The aromas of classic Asian cooking fill the air at Lily Kai Chinese Cuisine, providing diners with a hint of what to expect before they even crack a menu. Learn even more about what to expect by reading our list of pre-meal tips:
Five Tips for Your Visit to Lily Kai
Amid traditional Chinese imagery of twisting dragons and carp, splashes of bright red bring Uncle Wing’s casual interior to life—and perhaps serve as a visual warning to diners who are about to dip into meals speckled with fiery peppers. The restaurant’s chefs specialize in seafood and duck entrees, which come stewed in a range of spicy, chili-filled sauces as well as curries as complex as a Rubik's Cube during its teen years. While they primarily cook Mandarin and Szechuan dishes, chefs channel the cuisine of various regions with plates such as Shanghai’s egg foo young; Shandong’s mu-shu meats, served inside thin, Chinese pancakes; and the small portions of dim sum popular in Hong Kong.
With the simple motto “excellent Chinese cuisine,” the skilled chefs at Hai Sun Restaurant rev up appetites with an expansive menu, leading off with crispy fried appetizers such as wontons and egg rolls. Across the menu’s pages, entrees flock into categories including lamb, pork, and vegetables alongside seafood morsels such as sautéed scallops and cod. Dishes come laden with a fresh garden medley of veggies of baby corn and snow peas, in spicy ginger, curry, and Sichuan sauce. With pop available by the can or six pack, patrons can enjoy a soda rush without the hassle of going over Niagara Falls in a root-beer barrel.
A Time Out San Francisco Critics' choice, Imperial Tea Court provides leaf lovers with access to some of the world's most desirable teas as well as unrivaled expertise in the ways of steepery. Park your carcass in one of its highly regarded teahouses for a 45- to 60-minute primer on the world's most popular beverage and its steamy history, including its medicinal roots in ancient times as an alternative to Tommy John surgery. Pouring hot cups of tea and tepid earfuls of facts, the teahouses' resident sip savants will help guests understand tea's various categories and acquaint them with the traditional Chinese gaiwan, a covered teacup developed for use on turbulent dragon flights and birthday party bounce houses. The tasting includes two samples of your choice of teas, leaving you with a pleasant aftertaste as well as a fully brewed headpot of knowledge with which to douse tea-loving coworkers at the dream factory.
Inside the Kitchen: Chef Kent Rathbun began his lifelong love affair with food at the tender age of 9, eventually earning an apprenticeship at a five-star French restaurant in Kansas City a few years later. When he finally became a full-blown chef, he honed his skills at a number of acclaimed restaurants in the United States and began traveling to Thailand every year to research ingredients and study new cooking techniques. He would later draw upon this eclectic, globe-spanning education when crafting Abacus's international-style cuisine, which takes influences from the American Southwest, Louisiana, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Rim. Since beginning his celebrated career, he's been nominated several times for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest, defeated Chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, and cooked at President George W. Bush's 2001 inaugural ball.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Browse local artists' contemporary pieces, as well as vintage furniture and handmade jewelry, at consignment shop Art Is Art (2811 N. Henderson Avenue).
After: Grab an afterdinner drink at Terreli's (2815 Greenville Avenue) and enjoy the live music that spans jazz, piano, and latin genres.
If You Can't Make It, Try This: Chef Rathburn operates a few other restaurants, including Rathburn's Blue Plate Kitchen, which serves upscale comfort food.
Must-Try Item: The pot stickers. They’ve been perfected over 30 years by owner James Yuan's brother, who studied Hunan cuisine in Taiwan for 40 years. The dough is thin so they crisp up nicely when fried.
While You’re Waiting: Pick out a crab from the fresh-seafood tank.
Kung pao: A spicy sweet 'n' sour stir-fry with meat, seafood, or veggies. The kick comes from a blend of peppers, chilies, peanuts, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.
Peking duck: A Bejing delicacy in which cooks pump air between a duck's skin and flesh before covering the bird in honey, hanging in to dry, and roasting it until the skin is crispy. The skin—the centerpiece of the dish—is served with pancakes or steamed buns, and the meat is served afterward.
While You're In the Neighborhood
Before: Shop at the trendy Eden & Eden (560 Jackson Street), which carries new and vintage women's designs.
After: Sip an afterdinner cocktail at Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus Avenue) while enjoying live jazz.