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Mission Chinese Food report [San Francisco]

Tonight I tried takeout from Mission Chinese Food, the brand new permanent restaurant in the old Lung Shan location, where the twice-weekly Mission Street Food used to be, after much chatter on Eater SF (http://sf.eater.com/archives/2010/07/...) .
Mission Chinese Food continues the Mission Street Food style of a short menu, applied to traditional Chinese regional dishes and mash-ups. They opened on Monday and offer eat-in, take-out, and delivery. Picking up our dinner at 7 pm, only two tables in the restaurant were occupied. The menu is available at www.missionchinesefood.com .

We had five dishes, and I'll refer to the numbers on the website's menu. From my favorite on down:

Salt Cod Fried Rice (#6) -- though too much rice relative to everything else for my taste, I liked the balance of the salty fish and the sweet sausage, will enough egginess to pull the dish together. Perhaps a little dry, but quite flavorful. I did not like the spears of barely cooked ginger; more on this problem below.

Peking Duck Chinito (#1) -- a mash-up of Peking duck (duck, hoisin, cucumber) and the rice-noodle-wrapped donut snack, with the Peking duck stuffed into the donut. A noo-duck-nut? I liked the spicy-sweet hoisin and the rich duck, though the donut was too heavy to have in the same bite as duck. This would have been better immediately after prep rather than taken home and eaten 15 minutes later.

Braised Mongolian Beef Cheek (#5) -- the cheek lacked any textural integrity and was almost as slippery and formless as the chow fun noodles it came with. Perhaps roasting the cheeks before braising would have held them together better? Good beefy flavor with lots of collagen to create a lip-sticking sauce, though too salty. The menu promised fresh horseradish, which I didn't detect.

Baby Choy Sum (#8) with optional country ham. Clean, straightforward, dull. Would have been underseasoned without the optional ham.

Ma Po Tofu (#3) -- I wanted serious ma la, and the Eater SF interview promised "fiery". Really? The chili oil was minimally hot, with a weak Sichuan peppercorn or two thrown in. Many spears of undercooked ginger threw the dish off and overwhelmed the little chili heat and numbing spice there was. Quite disappointing.

Overall, our meal was OK. I'm glad to have fried rice left over, but not sure whether to eat or toss out the remaining half of ma po tofu. The meal was good value, with dishes in the $7-10 range and one per person sufficient for a meal. The Mission lacks good Chinese options, so it's a good neighborhood spot, but no reason to try it if Chinatown, the Richmond, the Sunset, or the Peninsula is closer. I'm puzzled by the aggressive use of ginger, and I wonder if the chef was so conscious of not making the dishes Americanized-Chinese-level sweet that in holding back on sugar they compensated with the sweet-spicy-heat of ginger instead. I think most dishes could have used more sugar to balance flavors, especially in the ma po tofu and braised beef cheeks.

2234 Mission Street, west side, just south of 18th
11 am - 10:30 pm every day
unsure about delivery area

Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. Thanks for checking it out. Here's the Chow Tour's report on the first day eats, and says that Lung Shan is operating side by side with MCF.

    Mission Chinese Food
    2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

    Lung Shan Restaurant
    2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    1. I agree completely about the odd over use of sliced ginger. I love ginger, but prefer it to be tasted not seen. That way it can be constantly subtly there, instead of sharp bursts of it.

      I really enjoyed the Beef Cheek dish. Than again, when eating on a budget it is hard to find beef cheeks so i was just happy to be able to be eating them. I am pretty sensitive to spice, so the beef cheek dish was too spicy for me, but i still really liked the flavor. I did taste horseradish, it actually mellowed out the 2 kinds of hot peppers used and gave it a mildly sweet taste. (i did remove all the peppers, so i assume they over powered the horseradish otherwise).
      We also tried the Duck Chinito. I think it would have been great if all the ingredients were still hot, but even eaten at the restaurant the dish was room temperature. This gave it kind of a funky aroma/taste. I definitely liked the concept, but would have enjoyed it with more duck meat and less crispy fat... which is better hot in my book.

      As for the salt cod fried rice, I really liked the salt cod..... but i prefer less sweet chinese sausage. Or maybe a mix of more than one kind of sausage. i'm a big fan of the darker duck liver sausage, but i guess that would be too strong of a flavor.

      The idea that Mission Chinese shares its space with an existing restaurant is pretty cool, but they could have cleaned it up a bit. Our table was pretty greasy and still had food crumbs on it. I'll be really curious to try the chicken dish and the lamb hot pot (minus most of the chili oil for me). And probably with more time under their belts things will run more smoothly. Less flustered waitresses who can't find where the spoons are kept.
      I miss mission burger.

      Mission Chinese Food
      2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      5 Replies
      1. re: kairo

        Isn't the ginger usage so weird? I'm still puzzling over it. I'd go one step further, though, and say that in ma po tofu, at least, I don't even want it constantly subtly there. But in other dishes, yes.

        Is Mission Chinese actually sharing the space with Lung Shan or is it a total merger? Mission Chinese's hours are pretty much all day every day, so they're not swapping times. Is there a Lung Shan menu that the same kitchen is still putting out?

        Lung Shan Restaurant
        2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. re: david kaplan

          Not strange because you're not supposed to eat the ginger. It was used to season the oil and you pick around it. I see it all the time in dishes off of Chinese language menus.

          Think of it like when whole dried chiles and whole flower peppers are used in Sichuan dishes. You're not supposed to shovel those down but to leave them behind.

          1. re: PorkButt

            Yes, but the ginger seemed pretty raw, so it didn't appear to be added early in cooking to the oil as an aromatic but rather at the end as if it were a vegetable. I agree that in many preps (not only Chinese, but often in Thai soups for instance) ginger flavors oil or broth, but the dishes at MCF didn't appear to use the ginger that way.

            Furthermore, I wouldn't expect ginger flavor in ma po tofu. Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe in Land of Plenty doesn't include ginger, if that's any guide to what's traditional, nor do I remember ever seeing ginger in a restaurant prep.

            1. re: david kaplan

              I think adding lightly cooked even raw ginger in salted cod fried rice makes perfect sense and adds another dimension to the rice but i won't eat it unless it's finely julienned or minced. Not sure if it makes a difference with MPDF.

            2. re: PorkButt

              Just curious if you've had the dishes we are talking about. I understand the concept of spices being used that you pick around. But this is julienned, and a massive quantity of it. Unavoidable in any given bite to have not have a strip or 2 or 3. I'm just wondering if it is even easily digestible in this form, which would be ironic as ginger aids digestion.

              Still, I've been thinking about that dish a lot so it was doing something right.

        2. Tasting Table posted MCF's recipe for the spice mixture underlying their Ma Po Tofu and other dishes:


          1. i had mission chinese delivered this weekend. i too enjoyed the salt cod fried rice, but didn't have the ginger problem you had with your dishes. i thought the mapo tofu was pretty hot, but not as hot as i expected, from reading other reviews. i liked the addition of the little nameko mushrooms for texture. i knew after i hung up the phone that the duck chinito was a bad call for delivery. the donut was mushy and had lost all structural integrity. i won't be having this again.

            but i did enjoy the thrice cooked bacon. i'm not sure how it's thrice cooked, but there were tasty spicy slices, some slightly thicker and chewy, some thinner and almost crispy. stir fried with bias-cut rice cake coins like you find in korean rice cake soup, and bitter melon. the serving of bitter melon was a little skimpy. it was pretty spicy, but i've seen some reviews on yelp from so-called chile addicts complaining about how the food here is inedibly spicy. i am not a chile addict, but i enjoy hot food, and i was very comfortable with the heat levels i've experienced. for those wondering, i counted 18 dried chiles and a sliced jalapeno (no heat in the jalapeno) in the bacon dish.

            an interesting take on the neighborhood chinese joint. its in my neighborhood so i'll probably hit them up again.

            1. I returned for a meal of beef cheeks (#5 on current menu) and Sichuan pickles (#11) this week, two weeks after my first visit. The beef cheek preparation had changed -- instead of being presented with lots of braising liquid, the beef was a single intact piece atop rice noodles stir-fried with scallion, jalapenos, dried chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, and perhaps other aromatics I'm forgetting, with generous chili oil. Unlike two weeks ago, when the beef and noodles had similar flavor and even somewhat similar texture, this time they were distinct and complementary: beef tasted of the sweet, rich spices in the braise, and the noodles had a mix of fruitier heat from the fresh jalapenos, smoky heat from dried chilies, and numbing flavor from the Sichuan peppercorns. Also unlike last time, not too salty. I thought it was outstanding. (The beef might have been a piece of short rib, English-cut, not a cheek, judging from the shape and location of connective tissue.)

              I really loved the Sichuan pickles. Cabbage and cucumber were somewhat lightly pickled, and tossed with pungent pickled long bean bits, peanuts, cilantro, and grated ginger. Quite spicy, though different from the beef dish: the pickles were spicy-sour, whereas the beef dish was spicy-sweet-smoky.

              Total: $13, for a big meal. Order was ready for pick-up when promised, 10 minutes after I called in.

              1. I think this place had a little bit of rough sailing the first week, but I went the other night and I was pretty thrilled with what I got.

                General comments: they must be reading feedback. No chunks of ginger, LOTS of numbing pepper, generally pretty spicy, and I have a high tolerance for spice. I haven't been to Old Mandarin Islamic, but this was the spiciest Chinese I've ever eaten, including at Spices!! and Brandy Ho's.

                Ma Po Tofu: shockingly numbing, more numbing than anything I've had at Spices. Also legitimately spicy and complexly seasoned. No chunks of raw ginger, though I would have eaten around them anyway. The quality and generous serving of the ground pork really added depth to this dish. Probably my favorite rendition ever, and I don't care if it's slightly inauthentic.

                Braised lamb over fresh Shanghainese noodles: big wow, we thought about ordering another on the spot but already had too much food. The noodles come from some secret source down in Millbrae, and they had a slightly crinkly texture compared to what I'm used to buying as "fresh" Shanghainese style noodles in markets. Great broth, great noodles, a nice amount of numbing spicy and other seasonings. Slurping the broth off a spoon produced the most mind-bending burst of aromatic flavor that hit every surface of my mouth.

                Chicken wings: another big wow that we considered ordering a second serving of right on the spot. Super moist and succulent with a crispy exterior, hidden in a mound of dried chili peppers. These weren't that spicy, but the texture was masterful. I suspect they slow-braise them, then somehow crisp the outside. The last wing was still crisp 20 minutes after they arrived at the table, so these would be great as takeout.

                Cha siu pork belly with bitter melon: like others, I might have liked more bitter melon for the novelty factor, but the dish was overall very nicely balanced and delicious. This would travel very well.

                Lung Shan Vegan Delight: I thought the filling and broth were tasty, the folded over won ton wrappers tough and uninteresting. I'd like to explore more of their menu and pay them a little attention, since it is their restaurant, but this didn't exactly inspire me. The entire Lung Shan menu is available.

                One cheap rose sparkling wine is available, one or two types of beer. The $18 bottle of sparkling wasn't super duper, but the sweetness and bubbles worked well with the blistering seasoning in the dishes. Didn't ask about corkage or capage for beer.

                Overall, this was a great meal. I am not well-versed on Szechuan or Hunanese food, so the balance of seasonings may have been slightly off, but I really liked this meal. They are using deeply flavored stocks to add depth of flavor here, and I didn't miss the MSG. I loved how spicy the dishes were that were supposed to be spicy, though next time I would limit myself to fewer of them to get a more well-rounded meal. I love that they use good meat. I love that they offer delivery. I'll definitely be back--probably within the week.

                Servings sizes are very generous--I think we ordered a 5th dish, though I can't remember. Two big guys were hard-pressed to eat all the food, and we should have had much more rice to sop up the Ma Po tofu sauce. With the bottle of sparkling and a nice tip, it was $40 each, though we easily could have split this food among 4 people with a bit more rice.

                Mission Chinese Food
                2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                2 Replies
                1. re: SteveG

                  Did you have the thrice-cooked bacon (which has bitter melon and rice cakes) or the cha siu pork belly (which comes with rice noodle sheets, ginger, and scallion)? I've tried and liked both but liked the cha siu pork belly better because the belly was more rendered and crisped than the thrice-cooked bacon pieces, plus the cha siu was caramelized from the slow roasting with sugary sauce.

                  Haven't tried the chicken wings, which I've been told resemble the Chongqing chicken dish at Z&Y, on the menu there as "chicken with explosive chili pepper" -- good to hear it would survive take-out or delivery.

                  1. re: david kaplan

                    Ahh, sorry. I had the thrice-cooked bacon, which had a hint of sweet smokiness like cha siu but is apparently different as far as their prep goes. I thought the rice cakes could have used a lot more wok ha, but the dish overall was very harmonious. Some of the pieces of "bacon" were like Chinese lardo, barely cooked but too delicious to avoid eating.

                  1. The Chron says they're taking a trip to China and are closed until around June 23.

                    1. Ordered take-out from MCF last weekend and just had the leftovers for lunch, so I figured I'd weigh in.

                      Cold Dishes

                      Tiger Salad - These were salad rolls, wrapped in a wide rice noodle (not a clear, Vietnamese rice paper wrap). They came with a very spicy dipping sauce. The dipping sauce was overwhelmingly firey, and the rolls on their own were bland, consisting of undressed lettuce and herbs.

                      "Mouth Watering" Chicken - Another quite spicy dish, with cold, poached chicken breast and chicken hearts. I was surprised at the pleasant texture of the chicken hearts, which were tender and almost a little crunchy. Not my cup of tea in general, but, I can understand the appeal.

                      Hot Dishes -

                      Hainam Chicken Rice - This was tasty, a dish I would order again. Tasted almost vinegary (from the Shaoxing wine?), with lots of richness from chicken fat and stock. There were small pieces of meat throughout, but it was mostly rice.

                      Westlake Rice Porridge - A flavorful, comforting bowl of soup-y porridge. A bit redundant for us to have ordered this as well as the chicken rice, but we did enjoy both. The big sprigs of cilantro and slivers of ginger add nice, fresh notes to the otherwise mellow bowl of porridge.

                      Broccoli Beef Cheek - The favorite of the night. This came with a generous portion of flavorful braised beef cheek, along with two perfectly poached, plump oysters. The broccoli was actually gai lan, a.k.a. Chinese broccoli, stir-fried to tenderness. Such a great and unexpected take on broccoli beef.

                      Wild Pepper Leaves - This dish was blindingly spicy. I am baffled as to why it doesn't have the "spicy" icon next to it on the menu. The pumpkin and tofu were very thinly sliced, completely absorbing the incendiary "salted chili broth." I did enjoy the wild pepper leaves themselves, a tasty, tender green I hadn't tried before.

                      Mission Chinese Food
                      2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      1. A few weeks ago I was invited to a bake-off tasting in the Mission. As the hour grew later, I needed more than sweets to eat. Since we were in the free zone, this seemed like a good time to take advantage of MCF’s delivery with the added bonus that the primary clientele were away on burner weekend. Though we’d been advised that it would take more than an hour, we had our food in hand before 9:30pm or about 40 minutes after ordering.

                        This was my first time to taste MCF. We had:

                        Szechuan pickles
                        Thrice cooked bacon
                        Sizzling cumin lamb
                        Stir fried sweet peas
                        Steamed rice

                        The two meated dishes were as blindingly hot to my palate as others have described, especially the thrice cooked bacon, and I was glad we’d ordered rice to cushion the pain. The pickles also helped even though also spicy themselves. The stir fried peas (including pea shoots) order was not my idea, but turned out to be just the sweetness needed to counteract the capsicum assault.

                        That said, I found the lamb and the bacon’d rice cakes to be pretty well balanced dishes with the crazy concentrated blend of flavors toed up to the heat level. I just don’t happen to like that much overbearing seasoning and meatiness in one mouthful. But diluted down with plenty of rice to a manageable level, the combinations of flavors were interesting, pleasant even rather than painful, particularly the use of sour. Since this was take-out, knife work, technique or texture can’t really be assessed fairly, making this meal all about the flavor profile.

                        Not too long ago my mom had shared a Chinese couplet with me, one rooted in poverty and not enough to eat, that describes a person’s share being one chopstick’s worth of dish and savoring that small bit to flavor multiple bowls of plain rice. The cooking here made me think that the amount of salt, spice and umami in a single dish here would feed 50 people in the China of old.

                        One of my friends commented that the portion size had increased by about one-third over his last order. He felt that MCF offered reasonable value again.

                        Opinions about Mission Chinese Food seem to be love it or hate it. I’ve wound up at neither of those poles. While I’d be interested in trying more dishes, the food was not craveable for me though I now understand why it is for some. Nor did I dislike anything I tried. This much flavor and energy for not that much money, plus free delivery, I can’t hate Mission Chinese Food.

                        "What should i order at mission chinese food?"

                        1. We went here recently (after Santa Con) and the food was good (black rockfish sashimi, spicy chicken thigh and hearts, and a lamb cheek soup.)

                          But we had accidentally left some of our props. We went back an hour later to retrieve them and found out that one of the restaurants' employees had thrown them into the street where they had been run over by cars.

                          They weren't that expensive, but that was very inappropriate to do to a paying customer. Having the occasional rude employee may be one thing, but this was on a completely different level. We will not be going back nor recommending this place to anybody.

                          1. Finally got back to Mission Chinese for lunch today and enjoyed it much better than the first time around.

                            Kung Pow Pastrami was loaded with smoky, juicy, tender chunks of brisket from the point end. Gone were the potatoes that made no sense. Heat level was spicy but not tongue numbingly so as before.

                            Salt Cod Fried Rice had plenty of bits of fried mackerel and thin slices of lap cheong. Very tasty.

                            Cumin Lam Breast had nicely charred lamb ribs that were fatty and succulent. Not sure why they left whole bay leaves on the plate though.

                            Went with a coworker from China who though the only thing Chinese about the place was the interior. I warned him ahead of time that the food was not supposed to be authentic, so he was ready. He didn't think he would return, but he did like their version of the salt cod fried rice.