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Oct 10, 2013 10:15 AM

What's up with Bodega Bistro and Jimmie Kwok? [San Francisco]

Friend of mine ate at Bodega Bistro recently and described it as "very strange" (sorry, she didn't offer details about the meal). But she did say she's heard a rumor that chef Jimmie Kwok is no longer there. Anybody had an odd experience there lately, or know anything about Jimmie Kwok?

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  1. I was asked to not say anything about the particulars on CH but since you asked . . .

    Jimmie Kwok is a partner elsewhere and has been cooking a few nights a week in San Mateo.

    Edited to add: Another source,

    3 Replies
      1. re: Jbirdsall

        When Kwok opened his now-closed Italian place down the street, the cooking at BB took a hit. I'd appreciate more details about what was strange at Bodega Bistro if you can get them.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I ate there recently on a Sunday night, and everything was as delicious as ever.

    1. I was at Little Sichuan in San Mateo recently and found out that Jimmy Kwok is now part owner and is there a few nights a week. He told me his sister has been running Bodega Bistro for a while. I'd gone to BB in May for the first time, under her tenure, and didn't find the shaking beef to be the revelatory experience talked about here.
      I liked the special beef pho.

      In terms of food, the chefs at LS are all from Sichuan province (from Chengdu and a town about 50+ miles away from Chengdu) and that's the cuisine they're hired for and know how to cook. They don't cook off-menu stuff. Jimmy will cook Indochina dishes as a special order, but that has to be arranged with him ahead of time. He said he could tailor a menu depending on party size and time and the sample dishes he mentioned to me sounded similar to BB's specialties.

      When I was there, Jimmy was kind enough to cook for me a special dish in "his style of cooking"--- chicken feather vegetable with ginger, garlic, and inch long dried shrimp. He topped it with some excellent slow cooked dried Chinese mushrooms he keeps around, the big meaty kind, not the cheap black mushrooms you get everywhere. It was much better than the Sichuan dishes I ate that night from the other cooks.

      8 Replies
      1. re: hyperbowler

        Interesting that Kwok chose to make a simpler type of vegetable dish for you, albeit using less common types produce. At BB, I was told that he preferred making French and Italian leaning dishes.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Oh, interesting. I remember him saying that he was a fan of simple clean flavors. His dish choice made lots of sense--- I spoke to him from out of the blue and he volunteered to make a side dish to balance out the Sichuan mains I wanted.

          Random trivia: I asked him why I've never seen chicken feather vegetable in stores, and he told me a single organic supplier in Gilroy has chicken feather vegetable, and they sell only to restaurants (I've never seen it in SF, but had it at Fey and Little Shanghai and it's on the menu at Sha Bistro).

          1. re: hyperbowler

            That's "Shanghai style vegetable" on the Sha Bistro menu? I thought it was pea leaf.


            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Lifted from the menu: 鷄毛菜. That's literally chicken feather vegetable.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Interesting. Maybe I would have realized it wasn't pea leaf if the dried bean curd hadn't been rancid.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The flavor isn't so far from pea sprouts or shredded bok choy that it would make you do a double take, but compared to pea sprouts, once its wilted, chicken finger vegetable has a lot more white on the plate than green.

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    It has the peppery bite of a brassica. Here's Cynsa's photo from our recent lunch at Little Shanghai. Pinyin is ji mao cai.

            2. re: hyperbowler

              Guess I didn't post about it, as nothing turns up in search, but I recall bringing some wine geek friends to BB for the first time with rare bottles in tow. They were leery. One of the day's specials was something like roast pork loin with butter beans that we ordered and it was tuned beautifully to pair with wine. One of my friends quipped, "Am I in Umbria or Little Saigon?"

              I had the chicken feather vegetable recently at Little Shanghai. I think that's the first time i've had it. Kept asking for the name to try to figure out what it was.

              Edited to add: Here's a piece by wine educator/writer Bruce Cass on what wines to pair with Kwok's cooking at BB.

        2. Looks like SF Weekly's Anna Roth would be the friend.

          Too bad that she didn't get in touch with Kwok at Little Sichuan to get the word straight from him. As would be expected, the staff at BB are being mum about this, as they were the previous time he left (and subsequently returned).

          1. If you're looking for Chef Jimmie Kwok these days, apparently he's at Begoni Bistro in SF Chinatown.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I've heard he was canned from Begoni as part of their recent belt-tightening.

              I thought you had reported that yourself, but was confused.... Bodega Bistro, Begoni Bistro, Jimmie Kwok.... doh..

              Maybe he gave Uncle Gee some leftover letters from Bodega Bistro signage.

              1. re: soupçon

                According to their website he's a partner, so surprising he would be "canned."