(photos taken from Check Please, Bay Area site.)
One show we like to watch is Check Please, Bay Area. There are a few Check Please shows around the country, and I think it started in Chicago. It’s on PBS, and the idea is that three local viewers each recommend their favorite restaurant, all three go (separately) to all three restaurants, and they then come and talk about what they liked and didn’t like about all three restaurants.
Maya and I watched a new episode last night, and the one restaurant that all three participants liked was Red Jade, a Mandarin restaurant on Church street in San Francisco. They talked about how amazing the green onion pancakes were, and how you could get dishes there that you cannot find in most Chinese restaurants, like lamb and ostrich. Watching the show made the hamburgers I had planned for our meal start to look pretty boring, so we decided to drive into the City and give it a shot.
Unfortunately, everyone else watched that same episode of Check Please, and the staff was completely overwhelmed. There was a line out the door, and a local commented that there was NEVER a line out the door for Red Jade. We got to chatting with the people in line, and both the people in front and behind us were there because of the show. On Check Please, all three reviewers commented on the quick, friendly service. Our waiter threw our place settings on the table, brought us some tea, and then dissapeared for about 20 minutes. By dissapeared, I don’t mean he was hiding in the back with a cigarrette, but that he was running around the restaurant trying to deal with the crowd. They deliver to the neighborhood, and it looked like there were two or three people just taking and dealing with phone orders, and two or three working the actual restaurant. They may need to bring in a few more people for a little while.
One dish we had to try was the green onion pancake, which the reviewers all loved, and the one Chinese reviewer declared “to die for”, and the “best in the Bay Area”. We found it to be somewhat bland, and while it was crispy and crunchy on the outside, it was a tad undercooked inside. I would pass next time, and maybe try an appetizer of Dim Sum. After we finished our green onion pancake, we had to wait quite awhile for the overwhelmed kitchen to put out our entrees. I watched as a diner at a neighboring table became visibly frustrated by the rushed and inattentive service. We had to ask for refills on our water, that sort of thing. We ordered three other dishes, the Happy Family, some General Tso’s Chicken, and Mango Ostrich. The Happy Family was the stand out dish of the evening. I’ve never had it before, but the Shrimp, the sauce, the walnuts, and the cantaloupe went together perfectly. The General Tso’s Chicken was also delicious. The chicken was crisp on the outside, and tender inside, and the sauce was just spicy enough to be tasty. I’ll admit that I missed the way it was served in Philadelphia, with broccoli, but otherwise, it was wonderful. The mango ostrich was so-so. The meat was very tender, but the mango was chewy and under ripe, and the dish overall somewhat bland.
If I were in the neighborhood and craving Chinese, I would probably go back and hope that the fuss has passed. But I doubt I would drive into the City just to have some of that yummy Happy Family again.