Mission Chinese Food | Danny Bowien | Restaurant | Mission District | San Francisco

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Review
 
Mission Chinese Food HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
San Francisco
Location: 37.761351,-122.419517
Open: Lunch and dinner daily
Price: Low
Score (/20): 15.5

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +1 415 863 2800
Address: Lung Shan Restaurant, 2234 Mission at 18th
San Francisco, California, 94110
Country: United States

Mission Chinese Food is a package that is a phenomenon inside an enigma wrapped in newspaper and tied with a bright pink bow.
There is no doubt that the food at Mission Chinese Food is a phenomenon with megabytes of storage on the Internet devoted to an analysis of what is going on here.
The restaurant was founded by Anthony Myint who now also runs the very successful and very different restaurant called Commonwealth just two doors down the street.
The chef Danny Bowien who is Korean born, raised in the United States, has won a pesto championship in Genoa and is now placing his personal stamp on some of the great dishes of China. But his passion extends further than China. He and his staff have cooked 'homage' dinners for restaurants such as NOMA and Le Chateaubriand. When we mentioned that we had dined at NOMA a long and excited discussion ensued with other staff joining in. This discussion then wandered to Michel Bras, Mugaritz and Etxebarri among other places that they had either visited or were keen to know about the cooking styles.
The newspaper wrapping signifies the existence of the "restaurant within a restaurant". Mission Chinese Food is found in a suburban Chinese restaurant called the Lung San. You can drop in here and order dishes from the Mission menu and mix and match with dishes from the Lung San menu - how novel is that? We have heard of restaurants being shared on different days but never at the same time!
And the bright pink bow? This refers to two things. The first is that the food is delicious and we just love going here to savour the combinations of spicy, salty, sour and umami that signify the clever dishes. Secondly that the team has a social conscience and is putting some of the proceeds back into the community.
Danny Bowien is not so much re-creating traditional Chinese dishes as reinventing them and giving them a personal twist, just like Jereme Leung at the Whampoa Club in Shanghai but minus the opulent surroundings and opulent ingredients. The results, however are very delicious indeed!
It is difficult to know which dish to start with. Some of the dishes reminded us of the very best dishes we had in authentic restaurants in Shanghai. Lamb is used here which points to a Northern Chinese approach (Cantonese cuisine eschews lamb in favour of pork). In Shanghai we became addicted to the combination of lamb with cumin whether it had been braised or cooked over the fire.
At Mission Chinese Food the lamb is braised overnight in stock until it is soft and unctuous. It is then wok-seared at a high heat to render the fat and served with mounds of onion. This technique is a re-interpretation but the flavours brought memories of similar dishes in Shanghai flooding back. But the complexity doesn’t stop there as it is served with a salad of pickled long beans that have been cut into small pieces. These can be added to the lamb to provide additional complexity or eaten on the side (we did both).
Another dish was a Chinese custard made with confit chicken. This is a savoury dish that is incredibly satisfying to eat. It is soft, comforting and delicious. The dish was possibly invented in China but has achieved most prominence in Japan where it is known as Chawan Mushi. (If you want to read a detailed explanation of how to make Chawan Mushi read the account in the excellent book Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji.) We also love the street food Thai interpretation of this dish (presumably brought to Thailand during the waves of Chinese migration) called kai dun which we eat at 61 Talat Luang near the Chayo Praya river in Bangkok (look for the large metal steamer on the footpath).
At MCF the result is a perfect version with an incredible umami quality which comes from steaming the eggs in a rich chicken broth made from the confit chicken - and like the traditional Chinese version, scallops are incorporated in the dish. An added twist was the salad of tiny shisho leaves served on the side. We can't wait for our next visit here to try that dish again.
Another dish that alone is worth a visit is the interpretation of Ma Po Tofu - a dish that is found in many Chinese restaurants throughout the world. Here it has been taken up a notch with beautiful ground pork vying for attention along with the silken tofu, black beans, mushrooms, ginger, Sichuan peppercorn and chilli oil. It is served in a large white bowl that cries out to be shared with others.
We would go on to describe the made-to-order dumplings, the various pickles, the mild, but deeply-flavoured XO sauce (another favourite of ours) but we think you can, by now, gauge our enthusiasm for Mission Chinese Food by now.
Well done to the team here. The food is exciting and the enthusiasm with which everything is approached is commendable.
Mission Chinese Food is now our Chinese restaurant of choice in San Francisco.
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You can buy the book by founder Anthony Myint and his wife Karen Leibowitz that talks about the food served here by clicking on the link below:
 
     
 

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