Four Kings - San Francisco Chinatown

This was one of the better meals I’ve had in - i don’t know, ever? Ages, at least, and not ridiculously expensive. First i want to say bravo to these young folk, revitalizing SF’s Chinatown. It wasn’t just that every dish was top notch, it was that every single bite was truly exhilarating.

When seated, you’re provided with sweet/salty peanuts and smashed cukes. Great start - the peanuts were addictive. My dining companion ordered a bottle of Hakurakusei “The Connoisseur” Tokubetsu Junmai. I know next to nothing about Junmai, but it was light, fruity, and went well with everything.

We also got the sichuan potatoes - those crispy/half-raw shoestrings heavily flavored with sesame oil and sichuan peppercorns, but here there was a little more umami going on here. A great rendition.

Next, a dish of chili crisp pig head, which turned out to be like slightly thicker cut jamon Iberico to me, luscious without being cloying, with a slightly crunchy edge, and served with some greens and mushrooms in a gingery/garlicky dressing. The dish was elegant, and the flavors and textures just wowed me.

We ordered their signature dish, the squab. I failed to ask the method of its preparation, but it was hanging - air drying, presumably - when we got there, and we’d been told that they do sell out at times. Luckily, they still had plenty by the time of our reservation. I’m also assuming they’re prepared something like the ducks you see in so many Chinatown storefronts. But I should have asked.

The meat on this bird was juicy, flavorful, with incredibly crispy skin. I did not discern any five-spice flavor, but maybe I’m misremembering. it came with a wedge of lemon and a tiny bowl of heavenly ground sichuan peppercorn for dusting at your discretion.

There was plenty of meat on the bird for two of us to share, and not wanting anything to go to waste, we did our best at at least biting into every part - including the skinny little neck and skull. I did feel like quite the barbarian, but it was all simply scrumptious, and I would have been happy with a whole one to myself.

our last dish was the mapo spaghetti, another stand-out.

This was like eating the best old-school Italian meat sauce with perfectly al dente spaghetti, but with ma la - I was amazed at the echos of both cuisines I kept tasting as I plowed through the dish. That said, there were plenty of leftovers to take home, as we were quite full by then.

Our tab came out to something like $170 - and that’s with the $45 squab and the $54 junmai.

Service was friendly, cheery, and you could just tell everyone was happy to be there. I’m hoping it doesn’t get a Bib Gourmand just yet, as I want to go back soon and try everything. The menu looks deceptively small, but there are a lot of exciting options - XO escargot with milkbread! Ginger scallion cold cut chicken! Scallop vermicelli! Xinjian lamb skewer! Black bean clams! I want to try them all!


Looks great! Thanks for the report. I’m kind of hoping this place will be a bit like LA’s Pearl River Deli or Needle (both of which have closed recently).


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Fried, maybe?:thinking:

Da wife loves squab this way. The bird is roasted first then deep fried to a crispy finish to order.

She gets two from her favorite stand almost every day whenever we stay in Mongkok in Hong Kong. Thankfully, not $45/ea. :slight_smile:


I think to finish off the squab the only way is to be a barbarian. Thanks for the report!

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I’d like to preface this by saying that we’ve enjoyed numerous fantastic Cantonese culinary adventures in Hong Kong - perhaps we didn’t order correctly but our experience was a bit uneven.

While the service and atmosphere were exceptional, a few dishes - namely the salt and pepper squid skewer (just fine), squash croquettes w/ salted egg (didn’t really come together), and steamed eggs (unbalanced salty mess), didn’t quite meet our expectations.

The tomato cheese pork chop rice had a good cut of pork, but it didn’t come together like renditions I’ve had in Hong Kong (or even the now closed Ken Kee Cafe

We did however really enjoy the XO escargot with milk bread and the huckleberry silken tofu.


maybe! do they typically hang it after it’s fried? lucky wife!

oh no! well i’ve never been to Hong Kong, so… perhaps I got lucky with my choice in dishes. and I’ve not tried a lot of Cantonese dishes other than the more commonly known ones in my lifetime either. too bad! those salted croquettes look great.

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i just saw an IG video on FB of someone who went - 7 days dry aged and then fried to order.


Da wife’s go to pigeon purveyor is a HK local’s roasty joint. The birds are braised, then hung to air dry. Skin comes deep fried to a perfect mahogany crisp when ordered.

The Shatin area in HK is famous for their pigeon prep. The Lung Wah Hotel in Shatin has long been the standard.

Theirs is a larger bird, and finished in the oven. While very good, we like the cheaper street version just as much.

We’ll have to try Four Kings’ version and see how it compares. :wink:


they all look so luscious…