Two recent reports on dining at R & G Lounge read like a cautionary tale on ordering in Chinese restaurants. Maybe the problem is lumping all “Chinese” restaurants together, when in fact Cantonese, Szechuanese, and northern-style Chinese are all very different.

“Virtually all Chinese restaurants have the same problem,” notes Ruth Lafler. “Their menus are loaded with dishes that don’t play to their strengths and are just there because people have come to expect them to be there.”

So, what not to order at R & G? As chilihead2006 found out, the salmon and avocado spring roll, salt and pepper calamari, and seafood and bean curd soup. None of these even leave the impression that this is a good restaurant, but in fact there’s some great chow to be had.

Melanie Wong heartily enjoyed dinner at R & G on a day on which mere mortals should think twice about eating in a Chinese restaurant: Chinese New Year. Her picks:

• Deep-fried chicken stuffed with sticky rice; requires pre-ordering, but it’s totally worth it, with crunchy gold skin and a fresh scallop, shrimp, and Chinese sausage stuffing.
• Steamed super-fresh live black bass with ginger and scallions.
• Steamed pork hash with salted fish: coarsely chopped, fatty pork topped with shreds of ginger and fish.
• Crispy pork shoulder, with the crackling skin served separately, and yellow plum sauce and sweet pickled daikon on the side.

Stick to the Cantonese dishes, advises sfbing, and, if you’re not sure what those are, just order from the house specialties list on the menu’s first page. Live crab, steamed clams with egg custard, and seafood lettuce cup are all very good. The baked fish may not be traditional, but it’s juicy and flavorful. Cold cuts and roast Cantonese meats are reliable, as are soy sauce chicken, the chicken and eggplant claypot, and the salted duck egg baked crab.

When it comes down to it, the really good stuff at R & G will cost you. “I’ve noticed on more than one occasion that the lower priced entrées are just ‘ehh’ and that ridiculously complex thing for $38 is the bomb,” says sfbing. Splash out for a $75-a-person banquet and you’ll have an excellent meal.

Finally, don’t feel ashamed if you’ve ordered badly. “It is not just you, it is me too,” says sfbing. “My father has mocked me several times at R & G for picking something that sounds good but tastes bad, is poor value, or just doesn’t fit into the zeitgeist of the meal.”

R & G Lounge [Chinatown]
631 Kearny Street, San Francisco

Board Links: R & G Lounge….avoid
Chinese New Year Feasting (and Apres ZAP) at R & G Lounge in SF Chinatown

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