Macao Friends Restaurant
2240 Irving Street,
San Francisco , CA 94121
(Prices: $10 and up)
More famously known for its royal Casinos, Macao cuisine has been known to be the comfort food for the East. Growing up in Macao, owner/chef Io Meng Ung is serving up authentic dishes in the outer Sunset. With its bright store front, one step into the fifty seat restaurant immediately heightens the sense. The open kitchens feature wok firing dishes.
A territory just south of Hong Kong once claimed by Portugal and now China, the Macanese cuisine is a fusion of Cantonese and Portuguese. Major ingredients include potatoes and mackerel.
Pots and pans clanging, the restaurant is not fit for a date place but instead for a taste of Portuguese cooking that rivals restaurants in Macao. The décor is muddled with country flags hung window side along with a juke box in the back dining area. Noticeably, the restaurant flow is quite busy. Patrons should not be surprised to be seated at a table with neighboring patrons just one arms length away.
Dark orange red walls and a bustling atmosphere greet the customer. On a Sunday afternoon, the two wait staff were attentive but overwhelmed by the large increase in customers.
Warming up my appetite the daily house soup ($2.00) features a milky tone brewed with herbs. Starting off with the Portuguese signature dish, the Portuguese Style Bake Pork Chop ($6.50) did not disappoint. Served on a metal oval tray, a piping hot dish arrives with a nutty burnt crust. The creamy sauce seeps perfectly into my tender noodles.
Similar to curry but milder in taste, the Portuguese sauce has been seldom mastered from Bay Area chefs. Chef Ung does it right and parallels to the best restaurants I have dined at in Macao. Arriving with sauce almost over pouring on the plate, the chill curry crab ($14.95) is a must order.
The sea sweet meat compliments the curry sauce. Sliced into small cuts, the garlic porky bun (toasted garlic bread-$3.50) soaked up the rich creamy sauce. The Portuguese style mackerel fish fried rice ($6.95) displays a sweet and salty flavor combination. With a light and fluffy texture, the fried rice demonstrates great “wok-air” key in Chinese cooking. Mashing potatoes and mackerel into round balls, the Portuguese style mackerel fish balls ($5.50) is a comfort food fried dish.
The salt and pepper tofu ($4.95) is a great appetizer. With a soft inside and crispy outside, the cubed tofu is just one of many Cantonese stir fry’s on the mile-long menu. Hot pots and Hong Kong style snacks are also served.
Chef Ung started working in the kitchens of Macao since he was fifteen years old. Ung said, “I worked in the kitchen because I did not have money for school. I learned how to cook Macanese food from a great chef.”
For marketing, the entrepreneur advises restaurant owners to advertise in a targeted segment. After airing few commercials on TVB, the major Chinese station, customers started flocking into the restaurant. Clearly, he also admits that the financial climate has resulted in a major loss in business. With a frustrated tone, Ung said that it has been hard to satisfy customers especially ones that want a large quantity and budget prices. His best tip for hiring employees is to give them a one day trial looking for ones that provide hospitality including warm greeters.
In order to attract new customers, he has devised a breakfast menu that offers free drinks included in set menus.