On Tuesday, November 22, Liholiho Yacht Club will make its debut for the third time — after originally opening on Lower Nob Hill in early 2015, pivoting in the pandemic to take over the 18th Street space that had housed a defunct sister restaurant, and now finally returning to its original home.
It's been a long road to getting back open for Liholiho Yacht Club. Much like another popular restaurant that just reopened, Delfina, it hasn't served a meal in its proper home space since March 2020. After briefly serving takeout in mid 2020 and early 2021, chef/partner Ravi Kapur and his team decided to take over the space that had been home to the newer Dear Inga, which had only just opened in the fall of 2019 and didn't survive.
The space on 18th Street near Valencia, originally built out for Farina two decades ago, allowed for ample outdoor seating as the industry continued to grapple with lengthy pandemic restrictions. And in the bustling Mission, it has since made way for a new sister concept, Good Good Culture Club, which had its debut just after the new year in 2022.
One can see the pan-Asian DNA of Liholiho in the new restaurant — it's under the helm of chef Kevin Keovanphang with Kapur and longtime Liholiho chef Brett Shaw overseeing as well — and its flavors are less Hawaiian-inflected and a bit more Southeast Asian.
But now it's time for Kapur and Shaw to bring back the very popular Liholiho Yacht Club at 871 Sutter Street, with signature dishes like the tuna poke on nori chips, and hopefully his off-menu homemade Spam and excellent, sticky ribs with kimchi-chili sauce — the menu is still being finalized, so we can't know for sure. The Chronicle reports on some new menu items, like a swordfish katsu with pickles, and duck liver mousse on banana bread with jalapeño marmalade. There's also a dish of ukoy-style vegetable fritters with a creamy dipping sauce.
Chef Edwin Bayone III (who formerly worked in the kitchen at the Inner Sunset's um.ma) is the new sous-chef, per the Chronicle. And the beverage director is now Sean Kelley, who started off as a bartender when Liholiho opened almost eight years ago.
"We’re always pushing on texture and layering of flavors and thinking about how things build in a dish but sit with you," Kapur tells the Chronicle. He adds that the new menu reflects the chefs' "collective voices," and "The flavor profiles are still rooted in heritage-driven cuisine — the experiences and the people and the cultures that we’re connected to and that inform us."
Kapur, who was born and raised in Oahu, worked his way up in SF kitchens and eventually became chef de cuisine at Boulevard before becoming the original executive chef at Prospect. He left Prospect in 2013 to join what he called "a gypsy roving circuit" of pop-up chefs around town, launching Liholiho Yacht Club as a pop-up at the former Citizen's Band in SoMa and at State Bird Provisions. The brick and mortar Liholiho came together with help from Nopa partners Jeff Hanak and Allyson Jossel, opening in 2015 — Jossel left to pursue other ventures not long after. Kapur's wife, April Storm, is now a partner as well as the restaurant group's communications director.
The name Liholiho Yacht Club has its roots in Kapur's family. As Kapur explained, "Back in Hawaii in the early 80's The Kealoha uncles would race Hobie Cats. They threw parties ('pop ups') to pay for their supplies. They would go to the beach and throw a party, fire up the grill, ice down the beer, and get a band to play... They realized they needed a name for their 'organization' and the brothers who lived on Liholiho street decided to name it Liholiho Yacht Club."
Returning fans will notice some tweaks to the dining room at Liholiho, which has been undergoing a remodel for months now. The layout is basically the same, but booth seating now has leather cushioning on it, and there is some new, wavy, patterned mural work on the walls by Oakland muralist Kalani Ware.
Also, we have an update on the swank downstairs space, Louie's Gen-Gen Room, which as of our last report had no plans for reopening. Per the team, it's now going to open in early 2023 with a new cocktail list by Kelley — but there's no word on whether the savory waffles and crudos are coming back as well.
For those who have grown weary with QR-code ordering — which has become a permanent fixture at a number of restaurants around town including Good Good Culture Club — you can rest assured that Liholiho Yacht Club will be returning with the traditional model of servers taking orders.
The reservation books are not yet open, but you can find them here when they do. The official opening is November 22, following some friends-and-family events.