Passing and tipping the hat at Mission Street Food

Pub date April 5, 2010
SectionPixel Vision

Oh yeah, I’d been around the block. I’ve crawled these mean food-strewn streets we call the Mission. I’d noshed my way between the tasty chicken tacos at El Toyanese truck and the delectable $1.25 carnitas numbers at the mobile Gallo Giro. I’d caught the creme brulee cart in action, caramelizing on the spot and passing out the freebies in Dolores Park. I’d partaken in the bacon dog as the vagabond seller scooted down the block, away from the ooshing bouncer at Bruno’s.

So as a street food fan in the barrio, I’d been dying to try Mission Street Food. The fact that it’s only open two days a week — Thursdays and Saturdays — is a bit of stopper, as is the fact that you gotta make reservations via e-mail. Yet I finally got around to it and snuck in early on a quiet Thursday — it’s Lung Shan Restaurant most days of the week, and the only sign that things were at all different is the hipster-heavy staff. The seating could have been savvier: why was another couple squished so closely beside us when there was so much space in the rest of the restaurant? But hell, the staff played it fast and loose with the smiles, and the profits go to charity, so away we went with an homage to chef Michel Bras.

Seated in the dimness beneath Lung Shan’s impressively camp artwork of wild Chinese steeds, we skipped the full-table tasting menu and zoomed straight for the creamed egg with beluga lentils, creme fraiche, and allium bouillon. It was delicate and savory, though the flavor could have been bigger (that goes twice for the somewhat puny portion).

But, oh, my, the gargouillou stole the show. The salad was made with 25 or 30 raw and cooked vegetables, herbs, and edible blossoms — not the 40-something veggies in Bras’ original, our server explained humbly — but my taste buds didn’t mind one bit. Delightful. Next up was the poached local halibut, perched on pearl barley with rau ram, asparagus, and sea urchin. A beautiful way to finish, with superfine, melting textures.

The cheese course didn’t tempt, so we left for Bi-Rite Creamery in search of a finale, but I’ll be back for another homage — or anything else Mission Street Food scrapes off the avenue.  

2234 Mission St., SF