For 26 years I have passsed by Chopsticks Restaurant in San Rafael daily and never ventured in to the cinder block hut with the yellowing bulletin board and electric beer signs in the window. Recently, buildings around Chopsticks have been torn down or upgraded to make way for the new Elephant Pharmacy, and yet Chopsticks still stands! I figured there must be some reason. Also, I vaguely remember a mention by Melanie Wong about a beef stew there.
So, I began to sample menu items as take out. Pot stickers, won tons, and egg rolls are all house made and are some of the best I've had anywhere. The war won ton soup is flavorful. The chef has a great touch with sauces, and the prawns an lobster sauce are excellent. Mongolian Beef, snow peas and water chestnuts, eggplant with garlic sauce are great, and the salt and pepper prawns are perfectly fried, and best if eaten there. Many standard dishes, well above standard preparation.
The food here is largely designed for tight budgets, which is a good thing, but limits the selections. One day, in the kitchen, I spied a beautiful, dark brown glazed chicken. When I inquired, I was told it was for the family, but could be ordered with about a week's notice. Do they ever do any thing with crabs, I asked?
Well, yes, I was told, sometimes people bring in crabs, and they will prepare them.
Last Saturday, 10 of us dined on this special chicken, ginger and green onion crab, and many items off of the menu (salt and pepper shrimp, Mongolian beef, pot stickers, and more).
The food was great! The ambience was non existant as was heat on this cold rainy evening, but as soon as the wonton soup and tea and beers arrived, things warmed up considerably. I don't know what the name of the chicken preparation is, but I do know that the preparation takes several days and involves purchasing special chickens. The final step is frying and chopping the whole chickens into serving size pieces and the skin is crisp, the meat moist and the flavor anisey. I bought the live crabs at the Loch Lomand Bait Shop, where a local crabber keeps his catch in pens in the bay. Ten bucks per live crab, running two and a half to 3 pound each. Including this cost and a number of Tsing Taos,and 20% tip, the cost was around $25/person.
I look forward to trying the beef stew when it is available. They only have it sometimes as it is another dish that takes several days to prepare.
508 3rd Street