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Aug 14, 2008 11:24 PM

Macao Friends Restaurant, San Francisco

Macao (sic) Friends Restaurant replaced So on Irving Street. It features a big and diverse menu (242 items) of Cantonese, Macanese, and Western style dishes and beverages typical a of cha chaan teng (coffee shop). In March, shortly after it first opened, I had a light dinner here with my mom and brother. Here’s what we tried:

Portuguese style mackerel fish balls, $5 – Ordering this dish, I was looking forward to something akin to the bacalhau croquettes served with just about every meal in Portugal or Brazil. These mackerel balls were fried beautifully with a greaseless, golden crust, but were mainly mashed potatoes with little fish element or taste.

Portuguese style baked pork chop with spaghetti, $6 – Mom took one look at this plate and said, “Cheese? What kind of Chinese food is this?” The two thin pork chops had been over-marinated so that they were juicy and well-salted but had a spongey and too-soft texture. That said, we prefer this softness to overcooked and dried-out pork chops. The one-note curry sauce, smothered with cheese on top, was not nearly as tasty as Denny Café’s or the curry sauces I’ve had in Portugal. The bloated spaghetti was standard.

Fried dried shrimp and shredded pork yee mein, $7 – This was a lip-smacking tasty umami bomb with a lot of depth and complexity, but you have to like the intense brininess of dried shrimp. The noodles had perfect texture and soaked up the flavors beautifully. The serving size seemed quite skimpy to us.

This report may read like a pan, yet I must say that this is one of the better examples of the genre locally. Execution and presentation are quite good, and the menu features some unique dishes not found elsewhere in San Francisco.

What else have ‘hounds tried here?

Macao Friends
2240 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

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  1. Do you remember some of the dishes that aren't found elsewhere in SF?

    You know, I never really got that Portuguese connection until recently when I had Brazilian lahsana and the sauce was almost identical to the one I had at Jac's Asian Bistro on the Portuguese pork chops.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      Besides the mackerel fish balls, I'm remembering lots of things with sardines in them, like sardine wontons, sardine porky buns, sardine toast. I recall asking about something called pork bone pot, and didn't get much of an explanation so we didn't order it. Walking by recently I noticed a sign in the window promoting a special on Portuguese style curry crab for $15.

    2. There was newspaper covering the windows when I wandered by here today. Anyone know if this is a permanent thing or if they will open again? I'll be a little sad if they are gone for good; I hardly made this place a regular stop but that pork chop bun was really tasty.

      16 Replies
      1. re: bigwheel042

        When I passed by a couple weeks ago, plywood was up with construction going on inside. The liquor license posting, shown here, , shows the new licensee as Saiwaii Ramen.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Saiwaii Ramen appears about ready to open. They were putting up the signage today, and it became apparent that Saiwaii Ramen is probably the evil twin to Sawaii Sushi on Kearny St. (not a good sign, I'd say). Despite the difference in spelling, Saiwaii and Sawaii have nearly identical kawaii logos.

          1. re: soupçon

            fun fact: i saw that new sign being delivered the other day. it was on a truck upside down. I'm going to miss Macao Friends. Might not have been the best, but the african chicken and good price for pea leaves made me happy.

            1. re: kairo

              Oddly, EaterSf reports that the owner of Sawaii Sushi said that the two restaurants are not related. The sign is truly a blatant ripoff if so.

              1. re: soupçon

                It's possible that both businesses used the same clipart software instead of hiring a designer. I would not assume that one place ripped someone else's logo in the same city. That'd be a very stupid thing to do purposely. The logo helps customers recognize a unique business. Also that tiny downtown sushi place is not that famous or popular, so there's nothing to gain by copying their logo.

                1. re: L C

                  Yes, but the logo AND the nearly similar name?

                  1. re: soupçon

                    I really don't know if the new ramen place is trying to ripoff the old sushi place. But that's unlikely in my opinion. I had assumed that both business owners found the graphic by searching for that "happiness" term (clipart often are associated with keywords).

                    The logos are not just similar, they're identical. Every element is in the same position, same proportions and colors. So that leads me to believe that they both used the same vector graphic (probably from using identical clipart software). It's not easy to copy a logo without measuring anything. If u ask someone to paint a copy of the Starbucks logo just by looking at it, it's not going to have the same proportions or be identical.

                    In the other hand if I wanted to do a blatant copy of that logo I'd erase the bubbles on the circle and change the shirt color on the little guy, because all u need is a 15% difference to be legally consider an original design. Not that I'd ever do something like that.

            2. re: soupçon

              Good sleuthing! Here's the shot from the other direction that I took on July 8 and the help-wanted sign was up.

              Thanks as well for the link to SFWeekly, the credit should have gone to you, not me, for noticing the similarity. I had googled before for Saiwaii, and it seems to be a made-up word.

                1. re: L C

                  Yes, but what does "Saiwaii", not Sawaii, mean?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    "saiwai" (幸い)means "fortunately" and "saiwaii" seems like someone's language mistake. In any case, I think they were aiming at something that SEEMED Japanese.

                    1. re: Tripeler

                      On the original ABC license application as posted on line, the name of the establishment is spelled Sawaii Ramen, not Saiwaii Ramen. The proprietors may have had second thoughts about copying the logo AND the name.

                      Judging from the names, the owners do not appear to be Japanese, FWIW.

                      1. re: soupçon

                        Thanks for the ABC info! Great detective work!

                        I wouldn't infer anything from the way the name was spelled. I've seen ABC people misspell things many times. The website is just to inform the public, it's not an official doc. A staff person reads the signed application and types it for the website, so misspellings are common. For example:

                        License says "Lafitti", should be "Lafitte":

                        Look how they spelled caffe with 2 e's:

                        Look how "restaurant" was spelled "restorant"

                        1. re: soupçon

                          Last week the plywood was down but the windows were still papered over. Might be open by now or very soon.

                      1. re: L C

                        Hi All,

                        First of all, I would like to introduce myself, I am from Hong Kong and I am the one who created the original Sawaii Sushi logo. The logo was done many years ago for my friend's family business. I have made contact with my friend to find out the truth behind the logo mystery. I will post again here once I have the answer.

            3. Does "Macao (sic)" mean the name should have been spelled differently? If so, what's the correct spelling?

              5 Replies
              1. re: vincentlo

                Macao is correct. If you want to search for other restaurants that feature this cuisine, that is the word to use.

                1. re: Shane Greenwood

                  Not to pick nits, but the "correct" spelling is Macau. It's the official name for the country (now Administrative Region), and Googling "Macau" yields 300,000,000 results compared to 21,000,000 for "Macao."

                  1. re: soupçon

                    Did a little googling...turns out both are correct and widely used. Macau is the name residents use. Macao is the name used by mainland Chinese. So both versions are out there in common and official usage. Macăo is another variation that comes up.

                    Searching for any of the above turns up the same restaurants, so you're good either way.

                    1. re: Shane Greenwood

                      Mainland Chinese call it Aomen (澳门). Most would have no idea what you are talking about if you call it Macau (or Macao).

                      1. re: soupçon

                        Found that reference online. Thanks for all your corrections. Just trying to provide some guidance for searching restaurants. Both of those names are commonly used. No need to continue this.

                        You can say you're right if that helps.