Housed in what looks like a Chinese restaurant called Lung Shan is actually a restaurant called Mission Chinese Food. Once upon a time, Lung Shan and Mission Chinese, two different restaurants, shared the space offering two different menus with two different kitchen set ups under one roof. Today, Mission Chinese Food has pretty much taken over.
Mission Chinese Food is a Chinese restaurant that serves Chinese dishes with a unique Americanized twist. The Chef, Danny Bowien, is a Korean born American raised by non-Korean parents who ironically actually never cooked Chinese food a day in his life until the restaurant opened in 2010. All of the dishes on the menu are the chef's own interpretation of traditional Chinese dishes that have now become all the craze in San Francisco.
In reading reviews of this place, anything bad written about this place was mainly due to the fact that people expected traditional Chinese dishes, which is far from what you're going to get here. Despite the name of the dishes, ditch your preconceived notions of what these dishes are supposed to taste like and just embrace the creativity put into the food.
The atmosphere of the restaurant adds to the whole experience. It is a little hole in the wall that is walk-in only. You fill out your name on a piece of paper taped outside of the restaurant and you are forced to wait outside until your name is called. When you walk in, the resturant is dim and the ceiling is strewn with tacky Chinese decor such as fluorescent streamers, paper lanterns and dragon.
Our meal started with a bowl of Szechuan Pickles - salted pickled napa cabbage with carrot, roasted peanut, fresh coriander and chili oil. A Chinese version of Kim Chi.
Next was the cold savory egg custard served with sea urchin, scallop, winter melon, and citron. I was excited for this dish because I love anything with eggs but I have to say I didn't enjoy it. No matter how much I try, I just can't take in a lot of sea urchin. It's too overpowering for me. Sea urchin is what makes this dish unique but this dish was definitely a miss for me.
Next was the thrice cooked bacon. A dish of fatty tender bacon pieces with starchy rice cake slices, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, and chili oil. I have no idea if this is even a Chinese dish but it was delicious! Flavorful, tender, fatty, starchy, spicy, sweet, salty and crunchy all in one dish. It's true what they say, everything does taste better with bacon!
The broccoli beef cheek was really something different! They spruced up the oyster sauce with real poached oysters and the beef cheeks added a nice twist. It was also nice to get some veggies into our system after the heavy thrice cooked bacon dish. This was definitely our favorite dish!
Broccoli Beef Cheek
Massive chunks of tender beef cheeks and lots of oysters were hidden under the gai lan.
I wanted to see what their ma po tofu was like because this is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Their rendition included ground kurobuta pork shoulder, Szechuan peppercorn and chili oil. No shortage of flavor in this dish but there was just too much sauce for my likings. The sauce, tofu and pork balance was just way off. It was more like a thick soup.
Our last dish was the Taiwanese clams. There are a few dishes that are only offered if you dine at the restaurant and this was one of them. It was a large plate of steamed clams with Thai basil, garlic,
black bean and Chinese sausage. This was a mild dish and would have been a very nice dish to start our meal with. By the time we got to the clams, our taste buds had been blown away with the chili oil and peppercorns, leaving very little room in our palate for these clams.
The huge craze for Mission Chinese is with reason. The dishes were definitely creative and flavorful. As long as you don't expect traditional Chinese, you'll really enjoy this place.
Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission Street
San Francisco, California USA