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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

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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.
    http://www.chow.com/blog/2010/07/chin...

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    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.

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      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?

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        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:

          http://tastingtable.com/ecs/3288.htm?...

          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.