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'Restaurant Redemption' react: The Asian computer guy

Season 2 | Episode 7 | “Red Panda Asian Bistro” | Aired Dec 2, 2014

I’m not sure what to think about Sam Cheng, the main owner of the generically named Red Panda Asian Bistro in Queens, New York. As much as I don’t want to hate on an Asian brother, he’s totally perplexing.

Sam has made some really poor choices for the restaurant, the focus of an engaging Restaurant Redemption episode 7. (Ching is spot-on throughout.) Without any industry knowledge, he opened Red Panda Asian Bistro a year ago with the idea of serving up a good fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean cuisine. He unfortunately kept his day job as a software engineer while doing so, rather than focusing strictly on his new business.

As you may have guessed, Red Panda Asian Bistro ran into problems early on with lackluster food, which led to a lack of customers. To amp it up, he reached out to a magician named “Rogue” Quan to see if the latter could pull out some restaurant goers out of his … ah … magic hat. Because Sam couldn’t pay Rogue, he offered 30 percent of the restaurant to Rogue and Rogue’s fiancée, Paulina Gonzalez. He also offered the Paulina the responsibility of running the failing Red Panda Asian Bistro’s bar. On top of all that, Sam decided to offer all-you-can-eat sushi, an expensive and risky endeavor that’s now sucking up his finances.

Sam is also super-awkward. Throughout the beginning of the episode, he shows few emotions, and laughs at inappropriate times. For example, after sampling food, Ching goes to town on the three owners, and in particular Sam. She says, among other less than favorable reviews, “This is the worst sushi I’ve ever had … [The food is] disgusting … It lacks punch … It lacks execution.” Sam’s reaction to all of the criticism isn’t to be defensive or angry. He smiles and laughs instead, which Ching calls him on. Ching gets so peeved by his behavior that she walks out of the restaurant to catch a cab after saying, “I’m sorry, but I’m out,” i.e., “I’m no longer working with you.” At that point, Paulina stomps away too, after hurling some major f-bombs in Sam’s general direction.

On the other hand, I felt for Sam. Per his admission, he’s not a people person, which doesn’t bode well for a restaurant owner. His previously mentioned laughing fit, which initially comes across as being callous at best, is nervous laughter. As Paulina explains (insensitively, I might add), Sam’s natural habitat is in front of a computer, not people; he pretty much fits squarely into the Asian engineer stereotype, something that has been lampooned frequently on TV, film, and the media. As a TV character, he’s the hardworking underdog; while watching the episode, I, as an Asian man, wanted to root for him despite his lack of social grace. You just don’t get the chance to see many Asian men on TV, and, to quote Whitney Pow, the “times I have felt kinship or identification with a character of a person on TV and film are few and far between.”

Sam, like other hard-to-crack restaurant owners on Restaurant Redemption, comes around. He verbally opens up to Ching about his commitment to working with her to save Red Panda Asian Bistro, becomes more comfortable engaging potential customers on the street, and shows blips of gregariousness when the restaurant opens up again. Sam’s relationship with the other owners, who are kind of scene stealers when they’re on, appears to change for the better as a result. Overall, there’s a sense of hope for a restaurant that was on the brink of closing down within a month. By the end of the episode, it seems as though Ching feels it too.

With all that said, a quick look at Red Panda Asian Bistro’s website and Yelp reviews show that Sam hasn’t come around enough. Even though he told Ching that he would remove sushi from the menu, smack in the middle of all of their advertisements is the money drainer: all-you-can-eat sushi. As Grandma Kim likes to say, aigoo

Restaurant Redemption airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on Cooking Channel.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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