The decline of Mission Chinese Food

Michael Bauer has dropped Mission Chinese Food in SF down to a food rating of 1.5 stars.

Many favorites are a shadow of what they were when I initially reviewed the restaurant as well as when I updated it 18 months ago, about six months after Bowien started spending the bulk of his time in New York. On that visit, the food had lost a bit of luster but still showed his vision.

My all-time favorite dish - salt-cod fried rice ($12) with Chinese sausage and confit mackerel - shows how the cooking has devolved. On my recent visit it was as dry as sawdust, although there were glimmers of what I had loved in the interplay between land and sea.

Another favorite, ma po tofu ($12), which used to be thick with ground pork, seems to have been reformulated. It now has a greasy broth with too-large cubes of tofu and a one-dimensional heat that masked the earthy shiitake and aged chile sauce.

I agree. My recent few deliveries from MIssion Chinese have been so disappointing: the beef in the broccoli beef brisket was overcooked, as were the Chongqing chicken wings. Westlake rice porridge lacked the usual comforting flavor blend of salt and brine. It was just bland. The market greens, which have always been braised baby bok choy for as long as I've been ordering from them, have been successively less and less flavorful, lacking both salt and garlic.

Bauer theorizes the decline in the food quality at Mission Chinese Food may be due to the absence of Danny Bowien from the kitchen. Bowien is off in NYC working on Mission Cantina and searching for a new location for his NYC branch of Mission Chinese Food; the initial location was a hit but was closed by the Department of Health for pest-related issues last November (yikes).

With a much longer commute than I had in LA, a dearth of street parking throughout San Francisco, and the scarcity of good restaurants in SOMA near my apartment, I have come to depend on restaurant delivery for more meals than at any point in my life since my years in NYC.

The SF food delivery scene is, to be blunt, a desert. I'm not counting the possibility of using Postmates to expand the delivery options to include more restaurants that offer takeout; that's a fairly hefty price premium that I hesitate to resort to except when I'm desperate.

Obi Wan Bowien, come back and whip that kitchen into shape! You're our only hope.