What to order and how to get into Four Kings, SF’s hottest restaurant right now

Credit: Pete Lee
Stir-fried string beans on a white plate at San Francisco restaurant Four Kings

When Four Kings swung open in March in Chinatown, it instantly became the reservation to chase in San Francisco.

In case you’ve been living under a table, here’s a refresher on why it’s the hottest place in the city right now: It’s the first restaurant from chef buddies Franky Ho and Mike Long, who met at MICHELIN-starred Mister Jiu’s, and their partners Millie Boonkokua and Lucy Li, running front of house and finances, respectively. 

They’re part of a new wave of young chefs reimagining Cantonese food in SF, home to some of the most historic Cantonese restaurants in the country. At Four Kings, Ho and Long are bringing their fine-dining chops and putting them to use in a more casual setting—the kind of place where they like to eat, drink, and hang out with friends. Li says the best way to think about the restaurant is like a Japanese izakaya, except this one’s celebrating Chinese food.

And the restaurant is clearly making waves because every local website, blogger, and TikToker has raved about the opening; even San Francisco Chronicle critic Mackenzie Chung Fegan, whose family owns a historic restaurant in Chinatown, called it a “rowdy good time.”

With all that buzz, it might feel like climbing a mountain trying to snag a reservation, but we have the inside scoop on how to get in and what to order to have the best night at Four Kings.

What to order

Snap peas with tofu dressing

This sweet and crunchy snap pea creation has become a sleeper hit on the menu. | Credit: Pete Lee

Cool, sweet, and crunchy, the snap peas are almost like a palate cleanser before you dive into the more heavily seasoned dishes on the menu. They’re cloaked in a creamy tofu dressing and sprinkled with citrus zest. “The snap peas are definitely a sleeper hit,” Li says. “It’s so unassuming in a menu of heavy hitters.”

Salted egg squash croquette 

The croquettes are a nod to a Cantonese dim sum staple. | Credit: Pete Lee

Keeping true to its izakaya vibes, you’ll find this croquette of sweet and fluffy kabocha squash that’s deep-fried until gloriously golden. The Cantonese twist is the custardy yolk filling inside and egg shavings on top. “It’s kind of reminiscent of the salted egg bun in Cantonese dim sum,” Li says.

Steak chow fun 

Four Kings’s chow fun goes big on steak. | Credit: Pete Lee

This take on the Chinese American classic has fresh wheat noodles from Chinatown and serious chunks of steak—you won’t find any skimpy slices in this one—all tossed together in a wok. A fistful of pickled onions add color and crunch. “Chow fun is my personal favorite,” Li says. 

Fried squab 

Your most difficult decision might be big meats—squab or steak? For a first visit, Li says go for the squab. It takes a full week to cure, dry age, smoke, and deep fry, rendering rich meat and crisp skin. Served medium with the claws and beak intact, it’s a feast fit for a Cantonese banquet. 

Chinese almond milk highball

Highballs are the stars of the drinks menu here, and they’re made with sochu, so they’re on the lighter side. Chinese almond milk has an almost floral flavor, and you’ll find it a refreshing sidekick to all the savory dishes on the menu, Li says.

Blueberry hot silken tofu 

As a sweet and simple Cantonese dessert, silken tofu is most often served in ginger syrup. “It’s personally nostalgic for me,” Li says. “In my village in China, I could hear the tofu vendors outside yelling.” Embracing California, you’ll find the version at Four Kings topped with a tart blueberry compote.

Four Kings has become SF’s hottest restaurant since opening in March. | Credit: Pete Lee

How to finally get in

The Four Kings team, from left to right: Franky Ho, Millie Boonkokua, Mike Long, and Lucy Li. Credit: Pete Lee

Many diners stay up until midnight on OpenTable, when reservations go live for 3 weeks in advance. The earlier times get scooped up fastest, so consider late-night dining after 9 pm. You can try walking in; Li recommends arriving at 5 pm to snag the first spot at 6 pm. Better still, put your name down, go get a mai tai at Li Po Lounge, and swing back for when tables start to turn around 8 pm. Either way, this is a restaurant you’ll want to go with a small group since it’s a cozy space with mostly counter seats and two tops.

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. She was the deputy editor at Eater SF and has written for The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Bon Appétit, among other places. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.

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