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Mar 26, 2013 11:41 AM

R&G Lounge on the decline? [San Francisco]

My niece was in town and she was craving Chinese food. Whenever I'm in the Union Square area, R&G Lounge is my go-to spot for decent Cantonese food.

But during this last visit, I just felt everything was off. Kitchen seemed heavy-handed with the cornstarch, given the thickness of the sauces.

We ordered some basic non-fussy dishes that were my niece favorites: West Lake beef soup, mapo tofu, green beans and Peking spareribs.

West Lake beef soup should just be ground beef and minced cilantro, but instead it came with very little cilantro and a lot of imitation crab meat along with the beef. The inclusion of the imitation crab meat was what threw me off, even though the taste was fine, it just seemed weird and I don't like the idea of eating imitation crab meat.

The Peking spareribs should be more like a dry rub with light sauce but instead it was almost like sweet-and-sour pork with the bones still in. The sauce was just so typical sweet-sour tangy, and so much of it.

The mapo tofu was ok although my niece wanted more ground pork but I think they just used a few shreds of pork (or maybe it was beef), and the green beans were OK as well but not great.

Like I said, I've been here before in past years with out-of-town guests and they were always fine, but now just seems to be mediocre. Still, the wait on a Saturday was 45 minutes for the two of us around 7 p.m. There were crowds of people still trying to get in, which I don't get because it's so average now.

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  1. Are those dishes you've had good versions of there before?

    They're not things I'd order at a Hong Kong place specializing in seafood.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      that's an excellent point. that being said, i've been going for about 5 years to r&g, and i've always thought it to be very good, but never anything too special - probably the best cantonese restaurant in chinatown, but i still much prefer z&y overall

    2. I had a dinner there about 6 months ago that was pretty average, and definitely tasted of corn starch and gloopy sauce.
      The dishes going to other tables looked much better, and we concluded it was partly what we ordered. Still, for the price, and quality of the protein ingredients, there are far better options in the city unless you're going specifically for the salt and pepper crab.

      1. I've never ordered any of those dishes at R & G Lounge so couldn't say. It's kind of a waste of a meal (and money) to not stick with the signature dishes there. That's not to say that anything else is necessarily bad, just that you don't need to go to R&G and pay those elevated prices for common dishes. We've had a number of discussions about the best things to order there over the years, if you're interested.

        I'll mention that Peking spareribs are often made in the style you describe with a wetter sauce though I prefer the dry-fried style myself. West Lake soup and mapo tofu at Cantonese restaurants are all over the board since they're from other regions so subject to lots of interpretation.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          My niece were craving some of her favorites growing up, so that's why we ordered those dishes. Otherwise, I would have stuck more with the seafood.

          Yes, I like the dry-fried style of Peking spareribs as well. Do you have a rec of a San Francisco restaurant that does it well that way?

          1. re: singleguychef

            Completely understandable, a favorite niece cannot be denied.

            You know, it's been quite a while since I've had the dry fried style. That's the way they were presented the first time I had Peking spareribs and I guess you always love your first. Wish I had a rec for you --- we need to track this down.

            1. re: singleguychef

              I liked the salt-and-pepper ribs at Hunan Home's (which despite the name does not particularly specialize in Hunan cuisine).

              There's a place called Big Daddy's in Oakland that specializes in dry-fried ribs, seemed like pretty much the same dish to me.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Salt & pepper ribs and perhaps what you had at Big Daddy's are a different thing. Dry-fried Peking spareribs are marinated and have a reddish color.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Ok, that cured and ham-like. And a little sweet?

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Maybe slightly, could be a salt and sugar cure? It was definitely somewhat ham-like.

          2. singleguychef - out of curiousity, did the Westlake beef soup look anything like the one pictured in Charles Yu's recent post on the China/SE-Asia board below?

            I'd not been back to SF for quite a while, but R&G Lounge and Great Eastern on Jackson St were the only two restaurants I always frequent if I'm in Chinatown.

            1 Reply
            1. re: klyeoh

              Klyeoh, R&G's version looked like it had less green, not as much cilantro, and more beef and imitation crab, so didn't look exactly like Charles Yu's photo.

            2. I agree with everyone above about sticking to the classics and wondering whether the dishes you had were ever good before. I live and work near R&G so I go there a lot and, with one exception, it is pretty consistent when it comes to the classics.

              Full disclosure, the manager/owner and his son know me, but all the staff have always been very clear upfront about what is good and what is just on the menu because tourists demand it.