I’m not a Chinese food purist by any means. I’ve been to China, and other parts of Asia, and I grew up in the Bay Area, home to the world’s largest Chinatown outside of China. To some that means I should know my authentic Sichuan from my authentic Cantonese; that only the most legitimate of preparations should be lauded. Well, I’m just a girl whose ultimate comfort food is wor won ton soup. Does that even exist in China? No idea. Don’t care. We don’t always need to get to hysterical about these things.
M.Y. China, or Martin Yan’s China, is one of my favorite members of the “Restaurants Under the Dome” group. To recap from a previous post, the collection is located on the fourth floor of the Westfield mall; convenient for shopping stops, but also a great place to meet friends from other parts of the city or Bay Area because Bart has a stop right in the basement. The coup de grace? There is a movie theater on the fifth floor; ideal for dinner-and-a-movie nights with my girlfriends. So I walk there, they Bart in, no one has to deal with driving through gridlock or fighting/paying for a parking space. It’s ideal.
M.Y. China occupies a really large space, separated into four distinct areas. There is the beautiful bar in the reception area
a main dining room, a back dining room, which is available for private parties, and “outdoor” seating, which spills around the exterior and places you next to the walking path of mall shoppers. There is also a long, low counter that sits in front of the open kitchen if you like to watch the hustle and bustle of food prep, or, if you fancy a little noodle pulling (more on that later).
If you want to forget you are eating in a mall, the bar or the back room are low lit and pretty; you really do feel as though you could be in a restaurant anywhere in the city.
If you’d prefer to do a little gawking while you eat, the patio is your guy, but beware, there is an old downtown Vegas style light/music show that goes off repeatedly in the dome, so when you sit out there, you are subjected to that nonsense every time it happens.
My least favorite part is the main dining room which can have a bit of a cafeteria feel to it, though I can’t really put my finger on why. I suppose it’s due to the bright light emanating from the kitchen.
One item of note, the bathroom is unisex, which really seems to wig people out for some reason. The doors are floor to ceiling and you have complete privacy in your own stall, but every time I have brought a newcomer they kind of freak out about it.
The restaurant is known for having one of the world’s best noodle pullers. If you don’t know what a noodle puller is…it’s a person who takes a big old slug of dough, then starts flipping and pulling it in big loops, figure eights, etc. as the dough separates into individual noodles throughout the process. M.Y. china’s main guy can pull something like 1000 noodles in four minutes, or 4000 noodles in one minute or something nutty like that. It’s pretty cool, even though it is a bit of a circus act. Occasionally one of the noodle pullers shows up in the dining room, flipping and twisting dough for all to see.
They have a nice craft cocktail menu, which includes a mai tai, not exactly a craft cocktail but still, my favorite Asian food accompaniment. It’s a silly but tasty drink, and the sweetness goes so well with a salty meal. They also have a great, affordable wine list which is simply split into sections by price. Reds for $30/bottle, $40/bottle, $50/bottle. Sweet system! We almost always order a bottle or two of the 2011 Batasiolo Barbera. It’s heavy enough to satisfy me, the jammy wine lover, and light enough to not overpower the more delicate dishes.
On to the food. The menu is separated into dim sum, soups/salads, noodles, wok, roasted, sides, and desserts.
The lunch menu features a wide selection of 17 dim sum choices, including pot stickers, shiu mai, har gow, spring rolls and a variety of bao, whereas the dinner menu simply has two dumpling options. Dim sum is traditionally a breakfast/lunch item, so, it all makes sense. The M.Y. Dim Sum Collection is a good choice for the first timer, a greatest hits of sorts, with two of each item…shrimp har gow, shiu mai, seafood dumplings, and farmers dumplings. The menu now says there is also multi grain rice and a pork bao, but perhaps that is a new addition as it was not a part of our spread.
The shrimp har gow is filled with moist, juicy shrimp. Not a rubbery or mealy bite to be had. The seafood dumplings (the green guys) are nice and toothsome, the shiu mai, a delectable choice always.
The pork buns, a total white person default order (with good reason) are pretty damn spectacular, specifically because the bottom of the bun is so browned, and you don’t have to eat pounds of dough before you find the sweet pork filling.
The “juicy dumplings,” offered at both lunch and dinner, are a mix of three pork and crab roe dumplings, along with three pork-only dumplings.
They arrive ensconced in the steamer, then the server lifts the lid for the big reveal, a steamy tray of hot spoons topped with bulging balls of delicious. I like my food piping hot, which I know is sort of culinarily lame, but, whatever. Point being, these pockets of hot carbs, juices, and meat are WAY up my alley. Talk about comfort food. They’re served with the traditional dish of red vinegar to drizzle over the little pockets, and they are bursting with brothy delight. I far prefer the pork and crab roe (white spoon) to the plain pork; the roe takes the flavor to a much more complex (and salty:)) place.
I’m always game for small plates. They are cheap relative to other menu items, they are typically shareable, and I get to taste more of a restaurant has to offer. At M.Y. china, my absolute favorite small plate is the wild boar cups. They are just phenomenal.
The boar meat is rich and sweet, lightened up by the herby flavor of the micro-greens on top. That hard iceberg cup is the perfect crisp, refreshing vessel. It’s a great dish and I find it hard not to order it every time.
Then there are the mu shu tacos:
Meh. Mu shu doesn’t do anything for me. Never has. This was obviously not my order.
The Shangdong beef rolls are encased in a tortilla like wrap, that’s nicely browned and sort of buttery tasting, but the beef, cucumber, scallion filling doesn’t excite me in any way.
Also, they are drizzled with hoisin, and of all the Asian flavors/sauces, hoisin is my least favorite. I’m sure these hit the spot for lots of folks, they’re just not really my cup of tea.
Of the noodle choices, the wild boar scissor cut noodles is the standout dish. For some reason, even though I’ve had them on multiple occasions, I don’t seem to have a photo. The noodles are fairly wide, well dressed with an oyster based sauce, and mixed with a hearty helping of wild boar chunks. They are just delicious.
My other favorite is the Hong Kong style crispy noodles, a dish I grew up eating and an absolute lifelong love of mine. I was thrilled to see them on the menu at M.Y. China. They were exactly as they should be. Crispy and dry, ready to be mixed with the hot, glazed, meat and vegetables. They don’t mess with this dish or fancy it up in any way, which I much appreciate.
The dan dan noodles are just fine, but I don’t really order them much because they are cold (as they should be) and that lacks the comfort factor for me. The Beijing knife cut noodles are pretty tasty, being thinly cut and swimming in a pork and mushroom laced bean sauce.
I’ve sampled quite a few of the wok selections, the best of which has been the wok seared beef and the seven spice pork ribs. The wok seared beef is almost like candy, in a good way. The meat is thinly sliced and carmelized in a sweet sauce, balanced by Sichuan peppercorns and served on a bed of fresh arugula that adds a nice, crisp, peppery bite. It is a really wonderful dish.
One time, I was feeling cheeky, and in need of a trip down memory lane, all the way back to my 1980’s childhood, which led me to order sweet and sour pork. OK, it was my birthday, which was the only way I could get anyone else to agree to order it. Let’s just say we never ordered that again. It’s a dumb dish and I know it.
I’ve never had any of the seafood selections from the roast menu, but I have had the peking duck. This is one of those dishes that people lose their shit about, both in terms of know-it-allness, and in terms of it being a favorite. While I don’t go nuts for peking duck, I do enjoy this version. It’s moist, the skin crisp, the dipping sauce plummy, the pockets of dough glutinous and sweet.
The menu of sides includes both rice and vegetables, and while I am aware that it’s a noodle place, sometimes, I just want some rice. There are three varieties from which to chose; jasmine rice, twin scallops fried rice, and yang zhou fried rice, with barbecued pork and shrimp. I’ve only had the yang zhou and found it to be a solid choice. The rice itself is fairly delicate and just clumpy and hearty enough to eat using chopsticks with relative ease. The dish is studded with generous hunks of moist shrimp and sweet barbeque pork, along with some onion and egg. Fantastic.
Grandma’s gai lan is another hit, consisting of Chinese broccoli, one of the most wonderfully green tasting vegetables on the planet, with Chinese sausage, which is served traditionally; simply sliced into coins and added to the dish. If you’ve never had it, Chinese sausage is really fabulous. It looks like a little pepperoni or beef jerkey stick when it’s whole, the flavor is really sweet, and the texture is really chewy. It’s awesome stuff.
I’ve always wanted to order the pea shoots, but the price ($16) has stopped me. A friend had them on a recent visit and said they were just pea shoots. Nothing special about them at all.
The Sichuan green beans are a really perfect side, a dish that never disappoints. They are wok seared, dry, a little blistered, still crisp, and umami flavored. I adore them.
I know from experience that Chinese food can be pretty damn dismal in other parts of the United States. We are so lucky to have such an array of wonderful choices here, and whether or not M.Y. China is authentic (no idea) it is certainly delicious, and a great treat for any visitor to our city.
Westfield San Francisco Centre Restaurant Collection Under the Dome
845 Market St. 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
Mon – Fri: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Sat – Sun: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Sun – Thurs: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Fri – Sat: 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.