From the 1800s to 1960, in San Francisco’s Chinatown, restaurant Hang Far Low was a popular spot for Chinese banquets and big family celebrations. When it changed names and became Four Seas Restaurant, it kept up that tradition. And now chef Brandon Jew is breathing new life into the storied restaurant as Mister Jiu’s. A five-dish banquet menu of items big on both California and Chinese roots is served family style—starters such as sizzling rice soup or Dungeness crab custard; salads of dry-aged beef tartare with pickled ramps and sprouted mung beans; a rice noodle roll, cheong fun, with sea urchin; vegetables like baby bok choy with scallop and prosciutto in XO sauce; and entrées like roasted quail with sticky rice, jujube, and sorrel.
The name Jew is not exactly a traditional Chinese one, and Brandon Jew believes that an immigration official back in his grandparents’ day may have distorted the spelling from Jiu, hence his recapturing of the name in his restaurant. A native San Franciscan, Jew spent many a day shopping in Chinatown with his grandmother for ingredients for family meals. But he also did plenty of cooking that had nothing to do with his Chinese heritage.
After graduating from the University of California Irvine with a degree in biology, Jew turned to his passion for cooking, spending the better part of a year in Bologna, Italy. Returning to San Francisco, he joined the kitchen of chef Judy Rodgers at Zuni Café, learned butchery at Quince with chef Michael Tusk, then hit Shanghai to get back to his Chinese roots. In 2010, he joined Bar Agricole as the chef and got rave reviews for his take on California cooking.
At Mister Jiu’s, Jew combines his worldview of cooking with a rule taken strictly out of his Chinese grandmother’s book: When a meal is well prepared and you’re with people you like, you feel good. And that, says Jew, is what his job is all about.