Food Adventure Team

Exploring San Francisco, one restaurant at a time.

Archive for the 'Chinese' Category

Mission Chinese Food, Nosh This, and Xanath

Mission Chinese Food
Lung Shan Restaurant
2234 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Suggested by Doomy

Nosh This
20th and Valencia
Monday and Friday evenings
San Francisco, CA

951 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Suggested by Laurie

In attendance:

Where do I even start? Food Adventure Team 2.0: Return of the FATtening was truly epic.

We began at Mission Chinese Food, an offshoot of the much storied and sadly no longer with us Mission Street Food. Let me tell you, this was some damn fine Chinese food, the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. I have no clue if it was authentic but you know what? I really don’t give a shit. It was wonderful food and that’s all that matters.

Because we were a large party, we got the prix fixe menu at the very affordable $25 per person. Plate after plate of wondrous delight was brought out to to us in rapid fire succession. The squeals from our table were plentiful, and Doomy went into a meat fugue before long. Let me tell you about the meat. Here’s a little secret I’ve been harboring: I’ve never been very excited about pork belly. I know, I know. It turns out I’d just never had it prepared correctly. Mission Chinese Food does it right. Their Slow Cooked Char Siu Pork Belly (tea smoked egg, ginger scallion, rolled noodles, cucumber) is one of the most divine things I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Its caramelized, slightly crisp exterior stuck to my teeth as I bit into the lighter-than-air layer of fat that burst with flavor in my mouth. The beef cheeks were equally tantalizing. We were brought both the Braised Mongolian Beef Cheek (onions, hot peppers, bean sprouts) and the Broccoli Beef (stir fried gai lan, braised beef cheek, oyster, smoked oyster sauce). I believe we deemed it “meat butter”: the most pillowy, tender, fatty beef that you’ve ever devoured. The vegetables were nothing to shake a stick at either; they were all perfectly cooked and seasoned.

We were also brought a variety of nibbles to start, the Tiger Salad (xi’an herbs and lettuces, red perilla, roasted seaweed, turnip vinegar; pictured below), Ma Po Tofu (ground kurobuta pork shoulder, beech mushroom, szechuan peppercorn, flaming chili oil), Thrice Cooked Bacon (rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, chili oil), Taiwanese Eggplant (3 types of garlic, hot basil), 7 Chicken Wings with Explosive Chili Pepper, and Lung Shan’s Vegan Delight (shiitake and oyster mushroom dumplings in miso soup). It was truly a feast to behold.

Tiger Salad at Mission Chinese Food
Tiger Salad at Mission Chinese Food

And yet, when we had paid the bill we were still hungry for something a little sweet. Laurie suggested Xanath for its amazing vanilla ice cream, so after thanking Chef Danny Bowien, we headed south toward the ice cream shop. As luck would have it, Nosh This was set up for the evening on the corner of 20th and Valencia. At first all we saw was a sign that said “BACON CRACK!” — we knew whatever was happening had to be good. Sure enough, Bacon Crack lives up to its name as chef Kai Kronfield delivers up a delectable concoction of butter toffee studded with chunks of bacon and covered in chocolate. Yes, it really is as amazing as it sounds.

Bacon crack

He also had Irish Coffee On A Sticks: homemade Jameson marshmallow with a cube of Bailey’s Irish Cream/Ritual Coffee fudge. Lordy. And in case you weren’t in the mood for sweets he was serving up some steamy meat-only Texas chili laced with chocolate. Mmmm.

Nosh This

After we finished our sweet ‘n’ salty treats, we continued on our journey for ice cream. A short half-block later we were there. Xanath is a unique ice cream shop. Their front window is decorated with towers of vanilla beans, and they hand out whole vanilla beans as samples to draw in customers. They have multiple kinds of vanilla ice cream (Madagascar Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla) as well as a number of flavors like Pumpkin Pie, Saffron Ginger, and Salted Caramel.

Tower of vanilla beans
More vanilla beans than I ever expect to see in my life

Wanting to appreciate their vanilla ice cream in all its subtle simplicity, I opted for the Mexican Vanilla. I was not disappointed. This is the most vanilla vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste. It tastes real. It tastes floral, fruity, rich, complex. You will never go back to normal store-bought vanilla ice cream once you’ve tried some of Xanath’s. You might not even go back to chocolate.

Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream

Our rowdy little group took over the shop and shared a multitude of flavors before heading back out into the winter chill, full of so much good food that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

Laurie eats his pumpkin pie ice cream

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Reed and Arlen

Arlette and Doomy

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Shanghai Dumpling King

Shanghai Dumpling King

3319 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA 94121

Suggested by Andy

In attendance:


Warning: White girl reviewing! I love Chinese food and consider myself fairly adventurous, but I definitely was not raised eating the more unamericanized fare served here. So some of the stuff I didn’t like may have been because I’m just a white girl and I don’t like things that seem “weird” to a westerner (like, for example, tripe).

The service was fine for such a restaurant. Nothing special. The servers pretty much spoke no English, but it wasn’t really needed. It was a little dirty (for example, they left a water jug for us, but it was an old tupperware container with food crusted in its cracks — kinda unappetizing), but on the whole the ambiance was totally acceptable. And everyone was super nice!

We ordered the meal for 7-8, plus a few extra things. I’m glad we did it this way because we got to try things we never would’ve thought to otherwise. However, I probably wouldn’t do it that way next time, because there was some kinda “meh” stuff that got wasted because we didn’t eat it.

Things you must get:

  • DUMPLINGS! We got the Shanghai dumplings, which I had never had and were completely delicious. Soup in a dumpling — what a novel concept! I have no idea how they do it. We also got the crab and pork dumplings, which were similarly delicious.
  • Rice with some sort of Chinese bacon (?) on top. Should’ve grabbed a menu so I could know what this was actually called. The rice was perfect and fluffy but still quite moist — not gluey. It had scallions in it, and on top was some sort of extremely salty cured (?) pork. The pork, while delicious, was a bit intense for me so I didn’t eat a huge amount; the rice was amazing.
  • Soy braised “lion’s head” meatball. This was quite tasty in unexpected ways. Not “weird” at all, these huge (as in, softball-sized) meatballs were spiced of cinnamon and ginger, and served in a soy sauce based sauce on a bed of spinach. One of my favorite entrees.
  • Red Bean Buns – holy crap, BEST EVER. So light and fluffy and fresh. Not overly sweet. Perfect. Do not miss these. (But be careful, they come out HOT and the filling will burn the roof of your mouth.)
  • Sugar puffs – very simple dessert. Extremely fluffy, eggy dough with lots of air pockets, like a popover, fried up tall and served with sugar on top. I could eat 12 of them if I let myself.

Things that weren’t bad but weren’t amazing either:

  • Green onion pancakes. Nice and crispy without being overly greasy. Weren’t something I’d write home about though.
  • Cucumber salad. This was the only appetizer I liked, really. It was a really simple salad of sliced cucumbers with a strongly garlicky dressing. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but others devoured it.
  • Some sort of spicy beef dish (kung pao?) with onions and bell peppers. It was pretty tasty, but was more along the lines of “generic Chinese food”, the kind you can get at every mom & pop Chinese restaurant you walk into.
  • Fish soup. It had a lot of greens (spinach? bok choy?) in it — perhaps too many — but it wasn’t fishy-tasting or smelling at all (which is a good thing). It wasn’t my favorite thing, but others seemed to enjoy it a great deal.
  • Shanghai style salted pancakes. I think that’s what these were called. They were kinda weird and gluey, but not in a way that I enjoyed. The outsides were crispy, which I liked. They had something else in the filling besides the gluey stuff, but I never did find out what it was.
  • Some sort of shrimp dish. It was shrimp and some leafy green veggies and probably green onions (I don’t remember) in a gooey, clear, bland sauce. The shrimp themselves were great — not fishy, not tough — but the sauce didn’t impress me.

Things I definitely would not order again:

  • Vegetable stir fry of some sort. It had tofu skin noodles, pieces of… tofu? Seitan? bok choy, and some other unidentifiable veggies & stuff. It kind of tasted like nothing, and looked like nothing also.
  • The appetizers. I think they were just too “weird” for me. They were all cold appetizers, which wasn’t helping for some reason.
    • The cucumber salad (mentioned above) was pretty good, but the other things left something to be desired.
    • There was a duck dish that tasted pretty good (marinated in sesame oil) but was sliced in a way that the bones were embedded and impossible to remove from the meat. I know bone marrow is a Chinese delicacy so I guessed that maybe it was supposed to be eaten bone and all, but honestly I’m not there yet.
    • There was a chicken dish. The chicken had its skin on, but it was just floppy white skin– I’m guessing the chicken was boiled? The meat tasted strongly of sherry; very one-dimensional.
    • There was a tripe dish. This was the only thing I didn’t try all night. I know, I know, I’m a big wimp. But it didn’t look terribly appetizing and others who tried it weren’t big fans, so I didn’t bother.

Summary: It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The good stuff was REALLY good (as in, I’d happily trek across town again just for their red bean buns or Shanghai dumplings). For the stuff we weren’t such fans of, hey, at least we had a new culinary experience! And, amazingly, we walked away paying only $17 apiece, including a generous tip! Highly recommended.

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