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Goodbye Betelnut. Hello, Hutong.

Carolyn Alburger | March 11, 2013 | Story Restaurants

A tear begins to collect in Alex Ong’s eye as he discusses Betelnut’s 18 years, the restaurant’s final night, and the cooks who have stuck with him for almost a decade. "People say thank you for so many amazing years," says Ong. "But Betelnut made me the chef that I am. It's hard to let that go." But the tear soon dissolves into a twinkle of excitement, as Ong describes Hutong, the new incarnation of the Betelnut space, which opens tonight at 2030 Union St in Cow Hollow.

Hutongs are the maze-like back alleys in Beijing that form a bustling community hidden away from the city’s main drags. On a recent trip to Asia, Ong and his partners discovered some exciting food there that inspires the menu at Hutong, which weaves together the signature flavors of Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Vietnam while sticking to Ong’s Californian cooking ideals. The décor continues the theme with graffiti by Tim the Optimist, ripped posters custom designed by Andy Lopez, and Asian calligraphy zig-zagging across the back dining room to create a street vibe indoors. Banksy prints keep the street-art feeling going in the front dining area. (Check it out here.)

The cocktail program is also entirely new. “Less tiki and more classic,” as managing partner Robert Wellbeloved says. There are two drinks named after books by SF food icon Cecilia Chiang: 7th Daughter (Nolet gin, lillet, crème de violette, lemon, soda), and Mandarin Way (house-infused vodka, seasonal fruit, lemon, honey). All the menus should go live on the Betelnut website later this week, when it morphs into a new page for Hutong.

Hutong will be open for dinner Monday through Thursday, and for lunch as well on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In a little over a month, Ong will add brunch to his bag of tricks. Take some time to digest all the food porn above, and then have a first look at the full menu’s debut below.

Kampachi sashimi, chive oil, lemon ponzu $12
Sea bream, radish, mizuna, chili-lemon soy $12
Ahi tuna, apple-mustard sauce, shiso $14
Tombo tuna, tobiko, limu, creamy wasabi $12.50
Oysters, sriracha-lemon ice $1.50 each

Small plates
Chicken livers, onions, black pepper sauce $6.50
Swordfish, “fierce” crabmeat $11.88
Chicken wings, Jalan Alor style $8.50
Red-cooked pork belly, aged vinegar glaze $9.00
Lamb belly, jalapeno vinegar $8.88
Glazed short ribs with garlic and Thai basil $7.25

Roasted beets, red baby chard, salted plum vinaigrette, cardamom yogurt $8.88
Kale, Asian pears, cucumbers, roasted peppers, avocado, lime-mustard dressing $8.88
Arugula, broccoli, napa cabbage, crispy yams, honey-5-spice vinaigrette $8.88
Cress, roast chicken, spiced pumpkin seeds, crispy chicken cracklings, Serrano-lime dressing $8.88
Spinach, grilled tamari tofu, toasted sesame dressing, roasted broad beans $8.88

Grill & Oven
Whole gulf prawns, bacon & chili jam $3.74/piece
Red tofu marinated half chicken, pickled cabbage $13
Citrus brined Niman Ranch pork rib chop, pickled cabbage, and cucumber $12
Oxtail hotpot, mizuna, whole egg, shiitake and king trumpet mushrooms $15
Naan, black garlic puree, paneer, tatsoi salad $6.88
Roti canai, curry and raita $6

Noodles & Sides
Stone pot noodles, roasted onion puree, Surryano ham, crispy anchovies, egg yolk $10.88
Hand cut egg noodles, 5-spice wild boar, garlic chives, Szechuan pepper $6.88
Twice cooked Chinese bacon, chive flowers, Hunan chiles $6.88
Braised collard greens, preserved mustard greens, garlic, ginger, ham hocks $7.00
Asparagus, garlic, chili, soy sauce $7.25
Szechuan green beans $6.50
Fried oyster mushrooms, lemon $6.88
Hutong fried rice, basil, shrimp, soy and eggs $6.25
Steamed rice $2

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