Mission Chinese Food (San Francisco, CA)

Mission Chinese Food
Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant
2234 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 11/25/11

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Mission Chinese Food, the permanent pop-up from the Mission Street Food team (Commonwealth) has been one of the most talked-about restaurants in San Francisco this year. SF Chronicle food writer Michael Bauer and GQ’s Alan Richman both loved the food. It was named one of the 10 best new restaurants by Bon Appétit this year. And when Ferran Adria came to San Francisco two months ago to give a talk, he was seen with Manresa’s David Kinch coming here afterwards. It must be worth a try, right?

The restaurant calls its food “Americanized oriental” cuisine. Items like a rice porridge with Dungeness crab and oxtail, broccoli beef cheek, salt cod fried rice and Asian style barbecued brisket sound intriguing enough. Dishes are priced from $7 to $13.

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After dinner at Commonwealth last year, my mother and I dropped in to get some takeout for the rest of the family. I didn’t get a chance to try any (or see any of it), but the words “terrible” and “awful” were both used in their description of the food. I was totally shocked, but I knew I’d have to try it myself.

Not surprisingly given the hype, lines are a frequent occurrence outside the no-reservation restaurant; there must’ve been at least 20 people waiting outside this past Saturday night at 9pm. However while everyone else was still nursing their Thanksgiving food coma, my mom, dad and I dropped in for lunch the day after Thanksgiving. What do you know – there was no line!

Westlake Rice Porridge oxtail, dungeness crab, soft-poached egg, cilantro

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This was a sort of a hybrid between a Westlake beef soup and a traditional congee (rice porridge). The lineup of ingredients was an all-star cast so I had to order it. Served piping hot, small pieces of crab and oxtail were scattered throughout the bowl filled with bits of soft rice, strands of egg and a clear soup. The dish was fine, somewhat disappointing. I expected the oxtail and crab to play a more prominent role, maybe with a little bit of oxtail stock incorporated into the soup. In actuality, the soup was very mild in flavor and the oxtail/crab really didn’t bring a lot to the bowl. Don’t get me wrong, the soup was tasty but it didn’t live up to its all-star cast of characters.

Salt Cod Fried Rice escolar confit, chinese sausage, egg, scallion

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I thought this was another fun dish using salt cod instead of Chinese dried fish. Its effect was similar, adding a fishy flavor to the rice to pair with the sausage and aromatics. However, we all thought this plate was a bit heavy-handed with the salt.

Smoked Beef Brisket Soup Noodles cheung fun, mire poix, cardamom, turnip, broth

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Whereas the rice porridge was served hot amid wisps of steam, this soup was served warm. The brisket here was very tender and incredibly smoky, infusing the soup with that flavor. Rice roll noodles added some additional substance to the full-flavored dish.

Kung Pao Pastrami explosive chili, celery, potato, roasted peanut, steamed rice

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A familiar preparation of pastrami was stir fried kung pao style with something called “explosive chili.” I was fearful but actually found the heat to be present but not unbearable. The meat was tender and flavorful, and I thought there was a pretty decent balance of ingredients. My dad wanted more meat and less “filler” ingredients though.

Dessert isn’t served at Mission Chinese, but why would it need to if Bi-Rite Creamery is only a few blocks away?

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Salted caramel on the bottom, honey lavender on top. I don’t miss Carmela at all.

My dad said this meal was definitely better than his previous experience, but the meal still did not live up to high hopes. I thought the food was “just okay” (definitely not awful), with flavors not really coming together as well as I had wanted. The menu is incredibly intriguing, integrating Chinese food with Western techniques and ingredients. I so badly want something like this to succeed and elevate Chinese food on both the local and national scene. Although this meal failed to impress me, Mission Chinese Food seems to be doing just that.


Comments

Mission Chinese Food (San Francisco, CA) — 12 Comments

  1. completely 100% agree w your thoughts here.

    “the meal still did not live up to high hopes. I thought the food was “just okay” (definitely not awful), with flavors not really coming together as well as I had wanted”

    but it’s too bad you didn’t try the egg custard w uni and trout roe. probably the best dish i had there.

  2. Interesting! We actually really enjoyed our meal, though we didn’t have any of the dishes that you did. It’s disappointing to hear about the rice porridge, as it was the one thing I was most looking forward to getting next time we go. Given that San Fran is so packed with amazing food options, I wouldn’t blame you for foregoing another trip, although I can second Daniel’s recommendation – I really liked that egg custard, too!

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