R&G Lounge -- Chowdown/Winedown Report
Last night, twenty one hounds gathered around two large tables at R&G Lounge to share a Cantonese feast and 22+ bottles of wine. We had a great turnout of both veteran chowdowners and newcomers, and an amazingly eclectic selection of wines.
For those that attended, please share your thoughts on the food, wine, and how they matched under this post. Wine scribes, please post the list of wines that were poured at your table. And I'm hoping somebody (Melanie?) can remember each dish we had and list those too.
I had a wonderful time, I hope everyone else did too!
Still a bit hungover and moving slowly, but I'll start off with the list of dishes:
Day's house soup - green turnip and carrot, complimentary
Salt and pepper Dungeness crab
Peking duck with steamed lotus buns
Crispy skinned deep-fried pig trotter with pickles and yellow plum sauce
Chicken stuffed with sticky rice
Filet mignon with XO sauce and sugar snap peas
Hearts of mustard greens with roasted garlic cloves
Steamed live shrimp with garlic sauce
Mock abalone in oyster sauce with gai lan
Steamed pork patty with salted fish (steamed white rice optional)
The price for the menu above was $30 per person, plus tax, tip and corkage. Additionally, the generous 'hounds in attendance contributed $230 in GoodWill to help keep the Chowhound site up and running. Thank you!
I've described most of these dishes a few times on this board. Would love to hear others' opinions.
It was great chowdown. My two favorite dishes were the crispy pig's trotter and the chicken stuffed with sticky rice. The trotter had a pure pork taste with great texture of succulent meat and crispy skin that was enhanced by the pickles. The chicken was like eating just the frosting on the cake since it was basically just chicken skin stuffed with sticky rice, sausage, dried black mushrooms, etc. that was perfectly seasoned. Who needs chicken meat anyway. ;) The prawns were also excellent and incredibly fresh, but given their quality I almost wished they were simply poached to show off their succulent sweet meat even more.
Some of the best pairings were the Crab with the Weinbach Riesling (Cuvee St. Catherine), the Valle Isarco Kerner with the heart of mustard greens, and the overall best pair IMO was the Vorberg with the pork and salted fish patty.
re: Victora Libin
I'm thrilled to see that so many of you liked the steamed pork with salted fish! Nick asked for more challenging dishes, so I tried to deliver with this one. I'll mention that I got major push back from our waiter, Gene, when I tried to order it. He protested twice, but I insisted and he finally relented on my third request. It used to be on the menu, but I couldn't find it this time and just asked for it.
The salted fish was well-aged, meaning that it had taken on some of the rotting, fermented aroma and a softer texture. It was a very good example.
re: Melanie Wong
I appreciate your stubborness! That dish was very different than any Chinese food I've ever had before.
That said (and I'm saying this for anyone reading along that might be nervous about trying this dish at R&G or anywhere else), the flavors weren't strange or foreign. I think even relatively timid diners who at least enjoy anchovies or Thai/Vietnamese fish sauce would probably enjoy this dish.
re: Joan Kureczka
Another brave soul! Another person at our table expressd her trepidation about trying it, and it was amusing for me to hear Jen Maiser urge her on that it was better than it smelled. (g) I used the analogy that most people like the taste of anchovies in caesar salad dressing...as long as they don't see them.
re: Melanie Wong
Yes ... the smell. I am not normally too squeamish about things, but Melanie knows I was having a hard time with the smell of this dish. And the main reason is because we used to go to Ensenada all the time when I was a kid, and this dish smelled exactly like the entire town of Ensenada -- which isn't exactly the most pleasant smell in my mind. (g)
Hey all, want to say I had a great time last night - the food, the wine, the people, all were fantastic. Special thanks to Nick for organizing and to Melanie W for extraordinary insight in ordering the food and pairing the wines.
I don't often get a chance to sample so many different wines with so many different dishes, but I could get used to it! It was educational and fun to sample two or three different wines with each dish, comparing and contrasting the effect of the wine on the food and vice-versa.
My favorite pairing was the sparkling Vouvray with the salt and pepper crab. The Vourvray wasn't one of the suggested wines for the crab but I thought it worked very well. The bubbles enhanced the tongue-tingling effects of the salt, peppers, and garlic, helped keep the dish light in the mouth, and added a celebratory feel that complimented the grand presentation. The soup was good but the crab was truly a great way to kick off the meal!
I forgot my notes today but other faves included the Gruner with the salt crusted, sticky rice-stuffed chicken and the Rosenblum Zinfandel (Carley's vineyard) with the pecking duck, a pairing I didn't think I would like but did.
Thanks again to all, hope to see you next time!
It was my first chowdown and I will be back for more.
My favorites were the crab, chicken, filet of beef and the pig trotter.
The crab was so delicious, that I was bold enough to take the last piece from our table. Clean fresh crab meat inside with the contrast of a perfectly deep fried crispy batter on the out.
Then there was the deboned chicken coated in cornstarch? That was cornstarch.. Stuffed with probably the best sticky rice ever, short grain, chewy, sweet with shrimp, mushrooms and sausage, yum! I would do a drive by just for the chicken alone.
The filet of beef was so tender, with the slightly spicy/sweet XO sauce with snap peas that was lovely.
The pig trotter was excellent; I loved it with the yellow plum sauce.
Some really nice wines were being poured, the ones that stood out were the Vouvray I like this with the crab, the Veltliner went well with this food, the Tokay Pinot Gris was refreshing and I love this style of wine. Oh, I thought the Rosenblum Zin was an interesting choice and I loved it with the filet, dont remember the vineyard?
re: Lori SF
Some one mentioned "Tokay Pinot Gris".
Is this a white wine from a small plot in Alsace, France. The plot is very small compared to the huge vineyards in the US. I wonder how they could end up here in the State, since they cannot produce a high volume.
It's even difficult to find it in France, let alone San Francisco.
Where did you buy it? (Yes, I want it)
re: Lori SF
Assuming Melanie brought the bottle she said she would, this was the exact wine:
1994 Schoffit Tokay Pinot Gris "Cuvee Prestige"
Beautiful stuff. Wineaccess.com lists many bottles of Tokay Pinot Gris for sale, though I'm not sure if the exact same bottle is for sale.
I gotta say though, the 1997 Navarro Pinot Gris Vendage Tardive, which unfortunately I am now out of and so is the winery, was a darn good substitute. Melanie's was a better wine for sure, but the Navarro is definitely worth a try if you ever come across a bottle.
Should have edited my previous post before finalizing it.
I meant to say: I forgot the name of the winery that has a small plot with the right amount of sunshine and luck, that they produce a little every year.
Now that it makes more sense, I don't think there is an answer to my vague question.
Although I thought all the dishes were great -- thanks Melanie! -- my favorites were the Fried Chicken with Sticky Rice and the Filet Mignon with XO Sauce and Snap Peas. The chicken was, as Victoria stated, truly everything you'd want in a chicken... crisp skin!! Literally no meat! The flesh had been replaced by a terrific sticky rice studded with shrimp, chinese sausage, and dried mushrooms. Given that sticky rice with chicken (nor mai gai) is one of my favorite dim sum dishes, I was completely in heaven. I have to admit that I snuck back in for a small second helping! It was so rich, though! A very special dish! It's not something you can order with a small group, but perfect for a large table. I've had the beef on several occasions prior to this, and it never fails to disappoint. I liked the strong flavor of the XO sauce which had a little spicy finish at the end. Very tender beef and a nice crunch on the snap peas.
I thought the Peking duck was a very nice rendition, but I am biased as I LOVE duck in any form. James' favorite was the salt and pepper crab, which was best straight out of the kitchen. I thought it was very tasty, as usual, but I am generally too impatient to enjoy crab as much as others do. I very much liked the prawns -- I always try to get them to make it for me this way, but they end up giving me the boiled (bak jerk) style. My mastery of Cantonese is not as it should be on many levels!
I agree that the Vorberg with the pork patty and salted fish was a really fine match. Didn't think ANYthing could go with that VERY strong dish. My memory/notes were pretty foggy on other matches, as I am not accustomed to drinking wine with Chinese food, at least not YET! :) Also, I am not as familiar with white wines as I am with reds, so this was really educational (and fun) for me.
Best of all, it was wonderful to put faces with many of the names I've seen on the board and to make new friends. Can't wait to do it again! Happy Birthday, Nick!!!
What a great event -- thanks to Nick and Melanie for organizing this, and happy birthday again Nick!
My favorite pairing perhaps was the steamed shrimp with the Albrecht Clos Himmelreich Riesling that we brought. The sweetness and succulence of the shrimp matched nicely with the dry complexity of the wine.
I also thought the hoisin sauce was a fantastic complement to the Rosenblum "Carla's Vineyard" zinfandel from Contra Costa. Who would have thought.
Other food favorites included the crispy pig trotter with the wonderful apricot, ginger sauce -- sort of a really tasty chutney -- and like everyone else, the stuffed chicken.
There were a lot of really memorable wines too. I particularly liked the Gruner Veltliner, the Schoffit Tokay Pinot Gris, the Kerner and the Rivaner -- which served as a very good palate cleanser.
First, I will discharge my wine scribe duties. Wines at our table:
Domaine Carneros Brut. A California sparkler with a tie-in to Tattinger. Not toasty/yeasty like Champagne, but nice bitter peel notes, good acid, and reasonable leesy complexity. Appropriately refreshing but not luxurious in texture or mousse.
2002 valle Isarco Kerner Eisacker. I'm not sure how to decode this, but I am sure that Kerner is the grape (a cross between Riesling and the red (!) grape Vernatsch), I'm guessing that valle Isarco is the producer, and perhaps Eisacker is the vineyard. It sounds like a vineyard. This wine is from the Südtirol, an area of Northern Italy. There was both German and Italian writing on the label. It was pretty interesting and distinctive, though without Riesling's transparency to terroir. Tangy, fruity, a touch of mineral, with a nice finish.
2000 Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg Cuvee Ste Catherine L'Inedit. Okay, this producer likes complex cuvee designations. Really nice Alsatian Riesling with less residual sugar than I expected and a lot of guts and complexity.
2002 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand's famous white, showing well here. Initial notes of pine tar and canned asparagus blew off to reveal intense tangy gooseberry fruit, even a touch of strawberry. Very appealing wine, intense and refreshing. I liked this with the crab; the Weinbach worked well too.
2000 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Vorberg. I don't have notes on this Italian white. Presumably this is a Pinot Blanc, from the "Vorberg" vineyard, Cantina Terlano being the producer.
2002 Canalyi Vermentino di Gallura. An Italian white. Little nose, but really complex and floral on the palate, with light texture and a mineral, tangy finish. Really nice wine.
2002 Vietti Roero Arneis. No notes.
1989 Dr. Wagner Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett. A divisive German wine, showing the shellac-like complex aromatics of a substantially older wine, but with very good acid. I liked it quite a bit, but its distinctive nose was offputting to some.
2000 Turley Petite Syrah 'Rattlesnake Acres'. A Napa wine. Some may consider the Turley style overdone (raises hand), but it's harder to overdo a Petite Sirah (Syrah), and I liked this wine, once I got used to the fact that it shouts rather than whispers. Lively stewed fruit and a nice briary streak on the nose. Grainy and intense in flavor, almost painfully extracted, but not awkward or excessively alcoholic. Really not bad.
2000 A. Rafanelli Zin. From the Dry Creek Valley. Didn't get around to tasting this one.
I think that's the list. Now, on to the food:
The opening "house soup" is an insider-Chinese thing, but we had Melanie to ferret it out for us. It's a sort of meat-based beverage, a broth of, I imagine, whatever trimmings were generated in the kitchen that day. It's gratis, available on request. On my last visit, it was a wonderful light beef broth with lots of marrow-y quality. I think I had three bowls. This time, it was a more pedestrian concoction of chicken and (I think) MSG, which mostly served to get us into food mode.
The first "real" dish was a giant platter of crabs, the justly-celebrated R&G version of salt-and-pepper crab. The light breading was perhaps a bit more salty and greasy than the absolute best versions I've had here, but up to a point, beyond which this version did not do, "greasy" is a point of praise for this dish. One wallows in it and gets oily. The meat inside the shell was tender and sweet and perfectly cooked. A winner. There wasn't a piece left. EXCELLENT
Something has happened to the Peking Duck here. It's gotten better. I've had it in previous years, and it was pretty good, but the version I had on a visit in January, and again last night, has been locked in. Moist skin and meat, well-seasoned without any hint of the dreaded 5-spice-excess, the skin dark and caramelized, just delightful. EXCELLENT
Crispy Pork skin. This is a special, but it was available in January, and it was available last night, so maybe it's going to stay around. I hope so. It's expensive, but wow, it's good. Deeply crunchy and toothsome, a crisp layer of pork skin over a thin layer of fat, somehow not like pork rinds at all, tasting of pork in elemental form. EXCELLENT PLUS
Mock abalone with gai lan. This was interesting, but not as good as a version I had here a year ago. I think part of the problem was that the gai lan is more assertive than the yu choy (?) it came with last time, and the vegetable overpowered the subtle qualities of the dish. It's 1/4" thick disks of wheat gluten with a flavorful brown sauce. GOOD
Beef with pea pods. Another perennial R&G dish, at least in pea season. Sounds ordinary, but it's not. Fresh whole pea pods (the 2" ones with actual peas in them, not the flat ones), stir-fried with delightfully caramelized dark morsels of beef. The dish vanished between blinks. Slight points off for a bit too much cornstarch. VERY GOOD PLUS
Live shrimp, steamed, with garlic. Oh, I love this one. Live shrimp treated this way seem as good as lobster, more delicate in texture, savory. I got every bit of the natural sauce off the shells. Perfectly cooked. EXCELLENT PLUS
Steamed pork hash with salty fish. This is a patty of chopped pork, not lean, steamed under a garnish of rotted fish. Really. It's a lot better than it sounds, though one person at our table didn't even want the dish to be sitting on his side of the table. This was one of the stinkiest versions I've had, and I loved it. The salted fish lends amazing flavor character to the wonderfully nubbly pork patty. VERY GOOD PLUS
I may have missed a dish, but maybe not. Anyway, this was a very good performance by R&G, a reminder that this place is REALLY GOOD, and always worth a visit. Pacing was nicely restrained, a likely benefit of dining on a Tuesday.
I'll let others report on price because I think our final per-person tally included a Chowhound donation.
This dinner came about because Nick couldn't resist arranging to try one of the foods that Melanie took a picture of on a previous visit there. Thanks to Nick for arranging, and Melanie for ordering, and to everyone for bringing such good wines.
Thanks again for organizing this event and happy birthday, Nick! It was a memorable occasion.
Anyway, I hate to be a naysayer, but I have to say that I was disappointed with the crab. After hearing about it so much on this board, I couldn't wait to try R&G's signature dish and I was very excited that it was the first platter to arrive. I agree with other comments that the flesh was perfectly cooked --both moist and tender.
My issue is with the batter: it was way too thick and reminded me of English pub fare. I usually associate salt and pepper treatment with whole shrimp. In it's highest form, the salt and pepper batter is a tantalizing glaze that renders the shrimp skin crispy and also seasons the meat. Most of my Chinese relatives pop a whole shrimp in their mouths and are able to remove the skin with their teeth and tongue without touching the shrimp with their hands. This way, the salt & pepper glaze melts into their mouths as they happily munch on the shrimp. My relatives also have the same talent as to Maryland blue crabs, which tend to have a much softer shell than our local crabs (although I have never encountered salt & pepper Maryland crab). I don't happen to be as talented as my relatives, but I couldn't help but think to their reaction if they were to eat R&G's interpretation of salt & pepper batter. I'm pretty sure they would do like I did, that is, eat the crab with their hands and avoid the thick greasy skin by peeling it away, in the process losing the essential salt & pepper seasoning.
I look forward to hearing others' views.
Actually, I believe the batter is much lighter at Great Eastern, and to my taste, less successful.
The salt and pepper treatment on shrimp is meant to be chewed, crunched up and consumed along with the shells. It is lighter to not be out of proportion to the amount of flesh. In the case of these crabs with inedible hard shells, the batter is heavier so that it carries enough seasoning for the quantity of crab meat and can be pulled off the shell to be eaten.
Have not order the Stuffed Chicken at R&G but did order it at Louie's and Great Eastern both place charge $45.00 each. I also order it at Lucky Dragon and the cost was $35.00. You need to order 24 hours ahead of time. I sure the price will be in the same ball park.
If you have not had it then it is worth a try.
The chicken stuffed with sweet rice is $45 at R&G. Bear in mind that it will feed a lot of people. At our table of 10, we had three pieces of it left over, which was perfect for my lunch the next day. (g)
The chicken at R&G is de-boned all the way down to the drumsticks and to the middle joint of the wing and stuffed in those spots. The bones are intact in the wing tips. Some other places leave the drumstick bone and wing bones in.
Thanks to all for a great event! It was fun to go to the famed R & G Lounge after reading about it on these boards for 2+ years.
I have posted the photos -- there are only a few, and they are not my proudest technical pictures, but that's when you get when you give me so much wine ...
BTW - the wine I brought was the Loimer Gruner Veltliner 2002 from Langenlois, Kamptal. I purchased it at the Jug Shop for $21.99 -- I know some people were asking about it.
Thanks again to everyone for coming to the event and posting their thoughts. And thanks for the birthday wishes (btw, the answer is: Acquerello).
The food was all very good. My favorite dish was probably the pork and fish patty: I mean, how can you top a giant pork-and-fermented-fish sausage patty? The 2000 Vorberg (Bryan was correct, producer: Cantina Terlano, grape: Pinot Bianco, vineyard: Vorberg, $22 at K&L) was a good match, but boy that wine still needs some time to age. I thoroughly enjoyed the duck, trotter, chicken, greens, and shrimp.
I actually thought the crab was less than perfect, but for the opposite reason as Alex. I really enjoyed the salty, greasy, peppery crust. But I thought the leg meat was somewhat lacking in flavor and the texture was a little too dry and flaky. Little bits of it were also stuck to the shell (I couldn't help but be reminded of an old post where somebody complained that their crab meat was completely fused to the inside of the shell). The body meat at the top of the legs was perfect: soft, creamy, and sweet, but the meat inside the legs and claws didn't really do it for me.
The sauce and peas in the XO beef were excellent, and the texture of the meat was incredibly tender, but I thought the meat had limited innate beef flavor. That makes sense now after learning from Melanie's menu post that it was filet mignon and not ribeye. Next time I want to try ribeye.
The Rafanelli Zin at our table didn't stand up to the peking duck as well as the Rosenblum. The spicy aromas harmonized, but I think the duck was little too sweet for the zin. It was a better match with the chicken. I wanted the lovely Petite Sirah to match with something but it was just too much wine for anything at the table! The Roero Arneis had something going on with the beef dish, and I think it was the peas. It's supposed to be an aspargus wine, right, so matching with another spring vegetable like peas makes sense. It would be fun to try that wine with something like snow peas and shrimp.
I didn't want it to be so, but I must admit the Rieslings were a good match with most of the dishes -- there's a good reason it's so often recommended with Chinese food.