Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission St. (between 18th and 19th St.)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Mission Hipster heaven. Modern Fusion Chinese.
Mission Chinese Food is a restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District that used to be a popup in the Lung Shan restaurant. Mission Chinese Food has basically taken over the place with its success!
- Check out our Top San Francisco Chinese Restaurants
Chef-owner Danny Bowien has garnered a lot of attention lately (San Francisco Chronicle 2011 rising star chef), due to his passion in improving Chinese food. He won the 2008 World Pesto Championship in Genoa, Italy. Killer reviews in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and a fair 3.5 stars on Yelp. With all this fame, he has opened a restaurant in New York City and is doing popups all over the place.
We’ve debated visiting this restaurant for months, but a recent review by Michael Bauer, pushed us over the edge. If you’ve been following Foodnut.com, you realize we eat a lot of Chinese food, from the best crispy skin pork in Hong Kong to the best Xiao Long Bao dumplings in Shanghai to dim sum in Guangzhou. Our last visit was five years ago, latest was in June 2017.
Summary – Mission Chinese Food is an interesting restaurant with the chef’s interpretation of classic Chinese cuisine. He has no hesitation creating robustly – strong flavored, artery clogging, and extremely spicy food. There is no subtlety here. We applaud Mission Chinese for bringing Chinese food to the attention of the mainstream. Looking at the clientele, he has bridged the gap when you see who dines here.
If you like this type of inventive cuisine, give it a try and then visit a traditional top notch Chinese eatery like Koi Palace.
Insider Tip – Be prepared to ignore the decor. Ordering takeout maybe a better bet.
Cuisine – Chinese Fusion
Chef – Danny Bowien (Bar Crudo, Slow club, Tsunami, Farina)
Location – San Francisco Mission district
Opened – 2010
Decor, Vibe – Mission Chinese Food is located in a rundown old building that uses Christmas lights for lighting. Decor has improved a little after 5 years.. Loud R&B was playing off an iPod, creating a surreal atmosphere. The restaurant was filled with a mix of races enjoying the cutting-edge Chinese food.
Mission Chinese Food Menu
Mission Chinese Food’s Menu includes various hot and cold small dishes along with hot main dishes. Dishes cross many Chinese boundaries from Shanghainese Lions head meatballs to Taiwanese eggplant, all with local gourmet influence. Vegan Options are Available.
We have dined here several times over the years, so some dishes may no longer be on the menu.
Signature Dishes – Ma po tofu, Kung Pao Pastrami, Chicken Wings, pork belly, Westlake Rice porridge.
Mission Chinese Food Picks:
Chongqing Chicken Wings ($12) “Warning! Spicy and Numbing!!” – With 2 chili pepper rating, we were prepared. Frankly, it was not that spicy. As with most dishes here, the spice rub was robust. Not battered, these wings were good but different than San Tungs.
Golden Mountain Spring Rolls (Crispy) ($12) Shrimp and Pork, Rice Noodle, Herbs, Nuc mom were more Vietnamese than Chinese. Crunchy inside with a soft outside and a fish sauce based dipping sauce. Reasonable but not great.
Kung Pao Pastrami ($11) explosive chili, home fries, peanuts, peppers & onions ($16) possessed some very tender but salty pastrami. A load of everything else.
Xian lamb cheeks ($9) with smoked: barbecue sauce, pickles, and white bread seemed only slightly a Chinese dish, but proved to be an excellent moderately fiery combination of chopped up lamb, sesame seeds, lettuce, cilantro and other spices. The Wonder Bread made us laugh. The barbecue sauce was on the sweet side and frankly wasn’t needed. We had some leftovers with some decent bread and found it excellent.
Thrice Cooked Bacon rice cakes, bitter melon, sweet tofu skin, scallion, salty black bean, chili oil ($11) was more moderately spicy and contained tasty but artery clogging chopped bacon. Some see the bacon as just a flavoring agent, and do not eat it. This seems to be a theme at this place! The rice cakes were done well and soaked up all the heat from the jalapenos.
Stewed Beef Tongue & Turnips ($10) Tendon Terrine, Hot mustard, Pickled Burdock Rood ($10) had carelessly selected lower quality daikon cooked to tenderness. The broth was a manly beef concoction (almost salty!) along with some very tender beef tongue cubes.
Tingly Pork Ma po tofu ($15) ground berkshire pork shoulder, szechuan peppercorn, chili oil, soft tofu shows what you can do to a classic signature dish with higher-end ingredients. Nice pork flavor and chopped up tofu. Extremely numbing, but not super hot, this decent dish is a must order if you like tofu or even if you do not. Be sure to order some rice.
Slow-Cooked Char Siu Pork Belly ($9) soy-cured egg, ginger scallion noodles, cucumber included 3 large chunks of crispy skin pork belly that melted in her mouth. Yes it was greasy but well worth it. The included Rice roll didn’t fully work to balance out the pork belly.
Westlake Rice Porridge ($9) oxtail, dungness crab, soft-poached egg, cilantro didn’t look like the one in Bauers review, yet offered a solid combination of excellent ingredients in a congee. Some of the mix ins below helped improve the flavors.
Szechuan Pickles ($3) salt pickled napa cabbage, cucumber, roasted peanut, fresh coriander, chili oil were used as a blend and for the Rice porridge, providing a nice accent along with some peanuts.
Broccoli Beef gai lan ($11) braised beef cheek, poached oyster, smoked oyster sauce, steamed rice consisted of sliced up Chinese broccoli along with big chunks of fatty beef cheek that is typically served in a Rice noodle dish. 2 large oysters were also placed on top. Unconventional but satisfying.
Sizzling Cumin Lamb ($12.50) salt & peppered lamb belly, chili-pickled long beans was also unique because of the use of lamb belly instead of lamb meat. The lamb belly was cut into long crispy strips and smothered with onions. Not exactly spicy like the cumin lamb at Beijing restaurant, but a solid inventive dish for those that don’t worry about cholesterol.
Warm egg custard ($8) duck confit, sea urchin, green tea, country ham broth is their take on Chawan Mushi. Frankly we could’ve gone without the duck. There are so many ingredients and flavors to this interesting creamy and smooth dish.
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Salt Cod Fried Rice ($10) escolar confit, Chinese sausage, egg, scallion had big chunks of salted fish but possessed Rice that was far too sticky.
Service – Mission Chinese Food had below average service especially when the place was packed and the telephone was ringing off the hook. Danny was nice enough to stop by and check in and explain some of his dishes. Lunch in 2017 had much better service as the place was half empty.
Value – Prices are in line with Chinese restaurants. Prices add up when you order so many dishes. Quality Leftovers are in order.
Verdict – Mission Chinese Food surprised us with the cutting-edge innovation applied to Chinese food. Danny is applying high-quality ingredients and modern techniques to classic dishes. While purists will laugh this place off, we hope this restaurant finds a nicer home.
Mission Chinese Food also delivers to certain areas of San Francisco. They donate $0.75 from each one tray to the San Francisco Food Bank.
Subway: 16th St. Mission BART