Chinatown’s historic Trademark building and its long-running restaurant Cathay House (1939 - 2018) are coming back to life under new management — but not, as previously reported, the team behind Straits restaurant in San Jose, the Yeo Group.
“The Chris Yeo group is no longer involved with the Cathay House Project,” Julian Yeo tells Eater SF.
Instead, the new owners are a group of locals with a variety of backgrounds, and they’re getting help from influential dim sum restaurant Koi Palace, who are consulting partners on the project. The building’s first component, quick-service Dim Sum Corner on the ground floor, has been open for the past few weeks at 601 Grant Avenue, steaming classics like siu mai and har gow. They’re also serving trendy boba teas like fruit tea, cheese tea, and crystal boba (with white gelatin pearls instead of the more common tapioca balls).
Next up: Reviving Cathay House. The team will keep the name and the iconic circular bar, while bringing the space up to code, and hopefully returning it to its former glory. The revamped Cathay House could open as soon as this summer.
“Dim sum should be hot,” declares managing partner Jaynry Mak, a managing partner of the new business. That’s why Dim Sum Corner has eschewed carts, she says, and steams items to order instead.
An SF native, Mak grew on the west side of the city, but “every Sunday we would get dressed up and we’d come to Chinatown and have dim sum,” she recalls.
Mak is a lawyer and the chair of Chinatown’s Community Youth Center. A former politico, she ran for city supervisor in 2006 at just 29 years old (and during the race, was fined by the ethics commission for failing to report her ownership interest in real estate worth an estimated $6 million).
Her co-managing partner, Eric Chung, co-owns the Cat Club, a Folsom Street nightclub known for its ‘80s theme nights. Born in Hong Kong, Chung has lived in San Francisco since the 1970s. With Dim Sum Corner, his goal is simple:
“I think Chinatown needs a really good Dim Sum place,“ he says.
Koi Palace is sharing recipes and strategy with Dim Sum Corner and the new Cathay House. But on its own, it’s busy bringing more of the colorful dim sum popular at its Geary Street branch, Dragon Beaux, to another SF location: Ghirardelli Square, where the team is soon to open a restaurant called Palette.