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Rock On Rong Tan’s

Rong Tan's Bistro & Lounge 606 Ohio Pike 752-1907

You read a lot about Chinese places in Cincinnati. You have the ones touted as “most authentic”, the big and small buffets and of course the neighborhood mom & pop local favorites. Much print real estate has been dedicated to dishing out details of Wasabi infused sauces and raw fish. There’s much argument about who’s the best. This month I am writing about one Chinese place that bests them all hands down, at least in one category... fun.
It’s not up for argument, it’s a fact. No where else can you get Lo Mein and “Drop it Low” at the same place on the same evening. At Rong Tan’s you can. Rong Tan’s is so special, so unique, it has to be one of a kind.
Think about it, big crab leg buffet, great signature Cantonese dishes dine in or delivery, a Texas Hold’em Game, A Dead dvd on the huge tv and that’s just dinner. After the woks are washed and the buffet pans are put up most Chinese places close up. At Rong Tan’s, it’s just getting started, literally.
After 10 the dance floor spot lights come on, the bass starts bumpin & the booze starts flowin’. How many other Chinese joints have a signature drink called “The Mongolian Motherf#cker? If you think that’s wild stop by on a weekend and walk into a crowd of 150 or so jammin’ to live bands like Stolit, Livid, Supermassive, Hearsay and Assault Machine (Oct 29 & 30). You can still smell the fried rice and crab legs as you head-bang stage front to the music.
What other Asian restaurant has a one of a kind “Goodwill Hunting Party”. Customers buy wacked out clothes at the nearby Goodwill and show off their finds. It’s so cool Cincy Vibe is running an open tab for the party. Bring in your Goodwill receipt and we’ll put your first drink on our tab (the tax man is just gonna’ love that).
If you think that’s juicy how about Rong Tan’s Annual Prom! Seriously, a real prom complete with DJ, decked out dance floor decorations, pro photographer and all. Last year Rong Tan’s Prom had over a hundred attendees dressed in full tux and prom dress. Many more attended in non-prom attire as well. It’s cool either way but just imagine the out-of-towner-folk from the nearby I-275 hotels who came in because it was open and close. They walked into a get a drink and maybe a late night egg-roll and found themselves smack dab in the middle of prom! They’d have fun for certain. The owner says “Man, people love it, maybe they missed their prom or just miss that fun of a prom, they see and catch up with old friends, have a great time dressing up, it’s really a lot of fun. People take it serious too, they get their professional prom photo taken here and slow dance with their prom date, get rooms at the hotels, it’s been a great time every year we’ve done it”. The “Annual Rong Tan’s Prom” falls on Thanksgiving Eve this year.
Who’s the wizard behind the curtain of this American-Chinese-Buffet-Dance/Concert Club & Lounge? A Milford born & raised fella named Rich Williams (bottom photo). Rich fell in love with a petty little lady named Lisa Tan decades ago. He married into the Tan fam and Rong Tan’s is the product of that American-Chinese combination (along with two beautiful children). What a combination it is too! The Tan fam fires the Woks and Rich fires up the lounge. Together it’s a true “Wok & Roll” joint the likes of you’ve never seen.

You see, at heart, Rich is a true quintessential barman. Many people are in the bar biz, but not all of them should be. Some people buy a bar just to be the “star at the bar”. They love the cronies that tag along their heels, laughing at every joke and relentlessly throwing compliments, the shameless attention from the cheap girls that giggle and flirt, they love the whole “I’m a big somebody to everybody here” thing. They talk big talk, drive flash cars and act like they’re made of money but that’s about it. They can’t diagnose a problem credit card terminal or ill ice machine, can’t make a single drink with more than two ingredients, balance their profit & loss budget or figure out where the sewer line is stopped up at. They are basically worthless braggarts, their bar runs (for a while) in-spite of them, rather than because of them. Not so with Rich. On any given day (and night) you can find this guy doing everything and anything that has to do with keeping the business in fine form. When he’s not bartending (he’s on the schedule full time) he’s either ordering product, fixing equipment, budgeting expenses, cleaning, painting, repairing, replacing and damn near anything else the bar biz can throw at him. And, that’s when he’s not delivering fine Chinese to Tan’s fans (which he is also on the schedule for).
Add in booking Rong Tan’s special blend of bands, part time DJ and concert club manager all night to boot. Not to mention personally driving loyal patrons home after it all. Whew! And you know what?
He loves it.

That’s what it takes to truly run a bar. But, that’s not all it takes to run a great bar. The great part comes from Rich’s relationship to his customers. After all, he spends a great deal of his life with them, he knows their ups & downs, their wins & losses. He shares his life and they share theirs. He actually cares. That’s why you can find a couple dozen people happily hang out around the bar at all times, even at three o’clock on a rainy Monday Rich has patrons. Happy patrons. Rich makes Rong Tan’s a true pub. A Cheers type of place where folks share the good times and bitch about the bad. A place to meet friends & make new ones. He’s not trying to be the star at the bar. He is the bar. He’s just trying to do the best job he can as a good host. That’s what a great pub is truly all about.

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What's Cookin'

Chinese food is mysterious. I’ve tried many recipes at home, but never is it anywhere near what I get at a good Chinese kitchen. So when I crave the creations of the far East I order out. Rong Tan’s is a long time Eastside Chinese connection. Owned and operated by Milford native Rich Williams, his brother in law Rong D. Tan and his father Chang Rong Tan. Rong Tan’s is a family success. The Rong Tan family honed their chef kinks and cooking skills razor sharp in the Guang Zhuo provence of China. Fortunately for us they have long since made the Eastside their home.
I’m sad to see so many Chinese restaurants abandoning the authenticity of the the cuisine in favor of an “American appeal” style of cooking. I test the waters of authenticity and judge a Chinese Restaurant by their Lo-Mein. An awesome dish; Lo-Mein is made up of spaghetti like noodles. (Some restaurants actually use spaghetti: a very bad sign.); fresh veggies and your choice of meats, and a special Lo- Mein sauce. The sauce is the key ingredient. Great sauce has a grilled smoky flavor. Rich Williams explained how the sauce must be incorporated into the dish, not just merely added to the finish.
I was invited into the kitchen to see the sublime and simple dish created before my very eyes. Using real Chinese noodles, fresh veggies and mats the chef begins an almost “ceremonial” culinary technique. A magic combination of wok, oil, flame, shake and sizzle. Fire and sauce, shake and sizzle and BAM! It’s done and amazing to watch. My eyes were riveted to the flames and my toes almost tapping to the rhythm.
In the kitchen I took a moment to admire the makings of the nightly buffet: a feast of fresh shrimp, beautiful beef, choice cuts of chicken and pork, steaming crab legs, bright green beans being stringed by hand, fresh veggies being cleaned and chopped with precision and skill. I had my Lo Mein in hand otherwise I would have stayed for the buffet.
These people take pride in their work, pride in their family and are very proud of Rong Tan’s, and that’s the secret ingredient to their success.

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Challenging your notion of Chinese

When you think Chinese do you think about chowing down on msg laden buffet food until your belly’s blue & bloated then end up violently blowing up the bowl an hour later? Do you ever say “Hey let’s get a baby sitter, call a cab, make a night of it and party all night at Sizzling Wok? No, at least I hope not, although it would be such fun to shake up the folks over at Sizzling Wok by shot gunning all their beer and table dancing topless until they throw you out.... “you no come here anymore... why you drink soo much... you go now!” You might even manage to projectile vomit right on the cash register for good measure as your being ushered out. Hilarious thought indeed.
As much fun as pulling a drunken savage burn on Sizzling Wok may sound there is a more viable solution to having a good time and eating your favorite Chinese dishes at the same time...Rong Tans Bistro & Lounge.
Rong Tans is fun Chinese. The lounge is always littered with locals and the food is always right on par. The Beechmont bistro takes a decidedly American approach to Chinese cuisine.
First off how many other Chinese restaurants even have a bar? I’m not talking about some tiki topped porta bar stuffed in the back corner stocked with four dusty bottles of Kummingatcha vodka & Ron Rico rum. I’m talking about a nice well stocked, very popular local lounge that comes complete with TVs, mega touch and a friendly bartender at your service. How many? None I think. Wait take that back... yes, it’s definitely none, I’m certain. I’d say almost 1/2 of Rong Tans customers sit at the bar. After all, what better place to “Eat the Chinese and drink the beer” (Rong Tans official slogan).
The fact that it’s Chinese sort of throws you off. Who would think that the weekend nights get crowded with cuties & booties on the dance floor and that at 11:00 the party is just getting started?

Who would have thought your dinner buffet experience would come complete with great non-msg Chinese treats and live music (6-10) by “the piano man” ? He busts out like a mad man all night long with hits from the great classic rock & roll bands like The Beatles, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Rolling Stones and just about any request you can yell at him. Let’s not forget the afore mentioned late night karaoke/ dance party people.
Driving by you might think “ooh a nice Chinese buffet, let’s eat there before we go to the club” Fact is after your meal you might not walk out until 2:30. And for good reason.
I know some of you are too old and too slow (or too married) to be booty shakin’ with the ladies. Your still not left out if you love good Chinese. Rong Tans serves it up right proper. In fact if your one of those “we’re just going to stay home with the kids and watch some Disney movies” Rong Tans still has you covered. They even deliver their beautiful boxes of Chinese delights right to your door. That way you can all sit down, dig in and skip the dishes. For those “all American” appetites that spoil the whole “I want Chinese... but I want burgers” argument, they still have you covered. They serve big meaty burgers fresh off the grill.
Like I said, Rong Tans is not your typical Chinese joint. With all this attention to entertainment don’t think for a minute they skimp on the food. Just look at these dishes we ordered. Now you tell me, isn’t that lovely Lo Mein meaty? Thinking about some succulent spicy Szechuan shrimp? I bet you are now. Two of us ordered three dishes and tore it all up in under twenty minutes, it was divine (no gastronomical surprises afterward I might add). Rong Tans serves fun Chinese, and that’s what it’s all about. Skip the silly hack joints, go for the good stuff, their menu is loaded with it.
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Chinese food is mysterious. I’ve tried many recipes at home, but never is it anywhere near what I get at a good Chinese kitchen. So when I crave the creations of the far East I order out. Rong Tan’s is a long time Eastside Chinese connection. Owned and operated by Milford native Rich Williams, his brother in law Rong D. Tan and his father Chang Rong Tan. Rong Tan’s is a family success. The Rong Tan family honed their chef kinks and cooking skills razor sharp in the Guang Zhuo provence of China. Fortunately for us they have long since made the Eastside their home.
I’m sad to see so many Chinese restaurants abandoning the authenticity of the the cuisine in favor of an “American appeal” style of cooking. I test the waters of authenticity and judge a Chinese Restaurant by their Lo-Mein. An awesome dish; Lo-Mein is made up of spaghetti like noodles. (Some restaurants actually use spaghetti: a very bad sign.); fresh veggies and your choice of meats, and a special Lo- Mein sauce. The sauce is the key ingredient. Great sauce has a grilled smoky flavor. Rich Williams explained how the sauce must be incorporated into the dish, not just merely added to the finish.
I was invited into the kitchen to see the sublime and simple dish created before my very eyes. Using real Chinese noodles, fresh veggies and mats the chef begins an almost “ceremonial” culinary technique. A magic combination of wok, oil, flame, shake and sizzle. Fire and sauce, shake and sizzle and BAM! It’s done and amazing to watch. My eyes were riveted to the flames and my toes almost tapping to the rhythm.
In the kitchen I took a moment to admire the makings of the nightly buffet: a feast of fresh shrimp, beautiful beef, choice cuts of chicken and pork, steaming crab legs, bright green beans being stringed by hand, fresh veggies being cleaned and chopped with precision and skill. I had my Lo Mein in hand otherwise I would have stayed for the buffet.
These people take pride in their work, pride in their family and are very proud of Rong Tan’s, and that’s the secret ingredient to their success.

 

 

 

 

 

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