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For my 30th this year, my wonderful and loving family was nice enough to send myself and Jill out to San Francisco and wine country for ten days.  I’m a very lucky guy.  This trip has been in the works for more than a year now and I’ve been planning it for the last six months.  The itinerary reads like a food and wine lovers dream.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy Hungry Hungry Hinden and The Drunken Food Coma.

No more than an thirty minutes were we in San Francisco and we were on our way to get some food.  We checked in, put our bags in the room, and left.  Literally.  So we made a B line to Chinatown on foot – a nice 30 minute walk, much of which was, of course, up ridiculously steep hills.  Needless to say, we were so glad when we saw the sign in the distance – R&G Lounge (631 Kearny St., San Francisco).  I was told I had to come here and try their signature seafood dish.  It’s located in the heart of Chinatown so we were in a perfect spot to wander about and work off our feast that was about to begin.

We walked in and were sent downstairs to the main dining room.  We were seated and handed menus even though we already knew at least one dish we were going to enjoy.  The restaurant’s signature dish is their Live Crab with Salt and Pepper.  They take a live Dungeness Crab, apply a light zesty tempura batter and fry it until the shell is just slightly softer and the tempura is a glistening golden brown.

The dish is presented with the top shell and all.  The amateur would think this was merely for show.  Hecks no, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  The legs are all broken at the joints and placed in mound on a large plate.  It’s that simple, but it’s that perfect.  It is a spectacle to look at.  The dish is both brown and beautiful.  It’s not even like it’s your typical fried food – it IS a delicacy – and for $42 you sure would hope so.

They give you a cracker and a cocktail fork as tools to attack the crab.  In the end, I found my hands worked the best; once the crab had cooled a bit it got even easier to dissect.  The fry was almost as tasty as the crab, I swear.  We were both picking the batter from the shell and eating it plain.  It was that good even though it’s simple seasoned with “salt and pepper seasonings.”  That’s how the menu reads.

Inside, the crab was incredibly moist, had a very clean fresh taste, and it was piping hot and so unique in its preparation.  Yeah, it was a challenge to eat, but that’s half the fun – and I’m not often one to say that about hard to eat seafood.  It was because the batter itself was so tasty, that the interactivity of the dish was enjoyable.  We were happy boys and girls, that’s for sure.  We absolutely murdered the dish.

Okay, alright already… friggin’ the top shell!!  So…the BEST MEAT of the entire crab…is in the head.  You flip over the shell and before you sits the good fried nectar of the Gods.  Spoon it out and you have one of the tastiest bites imaginable – not exaggerating.  Creamy, meaty, tender, a little fishy, but mostly ocean fresh.  So many sensations and thoughts were surging through my body.  I wanted another shell!  But that would mean I’d have to order another Crab.  Good grief.

The plate of cracked shells and bits of batter looked more like a crab graveyard than a plate of food.  We didn’t know what happened, but the dish was gone.  We could have eaten another, but no.  So we move on.

We ordered the salmon and avocado egg rolls to accompany the main event and they were very tasty.  Maybe could have given us a couple more pieces, but the salmon was moist, avocado was fresh and provided great texture, and the sauce that was served alongside the rolls was different than your typical sweet and sour variety.  It was more of a vinegar base and had a little tang to it.  Very nice.

  Lastly, we ordered the soft pan fried noodles with beef in a basic soy sauce.  It was solid.  The noodles were similar to bucatini and were cooked properly in the wok.  The beef was extra tender and they were generous with the portion.  The greens that were tossed with the beef were fresh and necessary to balance the rich meal.  Wow.

Delicious tea, quick service and one of the best seafood dishes I’ve tasted in a while were the highlights of this first trip along this time out West.  If this stop is any indicator as to how the rest of the meals will be, you’re all in for a treat, and I’m gaining fifteen pounds.  But we all leave happy.

For what we paid, we got a great meal.  The food was fresh, the flavors were in your face and the traditional preparation of the crab was excellent.  I am curious if there are any spots in Chi-town that do crab in the deep fried manner and with such great product.  Though it’s possible, the location of San Francisco to its crab makes gives it a clear advantage over my hometown.

Ramen is next and tomorrow I assure you there will be more food.  I have to buckle down.  This is going to be a great week.

I’m hungry.  Let’s eat!

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