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Dec 26, 2012 10:17 AM

creative Cal-Asian a la Mission Chinese Food

What is the deal with the lack of more restaurants doing creative, modern Asian food in more or less the Mission Chinese vein, anyway? SF chefs have applied that balls-to-the-wall, flavor-maximizing style to various cuisines but rarely Asian. (Most of the high-end places do French-Japanese fusion, since that's how you get Michelin stars.)

In the Bay Area we have Mission Chinese, 903, Namu Gaji, Fusebox, and soon Ramen Shop. Is there anything else? Bowl'd has a few original touches but the menu's really pretty traditional.

Do any of the trucks or pop-ups make the grade?

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  1. Are you interested in places that have somewhat of an "only in SF" kind of cuisine? I can think of a few food trucks and such, but none would be out of place in LA or NY.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler

      I don't know what would make it "only in SF." From what I read there are similar things going on in LA and NY, but that's not much use to me.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        What about Skool in SF, or Hopscotch in Oakland? Hopscotch is probably a further cry from being called Cal-Asian, but those were two local spots that came to mind.

        1. re: noodlelife

          Much of Hopscotch's menu reads like Southern with Asian touches, but they're definitely going in that direction.

          Skool is definitely in that zone, though the chef is from Japan so coming from the opposite direction.

      2. re: hyperbowler

        Ah--- I was confused by you referring to this type of mashup as "Cal-Asian" as opposed to a more geographical non-specific term.

        I'm glad you opened this topic. For all the kvetching about Mission Chinese Food, I don't see many alternatives suggested for what they're doing, certainly not in the same price range.

        David Chang's Momofuku empire is probably the best known example of this kind of cuisine and it's always bummed me out that there isn't an equivalent in the Bay Area. I'm looking at his Momomfuku Ssam Bar's menu as a reference, and nothing in the Bay Area really hits the same notes. Ssam Bar has a few dish descriptions that induce spit takes, but like the Kung Pao pastrami at Mission Chinese's menu IMHO, his bizarre dishes tend to come together nicely.

        Looking at menus of various "Asian fusion" places in SF, I'm finding a lot of X-Asian country's dishes on the same menu as Y-Asian country's dishes, nebulously Southeast Asian food, pan-seared tuna, sliders, lots of pork belly, and a few interesting east-west flavor combinations, but nothing whose wow factor exceeds the intensity of what you could find in traditional cuisines. The OP mentioned a few places with various items that fit the bill. They're not spit-take creative, but some of the tastiest Asian Fusion things I've had are one hit wonders at sandwich shops (e.g., HRD, Rheas, King Foot Subs, Pal's Takeaway, Doggy-Style Hot Dogs).

        Is there more creativity on the high end of SF's dining scene?

        1. re: hyperbowler

          Multi-country Asian non-fusion menus aren't so interesting to me, usually the chef does one cuisine better than the others and once I figure out which it is I order only those dishes.