If you asked me to name my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area, I’d be at a loss. There’s just too much good Chinese food to name one.
But my top three? R&G Lounge in Chinatown forever holds a place in the ranking, and these days, the word is out.
Ever since I heard about the salt and pepper crab from a friend who’d dined there, I’d been intrigued. Then Anthony Bourdain featured the crab dish in his San Francisco episode of "No Reservations." By the time I finally paid R&G my first visit to try their famed crustacean dish, the restaurant was packed, and with good reason.
My dining companions and I were quickly seated for lunch in the upstairs dining area (there’s an underground dining room as well). Service was brisk and the dishes we ordered emerged quickly from the kitchen. The first was the salt and pepper crab, of course. Deep fried and other wordly-looking, this Dungeness beauty was generously sprinkled with loads of fried garlic, which coated the crab meat as we pried open the claws. The hype is worth it – this crab is among the best I’ve ever had.
Next came the Mongolian beef, one of my favorite Chinese-American dishes. This was spicy, peppery, and the tender beef was seared well. Oh, and lots of onions.
As tempting as it is, it’s no good to order all meat, so we split a dish of bok choy with garlic as well. I’m not sure what was in the translucent sauce, but it was full of savory flavor, lending a hearty note to our supposed “light” dish. Not that I’m complaining.
We shared plate of seafood fried rice too, which was also tasty. My favorite thing about this fried rice is that it was far less greasy than your usual restaurant rendition of fried rice, and with extra bits of yolk mixed in.
I’ve been back to R&G Lounge several times since my first visit. A few regular dishes have grown on me in addition to the crab; namely the R&G special beef, the braised e-fu noodles, and the three treasures with black bean sauce. Now when I go to R&G Lounge, my biggest challenge isn’t sitting through the wait – it’s narrowing down what to order.