Years ago, I used to eat at Lung Shan Restaurant for “authentic” Chinese food. Even after Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint moved in with Mission Chinese Food , I would order from the “second,” and even, during an anti-hipster phase, from the “third,” menus.
Finally, I gave in to the hype and found it well-deserved. MCF quickly became my favorite Chinese in the City.
So naturally I was distressed to read the trashing Michael Bauer gave it in the Chron last week. Had things really gone so sour? Or not sour enough?
With the wives off and the Warriors game on, my brother and I – two Jews from Cleveland who have eaten a lot of Chinese over the course of too many years – decided to investigate. I disagree with Bauer’s dismissal of the decor but standing outside in the cold watching the tourists can be a drag. We opted instead for home delivery.
Ordering online for home delivery was brilliant. We were told to wait an hour, but the food came in less than thirty minutes, which confirmed earlier experiences. “Don’t call,” said the delivery guy when he arrived. “It takes longer and they sometimes screw it up.”
But, I’m getting ahead of the story. First we had to decide what to order? Should we follow Bauer? It was a methodological question that became existential. We decided it made no sense to condition our “experience” on someone else’ tastes.
As it turned out we got two of the dishes Bauer reviewed.
One was the salt-cod fried rice which Bauer deplored. “Dry as sawdust” he wrote, “with only a glimmer of blah blah blah.” We thought the fried rice fabulous. Probably the best thing we ordered. Moist, fresh, tasty, complex, subtle – everything you expect from MCF. My brother called it “first-rate” and continued to exclaim its virtues as the fog rolled in and the Warriors took a 20-point lead.
The other dish we had in common was the General Tso’s Veal Rib. Although not a fan of veal, I have long been addicted to the General’s Chicken at Tai Chi, so I thought I would give it a try.
Happily the MCF veal does not seem as heart-stopping as the Tai Chi chicken. In every respect, I felt it excelled. Blackened crust, succulent meat, a thick sauce, sweet, but much lighter than Tai Chi with much greater depth.
Bauer found it tolerable, though he complained the meat “wasn’t as tender as I recall.” Nothing is as tender as I recall. It may not be the food Michael.
For what it’s worth, we also ordered two small dishes. The smashed cucumbers in garlic sauce were a surprising mix of hot, cold with a sauce I noted as “intriguing” (not sure what that means, though my brother, I also noted, agreed).
And finally the sour chili chicken, which was either too sour or not sour enough, but definitely hot. Not bad, but not at the same level of the other dishes. Put it this way, not as big a disappointment as the Warriors.
Contrasted with the fog and the Warriors’ loss, MCF shone even brighter. To my mind, it continues to be an elite eatery with a lot of energy and creativity still left in the wok.