This can’t be the right place, I’m thinking, as I walk up a particularly dodgy stretch of Mission Street at night. But then I see the telltale signs: A small lineup on the sidewalk and, inside, some casually dressed couples hunched over bowls and plates of unusual-looking food.
Maybe it’s appropriate that Korean-born star chef Danny Bowien is taking Asian fusion cuisine to the outer limits not at an upscale location but in the dingy cacophony of San Francisco’s Mission district, where the prices for this kind of experimentation are much cheaper. Mission Chinese Food, or Lung Shan Restaurant, as the sign over the door says, is one of the darkest restaurants I’ve frequented, with little Christmas lights masking a spartan interior of plain walls and tables and, overhead, a long, red Chinese dragon.
But one is not here for the atmosphere but for the strange food experiments. Like a “I don’t know how this dish works but it does” plate of wonderfully chewy squid-ink noodles with chickpeas, fennel, mint and a lamb dipping sauce. Or slightly sour lamb dumplings or thrice-cooked bacon and rice cakes with bitter melon ($12). How does he think these things up?
Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission Street, San Francisco
Daily 11:30 am-3 pm and 5 pm-10:30 pm, except closed Wednesday