Friday, August 2, 2013

Lap Cheong and Latte -- Only at iCafe

Guangzhou King & King (L) becomes iCafe (R)

Guangzhou King & King was one of the last two places in San Francisco Chinatown offering house-made Chinese sausage for retail sale, so I was somewhat dismayed when it appeared to have morphed into a coffee shop, iCafe, even though it was serving "the best coffee in Chinatown." To tell the truth I'd not often been in the market for lap cheong (Chinese sausage), but it was comforting to walk by and see the strings of various types of Lap Cheong hanging at the back of the store. It would be sad to see it go. Fortunately, it was not so. A Twitter follower who saw the Instagram I posted pointed out that the Chinese sign on iCafe mentioned BBQ, so I decided further research was in order.

Sure enough, I discovered when I returned early enough in the day to tolerate some caffeine, several varieties of house-made lap cheong were on display, laid out horizontally in glass cases behind the counter, which was adorned with pastry cases.  It was just a "remodel," said the owner with a grin.

Lap cheong can be see laid out behind the coiunter
iCafe offers a full menu of coffee and tea trinks including espresso drinks, Vietnamese iced coffee, Hong Kong Milk Tea and even the peculiar Hong Kong mix of coffee and tea, as well as hot chocolate and ovaltine, but blessedly, NO bubble tea drinks. There are also a variety of pastries and packaged munchies to accompany your drink.

A menu that would look at home in Hong Kong

To complete the transformation of a Chinese charcuterie into a Western cafe a la Hong Kong, where is artwork on the wall for sale by an artist named Nate1, a friend of the owners.  Fittingly, the art work even included a bit of lap cheong art.

Lap cheong art.
As I sipped a tasty latte and pondered the metamorphosis, it all began to make sense to me.  The storefront had never been used as a work space, and the goods on offer were mainly strung up behind the counter, leaving a lot of unused space. The loyal sausage customers were going to wade through whatever was in their way to score their handmade lap cheong, and any additional revenue from a coffe shop would be gravy, as it were. And, I suspect, there was another good reason for the enterprise. Nobo, half of the couple that owns the establishment is as friendly and garrulous as an Irish bartender, and probably happy to have some ears to bend to get him through the day. He, incidentally, not only makes the lap cheong, and, on this day, the coffee drinks, but also bakes the pastries, I was told.

Butcher, baker and latte maker Nobo of iCafe
Incidentally, I didn't get to meet Nobo's partner Diana, who, unfortunately, was recuperating from an illness. According to the scattering of Yelp reviews iCafe has garnered in its short existence, Diana is every bit as friendly as Nobo. Stop by for some coffee and conversation, and grab some artisanal lap cheong to take home.

iCafe is at 57 Walter U. Lum Place, jsut off Washington, on the backside of Portsmouth Square

1 comment:

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