmerino” and I showed up from our respective delays to join the group and enjoy the view of Coit Tower. And, at the end we had a surprise visit by some East Coast ‘hounds.
After discount, my Empress Martini was $5. Tinged pink by a splash of cranberry juice, this cocktail looked sweeter than it tasted.
Empress of China
838 Grant Ave
I was out visiting San Francisco and meandered over to this meetup, and while it was great to see some old friends and make some new ones, I can say I'm glad the food was half price.
Half of what I tried was excessively sweet, and while I expected it in a drink, it's not usually a complaint I make about a salad or a plate of pork.
I liked the pork the best of the things we tried, but that's damning with faint praise a bit.
Go for the views, not the food or drinks. Also, the decor: there are some lovely older screens and carved panels in the lounge. Oddly, for most of the time we were there the window shades were pulled down blocking the view. After happy hour was over and we were the only customers left, we decided to raise the shades and saw the views. Both the food and drinks were mediocre. Had they not been half price they would have been very overpriced. The butterfly shrimp were well-fried but had a miniscule shrimp inside, the one piece of pork that I had was OK, but nothing special, and the chicken salad was too sweet for my taste. My cocktail was unmemorable, so unmemorable that I can't remember what I had. I'd recommend it as a place to take visitors or meet friends for a $5 drink, but nothing more. Too bad since it's a great space.
It was very nice to see fellow hounds, and while the views were nice, I can't say I particularly enjoyed the food. Roast pork was fine (seems like they probably buy it somewhere nearby?), potstickers were boring, butterfly shrimp had a light texture but really no substance to them, and the one bite I had of the Chinese chicken salad was pretty poor. I did like the Mandarin oranges on top, which Melanie noted is more common in LA than in SF.
Everything was half-off during happy hour....drinks (incl wine and beer) and food.