In what seems like a never-ending list of restaurant closures in the last year, the often crowded Out the Door in Pacific Heights just announced that their once-temporary closure is now permanent. Out the Door diners who have been deprived of fanciful iterations of Vietnamese classics might find solace in the form of a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond, Lily on Clement.
Lily quietly opened its doors in the middle of San Francisco's coronavirus shut down with creative to-go items like their Phở Bò, a Vietnamese take on the French dip that comes with a roast beef bánh mì and cup of hot phở for dipping, or their duck confit egg roll that's accompanied by a Chinese spicy mustard sauce.
Just a few weeks ago, their dine-in operations began, and patrons who visit will find what might be one of the most eye-catching new restaurants to emerge since the start of the pandemic. Lily houses a small dining area with a relatively large counter that overlooks the open-concept kitchen, eerily reminiscent of the long counter at Out the Door. The décor, however, is creative and more ornate — including everything Vietnamese inspired from the lamp shades to the wall coverings, but with a modern twist.
Lily's head chef Rob Lam is a Vietnamese-born industry veteran who is the chef-owner of Perle in Oakland, but has also been involved with Butterfly, Crooked City Ciders, Town Square Eats, Social Kitchen, and Eastside West, among others. In fact, Rob was even named a “Rising Star Chef” by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003.
Chef Lam said of his newest endeavor, "We wanted to bring a level of Vietnamese food to the neighborhood that was authentic, delicious and detailed. Our goal was to create a space for our community to enjoy what real Vietnamese food means to us. To casually exceed our customers expectations has really been a foundation of what we are trying to accomplish here."
Lily joins a laundry list of new-ish restaurants which have opened in the Richmond in recent years, causing some to claim that the area might become the next great culinary destination of San Francisco.
Lily is just a few doors down from the Michelin-starred sushi destination Wako, which has gained notoriety for their excellent omakase service. Aziza, from world-renowned chef Mourad Lahlou, rose from the dead in late 2019 at their 22nd Avenue location after a three-year hiatus. And one block over from Aziza, you can find Dragon Beaux and their unique, multicolored Shanghai soup dumplings that came into existence a few years earlier.
Pearl 6101 and Violet's, both Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants, serve up some genuinely delicious Mediterranean and modern American fare, respectively. Further out and closer to Ocean Beach, Cassava's New American cuisine still flies under the radar, despite a dinner menu that does not disappoint.
The Richmond is also home to some of the best affordable eats SF has to offer (despite the loose definition of 'affordable' in this city), with consistent lines at places like Good Luck Dim Sum, Burma Super Star, Cafe Bunn Mi, and Arsicault which was named the best bakery in America by Bon Appetit in 2016. If 'San Francisco-style pizza' is your thing, two of the top pizza spots in SF lie within a few blocks of each other. Fiorella is the sister restaurant of Violet's, whereas Pizzetta 211 is the tiny, hole-in-the-wall associated with Pearl 6101. These are just a small sample of the growing and existing food scene in the Richmond District, and I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fact that that the area is packed full of other amazing options.
Lily can be found at 225 Clement Street in the Inner Richmond and accepts reservations via their website and Tock or over the phone at (415) 742-5285.