News By: Gerrye Wong

News Date: May 29, 2017

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May 29, 2017


By Gerrye Wong


The audience was mesmerized the minute Brenda Wong Aoki came on stage to weave her tales of true life resilience when facing adversity. As she told about a father in the 442nd fighting WWII in Germany while his wife with other Japanese families were imprisoned in Poston Internment camp, a family yanked from their farms by soldiers, only to return to find their homes gone or destroyed, my tears flowed freely imagining the turmoil and hardships the Japanese people in her true stories faced to survive.

Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu on stage

For an amazing two and a half hours Brenda tells stories so believably, that she becomes the characters of her family she pretends to be.  Her family stories and memoirs are woven with archival photographs and a home movie Mark’s family found of internment and happier family times when reunited back to San Francisco after the war. Her musician husband, Emmy award winning Mark Izu  provides the back ground music on his bass along with Shoji Hikage playing the Japanese Koto instrument.

Music by Mark Izu

Brenda said her performing on Memorial Day was ironically a good time for them and all of us to reflect on their family history and the stories of their ancestors. When Brenda mentioned that this year of 2017 was the 120th anniversary of her family coming to America, it prompted me to think of my own family background. My paternal grandmother was born in Madera, California in 1884, so that side of the family has roots going back possibly over 140 years ago!  How about your roots in America?  Can you beat my anniversary record?

Child with sign

In Brenda Wong Aoki’s show, “Aunt Lily’s Garden, 100 Years of Legalized Racism”, she brought out facts that so many of us too often forget.  For Brenda’s Chinese side, she recalled they endured Anti-Chinese Exclusion laws, burning of Chinatowns, and discrimination on all sides when they wanted to settle in heretofore “white” neighborhoods. On her Japanese heritage, she reminded everyone 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, the unfair law that permitted the government to force Japanese away from their homes to a unfair incarceration in desert internment locations behind barbed wire fences under police guards.  One could tell from the smiles among some sad faces that Brenda hit the heart strings of many in the audience who were moved by the tragedies of life that she brought to the open in her family story telling.

AuntLily photo

  San Francisco’s Southside Theater in Fort Mason will show her closing performance Saturday June 3, 7pm. Don’t miss this – it will not only entertain you, it may also help you bring about new conversation with your younger family members about the ancestors who came before you  all and the lives they endured to provide better lives for your generations.


The Memorial Day Weekend was a perfect time to have brunch before going to the Brenda Wong Aoki matinee show listed above.  What better place for a cultural diversity of selections but to the Marina District of Chestnut Street  where we were attracted to THE DORIAN RESTAURANT with its dining room reminding one of a Victorian home at the turn of the last century with textural wallpapers, built-in panels with hand-sourced antique artifacts and a large chandelier shining down on plush green velvet chairs.

San Franciscans visit Dorian on Chestnut Street for brunch

The new Brunch specialty, according to the waiter was the Shakshuka made with baked eggs, Moroccan spices and cumin yogurt into a delectable offering to savor. The servings are immense, and one would have to have a baboon’s mouth to be able to take a bite out of the popular gigantic Dorian Burger. Husband Calvin who enjoys spicy hot dishes, raved over his Huevos Rancheros as the best ever tasted with its chorizo, crispy corn tortillas, black beans and avocado mix. Oysters on the Half Shell, a perfectly prepared Eggs Benedict, and the House Smoked Billionaires Bacon were patron favorites, we could tell, from the smiles on the diners around us.

Dorian Restaurant specialty

Elegant surroundings or a more informal large bar area can meet anyone’s pleasure, as would the quality and the quantity of the food presented. A friendly wait staff told me the next time I return I should try the #Yolklife Sando which fills a brimming, enormous dinner plate with a sunny-side egg, hobb’s sausage, bacon jam, fried green tomato, aged cheddar and chorizo aoli!  Kudos to operating partners Anderson Pugash, Benson Wong and Jack Herr for bringing to San Francisco foodie scene a very nicely priced menu of fine selections for all tastes and stomachs. Info:

 Chef Khai Duong greets Wongs at new restauant KHAI

KHAI VIETNAMESE NOUVEAU recently opened in the San Francisco Design District bringing back the cuisine of Chef Khai Duong who was owner chef of  Ghirardelli Square’s Ana Mandara for over 12 years.  Duong took a hiatus to return to his homeland of Vietnam to explore and re-discover new flavors to bring back to his San Francisco fans.  I went one night to sample his $95 prix fixe 10 course meal and enjoyed renewing old acquaintances with the very personable and friendly Chef Khai.   Among our many dishes, we were deliciously pleased to sample his fresh seaweed salad, wild Matsutake mushroom pate served with cracked interwoven on a piece of white coral and a Dungeness crab sausage served on portobello mushrooms.  A baked seared butterfish was exceptionally done in a 140 year old recipe, and we also enjoyed Golden Roasted Quail coated in salted egg yolk and roasted garlic.  This new intimate bistro restaurant seats 22 diners at two seatings so of course, the service is impeccable but made even more exceptional because Chef Khai comes out to explain many of his unique dishes in addition to the waiter’s explanations of each course.  This is a different elegant take on Vietnamese cuisine and thank you to Khai Duong for bringing his culinary expertise to the Bay Area scene. Check menu and make reservations at


Traveling to Berkeley, we found Lucia’s Pizzeria for a Neapolitan pizza-focused service popular to this campus city’s diverse tastes.  Owner Steve Dumain came from a fashion industry career working for such stalwarts as Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenburg. Co owner Alessandro Uccelli was familiar with the area, once having attended UC Berkeley Engineering School.  When I met both very cordial owners, they shared they were inspired by the challenge of staying true to tradition while at the same time looking for the door that leads them to somewhere new and adventurous. They said they want to bring people into an experience and have them leave with a special feeling you get after a wonderful meal surrounded by family and friends. It is fun to sit at the bar stools fronting the exhibition kitchen to see the chefs preparing the authentic Neapolitan thin-crust pizza made with old-world style dough and prepared in an attractive Stefano Ferrara handcrafted wood-burning oven imported from Naples and using special bricks made in Sorrento.  

Porchetta Steve

Both eager owners were eager to tell me many of their ingredients come from the restaurant’s own Oakland garden plot plus from local farmers.  It was nice to learn from Steve and Allessandro also that they serve kid-size pizzas, gluten free dough and vegan mozzarella when requested.

Lucia's special pizza oven from italy

Although just opened 5 months ago, they’ve received much customer and critical acclaim. There’s a wide variety of red and white pizzas to choose from, and my Prosciutto & Rucola choice was delicious. I like the comfortable casual feel of the restaurant with its concrete walls, brick clad columns, colorful mismatched furniture, wood table tops and bench seats and wine bottle display encased in wood fruit crates.  Close to Bart Station, and busy Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Rep theaters, Lucia’s Pizzeria is a convenient stopping place for all the foot traffic of downtown Berkeley.


Just a short walk around the corner on Addison Street is the Berkeley Repertory Theatres which premiered Mira Nair’s MONSOON WEDDING, a delightful sometimes funny and sometimes sad musical about old and modern traditions clashing in a changing India.  The costumes are colorfully beautiful, the setting is clever and moves uniquely from one scene to the next, and the actors make fun of cultural beliefs and customs, but in a tongue-in- cheek way that is fun for all.  Sometimes the Indian accents make the smart dialogue indistinguishable, but the music is toe tapping and the dance scenes highly enjoyable to watch.

The musical comedy has pathos and serious moments of the wedding planning of an arranged marriage in this modern day, and like a monsoon, it climaxes into full blown storm, but passes eventually and peace reigns.  The ending Bollywood wedding festivity has the audience on their feet clapping wildly to the beat of the highly energizing music and dance.  This is a winner for Berkeley Rep and it is now extended through July 2, so for a fun family night out learning about Indian customs of a wedding, here it is.  Get your tickets through or calling 510 647 2949.


It was a grueling hot day for the South Bay Chinese Service Club 30th Annual Golf Tournament at the hilly slopes of Milpitas’ Summit Golf Course, but all 42 golfers survived and celebrated the feat dining with other SBCSC members at the World Gourmet Buffet in Fremont later. Victor Gin announced winning teams were 1st Place: Ron Wong, Ralph Gin, Edwin Ng and Don Lee.  Second place honors went to Steve Dutra, Norman Becker, Brendan Yee and Nando Carbonet.  Third Place team winners were Fran, Victor and Brian Gin with Hans Schiesser with fourth following close with Jeff Seifert, Howard Wong, Ted Yoshihara and James Galanida. 

Closest to the Pin is always a hard fought challenge and everyone had a chance on all par 3’s to win a jar full of dollar bills (hmmm how much?).  Those precise players to the greens were Jose Hurtado, Joe Woo, Willy Yichoy, Nando Carbonel, Norman Becker, Joe Hurtado, Edwin ng and Ron Wong.  All agreed it was a fun day whether you played or ate, and between the game fees and raffle and silent auction, the club should net a pretty penny to go towards next year’s scholarship awards, according to President Lorrie Wong and Treasurer Maelene Wong, and Tournament Chairs Frank Louie and Victor Gin.


Steven Lee, Founder of the Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Project tells us that his team and the US-China Railroad Friendship Association has created an education tour “REDISCOVERING THE PATH OF THE CHINESE RAILROAD WORKERS” which sounds like a great historical adventure to join in. Starting in Sacramento with a Bay Area departure available, the bus will go east on Interstate 80 to Reno, Nevada and stop at many Chinese railroad workers points of interest related to their life and achievements of 1865-1869. After a one night stay in Reno, the next day’s tour will be to board an AMTRAK train and ride the rails into the scenic Sierra Mountains and through some of the tunnels built by Chinese railroad workers, back to Sacramento. Historian Bill George and Former Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes will tell of points of interests along the way.   Steven tells us the CHINESE RAILROAD WORKERS MEMORIAL MONUMENT is anticipated to be ready for installation at the Gold Run Rest Stop in fall 2018. Tour info: 415 720 4208;


Greenhorn Golf Course car is showcased on the front just before the first hole.

A visit to Greenhorn Golf Course was interesting to see the owner’s car sitting right next to the first hole and finding a wall of rocks that had been built by Chinese miners in the late 1800s. Golfers have the challenge to hit over the wall to continue on one of the golf course holes. Gerrye Wong and Fran Gin found it easier to pose behind the wall than hit over it!

Fran Gin and Gerrye Wong stand behind old Chinese mining camp wall form the 1800s in the middle of the Greenhorn Golf Course.


San Francisco City Hall emblazoned with Golden State Warriors colors

San Francisco’s City Hall is embazoned blue and gold to root for the Golden State Warriors as they enter the NBA Finals.

Silicon Valley ladies visit San Francisco's Legionof Honor Museum

Silicon Valley visitors to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor  to see the Monet exhibit enjoyed the cultural art scene in this world class museum.

Ken and Lan Tran at Bay to Breakers SF

Ken and Lan Tran are overwhelmed to meet many Elvis runners during the Bay To Breakers annual race through San Francisco.

Hamilton family fun for Damon Runyon Cancer Relief

Ultimate fun in San Francisco for the Wong Family was seeing HAMILTON through tickets purchased from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.  A good time made extra special when supporting  a good cause.



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