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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....

                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. ;-)

                  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.

                    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.

                          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.

                                  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?

                            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?

                              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.

                                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.

                                  2. I think it would make sense moving this discussion forward to separate two veins of criticism

                                    (1) Is the food authentic? Does it taste like the advertised dish?

                                    (2) Is the food good?

                                    In my mind it fails (1) since for many dishes the name (beef with broccoli, ma po dofu etc.) is really just a starting point for what appears on your plate: Ah, we started here and ended up over there with just an echo of the start. I think people get distracted too much by this notion of authenticity: hey this food isn't like what I thought it would be therefore it sucks.

                                    I have yet to have bad food from MCF but have only tried 5 or so dishes. It's not authentic but it's interesting and plays with chinese flavors and ingredients with a non-chinese sensibility. The flavors seem to be most heavily influenced by Shichuan cuisine in general.

                                    I thought the ma po dofu was hot but not beyond what i've eaten in Sichuan or other parts of China (Chongqing chicken anyone?) and it defiantly had a complex pork flavor and wasn't just hot and numbing. I would defend this dish as excellent and perhaps even prototypical of the Mission Chinese style.

                                    Arguing about authenticity, especially in light of what mission chinese does is a waste of time and entirely unfruitful since they are not trying to be authentic.

                                    23 Replies
                                    1. re: boris_qd

                                      I agree with Boris. Approach the food on its own terms.

                                      The Chicken Rice I had at MCF was fluffy, fragrant and full of chicken flavor. Whether or not they are aiming for authenticity, the Taiwanese Eggplant was the same as the versions served in Taipei. My take is from items I had last week. Each time I've come, the execution of the dishes have been slightly different. The kitchen is always on the move, tweaking and cooking new dishes.

                                      I happen to have been raised on Chinese food and eaten extensively in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia -- I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. I'm happy to see personal renditions of well known dishes and to have a diversity of styles on the SF food scene.

                                      1. re: boris_qd

                                        As I said in my first post, I really don't care if the food is authentic as long as it's good, but in this case it is neither.

                                        Also, there's a reason why people crave authenticity -- authentic usually means good as it reflects years of evolution and improvement in a particular dish. So to make food that is good but not authentic, you better know what authentic is and explain why this new rendition in comparison is also good.

                                        Going through the items I described, can you explain why a thicker starchier rice roll is good or why a tea smoked egg that has barely any tea smoked flavor is good?

                                        Unless you are familiar with the authentic fare (and just because one's been to China a couple of times doesn't automatically make this true), then you really don't have a point of reference to compare. By extension, you probably don't understand why a particular dish in its authenticity is significantly better.

                                        As for the chicken rice, it's hard to fathom how yours could be so good but mine could be so bad. Since you say it's full of chicken flavor, can you also provide a point of reference for it? For instance, was it as flavorful as Boon Tong Kee in Singapore or Causette Cafe at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong? This is by no means an attempt to go off topic -- I just think we need to put our assessments on more comparable terms.

                                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                          I haven't had the rice roll and I don't see it on the tea smoked egg on the online menu but I did have the soy-cured egg It was quite tasty - a good balance of saltiness from the soy with egg flavor. Rich.

                                          Maybe you were expecting tea smoked but got soy cured instead?

                                          1. re: boris_qd

                                            Nope, it was supposed to be a tea smoked egg that was a side to the pork belly. You are right that it's not on the menu anymore, but it was definitely an item at one point.

                                            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                              Maybe they took it off because they knew they weren't getting it right.

                                          2. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                            I think it's appropriate for a person to trust his or her own palate on whether something is full of chicken flavor, even if the person hasn't tried the same dish at a particular restaurant in Singapore, Hong Kong, or anywhere else for that matter. The person isn't claiming that it's the fullest-flavored chicken rice on planet Earth. The person is describing a particular dish at a particular restaurant, and I think that has value in and of itself to readers who aren't in a position to go to Singapore at the drop of a hat and would still like to know how something in town tastes.

                                            1. re: vinchar

                                              Perhaps you are missing the concern that some of us have. The problem is that the dishes at MCF have names that are identical with certain classic and well understood Chinese and Southeast Asian dishes, and by implication, at least, the restaurant is claiming authenticity, but they are apparently not good representations of those dishes. This sort of thing happens all over the country and the result is that it is now extremely hard to find reasonably authentic Chinese food except in some neighborhoods of SF, LA, Seattle, Vancouver, etc. That really bothers some of us and we are objecting. If the dishes had different names and there was a clear attempt at some kind of Asian-American fusion, then they could be judged on that basis.

                                              I for one really appreciate the comments that hong_kong_foodie and KK have made in this thread.

                                              Your comment reminds me of people who say "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like" and then they shop at some of the horrible art stores in malls all over the country, with day glow paintings. I don't think that is what you mean here, is it?

                                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                The problem is that once you've traveled to certain parts of the world and have your eyes opened to local cuisine from the street level to high end versions, especially in countries that invented (or popularized) a particular dish, where the vendors or restaurants specialize in that very one particular item in many cases (or do several of quite a few very very well), couple that with fierce competition alongside those who have been doing it for years/decades/centuries (some even maybe 4th or 5th generation family businesses), the bar is set so high that at some point one can think that particular dish is not replicable overseas, as simple or cheap as it could be.

                                                And to do so would require a lot of practice, experience, labor, cost, training (or importing the labor over), finding equivalent materials to reproduce the results (which is virtually a lost cause and uphill battle as it costs way more to use say, organic free range chicken, to get a remotely similar flavor). This is mostly not sustainable for the most part. So to survive, the business has to be run to accomodate the masses, which means usually having more variety over quality. Same goes for jack of all trades Chinese restaurants that do all sorts of regional Chinese + Cantonese + whatevers. It's like if PF Chang's would survive by only offering beef chow fun, even if they were to do it as good as high end seafood restaurants.

                                                It's the nature of the beast with all ethnic and Asian food in the USA, especially those with street food origins. Once in a while you'll find some rare gem or a diamond in the rough kind of chef who actually knows what he or she is doing, or has skills from the old world and is able to port them with some degree of success (but not 100%). Then the rest is just a matter of being able to make do with what's available, and either accept the state of affairs because unless you take matters into your own hands, things are not going to change, or just complain on the internet which can either educate or annoy. :-)

                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                  No, what I mean is that you can set up a point-of-authentic-reference test for considering people's opinions that is pretty stifling. While there are people who don't know anything about art and buy bad art, there are also people without formal training or knowledge in art who nevertheless have an eye for good art. I think that the same goes for Chowhounds. I see the value in a point of reference, but I also think that if opinions without a point-of-reference were dismissed simply on the "you don't know anything about art" ground, you'd probably miss some good food. As for the concerns about authenticity, I think that MCF's inauthenticity is pretty well-publicized.

                                                  1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                    I strongly disagree that MCF is claiming any kind of authenticity. If you happen to stumble into the restaurant off the street then you have reason to be surprised by what you get. If you read chowhound or any review of the place then you _know_ - absolutely know - that you will not get traditional versions of these dishes.

                                                    It seems to me that the people who go in looking for and expecting traditional ("authentic") versions are just in the wrong restaurant. Period. They should go somewhere else.

                                                    To me the appropriate art analogy is people who only appreciate "classical" (read traditional or authentic) vs. people who are interesting in modern art that riffs on classics. One side wants to argue that this new stuff is just garbage. I strongly disagree.

                                                    I'm not arguing against traditional renditions of these recipes - i've traveled the world to seek them out myself - but I'm arguing that you shouldn't look for them or expect to find them everywhere.

                                                    I would also argue that the food at MCF is quality, interesting and tasty. But I don't think I'll convince the traditionalists of that. Go enjoy Michelangelo - we all agree he's a great artist s - nevertheless I'll be over here enjoying the Picasso (just childish scribbles right?).

                                                    1. re: boris_qd

                                                      Maybe more Thomas Kincaid than Picasso.

                                                  2. re: vinchar

                                                    It's exactly because "full of chicken flavor" can mean one thing to you but something completely different to me that a common point of reference would help everyone see it in a more "apples to apples" way. If a place in Asia is too ambitious as a common point of reference, then we can pick something local, but I seriously have not found any chicken rice that is remotely good in the US and can't offer an alternative in good conscience.

                                                    Then again, if one hasn't had the great chicken rice in Asia, how can they really offer a well-informed critique of the chicken rice at MCF? It's like people who rave about a croissant at some bakery here or the pasta at some restaurant there -- if you've never tried the same things in France or Italy, how can you help us put your critique into reference and perspective?

                                                    By no means am I trying to disparage individual tastes and perceptions -- I absolutely recognize and agree that food is very subjective and personal. However, it is very important to provide a reference point to your critique so that we can make a better assessment of whether a place is worth trying. What I just said is something that happens all the time with most Western restaurants critiqued on this board (e.g. people who rave about the pizza at UPN will invariably compare it to pizza at Tony's Pizza Napoletana) but that's not true about Asian places.

                                                    1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                      Una Pizza Napoletana and Tony's both make explicit and detailed claims about the ways that their pizza comes out of the Neapolitan tradition. Comparing the two is like debating the merits of XLB from Shanghai Dumpling KIng and Dumpling Kitchen.

                                                      Your complaint about MCF not being "authentic" is more like complaining that the pizza at Pauline's isn't like what they make in Naples.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        I will repeat what I've said twice already: I don't care if the food is authentic as long as it's good, and in the case if MCF it's neither authentic nor good.

                                                        My complaint is that people who claim it's good don't provide a point of reference for how good they think it is. In the case of MCF, it's easy to understand why -- most people who like MCF don't have many points of reference to begin with.

                                                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                          Points of reference depend on context. If you'd like to be constructive, offer up some points of reference that are relevant to this board. The common points of reference on the San Francisco Bay Area board are obviously other restaurants in the Bay Area -- that's the knowledge base that posters on this board have in common, even if each of us individually has many other points of reference from elsewhere.

                                                          Many others in this thread have used local places as comparisons with MCF and have furthered the discussion, not necessary because those places are their individual points of reference for the dishes under discussion but because they understand that the conversation is taking place on a message board about Bay Area food and they want to contribute in a way that fosters further conversation and participation.

                                                          You, in contrast, have only mentioned Boon Tong Kee in Singapore and Causette Cafe at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. In a discussion about MCF on the SF board, it doesn't matter if those places have the best Hainan Chicken Rice on earth -- they aren't useful as points of reference for participants in this discussion. And that's not necessarily because the participants on this board are ignorant or provincial -- it's because one needs to use the vernacular that's appropriate to one's context, and on a board about Bay Area food the context is presumed to be other Bay Area restaurants.

                                                          It is helpful that you described how Hainan chicken rice should taste and feel -- discussing the abstract ideal qualities of a dish can substitute when no local restaurants can serve as points of reference. But before you complain about others not offering points of reference, look back and see how much more helpful others have been in providing context-appropriate points of reference (i.e. other Bay Area restaurants) in this discussion than you have been.

                                                          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                            "The Hainam chicken rice is full of chicken flavor and a little crunch from peanuts - clean and satisfying flavors" does not require a point of reference. Presumably that dish did not have the strange overwhelming vinegar flavor the one you got did.

                                                            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                              You really presume too much when you say that people who like MCF don't have many points of reference. We may not be experts such as yourself but (speaking as someone who likes MCF) I have lived and traveled enough around the planet to feel that my opinions are reasonably well referenced.

                                                              I haven't brought up other restaurants because I feel that MCF is doing something new and different and that there is no place to really compare it to. It's not chinese food, it's not chinese american food. It's not really fusion the way we usually think about fusion. It's a new combination of Californian and Chinese flavors. In some ways it reminds me of how what is traditionally called Californian cuisine (starting with say Chez Panisse and continuing with many others) plays with Italian cuisine. The dishes aren't Italian but they are strongly influenced by Italian sensibilities/techniques and ideas. This is like a Chinese version of that.

                                                              All that aside, to judge food as tasty or not one needs only to taste the food and trust ones senses. It can help to compare it to other dishes (both similar and dissimilar) but is not necessary.

                                                              The only case it is absolutely necessary to have other points of reference is when you are discussing the "authenticity" of the recipe. I suspect your desire for reference points is just a proxy for your obsession with authenticity. Points of reference can enrich your experience of a place but are not needed to say "hey, this tastes good".

                                                              It's fine to say "I don't think the food tastes good" or that "I prefer the more traditional take on this dish to the one at MCF". What doesn't make sense to me is to say "I don't like this dish _because_ it's not authentic".

                                                              As a side note: Your description of the chicken rice does not match those of other people who have tried the dish. It is possible you were there on a bad night or that there was some other problem. Did you dinning companions pour vinegar on your plate while you weren't looking? Or maybe you were exaggerating for effect?

                                                              I haven't had the Chicken Rice - but one thing this discussion convinced me of is to try it on my next visit! Maybe it will turn out that I agree with you about this dish.

                                                              1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                I disagree with using racial heritage to judge who can say what about which cuisine and I think this whole line of reasoning is somewhat inane (for instance, some of my favorite takes on French cuisine are done by Japanese and served in Restaurants not attended by many French people).

                                                                On top of that, I'm not even convinced that no Asians go there. It wasn't packed with Asians but I'm pretty sure some where there. Since it's a neighborhood place I guess we'd want statistics on if they over represent or under represent relative to their presence in the area. I wouldn't be surprised if the overrepresented. But again, this line of thought seems pointless.

                                                                People go out to eat for many reasons: convenience, cost, entertainment, nostalgia, food, habit, prejudice, location. Looking at ethnic makeup is a very coarse measure at best and you need to take much more into account to do it properly.

                                                          2. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                            "It's like people who rave about a croissant at some bakery here or the pasta at some restaurant there -- if you've never tried the same things in France or Italy, how can you help us put your critique into reference and perspective?"

                                                            I respectfully disagree with this statement. And agree with david kaplan's post above.

                                                            Although I've tasted both croissants in France and pasta in Italy, I don't get the opportunity to do so nearly as often as I'd like. Regardless, I think there are many excellent renditions of both available right here in the Bay Area - which we've all had the chance to try on a more regular basis.

                                                            Local versions of ethnic/regional foods may or may not be truly "authentic". But that doesn't mean they can't be delicious. Nor does it mean that those who aren't regular world travellers aren't fit to judge whether the dishes they're eating (be they French, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) taste good.

                                                            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                              Finally, I had to give up on my intention of not going to MCF after reading hong_kong_foodie's review. The opinions on this thread have become so polarized, we had to give it a try.

                                                              On the way over, I told my wife, Madeleine, about this thread and my strong contention that using authentic names for dishes implies that the restaurant intends to present an authentic version. She immediately defended those of you who say all that matters is whether it is good or not. This looked like it was going to be a contentious evening…

                                                              So… MCF is not an authentic Chinese restaurant, by a long shot. MCF is not an American-shopping-mall Chinese restaurant either (good!). It is an attempt at an individualized take on what Mission eaters might consider to be a good Chinese-influenced restaurant.

                                                              For the record, I still object strongly to the use of classical Chinese terminology. We use language because words and phrases have meaning that they are supposed to communicate. These Chinese cuisine words refer to specific techniques, textures, flavors, etc.

                                                              But, let's put that aside for a bit (though I will point out where it is a problem). Is MCF any good?

                                                              Here is what we ordered:

                                                              Szechuan Pickles
                                                              By far the worst of the dishes. Awful, by any standard. Nothing to do with Sichuan or Korean or any decent pickle or salad. Zero dimensional cabbage slightly salted and slightly pickled with no flavor of interest. Sort of a cabbage salad. I have had a thousand better cole slaws. I can't see how anyone can recommend this.

                                                              Thrice Cooked Bacon
                                                              OK, it is not "Twice" Cooked, but the name does suggest the classical dish (which it bears little resemblance to). This was the best dish of the night and I might even sneak back here for it, if Madeleine is away (she didn't think it was worth returning for). It had bacon (unlike all the mall restaurants that serve Twice Cooked with fatless loin) -- and the bacon was smoky (I suspect smoking is the third cooking pass the name refers to). It is served with little pasta ovals which are a nice textural counterpoint. Not bad, not incredibly good, but OK for 18th and Mission.

                                                              One Pound of Salt & Pepper Crawfish
                                                              Another classical name terminology problem. Salt & Pepper has a meaning at all Chinese restaurants. It implies deep frying generally with scallion, salt, chiles, etc. I was wondering how they were going to deep fry the crawdads. They didn't. This was a stir fried dish with a salt pepper sauce and slices of fennel. I have had a lot of boiled crawfish in Louisiana, and frankly this was not a bed version and might be pleasing to some folks down in the bayous. The crawfish were fresh and there were a decent quantity. Lots of work for little meat, but that's the way it is on the bayous. Madeleine hated this dish…

                                                              Egg Custard with Scallop and Chicken and Chicken Broth
                                                              I don't have this name right as it is not on their web site menu, but this was the only dish we had that did not have a terminology problem. That's because there is nothing like it anywhere else (Chinese or other restaurants) that I know about. Madeleine kept saying "Odd", "this is strange"… It was a small bowl of egg custard with slices of scallop on the top and chicken breast at the bottom and a strong taste of chicken broth. Not bad, not great. Not compelling enough to repeat.

                                                              Total bill with 2 beers and tip, $50.

                                                              All in all not quite as "disgusting" as hong_kong_foodie said, but really not that good and with a seriously misleading tendency to use Chinese food names and terminology inappropriately. Madeleine outright disliked it (worse than Eric's, which she refuses to go to). I thought that at least they are trying and did not patronize to conventional American tastes for the three great food groups, salt, sugar, fat. Maybe they were patronizing to the young Mission crowd -- and successfully as the place was full.

                                                              Now let me respond to boris_qd, who said in the context of my earlier comparison with art,
                                                              "I would also argue that the food at MCF is quality, interesting and tasty. But I don't think I'll convince the traditionalists of that. Go enjoy Michelangelo - we all agree he's a great artist s - nevertheless I'll be over here enjoying the Picasso (just childish scribbles right?"

                                                              Picasso's early paintings demonstrate his extraordinary skills as a draughtsman and his ability to paint at the highest levels (read, Leonardo's level) of traditional painting. He knew how to paint and went on to be a prime mover in cubism and then what become known as 'modern art'. In a similar manner, as Madeleine pointed out on the way home, great French and great Chinese and great Japanese cooks have learned how to cook and mastered all the difficult techniques of the craft in their traditions. Some of them go on to fuse their traditions with others. That can produce some fantastic cuisine (see Benu in this town).

                                                              I am afraid MCF is not anywhere near that level. To compare with Picasso is a travesty. To paraphrase what Llloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle, MCF is no Picasso.

                                                              22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                I wasn't actually comparing him to Picasso - It was a metaphor meant to contrast traditional vs. not-traditional since many people on this thread are hung up on the idea that he uses traditional names for his non-traditional dishes (see your second and third paragraphs above) and try to judge the dishes based on how traditional they are. (btw. as a side point the Myint has proved his cooking chops in other locations). For me the name is such a strange thing to get charged up about - especially given the publicity surrounding MCF - you know what you're getting.

                                                                I still stand by my comments are Mission Chinese Food but am getting overwhelmed in this thread. For future readers I recommend looking at other reviews on the web to get a better sense of the place (for instance Kauffmann's sfweekly review or some of the other chowhound threads). The kitchen can be inconsistent but the food is _not_ generic or bland or mass produced or catered to the american palate - as i've said before - it's interesting and personal.

                                                                Benu is great I suppose - not that I can afford to go check it out for myself. I think restaurants do need to be compared in context though. I can go into MCF for lunch and eat for under $10. If we only compare places relative to Benu and the French Laundry then most places will really start to suck. As a mater of personal taste most of the time I prefer more accessible places anyway.

                                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                  Took another look at MSC last night. This was prompted by news that they have a new BBQ smoker and have some interesting takes on fusion BBQ. I also wanted to check out the ma po tofu, raved about by some on this thread, which I had missed in my earlier, rather unfortunate, visit.

                                                                  We had the Smoked Brisket. It was really first class (if our portion was rather fatty, even by my standards - I always ask for the fatty end at Memphis Minnie). I would say it is as good or better than the best we have had at MM and would be considered good even in the brisket belt of Texas. It comes with a sauce made of Mexican (!) Coca Cola ("sweeter" we were told), hoisin sauce, and drippings. Excellent. The brisket was beautifully smoked and moist (no surprise given the amount of fat). We will have to try the smoked lamb cheeks and pig trotter offerings in another visit. This is what "fusion" should be about: expand on the original with new cultural influences. I think this would go over well in Austin, but who knows.

                                                                  As for the ma po tofu … sorry, the nicest thing I can say is that it is better and somewhat more authentic than the typical glop at US mall Chinese restaurants. It is rather dimensionless -- certainly not with the depth of flavors, complexity, sophistication you find at Spices II (which is the closest I have found to the original, incredible, dish at the present incarnation of Grandmother Chen's place in Chengdu). I guess I would put it at the same level or below some really good places around here which do other things much better (e.g. Beijing) and below the better local Sichuan places (e.g. San Mateo) which aren't quite as good as Spices II.

                                                                  [As an aside for those who get upset when I make a big deal about authentic -- it is certainly true that there is not necessarily a logical connection between dishes that are authentic to their original conception and dishes that are excellent. After all the original could have been poor. On the other hand, I find that when you find a really special dish in other cultures and it is copied here in the US, the closer it is the the original, the better it is. I just don't know any exceptions to that. I happen to have been lucky enough to have travelled quite widely and I always try to find the really interesting food wherever we go. I try to report back here on comparisons, mainly because I believe that a really important thing we can accomplish on this list is to hammer on good ethnic places to stay authentic and not dumb down to uninformed American tastes. I apologize to those who think this is being elitist -- it is not intended that way.]

                                                                  We will probably return for the BBQ and possibly for the Thrice Cooked Pork, although my wife is not thrilled with the lack of balance we end up with in meals there. I guess we will try the eggplant next time… but there is lots of competition for that dish (e.g. Beijing Restaurant!!).

                                                                  Finally, a recent Twitter exchange (Feb 28) for those who might have missed it:

                                                                  Mission Chinese Food is a local foodie favorite… but not sure it's mine. Good news, at least the spicy dishes were truly spicy.

                                                                  @MichelinGuideSF hardly a foodie favorite, search chowhound for a fierce debate about MCF

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

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

                                                        2. One point that has not been emphasized in this discussion is the totally reasonable prices at MCF. If you're someone like me who likes the food the price makes it one of the best bargains in the city. Most entres are under $10 and appear (from taste and internet rumor) to use high quality local and organic ingredients.

                                                          I recommend throwing in an order of Szechuan Pickles to start your meal. Only $3, very refreshing.

                                                          1. "Thrice-cooked" is what Ton Kiang used to call mei cai kou rou (梅菜扣肉), which they now call "steamed bacon with mustard greens." That's misleading, it's actually unsmoked pork belly and the mustard greens are what's usually called "preserved vegetable." I asked about the three steps years ago, it's fried and steamed, I forget what the third is. Anyway it renders out most of the fat. Ton Kiang's version is the best I've had, Great China in Berkeley is the runner-up. MCF's version sounds like a cross between mei cai kou rou and pasta carbonara.

                                                            The egg custard sounds like a variation on the Japanese dish chawan mushi.

                                                            14 Replies
                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Every time I've had the thrice-cooked bacon at MCF, the starch element was rice cakes (Korean dok, also used in Shanghainese cooking). I'd call their thrice-cooked bacon dish a cross between mei cai kou rou and dokbokki.

                                                              1. re: david kaplan

                                                                FYI, Dokbokki uses the whole cylinder rice cake. Shanghainese dishes usually slice the rice cakes.

                                                                1. re: DezzerSF

                                                                  I've had dokbokki both ways, actually: sometimes cylinders and sometimes ovals. And once, somewhere, I even got a mixture in the same dish. But I've never seen the cylinders in Shanghainese dishes, only the ovals.

                                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Yes, now that I think of it, I do remember a Japanese version of the egg custard dish on some extraordinarily good kaiseki menu (maybe in Kyoto) -- but far more sophisticated and interesting and smaller than the MCF version.

                                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                  I think what the MCF folks were trying to do was the Cantonese style steamed egg custard 蒸水蛋 but in a more downscale way. It is a very simple dish, but getting the custard to a perfect consistency and being able to retain the essence/juices/flavors from any additional ingredients require some skill and timing. R&G Lounge has a fantastic version with clams, where you can taste the natural clam juice in the custard. It is quite outrageous at $18, but large enough to share with several people and is superb with rice.

                                                                  梅菜 is short for 梅干菜 and there are sweet and savory versions of the pickled mustard greens. The Hakka Cantonese prep with pork belly tends to use the sweet version. The savory one is very pungent and is an aquired taste...where it is a lot more prevalent in Taiwan, where the locals sometimes refer to it as fu-cai 福菜, basically mustard greens with salt added, stuffed into a glass or plastic bottle, capped, and then let sit to ferment for 30 days.

                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Have you tried the one at Hakka Restaurant?

                                                                  1. re: vulber

                                                                    I've been following this thread and it is definitely polarizing to say the least. I believe Boris said that there are 2 separate "questions". 1) is it authentic and 2) is it good.

                                                                    From what I can see, everyone seems to agree that it's not authentic ( nor is it trying to be.). So that leaves us with is it good. And this is where opinions differ widely. So, if I respect everyone's palate and opinion, the only conclusion that I can come to, is that it is inconsistent.

                                                                    I happen to live in the East Bay, with easy access to Oakland Chinatown, and Richmond Ranch 99 mall. So, if I want authentic, there are plenty of places for me to choose from. With so many good restaurants in the Bay Area, why would anyone bother with some place that is so inconsistent??...

                                                                    I also don't understand the hype that MCF is getting, and am wondering if it is all part of the "pop-up" phenomenon, which I also don't get. I've been to some of them, and while the food was OK to good, they weren't good enough to warrant dashing back for more.

                                                                    BTW, $3 is a lot for pickled cabbage; alot of asian places give you a small dish of it for free. Can you say profit?

                                                                    99 Ranch
                                                                    4299 Rosewood Dr, Pleasanton, CA 94588

                                                                    1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                                      They give money from every dish ($0.75) to charity. Given the quality of ingredients and the prices I doubt they make lots of profit.

                                                                      1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                                        I think it's a good question: why bother with a place that's inconsistent? For me it's because i find their take unique and interesting - there is no other place that interprets chinese-californian food like they do so it's worth the risk.

                                                                        I've been luck i guess in that all the dishes i've had are good. But clearly others have experienced consistency problems.

                                                                        1. re: boris_qd

                                                                          Well, you must be lucky :) and I guess, I'm not willing to take myself all the way out there and then get inconsistent food, when there is so much, so close by.

                                                                          Kinda off subject, and not to dis your comment, I'm actually pretty tired of being hit with requests for "donations" every where I turn, especially during check out in grocery stores. ( I give to charities of my choice every year.)

                                                                          1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                                            I'm not sure if you understood exactly what MSC does with regard to donations: you don't get hit up at the restaurant, they donate .75 per dish to charity (the SF Food Bank), with a big lump sum donation at the end of each month.

                                                                            1. re: JasmineG

                                                                              I assumed that they give a lump sum at pre-determined intervals. Not to get too far off subject, is there any "hip, organic, sustainable, etc... restaurant" that doesn't give to some charity or other...

                                                                              1. re: Dawgmommy

                                                                                MCF supposedly donates all profits to charity.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  They do not claim to do that -- when they were Mission Street Food they did, but MCF donates 75 cents from each entree.

                                                                  2. MCF posted on their blog this week that they will be changing their hours "in an effort to maintain quality and consistency" starting Monday, so apparently they recognized that there was a problem.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      I can believe consistency is a problem.

                                                                    2. the slight irony here is that i triggered a battle such that I've never seen in chowhound, but when i got there at 10pm it was already closed and i couldnt order anything! Now I'm back in LA where we overflow with authentic chinese options in the glorious lands of the San Gabriel Valey.

                                                                      1. I've been to MCF 3 times. The first time was the best. The second time was good. The third time, I was a bit embarrassed by how out of balance each dish was, to the point where I wrote an email to the restaurant manager. Hong Kong Foodie, if you've only been once, please stop telling people who disagree with you that they don't know what they're talking about--MCF is not consistent or expensive enough to justify spilling so many words on the internet. Flavor is subjective, but you said the rice was heavy, and the other person said it was fluffy. Hard to argue you have to go to Hong Kong to learn what fluffy rice is.

                                                                        For everyone else, no it isn't authentic. Yes, they use some traditional chinese titles for dishes on the menu, but they also give a description, in English, which Chinese menus don't do, even though I've often encountered poetic license when ordering traditional dishes from Chinese language menus.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: SteveG

                                                                          I've been there three times as well and wouldn't have written such a scathing review had it not been bad every single time.

                                                                          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                            Why did you keep going back when you experienced it as "disgusting"?

                                                                            1. re: boris_qd

                                                                              Because I'm a statistician at heart and believe in sampling.

                                                                                1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                                                                  Thanks, all. Most interesting discussion I can recall reading on C-hnd, but I happen to agree with hkf on autheticity, particularly in being proficient at the original before offering a variation--applies to much in life.

                                                                            2. Hmm. Not sure whether to add more flames to the fire.

                                                                              I've been once and was excited at the dishes (West Lake lamb dumpling, ma po dofu, pickles, chongqing chicken wings). However I found everything one-dimensional and heavy handed; greasy and salty without complexity. This was several months ago. My companion liked it.

                                                                              For what it's worth, I love Spices. which despite being Taiwanese, serves food much more like what I ate in Sichuan. They don't make an especially good ma po dofu either, and it can be inconsistent, but when Spices or Spices II is good, it soars.

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

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: DezzerSF

                                                                                  Yes, and liked it but didn't love it. Will give it another chance one of these days.

                                                                                1. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                  $9 for a bowl of jook? That's more than Out the Door gets. Who said MCF was affordable?

                                                                                  Out the Door
                                                                                  845 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                  1. re: soupçon

                                                                                    It is quite a large bowl. We were able to fill our small soup bowls (the kind Chinese restaurants usually provide for soups) at least 5 or 6 times. The Out the Door porridge would *maybe* fill 2 small bowls. Also, note the Westlake soup is made with pieces of oxtail, generous (at least in my case) amount of fresh dungeness crab, and cooked for hours rather than adding cornstarch. We were also provided with little bits of pickled Chinese long bean and fried peanuts to put into the soup. I think it's very worth it. And more thing to add, I didn't think the OTD (Bush St) porridge was anything special and had pretty stingy portions of chicken meat.

                                                                                2. What an intense debate. My heart is beating fast from reading this thread! I'd like to put in my two cents here, which is wholly my own opinion.

                                                                                  First, the OP asked which dishes to get at MCF (and ostensibly, what to avoid as well), but nothing about the "authenticity" of MCF. Authenticity comes into the picture a lot when describing ethnic food, I think perhaps because many of us have been privileged to try the dishes in the countries/regions where they originated. Unfortunately, I think this might color the judgment we pass on similar dishes we try outside those countries. I mean, if you order fries at some American restaurant, you might get steak fries, shoestring, twice-fried, seasoned, unseasoned, kennebec, who knows! So what are "authentic" fries? Or authentic American burgers?

                                                                                  What should really matter is it tastes good to us....and of course we all have our individual palates.

                                                                                  And to me, to my humble palate, MCF tasted GOOD. There were two of us dining (~3pm this past Tues), and we got the Westlake rice porridge, mapo dofu, numbing lamb soup, and lamb dumplings. The server (Danny Bowien, I think) also gave us a very generous steamer of rice. I absolutely LOVED the mapo dofu, second was the porridge. With two beers, the bill came out to be about $45 without tip and we had a ton leftover.

                                                                                  At this point, I feel I should point out I was born in Beijing and moved to the US when I was a kid. I was lucky enough to spend every other summer in Beijing for over 14 years, since most of my family did, and still do, live there. I've eaten meals in numerous parts of mainland China, ranging from super high end to the very low end. I also grew up eating at many Chinese restaurants in the US, because my Chinese parents only wanted to go to Chinese restaurants (and we ate out every weekend). Luckily, we lived in Fremont, where very good Chinese good is accessible.

                                                                                  Based on these experiences, I think what the guys at MCF are trying to do is to create the traditional Chinese dishes that we have here in the US, but with much better ingredients and much more care and with the "authentic" Chinese flavor profiles you typically find in Chinese restaurants in the US with 99% Chinese clientele.

                                                                                  Ooops, I just went off on a sort of tangent when all the OP wanted to know what dishes we'd recommend at MCF (though it'll have to be on echo's next trip). I'd highly recommend the mapo dofu. I thought it was absolutely delicious and kudos to the MCF guys for using so much sichuan peppercorns, which isn't a spice that seem to appeal to most western palates (it was banned from entering the US for a while). But I love that mouth numbing experience and count shuizhuyu (Sichuan fish boiled in chili oil) as one of my favorite dishes (there should be a nod to Spices here). In the MCF dish, the dofu was tender and the ground meat blended perfectly with the crushed peppercorns, which add a nice bit of crunch to the otherwise traditionally very "soft-textured" dish. The dish was more soupy than what I've experienced elsewhere, but that meant it was easier to pour over and coat my rice, which is how I like to eat the dish. (Perhaps intentional then?)

                                                                                  I'd also recommend the Westlake porridge, which tasted exacty like the Westlake soup I insisted my parents on ordering for over a year (I tend to go into lengthy food kicks)...remarkable given the different ingredients/preparation used. And the ingredients were much more fresh and more interestingly prepared. The tiny bits of pickled Chinese long bean really gave this an "authentic" kick (my opinion).

                                                                                  I thought the numbing lamb soup could have been more numbing in my opinion, but the noodles were really great, and perhaps the skin on the lamb dumplings were a tad thick. But both were fine dishes with nice, straightforward gamey lamb flavors.

                                                                                  Some may not find MCF's dishes to be up to snuff and unappealing, and others like me may love it. Goes for any place, in the US or in some other country.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: carfeng

                                                                                    Chowhound needs a "like" button. Great review!

                                                                                    1. re: carfeng

                                                                                      met a friend for lunch at Mission Chinese Food today and had a good meal .... we ordered the Westlake Porridge, Slow cooked Pork Belly and the Taiwanese Eggplant. The Westlake Porridge was very savory: the crab was sweet, loved all the bits of oxtail and the nicely cooked soft egg. $9 sounds like a lot for a bowl of jook but it was a generous portion and very tasty. The pork belly was well executed - crispy but still soft on the inside - it's a fatty cut of meat so don't order this if you aren't ready for a rich morsel. An order comes with 4 pieces - I could have been satisfied with one piece ...... as much as I enjoyed it - two pieces is a lot for me these days.
                                                                                      The Taiwanese Eggplant is cooked with a lot of basil, jalapenos and garlic - and it's also a rich /oily dish but enjoyable. Glad we had lots of white rice to eat with our dishes.

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

                                                                                    2. Having a cold, I wanted something spicy. Having had very uneven experiences with Mission Street Food, I was leery of trying MCF, but was craving mapo tofu. So I called up and ordered it to go - an order of mapo tofu and then an order of cold noodles. Walked it home the 3 blocks and chowed down.

                                                                                      The mapo tofu was spicy enough, but i wished it had more of that numbing feeling - it did when i bit directly into a szechuan pepper bit, but overall it could have been hotter. The pork was a little mushy to me, too, but all-in-all, i did like the dish. It wasn't too greasy, as so many offerings from MSF were, and it tasted fresh and hot. The rice itself was very good - just tasted fresher than most take-out chinese I've gotten. It was a good deal, too, $9.5 but i had two helpings and easily have enough for lunch tomorrow.

                                                                                      Loved the buckwheat noodles - served in a gingery, tangy dressing, with sprouts, radishes, cucumber, tofu skin and chilis, it was refreshing and delightful. Wish this portion had been a bit bigger ($7) but it sufficed for the meal.

                                                                                      Thanks to the good reports above (mixed in with the bad), I'd go back and try other items. It was especially heartening to learn today that MCF has raised $20,000 for the SF Food Bank so far!

                                                                                      1. Bauer puts in his two cents:


                                                                                        Overall: Rating: TWO STARS
                                                                                        Food: Rating: THREE STARS
                                                                                        Service: Rating: ONE AND A HALF STARS
                                                                                        Atmosphere: Rating: ONE STAR

                                                                                        And really likes the food....

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: boris_qd

                                                                                          "He doesn't necessarily try to be authentic, but in the end his food comes across as having more purity and integrity than 99 percent of the Chinese restaurants in the city."

                                                                                          I'm curious what is that remainder 1% that Bauer thinks is quite possibly more or better than MCF.

                                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                                            Given that Bauer has probably eaten at less than 1% of the 300+ Chinese restaurants in the City, how would he know?

                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                              I'm pretty sure he's taking poetic license rather then making a statement of fact. If you want to be literal, the answer could be statistical sampling.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                Well, if you amend his comment to "more purity and integrity than 99% of the English-language menus in Chinese restaurants in the city," I'd say it's true. And if you think that having different menus for different people means a restaurant doesn't have integrity, then it stands. My bet is that he simply hasn't ever learned enough about Chinese food to know how to order properly and get a good meal, which can probably be had at at least 50% of the Chinese restaurants in the city.

                                                                                                1. re: SteveG

                                                                                                  Bauer's reasonably sophisticated about Chinese food, e.g.:


                                                                                                  I just don't think his busy schedule keeping up with the "fine-dining" spots he reviews and puts in the Top 100 leaves him time to learn enough about the cheap end of the SF scene to be able to rank any particular place vs. the average.

                                                                                          2. The MCF dudes recently held a by-invitation-only popup in Shenzhen, China (mostly for HK food bloggers). Here's the first, rather sanguine, reaction:


                                                                                            I expect a more extensive review by my contact, who writes for the SCMP (and is the "j" referenced in the linked post). Her report will be posted, or at leas referenced, at http://www.e-tingfood.com/

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: soupçon

                                                                                              Boy, that sure looks nothing like what they are doing at their Mission location in SF!

                                                                                              I have not understood all the raves from food critics (Chron, SF Weekly, NYTimes) as I have been among those on this thread who found MCF underwhelming on 3 visits compared to some of the other great Chinese restaurants around here that Bauer et al never seem to find.

                                                                                              One might guess that MCF is going to be reborn as some kind of extremely high end place with a tasting menu like they did in Shenzen. That could be interesting, but MCF as it is now just doesn't cut it for us.

                                                                                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                With the exception of Jonathan Kauffman, the other critics frequent high-end French and Italian restaurants so this was an adventure to the other side of town for them.

                                                                                                They may like the food at MCF (I did not), but they are far from knowledgeable about Asian food, let alone street food.

                                                                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                  I had the same impression as you of what they served, though I am not a MCF veteran. It may be that they were testing out a different approach, as you suggested, not trying to validate what they've been doing.

                                                                                              2. Here is Janice Leung's somewhat belated review of MCF's pop-up in Shenzhen. Is what they presented over there substantially different from what MCF veterans are used to, and is it reflected in changes since their return to the 'hood?


                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: soupçon

                                                                                                  Not the slightest resemblance to the MCF we know and [dis]like, but far more sophisticated and interesting. Wow, I would have loved to have been at that meal and really hope they try to turn MCF into what that meal represented.

                                                                                                  We peered in as we walked by the other night, on the way to an excellent dinner at their cousin, Commonwealth next door, and MCF seemed to be their same old same old selves. I hope that changes as the chefs clearly have more capability than they have shown in the Mission up to now.

                                                                                                  1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                    If they did what Watercress did in the 1990s and offered 3 course quality fancy meals at DAT kind of prices or below with those offerings, they would have an even bigger hit on their hands. Mission Chinoise or Mission Shenzhen.

                                                                                                    1. re: K K

                                                                                                      If they simply served the quality of dishes they did a year ago at Mission Street Food, that would be fine. The irony is that the quality was better as a popup, even as the attention paid has grown.

                                                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                                                        Watercress? I remember Watergate. Searching. Was that a name change only?

                                                                                                        1. re: jman1

                                                                                                          It was a name and I think ownership change. Feels like a very long time ago; there have been at least five or six restaurants in that spot since then.

                                                                                                          1. re: Windy

                                                                                                            Watercress and Watergate were the same owners. Watergate is still in existence, I believe, but in another location. I wasn't all that impressed with either Mission incarnation, myself.... What's there now is a wine/burger bar. can't remember the name.

                                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                              B^3 or "B cubed". (Don't proprietors understand the need to come up with a Google-able name?) Went there when they were opening and thought that maybe the curse would be broken. Good burgers grafted onto a wine-centric menu. Two other venues next door to help draw foot traffic... Now I'm noticing the crowds are subsided. The curse may still hold?

                                                                                                              1. re: BernalKC

                                                                                                                me too, i liked the burgers and they have a good wine list. i've not noticed it's gotten terribly less busy, but maybe i'm just not paying attention...

                                                                                                    2. re: soupçon

                                                                                                      oh hey thanks for posting my link soupcon, you just brought me back to CH after a super long hiatus, ha. to be honest i thought the food in Shenzhen wasn't mind-blowing, but i didn't expect so many haters of the original SF version! it is, like i said in the post, a 'fusion' of asian flavours that will go their own way, independent of 'traditional' asian cuisines, even though they reference it. i really want to try the SF version myself!

                                                                                                      1. re: e_ting

                                                                                                        Well, you've just got to get your butt over to SF. Plenty of non-stop flights from HK, and plenty of eats to check out.

                                                                                                    3. Finally managed to get to MCF when they were open.

                                                                                                      Salt cod fried rice: excellent. Seemed like a riff on Thai House Express's fish paste fried rice.

                                                                                                      Ma po tofu: really good. I prefer more traditional spicing, but this variation worked.

                                                                                                      Kung pao pastrami: reminded me a lot of Hunan's smoked ham dish. Nice idea but the potatoes ruined it for me. I'm going to pull the potatoes out of the leftovers and add some bok choy or nappa and more onion, I think it'll be good.

                                                                                                      Tiger salad: spring rolls, really. OK but I would have liked some noodles.

                                                                                                      Beijing vinegar peanuts: good, would have made more sense if I'd been drinking beer.

                                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                        The rice dish is most likely a riff on salted fish and diced chicken fried rice, which is a pretty common Cantonese dish. It lacks the oomph of the fermented fish in the real thing, which probably makes it more palatable to non-Chinese.

                                                                                                        1. re: sfbing

                                                                                                          The salt cod fried rice includes Chinese sausage, which gives it a bit of fermented flavor.

                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                            In dim sum restaurants there's stir fried sticky rice (sahng tsau lor mai fahn) which is similar to lor mai gai (sticky rice chicken in lotus leaf), but w/o the chicken, moisture, and lotus wrap. Sounds like Bowien is trying a different spin altogether.

                                                                                                            Wondering if they used bacalhau or equivalent for the salt cod...the salted dried ones from Hong Kong/Lantau Island (Tai O) are of a different species of fish depending on the season.

                                                                                                            1. re: K K

                                                                                                              It's escolar confit, presumably made in house.

                                                                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                                                                It isn't a dim sum thing. It is just a plate of fried rice, like your mom would make from leftovers. Not enough wok hei, though. Unlike Chinese salted fish, the cod is merely salty without that fermented tang that comes from letting the fish ferment a bit before salting.

                                                                                                                The Mapo tofu similarly lacks fermented flavor as I don't think there is any chili bean sauce in the prep. It is just a pork ragu with Asian spices. (And there is way too much meat and not enough tofu.)

                                                                                                                The food isn't bad exactly--it just isn't Chinese. Kind of like ramen and gyoza, if you know what I mean.

                                                                                                                1. re: sfbing

                                                                                                                  I saw some black beans in the ma po tofu (though there wasn't much black bean flavor), and the proportion of tofu to meat was similar to what I've had elsewhere. The spices included whole cloves and maybe green cardamom pods.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sfbing

                                                                                                                    I know that :-) Probably from lack of sleep, but what I meant to say is that the stir fried sticky rice does have the preserved sausage in it, whereas the salted fish chicken fried rice does not. Maybe that's where some of the inspiration came from (adding preserved sausage to fried rice) but maybe not. Believe me I've had it many timesduring the 80s in Hong Kong which were my earliest memories of it (some had shredded iceberg lettuce in them).

                                                                                                                    Also escolar? Lots of uncontrollable discharge jokes around that in the sushi bar world... Guess I'll pass on Bowien's version of the salted fish fried rice!

                                                                                                                    This thread reconfirms Bowien's approach....re-interpret the classics his way, while keeping pretty much the original name of them.

                                                                                                                    Ramen+gyoza pretty much took on their own identity and became mainstream and beyond. But nobody says they suck or are mislabled products :-).

                                                                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                              I had the leftover mapo tofu for lunch and liked it better than the first time. I think the eccentric spicing (whole cloves, whole black cardamom, whole star anise, whole red dried chiles, not sure what else) has grown on me. Might even order it again.

                                                                                                              By chance I had Z&Y's for dinner the same day, might have been an off night for them but I like MCF's better, though neither is my ideal.

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                I've never liked Z&Y's mapo tofu -- it's often watery. It's a rare miss at Z&Y for a Sichuan item. Sometimes the dan dan noodles are a little watery, too.

                                                                                                                1. re: david kaplan

                                                                                                                  Where do you go for mapo tofu? Z&Y has been my favorite so far, but once the ground Sichuan peppercorn is all gone, it loses its magic. So I add some more myself with the leftovers.

                                                                                                                  MCF's is a bit sloppy for my taste, don't like the whole spices, especially when I eat them.

                                                                                                                  1. re: DezzerSF

                                                                                                                    The closest I have found to the incredible Chengdu mapo tofu is at Spices II and it is very good.

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

                                                                                                                    1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                                      Yes, the other versions in the Bay Area taste like spaghetti sauce. Not sure why. (Are they reusing the ground pork from noodle dishes, maybe?)

                                                                                                                      And no, you should not get a mouth full of spices.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Windy

                                                                                                                        Whole spices are traditional in many of the regional Chinese and other cuisines that influence MCF's food.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                          I didn't mean they shouldn't cook with whole spices. But no one serves a cup of chai with peppercorns and cardamon pods or big chunks of ginger. It's just lazy not to strain them out.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Windy

                                                                                                                            Staining the chunky sauce in MCF's mapo tofu would be impossible.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                                        I second the reco for Spices mapo tofu, though I usually go to the branch on 8th Ave.

                                                                                                              2. Yet another visit to MCF, despite my previous negativity. I continue to be very conflicted about this place.

                                                                                                                On Tuesday I had the Taiwan Style Mussels, which I thought was really excellent. It is in a spicy salty complex sauce with lots of fresh basil, cubes of pork (jowls, I think). Even better (considerably) than the mussels at Hakka.

                                                                                                                Also had the Dan Dan Noodles, which was really out of the spectrum of what I would call reasonably authentic dan dan noodle. Best thing I can say about it is that it is a cold version, which is unfortunately not all that common around here. But it really wasn't good, never mind the authenticity issue. Sort of a sour flavor, not too spicy, with a hint of peanut/sesame flavors. Less than one dimensional. Meh...

                                                                                                                So, I have 2 dishes that bring me back here, the mussels and the Thrice Cooked Pork, which I feel compelled to try again. At least it is not called Twice Cooked Pork, as it also deviates too far from what that should be, but it remains compelling in my memory.

                                                                                                                But the Ma Po Tofu here is a one dimensional travesty, a sort of Sichuan-flavor Bolognese sauce on top of tofu instead of spaghetti. At least it is not out of a can.

                                                                                                                I was impressed that something approaching 50% of the crowd were young, native English speaking, Asian groups. Seems to be the hot new place in those circles... so they are seeing something in the place also.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                                                                                  Late to the party posting, but it sounds like their rendition of dan dan noodles borrows from two different noodle dishes

                                                                                                                  (芝)麻醬麵 (sesame sauce noodles) Ma Jiang Mian
                                                                                                                  酸辣麵 (sour and spicy noodles/hot and sour noodles) Suan La Mian

                                                                                                                  And in trying to fuse the two together they came up with their own rendition which does not sound appetizing, particularly "cold" DD noodles, which the LA board hardcore regional Chinese peeps would have an uproar about if they knew.

                                                                                                                2. Moving to the big time:
                                                                                                                  Let's see if NYTimes love can make this over-rated place popular in NYC.

                                                                                                                  1. We tried to check out this place twice. The first time, we went around 8:30 PM on Friday. After an hour and a half we realized that was a big mistake and went somewhere else. The next time we went Sunday shortly after it opened and got in after about an hour.

                                                                                                                    We got:

                                                                                                                    Schezuan Pickles: They actually brought us these free for waiting, which was an extremely nice gesture. But sadly I have to agree 100% with Thomas Nash's zero-dimensional comment here. The cabbage didn't really taste like cabbage. The cabbage, peanuts, & carrots tasted like spicy oil. It was lacking the nice crunch (& everything else) I expect from pickles.

                                                                                                                    Guilin Lamb Noodle Soup: The flavor was nice but not particularly complex. This was listed as 'spicy'...but could've fooled me. It listed "pickles" in the ingredients, and I think it used the same pickles from the appetizer, but in the soup you couldn't really tell they were pickled (then again, in the bowl of pickles, they didn't really taste like pickles either.) Noodles = high quality. Overall, a bit too mushy esp. since it used lamb cheek as the meat. Would have liked something, anything, to firm up the dish a bit.

                                                                                                                    Stewed Beef Tongue & Turnips: This was a soup, which was a bit of a suprise (as we ended up with two soups.) Once again, the flavor wasn't bad, but not particularly mind-blowing. I actually simmer beef tongue at home with root vegetables...and the broth tasted pretty similar to that. It was nice to be able to order it here though as tongue usually takes hours to get ready. It also listed "pickled burdock" in the ingredient list...but once again, I couldn't tell that they were pickled. Also listed was "tendon terrine." My guess is that those were the pieces of meat in the soup that I mistook for fatty pieces of tongue. But, a somewhat unexpected benefit of this dish was how nutritionally balanced it is.

                                                                                                                    Service was good, attentive & very quick. Everything was brought out within ~5 minutes of ordering.

                                                                                                                    Two decent-sized dishes for $21. I'm going to slap a verdict of "not bad". I could actually see myself having cravings for this again, but it's not a place that I'd want to wait an hour for. Maybe I'll go again after all the hype dies down...or get take-out.

                                                                                                                    Anyway, MCF can be summed up in about four words:

                                                                                                                    Hipster Chinese Fast Food.

                                                                                                                    I don't think MCF cares so much about making a fine-dining establishment so much as they care about trying to appeal to their audience, and in that respect they struck gold. "Balanced" or "refined" are not words used to describe the dishes here...more like "creative," "weird," "seasonal," "trendy," "inexpensive" which are more important buzzwords with the Mission crowd. A lot of animal parts other places don't serve.

                                                                                                                    Also, look at the setup of the store; a tacky sign out front that looks like any other dated Chinese restaurant in the city, and then a darkly lit room inside with communal tables and kids with tattoos as waitstaff. It's designed to be the "secret" that was never really a secret from the beginning.

                                                                                                                    So the long lines in front of the store = totally understandable. The rave reviews from respected critics = a little less so.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Radical347

                                                                                                                      Lots of Chinese places in SF serve a wider variety of innards than MCF does.

                                                                                                                      I went on a weekday for lunch and there was no wait.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                        I didn't say that MCF serves the "widest variety of innards," I said it has ones I don't see too often (i.e. beef or lamb cheek or belly)

                                                                                                                        The innards I see at Chinese restaurants more often are intestine, tripe, and blood.

                                                                                                                    2. No one seems to have mentioned this, but they do take out and also deliver to most of the city. People do go there for the "hipster" experience, but you'll get a more pleasurable hipster experience by getting take out and bringing it to Dolores Park. After all, there's nothing special about the ambience or service in the restaurant and the wait is terrible. Note that they're closed on Wednesdays.


                                                                                                                      The first time I went there, I loved the salt cod fried rice. The last time I ordered it, I couldn't detect any fish flavor. It was just a greasy fried rice with chinese sausage.

                                                                                                                      The tea smoked eel was variable. A few slices were very good, but most were uneven and dominated by one ingredient.

                                                                                                                      There's nothing remarkable about the szechuan pickles, but they're a nice contrast to the grease in the rest of the meal.

                                                                                                                      The kung pao pastrami is an unbelievably greasy dish, but I really like the concept and enjoyed it very much. The potatoes serve the same function that Shanghai rice cakes would, and it goes well with the salty beef.

                                                                                                                      I'm going to try more of their dishes via delivery, but it's definitely not worth waiting outside for 90 minutes.

                                                                                                                      1. Danny Bowien recently took a trip to Chengdu. I'm curious whether he is going to rework any of his current recipes or just add new ones. In a passage that seems to ignore some of the central tenets of the book itself, there's also an implication that Bowien was influenced by Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty."


                                                                                                                        1. A group of friends and I, including a vegetarian, got delivery tonight. Everyone loved the food. The flavors of every dish were bold--- they're really on the top of their game.

                                                                                                                          Several Chinese places around town have 200-300 item menus, and make it unsatisfying to choose dishes, especially when so many are fool's gold from regions the chef has no expertise in. In addition to the high quality ingredients, a major thing I like about MCF is the 28 item menu with easily identifiable vegan options. Tonight we had:

                                                                                                                          Kung-Pao Pastrami: he's changed the preparation, and eliminated the potatoes. This bummed me out at first, but it makes the dish a lot less greasy. The pastrami has a strong smoke flavor that goes great with celery. Even with the elimination of potato, this continues to be my favorite dish.

                                                                                                                          Lamb face noodle soup: I wouldn't recommend this for delivery. The noodles were too soft by the time we got it, and from a quart container, it was difficult to dole servings out. The meat part was great though, and in a surprisingly large quantity. I'd get again in the restaurant.

                                                                                                                          Mongolian long bean: the spiciest thing we had and a great side dish.

                                                                                                                          Thrice cooked bacon: We got this vegetarian style, so no bacon was included. That left shanghainese rice cakes, a scant amount of bitter melon, tofu skin, and chili oil. Excellent.

                                                                                                                          Sliced peanut noodles: layers of cheung fun (rice noodles) are layered into a brick and topped with a scant amount of peanut sauce and some other things. I liked this and found it balanced out the other courses, but others found it too boring.

                                                                                                                          Sichuan pickles: they seem to vary this every time I've been to Mission Chinese. Tonight's were great, but not as good or spicy as pickles I've had at Sichuan restaurants.

                                                                                                                          Tea-smoked eel: a rice noodle surrounds braised pork, and chinese celery, hoisin, and eel. Well wrapped. The potent flavor of chinese celery help balance out the strong umami components of this dish.

                                                                                                                          1. Last Sunday, I finally got a nasty bite of the inconsistency worm.

                                                                                                                            Tea smoked eel was still pretty good

                                                                                                                            Their Kung Pao pastrami is an evolving dish, e.g., I've never had it exactly like described here http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kung... ). The version I had last week was unrecognizeable compared to what we've gotten there before and seemed like something you'd find in a 1960s passover cookbook. The greasy dish had chunks of still good pastrami, but way too much celery, clumsily chopped chunks of red bell pepper, and strips of either potato or bamboo shoots. There was not a single whole chili and there couldn't have been more than 1 tbs. of whole peanuts.

                                                                                                                            Schmaltz fried rice didn't have much character. It had some toppings, but if it had actually seen heat, it wasn't stir-fried with anything besides fat.

                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                              My last experience with MCF was similar, with what amounted to just a pile of garnish, crudely chopped, or not chopped. Eating around it made for a very light meal.

                                                                                                                              We're not talking nice vegetables that become part of the dish, we're talking filler. You might eat one celery stock or two, but they're long 4" pieces, including browning end pieces you're not supposed to eat. It's reminiscent of the absolute lowest quality Chinese stand, if not worse.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                When was your last experience? I had a good meal there a week ago and could only find a small fault with the cumin lamb. MCF always seemed to me to be the place you want to eat at after a day of drinking or as place to do lots of drinking.

                                                                                                                                I had the cumin lamb, squid ink noodles, and salt cod fried rice. The squid ink noodles had a messy presentation but i enjoyed them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                                  About 2 months ago in my case.

                                                                                                                                  The food should taste good without day drinking to pre-game or having to mix the flavors with alcohol, but my criticism wasn't flavor or spice, it was the skimpy portions for proteins in their entrees. Salt cod fried rice...I trust there wascod slivers hiding in there somewhere? Cumin Lamb was a little fatty, but good. Loading it with more celery, and basically the same combo of less than edible garnish that was in the Kung Pao, was telling however.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                                                                    Maybe Danny Bowien isn't spending enough time at his restaurants. The NYC MCF was closed by health inspectors.


                                                                                                                                    1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                                      I think it's difficult to run establishments in different time zones as chef driven projects without a restaurant groups support.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                                        Sounds like he's owning this one. Good for him. Deal with it, live with it. I'm OK with that.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: BernalKC

                                                                                                                                          He didn't initially own up to it, he tried the whole "closed for repairs" thing. I don't think his presence there would have stopped routine carelessness though.

                                                                                                                                          As for MCF in SF, it's Jesse Koide, the head chef that would be responsible overseeing what's happening.

                                                                                                                              2. Three bold favorites: Tea smoked eel is a big bite of this generously portioned appetizer of eel with crunch. The egg egg noodle is rich with a poached egg to mix into the bowl of noodles and chiles. Pork Jowl with Radishes; tender fatty pork cubes with a mountain of lovely radishes remain at the top of my list.
                                                                                                                                Fresh elemental flavor without finesse or subtlety can still hit the right note.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Cynsa

                                                                                                                                  Made a spicy soup for dinner tonight with the leftovers from yesterday's Kung Pao Pastrami; adding chicken broth, fingerling potato, carrot, garlic, orange peel, boneless pork rib, and slices of hard-boiled egg. We like the pastrami - and the celery slices added crunch to the soup. No potatoes in the original plating of MCF's Kung Pao Pastrami, just a huge mound of celery.

                                                                                                                                2. From an eat-in visit:

                                                                                                                                  Mapo doufu was really good. The only experimental part of the dish was the mushrooms, which I found to be odd. If you pretend that part doesn't exist, it's superior and even more "traditional" than many versions served at Sichuan restaurants in the Bay Area: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9224...

                                                                                                                                  Lamb, onions, and squid ink noodle with broth : a dish you can only order at the restaurant. Lots of good flavors that are similar to a Tuscan chickpea sauce. But the composition is too complicated and the dish unsatisfying. There's a small bowl of lamb broth and a plateful of oily stir fried stuff including flavorless squid ink pasta, tender lamb, chickpeas, onions, and green onions. The dry stuff is cooked with fennel seed and garnished with sesame seeds. Apparently the soup is for dipping, but I lacked the skills to get the right combination of soup and solids into a single bite.

                                                                                                                                  From a recent takeout order:
                                                                                                                                  Tea smoked eel : I've had this half a dozen times, and they've finally nailed it. Tightly wrapped, great layering of different textures, great balance of umami, salty, and herbal flavors.
                                                                                                                                  Tiki-pork belly : heh, I wouldn't recommend this for take-out. That's my bad, but it showed promise...
                                                                                                                                  Cumin lamb ribs : smoke flavor so powerful I couldn't tell what kind of meat it was or if cumin was present.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                                    I sometimes put mushrooms in my own mapodoufu; they're especially useful when cooking for a vegetarian (as I was for a while). Robert Delfs in his classic cookbook "The Good Food of Szechwan" lists them as an option.