I try to remain as unbiased as possible while reviewing restaurants. Every new place you visit, I aim to start with a clean slate, casting aside all of the other restaurants I’ve tried that serve up the same cuisine or any opinions I have heard about the place prior to my trying it. But once in awhile, one restaurant just molds itself into an “indisputable favorite” category, and one by which you measure up all others that fall under the same cuisine. When it comes to Chinese seafood, R&G Lounge is that which raised the bar for me.
It’s not so much that they serve the very best of each dish; it’s more that overall, course by course, R&G serves excellent food. There’s fresh seafood to be had all over San Francisco, but served Chinese-style and with each bite exuding the ultimate freshness despite the fact that all of it is cooked thoroughly, this restaurant stands alone.
Even dishes as simple as a house fried rice is exemplary. The flavors are mixed and subtle but unmistakably present, from each bit of green onions and slices of yellow onions, or the small curds of egg. The seasoning in this dish wants for nothing and it’s fried at a perfectly high heat for the ideal number of minutes to achieve just enough browning while not showing a hint of burnt flavor. It’s best when eaten at the restaurant, served ridiculously hot — but I know firsthand that it’s almost just as good reheated at home, without sticking together into chunks. A quick stir in a hot frypan and it’s basically as good as fresh.
The restaurant itself is rather large with a sprawling second floor filled with huge tables, suitable for parties of 8-10 each. In fact, it’s easier to get a reservation here for large parties than for smaller groups of 2-4 people. Once you’re up there, it’s like you’ve discovered every Chinese family’s untold secret: this is where they all come to have large family gatherings!
Typical of Chinese restaurants, the service is decent but nothing to write home about. You can tell each server is used to running a restaurant at capacity, and nobody is frantic; a full house is nothing new to R&G Lounge. But due to always being so busy on a nightly basis, you can also tell they don’t value your business anymore than the Mayor himself visiting. They serve good food, and they know you will come back even if they don’t roll out the red carpet — and mark my words — you will.
Afterall, when a restaurant takes significantly large and meaty full chunks of scallops, breads them lightly and then flash-fries them in hot, hot oil — the end result is something irresistible, and barring something really offensive, you will return to order this dish. Each well-seasoned bite that needs no dipping or sauce will surprise you; the batter is crunchy but light, and takes nothing away from the sweetness of the scallop that somehow retains all of its juiciness throughout the cooking process. Furthermore, the fact that these scallops were fresh enough to eat raw shines through with each bite–and that’s what makes R&G food shine.
The R&G Special Beef dish is served with some lemon, and whatever this special soy-based sauce is, it tastes similar to Korean galbi, but with a distinctly Chinese spin to it; add the lemon and the flavors pop. Each slice of the top sirloin beef is unusually tender but has a nice crisp to each bite, and with a bit of fried or white rice, this would make for the perfect entree for one person. But how one goes to R&G and orders just one thing on the menu is beyond me; you almost have to share because you want – no, need – a bite of every single thing.
My favorite dish at R&G and one that I always order, no matter what, is the abalone with tender greens. The dish is covered in a light gravy that adds subtle texture and flavor to the dish; the thick slices of abalone are so tender and tasty, and the Chinese greens are boiled, soft and nicely seasoned.