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What should i order at mission chinese food? [San Francisco]

going there tonite :)

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  1. Just revisited recently and the kitchen is really firing on all engines. Westlake Rice Porridge is a delicious soupy rice with soft cooked egg and savory bits of crab and beef. If you like eggplant, the Taiwanese style eggplant is a great version. Both the sizzling cumin lamb and the braised beef cheek are great so long as you are o.k. with fattier cuts of meat. The Hainam chicken rice is full of chicken flavor and a little crunch from peanuts - clean and satisfying flavors. A nice starter is the fresh tofu. Have fun.

    1. Spicy Beef Cheeks, Mapo Tofu, Pork Belly, Steamed custard

      24 Replies
      1. re: DezzerSF

        The food here is absolutely disgusting and the Hainan chicken rice is an excellent example. I don't care if the food is authentic as long as it's good, but here the chicken rice is neither authentic nor good.

        The rice has absolutely no chicken flavor but has a very strong vinegar taste, which is appalling and doesn't fit the dish at all (or any Chinese rice dish for that matter). There's a bit of peanuts and cilantro but they add nothing to the dish. Again, the only taste that comes through is the vinegar and it is unbearable and overwhelming.

        The mapo tofu is another example of why the food is awful. Not only is the ground meat clumped together which is a disgrace, but the only flavor that comes through the dish is the spiciness of the chili peppers. Their dishes are absolutely one-dimensional in flavor and are an insult to the food in Asia which is complex and multi-dimensional.

        I understand these guys aren't Chinese and have never been trained in a Chinese kitchen let alone been to Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, or Singapore. I also understand they are not trying to make the most authentic food but are just trying to serve their own take on Chinese food. But to prepare these dishes in such a distasteful way is to do a huge disservice to the dishes themselves. It's fine if you are going to make a chicken rice that has no chicken flavor but tastes solely of vinegar, but don't call it Hainan chicken rice.

        I really should have known better being the only Asian in the restaurant. I guess if you're not Asian, this is fine and exciting, but if you are Asian and know anything about Asian food, stay away.

        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

          Your strongly-felt post prompts the inevitable question: who in the City serves better-prepared and more multi-dimensional Hainanese chicken rice, ma po tofu, etc.? I agree that the flavors of the hotter dishes at MCF tend to get lost in favor of pure heat, and some dishes, like the thrice-cooked bacon, can be inconsistent--often wonderful but sometimes far too oily.

            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

              I haven't tried the chicken rice but I really liked the Ma Po Dofu. Although it was quite unlike versions I've had in China or elsewhere in the US it had a wonderful and complex pork flavor (Berkshire?) - reminding me of a ramen-ma po dofu cross (as it should given this variety of pork). It was not too hot and I also liked it's "soupy" quality. For my taste it was very interesting - there was a nod to tradition but then something more. It was both hot and buzzing.

              In my mind Mission Chinese is not Chinese food but the first step in the invention of a new California chinese cuisine (as opposed to American-Chinese that is already common in every town in the US). I hope that he continues and that when he moves on other people pick up the banner.

              1. re: boris_qd

                I was just thinking the other day how we still don't really have a Chinese equivalent of Slanted Door and Aziza, so it is great to have this....

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                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: vulber

                  Although if you told someone Mission Chinese Food is like the Chinese version of Slanted Door, they would be really shocked when they got there. It's obviously not meant to be an upscale or classy restaurant with stunning views and cocktails. ;-)

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                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

                  1. re: vincentlo

                    I'm guessing you never went to the original Slanted Door in the Mission.

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                    Slanted Door
                    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                  Actually, Anthony Myint's parents are Chinese immigrants and he's traveled a lot in Asia.

                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                    Thank you for your well thought out reply. It confirms pretty much what I thought...

                    Have you ever tried Chairman Bao truck or even the food at Heaven's Dog (even though the uhm...chef de cuisine is Andy Wai, who used to be exec chef at the now gone Harbor Village during the 90s and once cooked for former HK gov/leader Tung Keen Wah who always requested his curry brisket clay pot...my such dark times)? Or maybe that's a question best left unanswered :-)

                    1. re: K K

                      The guys at MCF just don't know what they're doing. I went there on three separate occasions and the only thing consistent about my string of experiences was the realization that these guys do not understand even the basics of Chinese food.

                      Take the Hainan chicken rice again for example. There's no consensus on what's the best rendition, even in its homeland of Southeast Asia, but anyone who's familiar with this dish would agree that there are three critical components: the rice, the chicken, and the sauce. Specifically, the rice should be fluffy and fragrant with abundant chicken flavor, the chicken itself should be tender and moist with actual chicken flavor, and the sauce should be complex with a fiery punch. A good number of critics would even go into details such as whether the chicken is the heavier, flabbier American type or the leaner, chewier kind, but let's keep it simple for now.

                      And what do these guys put together at MCF? Let's start with the rice. It's soggy - not fluffy - and there is absolutely no chicken flavor. Instead, there is an onslaught of something that can only be described as incredibly sour and vinegary. What about the chicken and the sauce? Well, there wasn't any so it's pretty easy to judge these two categories.

                      So why call this Hainan chicken rice when it's not even remotely close to the real thing? Is it because these guys don't know any better? I would hope so, because anyone who knows what chicken rice should taste like would not put together such an abomination of a dish that is so popular all over Southeast Asia.

                      But the guys at MCF can get away with it because their target audience don't know better. They put together a fancy description (in this case, "Hainan chicken rice dressed in Shaoxing wine and chicken fat with roasted peanuts and cilantro") and said audience is immediately engaged if not enthralled.

                      And to answer an earlier question, no - there is not a single place in the bay area that makes a chicken rice that is even remotely good if you judge it by the above criteria. I would however be thrilled to be proven wrong since this is one of my favorite dishes in the world.

                      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                        will ask the question again; what else is bad there?

                        1. re: vulber

                          The salt cod fried rice was too gingery (again, goes to show how very one dimensional the food is) and the rice itself was too moist. This type of fried rice should be dry and each grain of rice should be clearly separate from one another without the use of too much oil (since it is far too easy to do this if you just use a lot of oil).

                          The slow cooked pork belly was too salty and the tea-smoked egg barely had any tea flavor. The Shanghainese are very famous for their tea-smoked egg (which is I imagine where they got their inspiration) but this rendition at MCF was nowhere close.

                          The tea smoked eel rice noodle had a really thick dull skin and was way too sweet (probably to suit the American palate?). Good rice noodle should be thin but sturdy and somewhat translucent.

                        2. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          At least the MCF HCR (which probably seemed to be more similar to Shanghainese drunken chicken, with the Shaoxing wine marination) ran only $6. You should see and taste for yourself the absolute ghastly horror abomination that is Straits Restaurant Burlingame "Crispy Hainan Chicken Rice" at a whooping $14, where it is cold rotisserie pepper and herb chicken with a very weak chicken rice, a forgettable bowl of broth, the worst ginger chili sauce (more ginger and liquid than chili or garlic), watered down soy sauce dip....the whole thing was just wrong. $6 down the drain is better than $14... or re-direct that $6 towards some Hong Kong cafe rendition, at least you know what you are getting, even if not close.

                          But $14 will get you the poached version of HCR that supposedly is passable, at the Santanna Row and SF locations. It is a lot to pay for sure...and quite possibly the most expensive HCR in town (even more than Chatterbox at Mandarin Hotel Singapore). Again .... such is life.

                          I don't know where else in SF to recommend, but Shiok Singaporean Kitchen in Menlo Park, despite a small portion at around the $8 to $9 mark, the HCR is very decent (even the dip sauces are executed with a level of care and quality)....but my standards might be lower (more tolerant) than yours. Further south, maybe Straits Cafe in Palo Alto (no longer part of the Straits Restaurant group) but I haven't been there in years.

                        3. re: K K

                          I had things brought to me from Chairman Bao and, even though I'm not Chinese, it was unrecognizable as anything like Chinese food. For the life of me, I couldn't understand the hype.

                        4. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          Thanks. I am not Asian, but I really dislike one dimensional Americanized so-called Asian food, and I will stay away!

                          For dordogne who wants to know where to taste something resembling a real ma po tofu as it is in Chengdu, try Spices II. There you will see a complexity of flavors in all their dishes. Some on this board say Spices is more a Taiwan take on Sichuan, but it is as close to Chengdu as anything I have seen in the US.

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                          Spices II
                          291 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                          1. re: Thomas Nash

                            For what it's worth, the MCF guys have said that they look toward Spices! for inspiration for their food

                            1. re: vulber

                              A Spices branch in the mission would be welcome.

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                any sort of authentic chinese restaurant in the mission would be welcome. big lantern just doesn't really cut it. other than indian and japanese, the mission sorely lacks asian places.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Well, yes and no. I live near the Mission so I would be delighted if there was a real Spices there. But I am afraid that it would become like MCF, Eric's, Alice's, Henry's Hunan, etc., catering to American tastes, even if self-styled "sophisticated" American tastes. It would turn into what can only be described as US Shopping Strip Chinese.The Mission is great for many things (Tartines, Delfina, Taquerias, Taco Trucks, ...) but there are not enough Asians around to keep a Chinese place honest. I am happy to make the trek over to Clement or Irving for Chinese. The long walk helps burn the calories also.

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                                  Delfina Restaurant
                                  3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          2. re: DezzerSF

                            We tried Mission Chinese Food on New Year's day and I'm disappointed to say it was a pretty mediocre experience. That said, I think we missed out on Mission Chinese Food and got more of the other restaurant there.
                            When we went to order (the porridge that I was so eager to try) we were told no porridge, no dumplings, those guys weren't working today.
                            We ordered any way (probably should've decided to come back later...) and ordered the beef with broccoli, ma po tofu and chicken wings.
                            The beef was OK. the broccoli itself was wonderful; the beef was eh? The tofu was pretty impossible to eat. Overly something or other that took away from any flavor the tofu or pork would provide. The chicken wings tasted only of pepper.
                            We left most of our food behind. Would likely return when I saw dumplings being made, but I chalked it up to a reduced staff for New Year's day.
                            Perhaps other people with a lackluster experience also were there on days without the right staff?

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

                            1. re: margieco

                              I understood that the two menus corresponded to the two sets of chefs. Did you order off the MCF menu and get food you thought came from the Lung Shan side?

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

                              1. re: David Farris

                                Yes. We ordered from the MCF menu but since "those guys" weren't working that day I suspect it was executed from the chefs from the Lung Shan side.

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

                              2. re: margieco

                                The homemade dumplings skins were actually too thick and doughy, I wouldn't order them again.

                            2. I don't know what all this "disgusting" talk is, since even when MC is a miss, it's still better than most of the places in the neighborhood. And after moving here six months ago from Echo Park, where there is virtually zero Chinese to speak of, it's positively inspired.

                              The Ma Po Tofu is great, but spicy.
                              I like the pork belly, but tend to avoid the egg (not my thing).
                              I like the pork soup dumplings far better than the lamb.
                              I think the cod fried rice is terrific. Or any of the rice dishes.
                              If you're somewhat adventurous, I think the steamed custard is good, but it's not for everyone.
                              I personally don't care for the beef cheeks. The fattiness of the meat and the dish in general feel unfocused to me.

                              I will say this about the place: it's got a great energy. The guy who runs it is truly trying to accomplish something here. He makes interesting food that tastes oddly personal and he's generally pretty successful at it. With all the pretension in the neighborhood with respect to food, there's something unobtrusive and natural about this place. It's the kind of place where you ask for a recommendation and can trust that you're not being steered the wrong way. Or just try something different.

                              Seriously, if Echo Park had such a place while I was there (for eleven years!), I would've been there every week.

                              1. MCF is far from disgusting. It's rapidly becoming one of my favorite places for an inexpensive and tasty meal in SF. I like the Ma Pa Tofu, the cumin lamb belly, the pork belly (though the dish keeps changing a bit), and the Beef with Broccoli (made with beef cheek, and unlike any I've ever had). The eggplant was also delicious. Frankly, the only disappointing thing I've had there were the chicken wings, which seemed very ordinary to me.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mrs bacon

                                  I'd like to second the beef with broccoli. The first time I ordered it my eating companion asked how I could order the most boring looking thing on the menu. When it arrived we were both happy that I did - a slow braised beef cheeks on perfectly cooked chinese brocoli in a every so slightly smoked oyster sauce made with actual oysters. Like a mentioned before - a nod to tradition but something totally new and unexpected.

                                2. Definitely inconsistent; the first time I had the pork belly, it was delicious and by far the best thing I ordered; the second time (a month or two ago), it was bad enough (coupled with disastrous dumplings) that I haven't been back. After the pork belly the time it was good, my favorite was cumin lamb.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: David Farris

                                    My favorite of the three dishes we had was the cold tofu--really one of the best tofu dishes I've had. I also had the eggplant which was also great but you have to like eggplant. I think that this is chinese food in the loosest sense but I appreciate the spice and the effort.