Eight Tables by George Chen is a fine-dining Chinese tasting menu experience. The offer 3 menu options: 10- course and Chef’s Table 12-course menus are available Tuesday-Saturday; 7-course menu available Tuesday through Thursday. The experience takes its inspiration from Chinese chateaux dining, which represented the highest form of Chinese dining. Reservations can be made through OpenTable. I was able to secure a Chef’s Table seat (one seating a night), which is in the kitchen.
The restaurant is located just off Columbus Ave. and Vallejo St. down a gated alley in the North Beach/Chinatown area. There is valet parking attendant who lets you in, verifies your reservation and escorts you to the elevator that takes you to the restaurant. Upon arrival, you are given a hot towel to refresh oneself before being take to the table.
It turned out that I was the only one being seated in the kitchen for the evening. They told me I could get up and walk around the kitchen as I wished.
I was offered the wine list and beverage menus. In addition to wine pairings, they have by-the glass wines, bottles, large format bottles, cocktails and (after I asked) tea pairings.
I decided to order the Seedlip Citrus cocktail called Golden Slippers to start off. As part of the Chef’s Table menu, I was offered champagne. They rolled out the ice bucket with 4 options on ice. They selected to serve the Perrier-Jouet Blason rosé champagne NV. It was a very good choice.
The first course was a beautiful representation of nine essential flavors of Chinese cuisine. This was also a nice means to awaken one’s palate for the meal experience. From the top left: sweet was a jujube date with rice flour and stuffed with longan; salty was confit of rice with fish stock and poached abalone on top; sour was grilled pineapple with sweet and sour sauce and crispy pork skin with fat. From the middle left: bitter was summer squash with sesame, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms; tingly with sancho peppercorn, taro root and A5 wagyu beef fat; spicy was a tart with bell pepper, chicken, and chili oil. From the bottom left: aromatic was grains, tofu, nori and aromatic herbs; fresh was a scallop rosette; and smoked was a smoked smelt.
I opted for the tea pairings to have with my meal. The first of four was Dragonwell green tea.
The next course was called Four Happiness Caviar Dumpling. It was a dumpling wrapper mixed with beetroot around a filling of shrimp mousseline. The four toppings were Russian osetra golden caviar, trout roe, Day boat scallop, and Alaska sea urchin. Garnishes included micro-herbs and pickled root vegetables. I was provided with a hot towel for cleanup afterwards.
The next course, called Barbeque ‘Shao Kao’ featured 3 distinct components: Ibérico ham char siu, Kaluga caviar on crispy duck skin placed on a shrimp chip, and a suckling pig sandwich with white bread and pickled onion. To refresh the palate in between, the middle of the plate had Meyer lemon jelly and figs glazed with rose hips syrup.
This dish was Upside-down sizzling rice soup. Poached lobster topped the rice, and they poured lobster broth at the table. The garnishes included a little bottarga (salted and cured fish roe) and sea grapes. The flavor profile seemed a little flat, as I was anticipating more of a lobster flavor.The next tea pairing presented was oolong tea.The next dish was called The 8 Immortals. It was a totally vegetarian presentation, arranged to depict the Chinese character for 8. This was made up with winter melon, Ogo seagrass, taro, grilled radishes, black summer truffles, Romanesco broccoli, toasted figs, morels, snow pea shoots, and a yam mousse dusted with beetroot powder. Atop the center were shiitake mushrooms, battered and caramelized (sweet and super chewy in a good way for texture). The sauces on the platter were sweet and then spicy at the finish. Accompanying the dish in a bowl were spinach dumplings (like gnocchi) that were dressed with a slightly spiced chive sauce.
For the full write-up, click here.