San Francisco is a melting pot – rich in history, but most known for it’s day in the Grateful Dead sun. Today, however, the city is much more intricately woven than it was during the time of the flower child. San Francisco has grown up. Similar to the first 50 years of a human’s life, the city of San Francisco has also gone through the natural stages of development. The 70’s were about experimentation. The 80’s and 90’s were about quick fixes and come downs. The 2000’s? A time of working hard to get it right. And now… the city is coming into it’s own. It’s learning how to dance in harmony with two seemingly opposing municipal railways of thought. San Francisco is now in a time where honoring the values of those who laid the city’s original structure mold perfectly together with the ability to embrace what’s next. And there’s no place in the city that’s doing that better than SOMA’s FANG.

Owned and operated by the locally famous family of the same name, FANG is the family’s second restaurant venture. Okay, perhaps locally famous is a bit pretentious, but the family is certainly recognized by the city’s ‘foodie’ scenesters. Their first restaurant, House of Nanking or ‘HONK’ , opened back in ’88 and has been going strong every since. Serving home-style Cantonese cuisine in North Beach, owner and chef Peter Fang made a big impression with not only his food, but by being true to his culture and background in every aspect of the establishment. People fell in love with HONK’s lively atmosphere just as much as they did with the food. And while HONK was gaining props in dining room, Peter’s young daughter Kathy Fang was gaining insight in the kitchen.

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HONK located in North Beach/Chinatown, SF
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Kathy and Peter Fang
By now you can probably see where this is going. Kathy Fang grew up watching her parents run HONK, she cultivated a passion for cooking, and then … you guessed it, she went on to one day open her own Chinese restaurant, FANG with the help of her father. But what you don’t want to overlook is what happened in between. Because just like any good coming-of-age story (or pork dumpling) – the meat is in the middle. See, here’s what you missed. Post childhood Kathy Fang didn’t stay in San Francisco. And she didn’t stay cooking either. In her 20’s she took off to find her own path. And what she found was a different world than the one she knew back home in the kitchen at HONK. Fang moved to Los Angeles where she studied operations management and entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California after which she went on to hold positions at Merrill Lynch and Johnson and Johnson. Yet as savvy as she found herself to be on the business end of things, Fang never could shake her inherited passion for cooking. In 2006, she went off again – this time to the prestigious Le Courdon Bleu Culinary School where she received formal training and broadened her taste buds.

So now we arrive at FANG. Packing up once more, this time to come home to San Francisco, Kathy Fang enlisted the help of her father to open a new restaurant in the city. Through combing the right ingredients -her Cantonese culture, her business smarts, and her undeniable talent for cooking – together Kathy and Peter opened FANG in 2009 in the city’s SOMA district.

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A look into FANG’s moody ambiance
It might be obvious at this point to tell you that the Chinese restaurant isn’t exactly traditional. Sure, there’s egg rolls, but they’re garnished with pickled cabbage. And of course there’s sesame chicken… unexpectedly paired with sweet potatoes. And what about this – Salted pork belly with Japanese pumpkin, and wok tossed with garlic, scallions and chili? So no, FANG doesn’t fit a mold, but instead it exists in it’s own category altogether. And the ingredients? Mostly locally bought in Chinatown.

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The menu at FANG is ever evolving to be avant garde and seasonal
With her education background in operations management, there’s no doubt that Kathy Fang knows how to run a tight ship, but she also remembers what worked about her parent’s restaurant HONK. It was the lively atmosphere and the personal touch that made it special. So at any given day, at any given time, you can probably find Kathy or Peter – not back in the kitchen or the office – but out on the floor interacting with the guests. The Fang family recommends you order family style too – letting them create for you a nice selection of appetizers, entrees and veggie side dishes so that you can bond while you eat like most Asian families do. And even if it’s just you alone, sneaking in for a quick bite at lunch, Kathy will most likely come to your table, ask you what you’re craving and insist she put together something fresh, seasonal, and special for you. Something off menu. Something personal.

The dining room at FANG appears elegant but the vibe is ultra relaxed and social.
The dining room at FANG appears elegant but the vibe is ultra relaxed and social.
Like the city of San Francisco itself, FANG is a blend. But not a chaotic blend. It’s harmonious. Had Kathy tried opening a restaurant at an earlier age, it probably would’ve fell through. It would’ve been experimentation. It would’ve been quick fixes and come downs. Hard work, but not quite right. What’s on the money about FANG is it’s ability to show tribute to it’s history while being brave enough to embrace a new way of doing things. In this way, FANG is a true icon and reflection of everything San Francisco stands for. To experience it for yourself head to 660 Howard St. @3rd or visit www.fangrestaurant.com

Also visit Kathy Fang’s food, travel, and recipe blog at www.myfangalicious.com

By: Cheri Cola

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