China Live, a Chinese and Taiwanese food hall, opened in San Francisco on March 1 after three years of planning by veteran restaurateur George Chen and his partner Cindy Wong-Chen. The $20 million, 30,000-square-foot project features pantry items and tableware that is unique in the United States as well as a stunning array of Chinese food.
The food hall has been referenced as the Chinese version of Mario Batelli’s Eataly. China Live features a retail section with educational components, tea and pastry café, flower mart, full bar and fine dining restaurant, according to Eater San Francisco.
The Retail Market, which encompasses half of the first floor, offers tableware, kitchenware, pantry items and fresh produce. Many of the items Chen and Wong-Chen curated for the space have never been seen in the United States as well as items that were commissioned solely for China Live. The partners turned to Sur La Table CEO Kathy Tierney; Bi-Rite alum Allison Ball who had a hand in the curation of domestic pantry goods, according to Eater. Chen wanted to focus on products that could not be found at other retailers or online.
The display area showcases about 1,000 different items, ranging from $10 to $500. Samples of products available include: porcelain glazed in Malaysia and China; custom tea pots, sets and to-go cups; woks; a range of soy sauces, including organic black bean soy and white soya essence; extra virgin chamilia tea oil and tea sourced directly from Chinese farmers, including Chen’s own blend of Eight Treasure tea with dried dragon eye fruit, dried jujubes, Hawthorne, rose, lotus seeds, goji berry, chrysanthemum, rock sugar and jasmine.
The retail area will also host tastings and classes for traditional Chinese cooking techniques. “It’s a very immersive, high-touch retail experience. I want people to learn about Chinese products at their core,” Chen said in the Eater article. “Just like with any cuisine, it starts with ingredients. If you don’t understand the ingredients, then the cuisine is scary. So if you can taste things and understand products, it’s not so scary.”
China Live’s second and third floors, which are expected to open in the coming months, will feature more restaurants and cocktail bars as well as a private events space.