After a little over a year in business, Brandon Jew has settled into the first floor of his historic Chinatown restaurant space, Mister Jiu’s. Now the chef is in expansion mode, plotting an upstairs bar and lounge space, and a banquet area geared toward private events. With permits in place, a bit more fundraising to do, and a contractor to be selected this week, Jew hopes to start construction soon, opening “Mister Jiu’s phase two” by the end of the year.
With its own kitchen and bar space, the experience upstairs (and perhaps the menu), will be different from the one downstairs. The name could be distinct, too, depending on choices like whether to provide a separate entrance. And while Mister Jiu’s downstairs bar functions as a first stop on the way to the dining room or a space for walk in diners, the upstairs lounge will offer a space to linger, and allow bar manager Danny Louie to experiment with new cocktails. In the past, Jew had considered using the upstairs space for dim sum service — now he thinks dim sum would be served downstairs, and not until the upstairs space is finished.
“It was always a banquet room, a place that people celebrated in,” Jew recalls of the upstairs space: In the 1880s, the restaurant opened as the Hang Far Low, and for the 50 years or so before Mister Jiu’s, it was the Four Seas. “My uncle got married up there, we had a lot of celebrations here as a kid. We want to reopen it as a place to have those kinds of celebrations.”
While excavating the space, Jew and team have noted historic aspects like murals and lotus light fixtures they plans to keep. Other finds, which the chef will only hint at, could also be repurposed and reincorporated into the restaurant, he says.
Just six months after opening, in October, Mister Jiu’s earned a Michelin star. But far from calling itself a finished product, the restaurant made a major change to its menu, switching from a banquet-style, fixed price ordering system to a la carte dining. “I’m trying to be a little patient,” Jew says — he had originally hoped to open the upstairs area at the same time as the downstairs, for example, but ended up taking it more slowly. “Chinese food has been around a long time... sometimes, a little more time can make the vision a little stronger.”