Well, now here's something you don't see happen with Yelpers: after receiving a middle of the road, two-star review from Chronicle Food Critic Michael Bauer, Asian street fare newcomer Hutong will quietly be reverting back to its previous, more upscale incarnation Betelnut. The Hutong concept, which ditched a few of Bauer's favorite menu items from the 20-year-old restaurant and gave it a graffiti-inspired makeover, lasted a whole two months.
Sometime between dinner service tonight and opening tomorrow, the staff at the Union Street restaurant will start taking reservations as Betelnut. Because the conversion only took a week the first time around, Bill Higgins of Real Restaurants group, tells Inside Scoop it shouldn't take too long to ditch the street art themed-interior that the Chronicle handed 1.5 stars for atmosphere and return to Betelnut's dim red paper lantern lighting scheme. ("Hutong," we should note, translates to "a small narrow street or alley.")
As for the menu, it will be a mash-up of Betelnut favorites and new winners that chef Alexander Ong cooked up for Hutong. Although Bauer gave the food 2.5 stars in this weekend's review, he made it a point to weep over missing dishes like Ceclia's minced chicken in lettuce cups, the beggar's chicken and the fried calamari. So, expect those to return just as soon as the restaurant can print up a new set of menus.
As for why the hasty change didn't work out: "We took a risk,” Higgins told Inside Scoop. “The correct thing to do is listen to what everyone, not just Michael Bauer, was saying. Betelnut is something that people know and love. Hopefully people will come and try some of the newer things, too.” Or, in other words, they got a little overzealous with the whole "street food" label.