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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.

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      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.

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          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.

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            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.

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                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