Spicy spicy Mission Chinese Food

by foodhoe on October 22, 2012

located inside of Lung Shan Restaurant | 2234 Mission St, SF CA | 415.863.2800 |  website

I have been a long time admirer of Mission Street Food, the constantly evolving restaurant that existed within a dingy hole-in-the-wall Chinese dive called Lung Shan.  I wrote about several visits here in 2009, then again here about a Korean-inspired menu by guest chef Danny Bowien, and a memorable North African inspired feast here that I still dream about…  In 2010, it became Mission Chinese Food, serving Americanized Oriental food concurrently with the standard fare at Lung Shan, two restaurants within one, both sharing the kitchen under the helm of flamboyant superstar chef Danny Bowien. Chef Bowien was born in Korea, adopted by non-Koreans who raised him in Oklahoma City.  He began studying at culinary school but left before graduating to work in restaurants in NYC, then SF where he won the Pesto World Championship in Genoa under the tutelage of Farina executive chef Paolo Laboa.  Click here to read an excellent article on Chef Bowien on Chow.com.  What’s interesting is that he never cooked Chinese food until the restaurant opened a couple of years ago, but he certainly has been successful in deconstructing and improving on all of his favorite dishes. They recently opened up a branch in NY to wild acclaim, so crazy is the fame of their food that you can find Anthony Bourdain tweeting: Woke up craving those Mission Chinese spicy chix wings from last night. Might hang outside waiting like at methadone clinic.  At last, I finally made plans to meet some fellow blogger friends for dinner at Mission Chinese. My dining partners were Joanne of Jo Boston Is a Foodie, Edda of A Housewife’s Tale and Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat, you can read his review of the meal here.  The inside of the restaurant is still very dark, illuminated with cheery christmas lights and a glowing dragon looms overhead.  It was consistently crowded while we were there, and there was a long line outside by the time we left.

The menu features cold and hot dishes which all sounded good it was hard to decide so we ended up ordering 8 dishes for 4 people…  Looking at the Smashed Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce $4, salted chili, sesame paste, fresh coriander, you’d think it was a cooling dish, but it wasn’t.  In fact most of the dishes that we ordered, save the fried rice and savory custard, packed a fiery assault on the senses.  Next time we must order some less flamboyant dishes as it felt like firecrackers were going off in our mouths with every dish of the meal.  Not that it is a bad thing, but I began to suffer from tastebud fatigue at some point.

The Ma Po Tofu ($11) arrived, the surface was liberally sprinkled with toasted chili powder and glistened with the sheen of hot chili oil.  It was a thick, spicy complex stew made of kurobuta pork shoulder, broadbean paste, and chili oil enveloping cubes of soft custardy tofu.  I scooped spoonfuls onto my plate which ended up spreading over the surface and coating all subsequent dishes with the spicy chili oil, infusing everything with serious heat.

One of my favorite dishes was the Savory egg Custard ($12), a small bowl filled with sea urchin, trout roe, tin cubes of crisp apple, mixed with ribbons of green perilla leaf (shiso) and topped with fine tendrils of citron zest.  It was a wonderful riot of fresh flavors and textures and I loved scooping up the soothing savory custard which reveled with its crazy brethren.

At this point the rest of the dishes arrived and the table was packed with bowls of good looking food.  We couldn’t resist the Lamb Face noodle soup ($11), braised lamb cheek, fresh shanghai noodle, pickles, peanuts, pea shoots.  It was not exactly a soup, more of a sauced noodle dish, spicy, tingly and full of pungent flavors.  Thank you Edda for graciously mixing everything up so well and serving everybody throughout the meal, you’re a wonderful dining partner!

Sizzling Cumin Lamb ($13), made from salt and peppered lamb belly that is braised until tender, then coated in a tastebud rousing mixture of cumin, fresh coriander and chilies and lightly stir-fried with sliced onions.  It comes served on a sizzling iron plate which arrives crackling and spluttering and very aromatic, topped with pickled long beans that have marinated with soy and chili oil add bursts of umami to the fragrant, fiery personality of the dish.

The Mongolian Long Beans ($11), were a bit redundant along with the beans in the above lamb dish, but it’s good to have a vegetable dish to balance out the meal…  They were sauteed with leeks, roasted chili, topped with grated fresh horseradish, chopped garlic shoots and served mounded on a large platter.

The General Tso’s spit-roasted/dry-fried veal rib ($16) was a glossy black slab of rich porcine pleasure.  The interior jiggled with rich pockets of pork custard that broke apart along with tender pieces of slow roasted meat, which was dry fried so the surface was crisp and chewy, then smothered in General Tso’s sauce, chile flakes, leeks, green onions and topped with toasted sesame seeds.  I liked this dish a lot!

The much talked about Salt Cod Fried Rice ($10) was fluffy and savory, full of bits of mackerel confit, chinese sausage, egg, scallion and topped with a generous handful of fragrant chopped coriander.  It was a very fine rendition of a much loved, traditional dish.

Joanne, Edda and I continued on to soothe our inflamed tastebuds with ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery down the street.  Joanne had the signature Sam’s Sundae, which is made from chocolate ice cream with bergamot olive oil, maldon sea salt and whipped cream.  In the frenzy I forgot to take a picture, but it was a delightful end to our meal.

Closed Wednesday, open for lunch 11:30am to 3pm; dinner 5pm- 10:30pm
Eat in, take out, and delivery.  No reservations, no parties over 8
$0.75 from each entree sold is donated to the SF Food Bank

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirk October 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Hey FH – My friend Candice has told me so much about this place. The food really doesn’t look that spicy though. You didn’t mention Sichuan peppercorns, I’m hoping they actually use that in their dishes.


foodhoe October 23, 2012 at 1:47 am

Hi Kirk, I neglected to note that they use Sichuan peppercorns, much mala tingling was going on! I have a low tolerance for the heat of chilies and tend to avoid the overtly spicy hot dishes, so while there weren’t very many chilies on the plates, my tastebuds were challenged. They use a lot of spices to achieve maximum flavor without having to use MSG.


Rosa October 23, 2012 at 12:06 am

That Ma Po Tofu looks so delicious!




Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat October 23, 2012 at 11:06 am

I didn’t feel like the spicy dishes were super spicy, like the mapo tofu. Maybe my recent exploration of spicy food has dulled my tastebuds! LOL. Thanks for reminding me about the General Tso’s dish! I forgot what it was since it was on the special menu, and just remembered that it was some good chunk of meat! 🙂


foodhoe October 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

I felt that the dishes were strongly flavored with spices and most drizzled with chili oil, so therefore I’m calling it spicy! It certainly wasn’t bland…


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