When Douglas Chau’s parents told him they would be flying from New York to visit him in the Bay Area, he did what any food influencer would: plan out a week and a half of amazing meals at local restaurants. But unlike most young adults, Chau used the occasion to create charming videos of the restaurants he went to with his parents, which included treating them to meals at Baekjong, Koi Palace, and a high-end dinner at Kiln, the new Hayes Valley restaurant from chef John Wesley. Although his parents are “particularly into food,” Chau says they hadn’t yet been to a fine dining restaurant. He took their visit as an opportunity to show them things they don’t typically get to see.
“I was just curious what my parents would think of it,” Chau says, “because I think traditional parents are typically kind of frugal, and fine dining on the surface is a lot of small plates, it’s very expensive, and I thought that kind of juxtaposition would be interesting.”
The Kiln video in particular became a hit, garnering more than 64,000 likes since its debut back in September, making the rounds on social media via popular accounts like Asian news source, NextShark. Viewers shared comments about their own parents and their frugality, making guesses as to how their own parents would react to a tasting menu meal. “At first I thought it was just my parents, like Chinese parents or Asian parents, but apparently it’s almost everyone’s parents [that are frugal],” Chau says. “I do think it ultimately resonated with a lot of people, and they probably saw their parents in my parents.”
Chau’s parents — Tiffany Chau, 63, and Wilson Chau, 60 — are Chinese, grew up in Hong Kong, and have lived in America since they were in college. They currently live in Flushing, Queens, and typically enjoy Chinese cuisine from the neighborhood, Douglas Chau shares. While Wilson Chau is the more frugal of the couple, at least according to the younger Chau, as the couple nears retirement, Douglas Chau noticed they’ve become more open to trying things. So when a last-minute reservation opened up at Kiln, Douglas Chau pounced on it, enlisting his mother’s help in convincing his father to go. “There wasn’t a lot of preparation,” Douglas Chau says. “I just threw them in there. They kind of knew what they were getting into, in the sense that it’s going to be very different than what they normally expect, what the normal experience is.”
The Chau family indulged in the 22-course meal at Kiln, which included an array of dishes such as a beef tendon snack, cornettes, wild Norwegian mackerel, spot prawn, squab from Modesto, and other delicate bites and plated dishes. “I think there was a bit of a shock when they got the first plate,” Douglas Chau says. “Some of the plating is a bit elaborate and the first dish arrived on a wooden block, so I think my dad was initially confused at what he was looking at.” The video does a quick run through the experience, and while some dishes were big hits — such as a Norwegian king crab, bathed in a buttery tomato-miso sauce — others missed the mark. Still, Douglas Chau notes that his parents enjoyed the experience, and the food pushed their expectations on flavors and textures out from what they’re used to, with a lot of pensiveness as they tried each bite.
“It was very interesting to see that juxtaposition between the plates,” Douglas Chau says. “[It went] from ‘I don’t like it’ to ‘Wow, this is really really, really good.’ The highs and the lows were interesting to experience and that was a bit of a surprise to me.”
Douglas Chau enjoyed the experience and thought the food was both good and worth the $225 price tag per person. While he admits he doesn’t do fine dining on a regular basis, he’s gone to a few high-end restaurants and was excited to try Kiln after hearing about it from others on social media as an “up-and-coming” fine dining spot in San Francisco. “In my mind, fine dining is an opportunity to see what kind of interesting flavors you can get on a plate,” Douglas Chau says. “It’s a playground and you’re seeing what’s possible, seeing what a restaurant can do.”
Despite the fun he had shooting the videos and the positive reception they’ve gotten online, Douglas Chau also had another motivation – besides just likes. He realized, as an adult, that he didn’t really have many photos or videos of his parents, and he wanted to change that. “I feel like the common theme for Asian parents is that they’re not very affectionate,” Douglas Chau says. “Getting into my late 20s, [I’ve been] trying to get to know my parents better and show more affection for them. One of my sad realizations was that I wouldn’t really have anything to look back on them, so what I really wanted to do on this trip was collect more of that for the one day I won’t be able to be with them anymore.”
Ultimately, the elder Chaus gave the Kiln experience a rating of 7/10 — “7/10 is a high rating for Asian parents,” one viewer commented — and at the end of their stay, Douglas Chau asked his parents to rank their favorites. After 15 meals around the Bay Area, including fine dining spots and everyday restaurants such as Korean barbecue at Baekjong, an eight-course king crab dinner at Koi Palace, brunch at Sweet Maple, seafood at Fish in Sausalito, Marugame Udon and more, what ranked as the top spot? Their 10/10 meal turned out to be dim sum at Mayflower Seafood Restaurant in Milpitas.
Update: November 8th, 2023, 3:20 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Flushing is located in Queens.