As we get off the 16th Street BART stop and make our way to Mission Chinese, we initially walk right past this much talked about restaurant in the Mission as it is hidden under the guise of a bright and not-so-nice looking yellow awning that says “Lung Shan Restaurant – Food to Go; Free Delivery.”
With all the hype (voted one of American’s best new restaurants in 2011 by Bon Apetit magazine) and readers raving about owners and husband/wife duo Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz’s book, Mission Street Food, I expect to step into a high style joint with white walls, industrial floors, and chic Eames-like chairs, followed with a warm welcome by a hipster dude with tight jeans, a white v-neck shirt and dark-rimmed glasses.
Instead, we are greeted by a no-nonsense woman sporting a bowl cut who reminds me of one of my aunts in Arcadia, a suburb of Los Angeles densely populated with Asians and has that feel of the old country.
I take a seat and am not feeling so inspired as I take in the setting and notice the interior, which like the exterior, has the looks of your stereotypical Chinese hole in the wall restaurant. You know, like that one from the movie classic ”A Christmas Story“ where holiday lights are strewn year round, brown vinyl chairs scream to be thrown out, cliche Chinese paintings on the wall, and the clincher, a paper dragon floating across the ceiling.
But as I start to look over the menu, I know we are onto something special. I immediately spot my nemesis dish growing up on the menu, beef and broccoli stir-fry. This dish is oftentimes made with a corn starchy dark brown sauce, beef of questionable quality, and broccoli that was fresh at some point before it was stuffed in a plastic bag and put in the freezer for a decade.
Mission Chinese sexifies the classical dish with two poached oysters shining like diamonds in a coral of fresh greenery, light sauce, and tender beef cheeks that could easily be served on their own as part of a roast.
The oxtail porridge arrives in what appears to be a bottomless bowl of rice, liquid, and small pieces of oxtail. We order chicken rice and it is not bad, but pales in comparison to the other two masterful dishes.
My friend and I eat plenty and still have tons of leftovers. Bill (after tax)= $33.
I want to go back and try the warm egg custard with duck confit and sea urchin, the tea-smoked eel, and salt cod fried rice.
I best look into flights to San Francisco now. Given the fact big-hearted owners Mynt and Leibowitz donate $.75 from each entree to the San Francisco Food Bank, going to Mission Chinese is practically a charity write-off.
Tip: If you arrive on a weekday at around 2:15pm, you are less likely to encounter a line than during dinner hours.