Out with the old and in with the new, that is the fate of Chino’s taking over of Andalu. Brought to you by the owners of Tacolicious, Chino takes on a similar approach to serving food in SF’s Mission district. Like going out for tapas, all of the dishes are served on small plates and are more fun to share than to order for oneself.
The quirky decor inside is as interesting and confusing as the food it serves, which has Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and American influences. As is the case with much Chinese food, pork is the common denominator in most of these dishes. Throughout the restaurant you will see “Eat a XLB”, referring to the soupy pork dumpling, xiao long bao. Dining beneath pastel colored paper lanterns and sneakers hanging from their shoe strings, the playful atmosphere is synonymous with the young crowd eating here who are coming to play in the Mission district.
Eliminating pork from my diet does not deter me from a lust for dumplings. When I traveled in China, I ate pork dumplings (both intentionally and accidentally) all of the time, though my tummy never approved of that executive decision. Fortunately, there are a plethora of vegetarian options in SF, even at places with traditionally meat-heavy cuisines. We agreed to share the vegetarian Chinese chive dumplings with braised tofu, king trumpet mushroom, and ginger.
We also tried a new interpretation of lettuce cups, which were filled with fragrant 5-spiced duck, hoisin, sesame, jicama, and scallions. The rich duck meat offset the lightness of the iceberg lettuce.
It is fairly well know that fried rice is just an ingenious idea where a chef takes day-old rice and kitchen leftovers, throws them together with some oil and egg, and voilà! Some may think it is a waste to go out and eat repurposed leftovers, but I appreciate the resourcefulness of this dish! The fried rice at Chino has delicious bits of shrimp, carrot, and scallions in it. Simple and tasty, it is no surprise as to why you find fried rice on every Chinese menu.
We finished our meal with a cold sesame noodle salad with cucumber, snow peas, carrot, and mint. Nearly too full to move after this carbo-laden meal, we left just before the crowds arrived for the dinner rush on Valencia Street.