R&G Lounge: Chinese Food at its Best

Tried and true, R&G Lounge in San Francisco is unanimously agreed upon as one of the top Chinese restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is Michelin Guide recommended, written about in numerous publications, and even featured in Anthony Bourdain’s (my hero’s) show No Reservations on the Travel Channel as a place to go while in the City.

Located at the edge of Chinatown in San Francisco, R&G is a completely modernized space that is smaller than led to believe from the outside. There are three levels – the upper “nicer” level, the ground floor level with tables behind the bar, and the lower “slumming it, maybe share tables with strangers” level. I personally like sitting downstairs since its less formal and sharing tables with strangers is nothing new to me. Maybe that’s how I’ll meet my future wife.

I usually visit R&G once a week (at least) during lunch since it’s only a ten minute walk from the financial district where my office is located. Without fail, my coworkers and I always order the lunch special beef (more on this later) and the hot & sour soup. It’s really quite a deal – the lunch special costs $7.50 and the soup is $1.50 (Mon, Wed, Fri only for soup). You can’t really beat that price for the quality and amount of food you’re getting.

A few tips for a successful lunch at R&G:

  1. Go earlier if possible. Arriving around 11:30-11:45am will most likely get you a table without waiting. If you have a big party, make a reservation.
  2. THERE IS A LUNCH SPECIAL MENU. Be sure to ask for the lunch menu. The booklet is the regular menu offered during both lunch and dinner service. The lunch special menu is a big, laminated one page menu.
  3. If you’re a party of one or two, be open to sharing a table with strangers. It’ll be awkward only if you make it awkward. So please don’t longingly stare into a stranger’s eyes while they eat.

There are a couple signature dishes offered at R&G. By far the most popular is the Salt & Pepper Crab. During dinner service, you will literally see this dish churning out of the kitchen every minute or two. Almost every table with have a whole crab and every person will have delicious enjoyment on their face while eating it. The crab is perfectly battered with salt and pepper, there is a lot of crab meat, and at ~$38 a crab (depending on market price) it’s actually quite reasonable. Unless you hate crab, you need to order this (see top of post for delicious photo).

And then there is the R&G Special Beef. According to the menu, it is a secret recipe with a secret sauce. The fact that my coworkers and I come to R&G each week to get this beef is a testament to how good it is. The beef is super tender and juicy, the special sauce is a little sweet glaze but nothing too overpowering. It is marinated through so every bite is succulent and delicious. And remember that lunch special I mentioned above? For $7.50, you get a good amount of beef and a side of fried rice. Can’t beat it!

One other staple is the Soy Sauce Chicken. You can order half a chicken or a full chicken. It is also part of the lunch special menu that comes with white rice. The chicken is super juicy (even all the white meat) and the soy sauce is great with white rice. Very flavorful and excellent.

If you can’t tell from this long post, I obviously love eating at R&G. My parents have been bringing me here since I was a little boy and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. If you have a hankering for Chinese food, this is the first place in the Bay Area I recommend.


R&G Lounge
631 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA
R&G  Lounge website
R&G Lounge Yelp reviews

Pasta with White Wine Clam Sauce and Bacon

This is a super simple dish that almost anyone can prepare. The white wine and clam sauce gives the pasta a sweetness while the bacon gives it a bolder, saltier flavor as well. It’s a pretty light sauce and doesn’t bog you down like creamy white sauces or classic marinara sauces. With prep and cook time, it should take about an hour.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Clams (I bought a pound. Smaller clams work better)
  • Shallots, garlic, onion, parsley
  • Lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • Bacon (I bought the pre-cooked Canadian bacon packages)
  • Butter, salt, pepper to taste
  • Pasta (I used spaghetti, but you can use whatever)
  • White wine ($2 bottle at Whole Foods)

I’m sorry I don’t give specific amounts of each ingredient. I like cooking by just estimating and adjusting to taste so I really don’t know how much I use of most things.

How do make it:

Before beginning, rinse the clams to wash away any sand and grit that’s still in the shells. Nobody likes biting into crunchy little particles of sand in their food.

While you boil water for the pasta and cook it, you can do all the prep work and begin cooking the wine sauce as well. Find a small to medium-sized pot/pan with a lid that you will use to boil your clams. Chop up the onion, shallot, garlic and bacon, then sautee these items in the pot until the onions are clear and you can smell that great aroma of bacon and caramelized onion hitting your nose.

At this point, add the clams, parsley and lemon juice. Fill the pot with white wine until the clams are fully submerged but no more than that. Add a pinch or two of salt and some butter to balance out the white wine. Without it, the white wine may become too strong and overpower any other taste. Turn down the heat to about a medium or medium-low and cover pot with a lid. Let sit and stir once in a while until the clams pop open by themselves. This should only take a few minutes. Once the clams are open, the clam and sauce is pretty much done.

Clam in white wine

Additional step if you like:

At this point you can pour the white wine and clam sauce over the pasta and bon appetit.

But I like to throw some pasta into a small sautee pan with some of the white wine clam sauce and really make sure the taste is evenly distributed by sauteing and mixing it together for just a minute. It’s an extra step and there will be an extra pan to wash, but I think it makes a big difference that really distributes the flavor.

And with that you’re ready to eat! Super easy to do – just throw everything into a pot and let the bad boy cook. Accompany the pasta with a nice glass of white wine and you’re ready for a treat.

Bouchon Bakery

Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA is such a great little bakery full of goodies. You walk into the little shop and their displays are full of freshly baked goods from the day – muffins, croissants, baguettes, macarons, and the list goes on and on. I love the smell of freshly baked goods so it was like a little heaven walking in. Displayed above are the giant macarons they offer. The purple is the seasonal PB&J that’s a really big hit and the green is the pistachio. Great little place to check out in the heart of Yountville restaurant country.


Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
Bouchon Bakery website
Bouchon Bakery Yelp reviews

Ad Hoc Sunday Brunch

I was lucky enough to experience Ad Hoc’s brunch menu on a beautiful Sunday morning out in Yountville, CA. Located just outside Napa, Ad Hoc is among a cluster of restaurants in the area that showcases fresh, local ingredients and creates a great dining experience for its guests. From making the reservation to accommodating specific food preferences, the staff at Ad Hoc was always professional and courteous so I was impressed even before I stepped into the restaurant.

A little background about Ad Hoc:- World renowned chef Thomas Keller (of French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon fame) originally conceptualized and opened Ad Hoc as a temporary restaurant.  The little temp project became so popular that Keller decided to open shop permanently in Yountville. The prix fixe menu changes daily and you literally can’t order anything else unless you are unable eat the food showcased that day due to dietary restrictions.

Salad of Baby Iceberg Rounds and Bacon

Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, and this brunch did not disappoint one bit. The meal started with a Salad of Baby Iceberg Rounds served with hobbs’ bacon lardons, lemon cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet yellow corn and thousand island dressing. The ingredients were some of the freshest I’ve tasted – the lettuce was crunchy and the tomatoes and corn were super sweet. But obviously the best part pulling it all together was the BACON. Bacon makes everything great, and amazingly they served extra bacon chunks on the side in case we didn’t have enough. I never knew I could like a salad so much.

Chicken Fried Steak, eggs, potatoes, broccolini

The main course was the Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs with pepper cream gravy, soft scrambled hen eggs, roasted broccolini and smashed new potatoes. Let me just say I’ve never had such great chicken fried steak before. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium and the batter coating the steak was not oily at all. That’s such an amazing feat to me. I have never had chicken fried steak where I wasn’t completely disgusted by all the oil dripping out of the batter until this day at Ad Hoc.

The sides of the main course didn’t disappoint either. The eggs were fluffy and still a bit runny (just the way I like them prepared). The potatoes weren’t overcooked and the broccolini had a nice grilled char on them which made them extra tasty. At this point I have already dubbed this meal one of the best brunches I have ever eaten.

Strawberries and Cream

And then the dessert came and just knocked this brunch right out of the park. The dessert was Strawberries and Cream with lemon cake, creme fraiche and coconut streusel. The presentation was beautiful, the strawberries were sweet, the cream was fluffy and light, and the whole dessert came together really perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the meal.

I was so thoroughly impressed with Ad Hoc from start to finish. Great service, great presentation, and most importantly, great food. And brunch at $40 a person for 3 courses was more than reasonable. I would return to Ad Hoc in a heartbeat, especially to try their famous fried chicken and prix fixe dinner menus. I 100% recommend Ad Hoc to anyone willing to drive out to Yountville and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.


Ad Hoc Restaurant
6476 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
Ad Hoc website
Ad Hoc Yelp reviews

Adventures In Grilling

A few things come to mind when I think of summers in California. Sunshine, the beach, and grilling in the backyard. So to gear up for this summer, I bought a Huntington Patriot Series Grill. Four burners on the main grill, plus an extra side burner for cooking food in pots and pans. 50,000 BTU of fire and power at my fingertips. The grill was a complete pain to put together, but now it’s my favorite piece of cooking equipment.

Over the last two months I have really put some mileage on my new purchase. Below are just a few notable snippets from my adventures in grilling.

Lamb Rib Chops:

My greatest achievement in grilling yet! This was my first time ever cooking lamb chops so I just experimented with ingredients I had in the cupboard. I seasoned the chops with coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and a little ginger powder. The butcher at Whole Foods instructed that I grill the chops about 5 minutes on each side, but because the chops were so thick I found about 7 minutes on each side yielded the perfect medium rare.

Duck Breast:

Grilled duck breast is one of my favorite things to eat ever. Charred and crispy on the outside, medium rare on the inside. I prepared it by scoring the skin side, then seasoned it with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper for the grill. Always grill the skin side first to get some of that fat out as duck breast has a high fat content under the skin. The duck breast was later paired with a reduced fruit sauce for some major noms.

Rib Eye and Veggies:

Rib eye from Whole Foods. Seasoned with salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. As the rib eye was pretty thick, grilled for about 10 minutes on each side for medium rare (see picture below for perfect medium rare). Also on the grill: asparagus, carrots, mushroom and yellow bell peppers. All were coated with some extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Pork Chops and Carrots:

Seasoned the pork chops with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and some other herbs I found in my cupboard. Grilled a couple minutes on each side to ensure it was cooked thoroughly but still juicy. Came out super flavorful, but I’ll need to play with some other seasonings in the future to kick the pork chops up a notch.

Garcon in the Mission for DAT

Ah, Dine About Town. The three little words that never get old.

I was only able to try one restaurant during SF’s DAT this June, so I had to make it count. Luckily my friend Sonia is as crazy about food as I am and brought me to the perfect place: Garcon French Restaurant. Garcon is a little French restaurant located in the eclectic neighborhood of the Mission. I really enjoy walking around the Mission (well, the non-sketch parts anyway) because it’s such a hodgepodge of cultures and shops and backgrounds. It’s really a perfect place for this restaurant.

But in an effort not to bore you with the non-essential details, let me get straight to the food. We both ordered from the $35 DAT prix fixe menu which included an appetizer, main course and dessert. I decided on the Tuna Tartare, Hanger Steak and Creme Brulee while Sonia ordered the Mussels, “Summer Fettuchine” and Beignets with Espresso pot de creme. On top, we also shared the soup of the day, a summer squash soup with herbs and roasted pine nuts.

The soup came first and it was exquisite. The soup was cream-based, but it wasn’t heavy or too creamy. It had a lightness but also a bold summer flavor to it. The herbs added that extra something, and the roasted pine nuts completely topped it off. In fact, Sonia and I both agreed it needed more pine nuts. It gave texture, contrast and depth to the soup.

Next came the appetizers. The Tuna Tartare with fresh horseradish, chives, lemon vinaigrette, fennel seed, and basil-cucumber jus was good, but it wasn’t the best tartare I’ve ever tasted. I think the tuna had sat in the lemon vinaigrette for a little too long and made the fish a little too salty. The horseradish balanced it out a bit, but the tartare was definitely the weakest dish of the night.

The Steamed p.e.i. Mussels with fennel, shallot, lavender, lemon, and pastis-chardonnay broth was a completely different story. It was by far the best dish of the night and we could not stop eating it. First of all, the mussels were perfectly steamed and it still had some of that earthy taste to it. It was cooked in a pot with the fennel, shallots, lavender, lemon and chardonnay broth that was to die for. All those ingredients made for a sweet broth that infused into the mussels with every bite. The broth was so good that we started dipping our bread into it. And when the bread ran out, we started drinking it with our spoon! Really, it’s THAT good. The waiter asked us multiple times if we were done with the dish and we kept saying no until he figured he would just stop asking. With no shame whatsoever, we continued to gulp down the broth. Continue reading “Garcon in the Mission for DAT”

Morimoto NYC …underwhelmed.

We all know who Chef Morimoto is. Iron chef, restaurateur, actor (as seen in this little gem appearance on Hawaii Five-O this season. Yes, I watch Hawaii Five-O, it’s a good show!). So obviously I was super excited about eating at Morimoto in New York when I was in town. Except it turns out I was surprisingly disappointed by the meal. And after speaking with friends who have dined at the Philly and Napa locations, it looks like this is actually a common consensus. Morimoto just wasn’t up to par with the hype or the legend we all know the Iron Chef to be.

The restaurant boasts a very modern design – clean and sleek, with illuminating lights and glass all around. It is quite a spacious restaurant, and I’m guessing that’s why they decided to open in the Meatpacking District by the water – more space. I actually really liked the design of the place and I imagine my house to look like that someday. They also have really cool bathrooms, but I didn’t get a picture of that just incase it was creepy to do so.

For appetizers, we started with the Toro Tartare (osetra caviar, sour cream, wasabi, dashi-soy). It was by far the best dish of the night. I loved the presentation as the toro and the different dippings came on wooden slates that were chilled on ice. It was so unique that you had to scrape the toro off, then the dippings, and finally dip it in some soy sauce. I experimented with the different dippings and found that the best flavors came together when you combined everything into one bite. A little salty, a little sweet, a little spicy and a little crunch. Other combinations just didn’t quite compare. I really enjoyed this dish.

We also ordered the $75 Chef’s Selection Sashimi plate. All of the fish was fresh and had a good balance of fat content to it, especially the salmon. More notable of this sashimi plate was that it included Amber Jack, which you don’t get too often when in California (at least at the places I eat sashimi). Not a bad platter of sashimi, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. As my brother pointed out, he has had better in San Mateo, California and I tend to believe him since he eats sashimi a lot.

Finally for my main course, I ordered the Duck Duck Duck (foie gras croissant, roast duck, soft duck egg, red miso sauce). I love ordering duck at restaurants because it’s one of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, this was not prepared well and definitely not up to the expectations I had for a restaurant opened by the infamous Iron Chef Morimoto. First, the duck leg/thigh had way too much fat. As they cooked the duck, they didn’t reduce any of the fat out of it leaving chunks of it that were inedible for my preference.

In addition, one of the dipping sauces (the red miso sauce) tasted like Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce straight from the bottle, with a touch of miso just for flavor. It was not special at all since I can buy it at Ranch 99 Market for about $3. And then there was the foie gras croissant. I understand this portion of the dish is a play of Peking Duck, but it just didn’t do it for me. I know it’s supposed to be a fusion of different techniques, but I couldn’t grasp the inspiration behind the dish and it all just sat there confused on my plate like a lost puppy that didn’t know where he came from. It wasn’t Japanese, it wasn’t very French, and it certainly wasn’t Chinese. It just didn’t work. And on top of that, I couldn’t taste the foie gras in it at all!

The only little redeemable bright spot of the dish was the soft duck egg. It was perfectly runny in the center yolk but it wasn’t enough so save this dish from being a complete disappointment.

So overall, I was quite underwhelmed by what I experienced. I mean, the food wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t spectacular and I really really reaaalllyyyy wanted it to be spectacular. It was average…and an average meal that cost the two of us around $300 total (this includes a bottle of sake and my brother’s ribeye – which was average) makes me write reviews like this. So no, I will not be visiting a Morimoto restaurant again anytime soon. And no, I really wouldn’t recommend people coming to this restaurant and dropping that type of money as there are tons of other viable options around – especially in New York City, one of the Meccas of fine dining.


Morimoto NYC
88 10th Avenue, Meatpacking District, New York 
Morimoto NYC website
Morimoto NYC yelp reviews

Joe’s Shanghai Dumplings

These little dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai are mighty fine! First of all, I like that they have both the regular pork dumplings and also the dumplings with crab meat. Reminds of Din Tai Fung, although obviously not as good (I have only been to the one in Shanghai, but I hear the Taipei one is well worth it). Also, Joe’s dumplings are great because the skin is thick enough that it won’t rip apart right when you pick it up. I hate when the soup in my dumplings spill out prematurely. It ruins the whole experience of eating dumplings! But at the same time, the skin wasn’t so thick that it was tough to eat – they’ve definitely found a nice balance to it all.

My brother and I ordered two baskets of dumplings, one regular pork and one with crab meat (16 dumplings total). We also ordered a rice cake dish and the whole bill only came out to about $20. You really can’t beat that. And after a week of running around Chicago and New York eating all sorts of food, it was nice to go back to our roots with some good old fashion cheap Chinese food where I can order in Cantonese. Felt just like home.


Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant
9 Pell Street, Chinatown, New York
Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant website
Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant yelp reviews 

Shake Shack redemption

About a year ago, I wrote a not-so-flattering post about Shake Shack in New York. The wait was long, the burger was just okay, and I felt like it was just overhyped all together.

But I’m happy to say after a second visit, Shake Shack has more than redeemed itself in my book. In fact, I may now prefer it over In-N-Out (say whaaat?)! I went to the Theater District location at the corner of 44th and 8th at around 1pm and the line was surprisingly short. Took about 10 minutes to order (as opposed to the hour I waited the time before) and another 10 minutes to get our food. Not too shabby at all.

I ordered the Shack Stack, which is a hybrid of their Cheeseburger and ‘Shroom Burger topped with lettuce, tomato and “ShackSauce.” I had heard great things about the Shack Stack and if Shake Shack was going to redeem itself in my eyes, this bad boy would be the number one contender.

I went the distance with the Shack Stack and boy this burger was a complete knockout. The beef itself was really fresh and tender, something Shake Shack prides itself on. But the star was definitely the mushroom. The mushroom is a crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese and when you bite into it, all that gooey cheese just oozes out at you. Everything in this burger comes together so perfectly and I really don’t know how else to explain it. It was just absolutely amazing and I’m really glad I gave this place a second chance.

In addition to the burger, I also ordered the Great White Way concrete. A “concrete” is a dense frozen custard blended at high speed with toppings and mix-ins. I guess there’s a reason they named the place Shake Shack because their frozen custards are just as amazing as that burger. The Great White Way was a vanilla custard with marshmallow sauce and crispy crunchies. Super sweet but super delicious. And the contrast in texture between the custard and the crunchies made eating it a lot easier than if it was just straight up ice cream.

Yes Shake Shack is more expensive than In-N-Out, but I believe the quality of ingredients and the flavor of the food make it worth the money. I 100% fully recommend trying the Shack Stack burger and I think it will become a staple of mine every time I visit New York from now on. Just phenomenal.


Shake Shack
Various locations in Manhattan New York
Shake Shack website
Shake Shack yelp reviews 

Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill

On my recent vacation to Chicago, I had one specific restaurant I wanted to try – Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill. For those who aren’t familiar with Rick Bayless, he is the winner of the first season of Top Chef Masters. Bayless specializes in Mexican cuisine and his winning dish on the show featured his famous mole. I just had to try it.

I arrived at the restaurant on a Saturday night around 6:30pm, and it was crazy packed. The wait for a table was about 2 hrs, but luckily bar seating is first come first serve and we got a table in about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I ordered a Blue Agave Margarita and let loose.

For appetizer, we ordered the Ceviche de Atun Moderno (Hawaiian yellowfin tuna, grilled pineapple, jicama, mango, passion fruit, serrano, cilantro, lime). The tuna was really fresh and the ceviche had a good citrus flavor. However, the pineapple, mango and passion fruit was a bit overpowering, making the ceviche a little too sweet. It was still quite a delicate ceviche though and I wouldn’t mind having it again.

For my main course, I ordered the Pato en Mole de Cereza (wood-grilled Gunthorp duck breast, dried cherry mole (ancho, pasilla, almond, allspice), dried cherry tamal, caramelized brussels sprouts, duck chicharron crunch). The dish was absolutely amazing and probably the single best Mexican dish I have ever tasted. First of all, the duck breast was grilled a perfect medium rare. The dried cherry tamal was super sweet with a good corn flavor. The brussels sprouts with that caramelization was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. And the exquisite dried cherry mole sauce became the base of the dish that connected all the different parts. The mole had such a rich and bold flavor, but also had a sweetness that was good on just about everything. If I could, I would buy that mole and just put it in everything I eat.

My brother went with the Puerco al Criollo (grill-roasted Gunthorp Duroc pork loin, criollo sauce (roasted tomato, morita chile, pineapple, bacon), classic white rice, Bill’s spinach). I only had one bite, but the pork loin was tender and juicy (not dry at all). The spinach was cooked in some type of butter sauce that was awesome. The criollo sauce with the bacon was flavorful and made it such a great dish. You can hardly ever go wrong with bacon in a sauce.

All in all, a very successful dinner in Chicago. I’m really glad I had a chance to try Frontera Grill and the food that Rick Bayless has to offer. I now have a whole new perception of Mexican cuisine and it is simply amazing. How will I ever go back to eating Mexican food at Chevy’s again?!


Frontera Grill
445 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL
Frontera Grill’s website
Frontera Grill’s Yelp reviews