Friday, March 06, 2009
Missin' Mission Street Food Already
After being inspired by Single Guy Chef and the Foodhoe and their visit to Mission Street Food, I decided to test out the San Francisco hype and pay a visit to Mission Street Food for myself. And I just happened to visit on the same night as the San Francisco Chronicle, so if you want a legitimate piece of journalistic writing, hop to their site. But if you are willing to put up with my regular 'tude, then stay right here.
If you haven't already heard, Mission Street Food is a conceptually radical dining experience. Mission Street Food's head chef/owner/culinary mastermind Anthony Myint's aim is to serve high-end cuisine in an unpretentious and unconventional atmosphere at affordable prices. The food, by all means, represents the best of upscale dining. There's fresh produce and meat, and exotic and locally available ingredients prepared by trained or culinary school-educated chefs... But the ambiance is another story entirely. At Mission Street Food, be prepared to brave (1) sticky tables with utensil-scratched glass tabletops; (2) foamy elementary school ceiling tiles with large open gashes and yellow water stains visible even with the extraordinarily dim lighting; and (3) a seedy, graffiti-scrawled, and crime-infested street.
Previously, Myint was a line chef at the respected Bar Tartine restaurant in San Francisco, but he allegedly gave up that well-sought-after gig to work on this pet Mission Street Food project full-time. In Chef Myint's own words, he wants to appeal to the "indie" food community through Mission Street Food. To this end, every Thursday and Saturday, he serves up haute cuisine at a Chinese dive, Lung Shan restaurant, which is otherwise deserted in the evenings. When he initiated this idea into motion, he rented out a taco truck and doled out gourmet cuisine there. Every Thursday and Saturday evening, Lung Shan transforms into a bustling eatery, where you can get an incredible underground restaurant experience. For many, this is a particularly appealing place because you can bypass the self-righteous and arrogant servers and are spared of their feigned courtesies (namely, those servers at One Market and Roy's). Furthermore, you can revel in the satisfaction of knowing that Mission Street Food is backed up by Myint's Bar Tartine pedigree.
Mission Street Food features different chefs and foods every Thursday and Saturday. Thus, Chef Myint gives sous chefs and line chefs from big name restaurants the opportunity at an intense cooking and serving experience, while offering the public fine dining at ridiculously low prices. Best of all, the profits from the endeavor go to charities.
I'm not going to go in further detail about the restaurant itself, since I've already dedicated quite a bit of verbiage to it already. I'm now going to talk about what Mission Street Food stresses as most important. The food. The menu that evening was especially appealing.
First, my friends and I started with a creamy celery root soup made with melted leeks. The soup was imbued with the vitamin-like flavors of expensive saffron threads and decadent brown Strauss butter and was topped with (1) a verdant spoonful of stinging nettle-meyer lemon puree and (2) croutons made of Tartine's walnut and green garlic levain (sourdough) knoll. The intoxicating fragrance of the saffron floated like a sweet cloud over the pool of soup. With each bite, I gently reached my spoon to swirl the pool of green puree further into the recess of my bowl. The lemon was not overpowering and almost undetectable. There was a mild, dissipating sourness accompanied by a warming, soothing heartiness.
Next, my friends and I shared the brisket sandwich. The brisket from San Francisco's Broken Record bar was slathered heartily between a homemade buttery focaccia bun. The bread was fluffy and substantial and the best part of the sandwich, in my opinion. The sandwich came dressed with a sweet onion soubise (onions sauteed with cream), a surprisingly mild dollop of horseradish creme fraiche, and allegedly, a fennel pickle, which I didn't see or taste. Something in the sweet onion soubise made it surprisingly akin to the sweetness in shredded coleslaw. The tendrils of pulled brisket were saturated with cloying barbecue sauce, which I lovingly mopped up with a piece of the focaccia bun.
Onto my favorite item of the evening. Based on my whopping two pictures dedicated to Mission Street Food's signature flatbreads, you can rest assured that I wholeheartedly enjoyed them. The toothsome, crispy, greased flatbread was reminiscent of a chewy Native American fry bread, and loaded with a generous helping of softened king trumpet mushrooms, cubes of triple-fried potato, garlic confit (which I believe is garlic slow-cooked in fat), and sour cream seasoned with charred scallions. Unfortunately, I scarfed down these flatbread tacos a little too quickly to isolate the garlic and the scallion flavors and textures, but the explosive tang of the sour cream against the crisp and doughy bread was enough to captivate my full attention.
Another surprising favorite was the Bolinas goat stroganoff. The stroganoff came dressed with supple slices of wilted and braised fennel, juniper, and deep-fried chevre dumplings. All in all, I was quite pleased by my first "goat" experience. The overall flavor of the goat is almost indistinguishable from beef and unlike lamb, there is no gamey lamb aftertaste. However, there was a little "toughness" from the meat and a lack of supple juiciness. However, the luscious and lubricating fat rimming the pieces of goat meat moistened my tongue and helped the meat to slip in my mouth quite enjoyably. The stroganoff came with pockets of softened fennel, which had absorbed the savory stroganoff cream sauce; thick pappardelle-like pasta noodles; and beignets made of dough and chevre. When I read "chevre dumplings" on the menu, I expected deep-fried mozzarella stick-like chevre, filled with oozing chevre cheese. Instead, the battered dumplings were thick with a dough and did lack the potency of electrifying chevre flavor. "Perhaps the dough had absorbed the chevre," I pondered.
To close our evening, my friends and I shared a seis leches cake with clusters of huckleberries, leaves of marjoram, and a drizzling of sauterne wine. This was my first experience with huckleberries. I found them to be similar to "tougher" blueberries with a tighter, more tense, more resistant skin, which was not as delicate as a nectarine, but not as tough as an apple's skin. The potent aftertaste of the miniature blueberries honestly reminded me of the gamey flavor of lamb. Unlike other tres leches cakes that I have had in the past, the seis leches cake did not exude milk from its spongy cake crannies when I cut off a piece with my fork. The cake was moist, but not overly so. The jarring flavors of the marjoram sang in my mouth and the sweet white sauterne dessert wine added a deft finish and a slap to my flushed cheeks.
Finally, my friends and I also shared Humphry Slocombe's "secret breakfast." The frosty orb of cream, bourbon, and sugared coated corn flakes came with a faint taste of sweet egg nog, and coated my mouth in sweet milky fat.
I wholeheartedly appreciated this Mission Street Food experience, and would definitely return again. And I hope you try it out soon. Check out their blog for more details on guest chefs for the week!