The steamed custard at Mission San Francisco (left) has oodles of notably fresh sea urchin, while the slightly soupier New York version (right) showcases the slippery texture of basil seeds.
As you were chowing down at the Lower East Side’s Mission Chinese Food did you ever wonder what the equivalent dishes were like at the San Francisco original? Well, I did, too, and I finally had the chance to compare the two places last Friday. Here’s a diary juxtaposing photos of corresponding dishes at the two restaurants, though often taken months apart.
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The original Mission Chinese Food in the Mission is on a hardscrabble stretch of Mission Street.
Of course, keep in mind that the recipes at both places are periodically adjusted and altered, so the comparison is not a direct one. Rather, these pictures give you a glimpse of the differing styles of the two places. Remember the SF branch started as a pop-up in a real working class Chinese restaurant, and that aura still invests the place. Indeed, some of the original Chinese owners and employees still work there.
On the other hand, the NY place is a little more hipsterized, a little more concerned with sourcing, and decorated more tongue-in-cheek. Chef Danny Bowien still presides from time to time at the Mission branch; in fact he had just left after 10 days there when I arrived.
Did I like the SF branch better? I’m not sure, but you can look at the photos and come to your own conclusions.
The kung pao pastrami was good at both places and hot as hell, but the Mission version (left) was more verdant and herbal, while the Lower East Side version (right) was more peanutty, and do I remember a touch of Asian cumin?
The chilled buckwheat noodles in SF (left) and NY (right)
The two renditions of Chongqing chicken wings are similar, save for the swatches of tripe in the New York version (right), and also the larger and higher quality wings used there.
The pink-lit NY dining room
The interior of the SF Mission Chinese flaunts its previous existence as a neighborhood Cantonese restaurant.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 27, 2012