It’s rare that a restaurant invites me in as a guest twice in less than three months. And even rarer that I find a reason to accept a second invitation like that.
In August, I dined outside at JiuBa, the bar-lounge that’s part of the opulent iChina restaurant that opened last year Westfield Valley Fair. Executive Chef Eddie Lam, former corporate executive chef at Straits Management Group, oversaw the expansive high-end Chinese menu at the restaurant and the much smaller menu at the bar-lounge.
However, a month later, he departed and a new culinary team took over: Chef Zhineng Chen, former North America corporate chef for the Hakkasan Group, whose forte is Cantonese cuisine; Chef Xia An He, who specializes in dim sum; and consulting Pastry Chef Graham Hornigold, who has worked at the Mandarin Oriental and the Lanesborough hotels in London.
Now, there’s a brand new menu. And it’s the same one whether you dine at iChina or at JiuBa. So, last week, I again dined outside at JiuBa, but on dishes that were all new for the most part.
With the evenings turning chilly now, just note that the outdoor dining area is not equipped with heaters. So, you’ll definitely want to dress in warm layers. There are lights on the building that shine down on the outside tables, so you won’t be dining in the dark. The tables are quite small, though, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself balancing a dish or two on the planter wall, as we resorted to at times.
Last summer, the incredibly splashy iChina opened its doors in the Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an air of Vegas to this Santa Clara-San Jose shopping center.
Standing two stories tall, sporting a virtual-reality private dining room with projection screens all around, and dripping with sparkly, shiny jade-hued glass and gold accents everywhere, this restaurant is a true sight to behold.
If you’re like me, though, and limiting yourself to dining outside at the moment, the bad news is that iChina, which means “love China” in Mandarin, offers only indoor dining.
However, its first-floor bar and lounge, JiuBa, does have outdoor seating.
JiuBa, which means “bar” in Mandarin, serves a much smaller menu. However, it is definitely possible to compose a full and satisfying dinner from it, as I found when I was invited in as a guest last week.
The bar inside shares the same opulent look as the rest of the restaurant, as if an enormous jade-emerald-diamond ring was the inspiration.
Even the all-gender bathroom looks as if it belongs in a modern-day Chinese palace.
The place has been hopping since it debuted. So much so that the mall even turned over to the restaurant an additional outdoor dining area a few steps away that had been just extra public space before. The restaurant now opens up that seating area on weekends when it gets extra busy.
Even on weekdays, though, there’s still plenty of outdoor dining, as the 7,400-square-foot restaurant is lined with floor-to-ceiling garage doors that can be opened up entirely. The tables on the perimeter also have woven mechanized blinds that can go up entirely or be let down to shield from the sun.
That’s where I sat when I was invited in as a guest last week, enjoying a nice breeze on a balmy night. After more than a year of cooking at home or getting takeout, I’ve only dined outside at about eight places in the past two months. I will say that King’s is the only one I’ve encountered so far where not everyone on staff was masked. As of today, mask wearing indoors is only recommended, not mandated, but if you’re the very cautious type, that may be a consideration.
This is the first Northern California outpost of the Southern California restaurant chain that’s owned by King’s Seafood Company. It operates a dozen restaurant concepts in California, Arizona, and Nevada.