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Any good Asian in the Mission?

  • m

I've changed our hotel, so we're staying in the mission district, which I'm happy about. One thing I don't seem to find are any good Asian restaurants. Any suggestions for the Mission or surrounding area?

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  1. Generally not. (See separate discussion of whether Mission Chinese Food qualifies as good or Chinese. I say not.)

    Good options:
    Yamo (dive-y Burmese)
    Minako (organic Japanese)

    Outer Mission so south of Cesar Chavez:
    Ichi (sushi)
    Angkor Borei (Cambodian)
    Henry's Hunan (Chinese)

    Keep in mind you're close to the Tenderloin (Bodega Bistro, Pagolac, Lers Ros, Thai House Express, Burmese Kitchen).

    Aside from Henry's, I'd recommend avoiding any "Asian" restaurants in Noe Valley or the Castro. They are all extremely Americanized and mediocre or worse.

    -----
    Thai House Express
    901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Pagolac
    655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Yamo
    3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    4 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      The Thai House Express on Castro was ok, at least as of a couple years ago. Not as good as the Geary location, but ok.

      Eiji has a few good dishes like the homemade tofu though there are better choices for sushi.

      -----
      Thai House Express
      901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      1. re: bigwheel042

        You're right. I go to that Thai House Express when I'm going to a movie at the Castro too.

        And that tofu at Eiji is good (and cool! to have warm tofu made to order).

        -----
        Thai House Express
        901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        1. re: Windy

          Is that the one that Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai ate at in the movie "Sausalito"?

      2. re: Windy

        South of Cesar Chavez is not Outer Mission. Outer Mission is south of Geneva Avenue.

      3. Sorry, but honestly, I don't think there're any Asian eateries in the Mission worth recommending!

        1 Reply
        1. re: klyeoh

          The recommendations above in the Tenderloin are spot on.

        2. Angkor Borei (Cambodian) is great. That's the only destination Asian place in the Mission I can think of.

          -----
          Angkor-Borei Restaurant
          3471 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. I am one of the people who really likes Mission Chinese Food. It's worth a try to see if you are going to be a supporter or a detractor. It's quite polarizing on the board.

            Other than that, I do like ICHI for sushi and Minako, but agree there is not much else around and the Tenderloin is your best bet.

            If Lotus Garden ever opens up again, I would send you there in a heartbeat. Terrific Vietnamese food. They had damage from a fire in their building in April and haven't re-opened yet.

            -----
            Lotus Garden
            3216 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

            24 Replies
            1. re: farmersdaughter

              I wasn't planning to go to Mission Chinese, but now I'm intrigued by the religious war that is swirling around it. Detractors like Hong Kong Foodie don't argue authenticity, but rather what could be called universal values - overcooked, undercooked, heavy, flavorless, etc. However, my feeling is that these judgments are also subjective, and that people who have grown up on a certain style of cooking detect things that others don't. You see this with foreign languages. I studied a little Arabic, where they have two different pronunciations for the letters D and T, and for the life of me I can't hear the difference. Similarly, in English, there is a clear distinction between the words "waiter" and "wetter" and we would never confuse between the two, whereas if you spoke a language without diphthongs, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference (Inspector Clousseau: "That's what I said, you idiot"). So it may be also with whether the rice is fluffy, sufficiently flavorful, etc.

              1. re: MarkC

                Speaking personally, it makes me angry that a trendy faux Chinese restaurant gets so much press from white reviewers who don't know much about Chinese food. And as a result, tourists like you with limited numbers of meals go to a place the NY TImes decides is representative of San Francisco. It's very distorted.

                For years, the SF Chronicle seemed to know about exactly one taqueria in the city; today they also know about a few in the Marina (the least Latino neighborhood in town).

                Meanwhile better and more authentic restaurants struggle to survive, and eventually dumb down their menus to attract the very white guy reviewers who made Mission Chinese a success. It's a downhill path that leads to the mediocre but upscale Thai food available all over San Francisco, or to maple bacon lattes, because they attract Anthony Bourdain and his bunch of Rambo boy food tours for TV.

                Slanted Door is similar. It's a very very profitable restaurant for white people who think they've "discovered" Vietnamese food, despite the fact that the city (and much of the country) is filled with better, much cheaper Vietnamese restaurants. Yes, it's in a pretty location, but it also started out in the Mission. Charles Phan at least tried to innovate based on knowing something about Vietnamese food and employing family members.

                The notion that controversy or that a place is polarizing means it's good is about as true as what's going on in Washington being a "compromise" or "bi-partisan." House of Nanking has a line too. That doesn't make the food there any better.

                -----
                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                House of Nanking
                919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                1. re: Windy

                  Re: Slanted Door. I share your sentiments 100%. I first tried SD after visiting Vietnam and realised that SD's food was nowhere near the standards of those I had in ANY restaurant, cafe or streetside stall in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon.

                  1. re: Windy

                    If Chinese restaurants want business from non-Chinese, it would behoove them to have menus that non-Chinese can read, and not serve people different menus based on their ethnicity. Many Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area make it clear that they don't want white customers, and I for one get the message.

                    Michael

                    1. re: mdg

                      part of the appeal of mission chinese food is that it's pretty much the only place one can get really spicy food in the mission besides dosa

                      1. re: mdg

                        We've been down this road before. From talking to Chinese restaurateurs in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto who do not translate the authentic dishes on their menus into English when the majority of their customers seem to be pale-faced suburbanites, they both had the same response to me. The problem lies with those customers. Unfortunately, the non-Chinese customers who ordered authentic dishes didn't like them and sent them back. Money lost. Unhappy customers. So, the owners resort to racial profiling and keep those dishes under wraps and if someone asks about them, they try to talk them out of ordering them. If it makes you feel any better, I've had a Sichuan waiter look at my Cantonese face and say that what I wanted would be too spicy for me, likewise a Shanghai guy said I wouldn't like his fatty pork dishes.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Yeah, suppose so. However, I can't think of any restaurants in SF or the south bay that I've visited in recent years which had a Chinese language only menu. Even in places that have multiple menus, there is usually English on both and most seem to provide both as a matter of course (or when asked). Only exception is some of the banquet menus or hand written specials.

                          Maybe I'm missing things, but the practice described seems to have been more common in the past than today.

                          At the time, I recall learning that some restaurants make the same dish differently depending on who orders it. Is that still the case? It was described that ethnicity is sometimes noted by the waiter.

                          1. re: jman1

                            Most Chinese restaurants in Silicon Valley have at the very least a Chinese-only specials list on the tables or walls. The Chinese language menus I've seen tend to be Chinese only. It doesn't matter if they offer it to you when they know you can't read it. At least one Silicon Valley Chinese restaurant goes so far as to segregate whites into a separate less desirable section of the restaurant. We walked out at that point.

                            I have no problem being steered away from dishes by waiters, no matter what the cuisine. The larger the menu the more valuable that service is! The solution to avoiding returns and unhappy customers is to describe the dishes accurately and train the servers, not to refuse service based on skin color.

                            It seems pretty obvious why restaurants that want non-Chinese business get more English-language media attention than those that don't.

                            Michael

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            I understand their concern and argument, but it is too much like much of American business that follows the market rather than leading it.

                            Beijing Restaurant, which is in a decidedly non-Asian neighborhood (Alemany branch), takes a more bold approach. Many of their customers are from the neighborhood and tend to order the standard Americanized options. However, Beijing is also clearly a destination restaurant for Northern Chinese ex-pats, in particular, and the menu is filled with Beijing local food (and beer). The menu shows pictures of every dish and this allows non-Asian, non foodies, to explore or not.

                            Yes, they put a fork at each place setting for round-eyes, but also quickly identify bolder customers and support their choices and even lead them toward new authentic possibilities. Here is a counter argument to the standard dumb-it-down for the American taste restaurants that Melanie describes. And it is able to continue to be one of the best Chinese restaurants in the area filled on weekends with very knowledgable, very happy authentic North Chinese food loving patrons.

                            BTW, they have started a late night Beijing street food menu beginning at 1030 and going until 2 AM (I think). It will have barbecue and other items. Haven't tried it yet. Be interested in reports.

                        2. re: Windy

                          Windy

                          If I were to go to just one Chinese restaurant on my trip, which should it be (providing it's spicy)?

                          1. re: MarkC

                            If you want spicy Chinese food in SF, Z&Y (Sichuan) or Henry's Hunan.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              2nd z&y. for me, henry's dishes all end up tasting a lot alike each other. tho that doesn't deter us from going at least once a year.

                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                Henry's hot and sour beef and smoked ham taste very different from each other.

                            2. re: MarkC

                              Spices II. Clement and 6th. Closest to authentic Chengdu Sichuan as you will find.

                            3. re: Windy

                              To me the question about Mission Chinese Food (and Slanted Door) is not authenticity. I'm not expecting authenticity, and neither MCF nor SD bill themselves as authentic. In fact MCF in particular calls itself "Americanized Oriental Food" (do a Google search). To me the question is does the food taste good or not? I think the food at MCF tastes good. And I think the food at SD is good too. I know where to go in SF for Vietnamese food that's closer to authentic than SD. I go to those restaurants too. But the food at SD (and MCF) tastes good, is well prepared and uses quality ingredients. So, I like it.

                              -----
                              Slanted Door
                              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

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

                              1. re: farmersdaughter

                                Agree completely, and I am not even a fan of MCF. But I am glad the choices are out there.

                              2. re: Windy

                                Very well said, Windy. This is probably the clearest statement I have seen on CH about the Mission Chinese Food/Slanted door problem - and the damage they do to the SF restaurant scene.

                                Right on!

                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                  So am I to understand that any restaurant that is not 100% authentic to the region they come from is a problem and detrimental to the SF restaurant scene? Are places like Aziza and Chez Pannise part of that list? What about the mom & pop restaurants from remote regions of China that open their menus to larger Chinese clientele? Are they problematic as well?

                              3. re: MarkC

                                Regarding dipthongs, baby studies have shown that most - but not all - humans lose the ability to discriminate between phonemes by a certain age if they have not been exposed to the distinction. For example, I can't hear the distinction between mid-sh and hard-sh and soft-sh. mid-sh is in slavics, and in-board with babies, but drops out.

                                With food, on the other hand, there appears to be no similar phonemic "firmware", so whatever HKF is referring to is probably his own opinion.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  huhhhuh, you said diphthong.
                                  No seriously, stay the H__ away from House of Nanking (tourist trap of the first degree) and head to Cha Ya in the Mission. Great Vegetarian Japanese food.

                                  1. re: chezdy

                                    Has Cha Ya improved? My one meal there, years ago, was the worst I've had at a San Francisco restaurant. Leaden tempura, flavorless broth, incoherent vegetable combinations -- there was nothing even passable about the food.

                                    1. re: david kaplan

                                      I'm going to have to agree. I had a veggie udon there with oversalted broth and soggy noodles worse than the frozen ones I get in Japantown.

                                      1. re: david kaplan

                                        Yah I had a similarly atrocious experience at Cha-ya... but mine was also many years ago...

                              4. Seconding Mission Chinese Food, Angkor Borei, Eiji, and Minako. I'm mixed on Yamo. Sunflower for Vietnamese, 16th & Valencia, is passable. Osha Thai has one item that I really like -- the Osha Tom Yum noodle soup extra spicy -- and that alone makes it kind of a destination for me, though I haven't had anything else memorable there.

                                You might luck out and be in the Mission on a Saturday when the Off the Grid food trucks come to McCoppin and include a good Asian option, like Senor Sisig (Filipino).

                                -----
                                Yamo
                                3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                Osha Thai
                                819 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                                Off the Grid
                                Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                Senor Sisig
                                San Mateo, San Mateo, CA

                                1. As others have mentioned, it's not an area generally known for those cuisines. It's also a relatively large neighborhood; especially since you are including the surrounding area (and some of the recommendations are outside the Mission). I'll add my two cents.

                                  If you don't have regular access to regional Chinese food, you might consider Beijing Restaurant on Alemany. It's outside the hip part of the Mission and I therefore suspect that it's not close to where you are staying. Not a stylish place, but good food. Staffed by young, friendly Chinese who can help navigate the menu. Plastered with photographs of guest; including more than a few of Yao Ming.

                                  Of the Japanese places mentioned, I'd second Eiji (near the Mission, toward the Castro). I did visit Minako (in the Mission) a number of times (early 00's) and found it interested, but in the end stopped returning. Minako has a strong following, but I didn't care for the homey ambiance and perhaps the home style of cooking even though they were very accommodating (including offering to cook off-menu items if one arranges in advance). Tried Ichi at their previous take-out only location which was good and expensive for take-out; haven't been to the restaurant. Eiji specializes in tofu and sushi, but also offers other small plates. Tofu offerings are good and might be fun and different for your family; other options are generally good and authentic. Small but with tables; generally set up to be more Western friendly in terms of ambiance. As a local, I wish their menu would change a bit more over time. If you go, I recommend ordering one or two mochi wrapped strawberries (strawberry daifuku) desert (order in advance as they disappear). Your teenage daughter may especially appreciate that; I was told by a college age Japanese girl that it's the sort of thing that she and her friends would order back home.

                                  I'll reiterate that Yamo is pretty much a dive / greasy spoon. I didn't find it a pleasant environment and the food I tried was greasy Chinese. It has a following, but is not for everyone. I think that it's counter service only (no tables).

                                  -----
                                  Yamo
                                  3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: jman1

                                    Yamo is a dive / Burmese greasy spoon / hole in the wall. There's no room for tables, only half a dozen seats at the counter. But some of the food's pretty good, especially for the absurdly low price. Thread on what to order there:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/377831

                                    -----
                                    Yamo
                                    3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I'm sorry but I love that place. C'mon! Fish curry with an absurd amount of fish for $5.25? The cold noodles with hot pork or chicken? Love it...And I still think their tea leaf salad smacks down Burma Superstar any day of the week.

                                      1. re: chaddict

                                        robert never criticized yamo; i love it too.
                                        although it's more burmese/chinese than burmese. i also don't think it's as good as burma superstar, but far cheaper and better value.

                                        1. re: vulber

                                          Oh, I never thought he was criticizing it. He was spot-on: it's a dive.

                                        2. re: chaddict

                                          i agree - Yamo's salad is way more bettah than BS's.

                                          1. re: chaddict

                                            Yamo's tea leaf salad had hardly any tea leaves to speak of when I tried it. It was mostly a salad of all the other ingredients traditionally included.

                                            1. re: DezzerSF

                                              it's been about a year since i've been there, so maybe it's changed...

                                              1. re: DezzerSF

                                                As the smell of my jacket today can testify today, I was there last night. There were hardly any visible tea leaves in the salad, so much so that I couldn't identify the dish at first. Actually, I prefer it this way. The only other place I've had this dish was at BS, which I found to be extremely bitter and off-putting due to their overabundance of tea leaves.

                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                  Thanks for the warning, hyperbowler. I'm a tea leaf fiend so I suspect I'd be disappointed in Yamo's version, since I didn't think BS' version had nearly enough
                                                  :-). I will take it off my list for next visit (nearly went last time).

                                        3. Mission is definitely an asian food wasteland, and I won't be able to add anything that anyone else here hasn't already pointed out. I will second Eiji (especially the tofu), Yamo (house noodles, mango salad), Minako, and Mission Chinese Food (though it's not what anyone would call authentic).

                                          Dosa and Udupi Palace are both good for Indian food.

                                          -----
                                          Yamo
                                          3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: possumspice

                                            always forgetting about South Asian.

                                            Arguably we could include Mi Lindo Peru and Inka's since the chefs are ethnic Japanese and Chinese (and the Peruvian food reflects that somewhat).

                                            Love Udupi's dosas. They've added free delivery but I can't imagine a dosa surviving too well in a steamy box. Great option for the vegetarian daughter.

                                            1. re: Windy

                                              Oh yeah, Peruvian. Lomo saltado is basically Chinese stir-fry with french fries. Tiraditos is a Peruvian twist on sashimi, but I'm not sure either of those places serve it.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                They both have good Peruvian ceviche. Piqueo's (just over the hill) has tiraditos.

                                                -----
                                                Piqueo's
                                                830 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                1. re: Windy

                                                  There's nothing Asian about cebiche, Peruvians had been making it for centuries before the first Japanese immigrants showed up. Tiraditos is a relatively recent invention, dates back maybe to the 1980s.

                                              2. re: Windy

                                                FWIW I recall a very nice shrimp fried rice (chaufa) and a fish soup reminiscent of South East Asian ones (pescado sudado) at a Nov 2009 Chowdown at Inka's.

                                            2. Ken Ken Ramen is a Japanese ramen pop-up that I think does a great job. You can find them on Thursdays and Sundays at The Corner (Mission @ 18th), which is a restaurant space used exclusively for pop-ups.

                                              -----
                                              Ken Ken Ramen
                                              3378 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. tokyo go go is also good for sushi, pakwan is good for cheap indian food

                                                1. And, actually, Another Monkey on Valencia near 14th -- in the old Conduit space -- has some good dishes, including the chili pastes that come with raw vegetables and fried pork skin for dipping. I'd only seen those at Lotus of Siam in Vegas before trying them at Another Monkey.

                                                  -----
                                                  Another Monkey
                                                  280 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: david kaplan

                                                    everything I've had from another monkey has been far too sweet for my taste. though i didn't notice the raw vegetable dip, so may be worth another look.

                                                    1. re: jason carey

                                                      What a wonderful cornocopia of information this website is! Thanks everyone, I'll try and absorb all of this. It seems I'm just going to have to move to San Francisco.

                                                      I also had never heard of this idea of a "pop-up" before. I assume it's like a time share for food entrepreneurs. Are there many of these in SF? Can one find out the various schedules and locations? Shows that San Francisco is not just at the forefront of food preparation, but also delivery.

                                                      1. re: MarkC

                                                        Good pop-up question. I don't have the answer. Many of the individual ones Tweet and folks follow what they like. In addition to pop-ups, there are more hidden venues run out of peoples homes, etc.

                                                        One source of news (like openings and closings) is Eater:

                                                        http://sf.eater.com/

                                                        I suspect that someone else will have more info.

                                                        1. re: MarkC

                                                          The blogs all pick up each other's items, so if you follow one (Eater, SFoodie, Inside Scoop) you'll hear about everything.

                                                          1. re: MarkC

                                                            Yes, popups are an economic phenomenon, although you wouldn't know that to see LudoBites in LA.

                                                            In an area filled with recently minted chefs, who have loans to pay back and don't want to be prep chefs at fancy restaurants for the rest of their lives, there's been an explosion of trucks and popups. Five or ten years ago, they'd have been caterers (and many popups are caterers too).

                                                            It's also a good deal for the restaurants that are closed for lunch or on Mondays to earn a little extra rent. They have real kitchens the chefs can use and often liquor licenses (so Wise Sons can offer more with its popup at Beast and the Hare).

                                                            Mission Chinese and Commowealth started out as Mission Street Food, which made use of an underused restaurant on the night it was closed to let local chefs have fun one night a week. The food was often great.

                                                            Mostly though, it's a way to get your reputation out before making the much more expensive commitment to opening a restaurant. Quality and especially service varies. But that's where a lot of the creativity is in this town.

                                                            There's also a big home-cooking/DIY scene, with groups like the SF Underground Market (currently on hold because of permit issues).

                                                            -----
                                                            Beast and the Hare
                                                            1001 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                            1. re: MarkC

                                                              Here are some information about a few pop-ups I've read from the SF food blogs. I haven't delved into this food trend yet so I can't offer any recommondations. From what I understand, the concept is a part-time restaurant with a limited menu. Usually coming from cooks who, for some reason of their own, do not have their own full-time permanent restaurant space (I'm guessing cost and time is the main reason).

                                                              http://thecornersf.com/
                                                              A rotation of chefs offering varied cuisines.

                                                              http://www.ricepaperscissors.com/
                                                              A collaboration of two Vietnamese and Chinese amateur cooks who used to host underground events with varied Vietnamese street food. Now they've found a regular venue every Thurs nights and serve a limited menu. Their initial pop-up seemed more exciting with a very underground venue.

                                                              https://www.facebook.com/JuhuBeachClu...
                                                              Indian pop-up from a former Top Chef contestant.

                                                              For more rogue operations, there are several other food carts who partner up with bars to serve their specialties. BBQ sandwiches, chili, fried stuff... basically feeding the drunk crowd.

                                                              1. re: Keesey

                                                                Had just read about Juhu Beach Club yesterday and am planning to go for lunch. I didn't know it was a popup. Seems to have regular week day lunch hours. Is it in the space of another restaurant that does dinner only? Oh yeah, I see (the Garage).

                                                                Popups sound a lot more appealing than the current 20-something trend toward food trucks. I'm out of grad school, thank you. And, I don't work at the plant. ;-)

                                                                -----
                                                                Juhu Beach Club
                                                                , San Francisco, CA

                                                                1. re: jman1

                                                                  If you'd like to eat like a local, I'd suggest understanding the draw of the truck.

                                                                  Let's take SenorSisig:
                                                                  http://www.senorsisig.com/
                                                                  Fusion Filipino Tacos? You bet -- but cutting edge gets old, so it's only in your neighborhood one day a week! Perfect!

                                                                  Also similar to a pop-up is an established chef working out a new menu. There was a recent case where someone was cooking at another restaurant 4 nights with their new menu, tuning it, before getting investors together. Just like when you walk into a music club and the band is playing an album they've just written and no audience has heard. Not always flawless, but often a great energy and good fun.

                                                                  Ditto the trucks, so don't scoff.

                                                            2. if you consider South Indian in your Asian food category, we had a pretty good meal at Dosa on Valencia last night. Much more expensive than San Mateo or Santa Clara county places that serve the same regional foods, but average for an SF mid price place with decent comfort and good service. Overall, fresher ingredients and prep than most of its cheaper counterparts too, so we didn't mind the extra tariff .

                                                              1. Anyone try Tao Cafe, a Vietnamese place in the Mission? Gets good reviews on Yelp.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: MarkC

                                                                  Neighborhood restaurant with funky Western comfortable ambiance. They claim Vietnamese and French cooking and I guess that's fairly accurate.

                                                                  They do a reasonable job at tasty food. Not a trendy place; not a place looking to innovate very much. They moved into a space once the location of a famous restaurant and it wasn't long after Slanted Door had moved out of the area, so perhaps they were hoping to pick up some of their business, but I doubt it. Also, not a place that caters to the Vietnamese community. I did have the impression that the chef had talent and the service is friendly.

                                                                  I haven't been in 4 years, so perhaps someone with more recent experience can comment.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Slanted Door
                                                                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111