Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco

I can't remember how I first heard of Mission Street Food or Mission Chinese Food -- perhaps it was the cookbook published by McSweeney's, perhaps it was from Bon Appetit's list of Best New Restaurants 2011 -- but a great story sticks in your head.

The short version of the story is that first-generation Chinese-American Anthony Myint (parents immigrated to Virginia by way of Burma) took a trip eating his way around the world, came back, moved to San Francisco, and started running a food truck with his wife.  After that came a pop-up restaurant inside an existing Chinese restaurant Lung Shan in SF's Mission district.  Mission Chinese Food went from one night a week to guest chefs to now basically existing as a restaurant inside a restaurant. 

I loved it the second I walked in; I loved that they hadn't changed the old-school wood-paneled decor, that they had a New Year's parade dragon hanging from the drop ceiling, that the staff were all pictured family-style on the top of the menu.  I believe it was "Auntie" who brought us menus.

I really wish it was more than just Redneckhunter and myself, because I wanted to order one of everything on the menu.  We opted instead for one cold dish, one hot dish, and one noodle dish. Our cold dish was Savory Egg Custard with Sea Urchin, Cured Trout Roe, Rice Wine and Shiso.  The egg custard was the perfect smooth texture like silken tofu, the urchin and roe were wonderfully fishy.  Not sure why there was a ninja next to this one on the menu, but I liked it!

I was so disappointed when the noodle dish I wanted was not available -- Numbing Lamb Face Biang Biang Mien, so we opted for Thrice-Cooked Bacon with Rice Cakes, Bitter Melon, Tofu Skin, Scallion, Black Bean and Chili Oil.  For those Chinese readers, it was like niang gao crossed with hui-guo ro, but with the interesting addition of ku gua -- a much more traditionally Chinese dish than the egg custard.

Our last dish was Pork Belly with Soy-cured Egg, Ginger Scallion Rice Noodles, and Cucumber (pictured on top).  I think I would have preferred the pork belly to be slow-braised like dong-puo ro rather than fried, but I can't complain too much about pork belly.  But mostly I like the deconstruction of this dish from its traditional antecendents, with a more Western-style presentation, yet all the great Chinese flavors.  And, it was great to have a soy egg that was soft-boiled.

Mission Chinese Food will definitely be one I return to next time I'm in San Francisco.  I'm far more into this place than his fine dining establishment Commonwealth (though I do like how both restaurants donate a percentage of their profits to charity).

Mission Chinese Food
Inside Lung Shan Restaurant
2234 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 863-2800

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