Monday, February 22, 2010

Vegan Night at Mission Street Food

Who: Editorial Assistant Abigail Wick
What: Mission Street Food's Vegan Night
Where: Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant, San Francisco, Calif.
When: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Why: Date night starts right with a Mission Street Food jaunt!

The scoop: The scene at Mission Street Food (MSF), San Francisco's funkiest underground restaurant, is bumpin'. You go if you dig slow-foods community meals and love the fact that every night is a benefit fundraiser—not to mention it all goes down in a Chinese restaurant.

MSF bills itself as an “occasional restaurant” and sets up shop inside Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant’s commercial kitchen and dining area every Thursday and Saturday evening. Local guest chefs with a DIY spirit volunteer their talents—ranging from classic French cuisine to molecular gastronomy—and throw themselves into the preparation of multi-course fine dining for the masses. MSF aims to accomplish two things: 1) Donate all proceeds to San Francisco-based non-profits that address systemic hunger and lack of sustainable food sourcing, and 2) create innovative, communal food experiences that even working folks can afford. It’s all about food artistry and accessibility.

Lung Shan is a hole-in-the-wall eatery nestled in the Mission District. It’s a cute joint with metal chairs, posters of painted bamboo forests and bright birds, and strings of pink and white Christmas lights lining its interior. The music, ranging from Yo La Tengo to Morrissey, floated into the room. The coveted reservations, dim lighting, and artsy, bohemian clientele gave the restaurant the feeling of a speakeasy.

Fine folks waiting for Mission Street Food to commence!

Each MSF event benefits a different organization, and on Thursday evening, the local chapter of Food Not Bombs (FNB) was in the spotlight. FNB, founded in Cambridge, Mass., in the '80s, shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with those in need in hundreds of cities around the world, as a “protest of war, poverty, and the destruction of the environment.” MSF has also benefited organizations like the Women’s Building Food Pantry, Youth Meal at the LGBT Center, La Cocina, and Groceries for Seniors. Last year, it gave more than $22,000 to charity.

MSF founder and chef Anthony Myint developed Thursday’s Vegan Night small-plate menu. My boyfriend and I salivated over the selections—panisse cakes and cassava fritters with spicy guacamole, pickled honeydew, and fried almonds! We wanted everything.

We ordered two drinks. The first, a Huckleberry-Earl Grey, Cava, and Spumante Aperitif, tasted like a fine kombucha. The Blueberry-Acai Soju Cocktail was like grazing on wild, liquid blueberries under a late-afternoon summer sun. We settled on four small plates. Our first, a snap-pea salad, featured pomelo wedges, spears of crisp jicama, a zesty cranberry purée, and—get this—house-made vegan white chocolate. It crumbled like feta cheese and tasted like golden cacao cream.

Snap your fingers to the tune of snap-pea salad

Next up, the yuba dumplings: an oily, crackly, tofu-skin purse containing a treasure trove of maitake mushrooms, scallions, and cauliflower, floating in a shallow dish of coconut curry and green shoyu tapioca—savory and bright with a surprising, spicy finish. We voiced various exclamations, ranging from “Oh my god!” to “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”

Yummy yuba dumplings surprised my taste buds

Following the ecstasy came an elegant plate of Black Garlic Stuffed Tofu, which melted on the tongue like custard. Waxy preserved lemon zest, sharp arugula leaves, and nutty beluga lentils accented the earthy, out-of-this-world tofu.

Dessert consisted of a dense, decadent coconut olive-oil cake crusted with toasted macadamia nut pieces, served warm. The chef paired the cake with a rich, vaguely sweet taro parfait, served chilled.

While Mission Street Food isn't exclusively vegan, it sometimes provides a vegan option and every few months hosts a vegetarian dinner. It's cash-only and BYOB, with a small corkage fee.


Dawne said...

Wow-what an amazing sounding spread! Who, may I ask was the chef??

Abigail said...

The chef is Anthony Myint, also the founder of Mission Street Food.