One of the first T.V. cooking shows I watched as a little kid was “Yan Can Cook” featuring the gregarious Chef Martin Yan. Maybe because he reminded me of an uncle, I watched as he diced and chopped his way around the kitchen to make hearty Chinese dishes that were both familiar and exotic.

Through the years, Yan’s popularity grew beyond his public television programs and into cookbooks and speaking engagements. Recently, he’s focused on opening restaurants bearing his name, and the grandest to date is the elegant M.Y. China under the dome of the Westfield San Francisco Centre.

M.Y. China's dining room is a glitzy mix of Asian chic with contemporary touches

M.Y. China’s dining room is a glitzy mix of Asian chic with contemporary touches

Opened last month, the mall restaurant has been buzzing with curious diners and Yan fans who drop in hoping to get a glimpse of Chef Yan. While during these early days Yan can be seen greeting guests, he’s not behind the stove. Instead, Yan has gathered a team that includes brothers Ronny and Willy Ng (the team behind the uber popular Koi Palace in Daly City) and Yong Dong “Tony” Wu, who leads the bustling kitchen as executive chef.

I visited the restaurant, once for lunch with my friend Sylvia and another time for dinner, sitting by myself at the counter facing the wok stations (don’t worry, there’s a glass wall keeping you safe from the flames).

The menu isn’t very different between lunch and dinner (just a few dishes swapping in and out), broken into the following sections: dim sum (the small bites popular for brunch), small eats (appetizers), soup and salad, noodles, wok (most of the entrees are in this section), roasted (Chinese BBQ plates) and sweets.

Macau-style egg tarts ($6) are traditional egg custard tarts but with a caramelized top.

Macau-style egg tarts ($6) are traditional egg custard tarts but with a caramelized top.

The items are a mix of the traditional Chinese dishes (such as shiu mai and pork buns) to Americanized Chinese favorites (think Kung Pao chicken and honey-glazed walnut shrimp) to newly interpreted dishes like wild boar scissor cut noodles and mu shu pork tacos.

Some of the more exciting dishes actually came from the new creations. The mu shu pork tacos ($9) was a favorite between Sylvia and me. The boldly flavored mu shu pork worked nicely with the fresh tacos. My dinner order of honey glazed lamb chops ($24) were beautifully plated and the honey-glazed chops glistened with just the right balance of sweet and heat, the lamb cooked perfectly in a dry-roasted texture.

I also enjoyed the tea-smoked pork belly sliders ($8) even though Sylvia wasn’t a fan of the fatty nature of the pork belly. Eaten by itself, I agree that the pork belly slice was a bit too fatty, but mixed in with the pickled daikon and cilantro in the bun, I thought it was a great combination.

There were some misses. For example, the wild boar scissor cut noodles ($14) sounded promising, but the stir-fried noodles were too salty, with a prominent soy sauce masking the otherwise well-done hand-made noodles. (One of the restaurant’s highlights is watching a noodle expert hand pull fresh noodles all day.) A multi-grain rice wrapped in lotus leaf ($6) is a healthy twist to the popular sticky chicken rice dish, but it lacked a bit of flavor and panache.

Bamboo lighting (left) adds a contemporary touch to the room; a chef at the wok station

Bamboo lighting (left) adds a contemporary touch to the room; a chef at the wok station

Macau egg tarts ($3) were good but nothing special, and the sugar egg puffs ($4) were drenched with sugar. Still, I did enjoy the three dipping sauces that came with the egg puffs (which is basically Chinese doughnuts).

Side note: M.Y. China may be one of the few dim sum spots in the city that takes reservations, even for small parties of two. I don’t know if too many people realize this given the line at the door, but I found it convenient to make dim sum reservations and not have to deal with the wait.

Yan has taken a smart approach to his Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall. Knowing his audience will be mixed, he’s provided some classic Chinese dishes but in a westernized setting, including a popular bar that features a 1,800-pound bell. When the place starts serving dinner at 5:30 p.m., there’s a line of people already waiting to get in, including a few Chinese families curious about what Yan can cook.

This is the type of place that I would bring my Mom because she’s a huge fan of Yan (more so than me) but she’d probably spend the evening complaining about how expensive the dishes are given the amount of food served. Still, I believe she’d leave happy with the flavors and overall experience.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
2.5snaps

 

 

M.Y. China, 845 Market St., 4th Floor (inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre), San Francisco. PH: 415.580.3001. Open Sun.–Thu., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m.) Reservations, major credit cards accepted. mychinasf.com

My China on Urbanspoon

Mapo Tofu ($8). This traditional dish is made with organic tofu and made vegan by removing the typical ground pork. It's still a hearty addition.

Side dish of Mapo Tofu ($8). This traditional dish is made with organic tofu and made vegan by removing the typical ground pork. It’s still a spicy addition.

The bar with a 1,800-pound temple bell.

The bar with a 1,800-pound temple bell.

Wild boar scissor cut noodles ($14)

Wild boar scissor cut noodles ($14)

Tea-smoked pork belly sliders ($8) with pickled daikon, cilantro and Sichuan peppercorn oil

Tea-smoked pork belly sliders ($8) with pickled daikon, cilantro and Sichuan peppercorn oil

Had a wonderful oolong tea served in this double-layered glass tea cup (which keeps your fingers from burning when picking up the glass)

Had a wonderful oolong tea served in this double-layered glass tea cup (which keeps your fingers from burning when picking up the glass)

Simple side order of baby bok choy ($8) was fresh and full of garlic slivers

Simple side order of baby bok choy ($8) was fresh and full of garlic slivers

The busy line prepping dishes before they head to the tables

The busy line prepping dishes before they head to the tables

Pork and crab soup dumplings ($12), came in individual soup spoons. The filling was flavorful and the broth wonderful, but the delicate skin was a bit sticky when I picked it up with my chopsticks.

Pork and crab soup dumplings ($12), came in individual soup spoons. The filling was flavorful and the broth wonderful, but the delicate skin was a bit sticky when I picked it up with my chopsticks.

Mu shu pork tacos ($9) were a hit at the table

Mu shu pork tacos ($9) were a hit at the table

Multi-grain rice wrapped in lotus leaf ($6)

Multi-grain rice wrapped in lotus leaf ($6)

The noodle chef pulling fresh noodles for the day

The noodle chef pulling fresh noodles for the day

Honey-glazed lamb chops ($24)

Honey-glazed lamb chops ($24)

Sweet egg puffs were coated with too much sugar but had a delightful array of dipping sauces (raspberry, chocolate and creme fraiche)

Sweet egg puffs ($6) were coated with too much sugar but had a delightful array of dipping sauces (raspberry, chocolate and creme fraiche)

M.Y. China fits in nicely with the mall audience

M.Y. China fits in nicely with the mall audience

6 Responses to Authentic Chinese Food for Westernized Palates

  1. Row says:

    High five! “Yan Can Cook” was also on my TV viewing schedule when I was a kid. Heh, I also watched “Wok with Yan”, another cooking show on CBC, and I often wondered if Martin Yan and Stephen Yan were related. Anyway, these dishes look pretty yummy, and I’d love to dine here, both to enjoy the food and watch the noodle chef make noodles. :)

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Ooh, I’ll have to try the tacos next time. I liked the scissor-cut noodles, but maybe ours wasn’t so heavy on the soy. The hit for me, though, was the Meyer lemon egg tart at dinner time. Knowing your love for lemon, I bet it’s right up your alley, too.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I remember you mentioning the Meyer Lemon tarts. Sigh, I wished I had ordered them. I waffled between that and the sugar egg puffs during my dinner, and I let my server sway me. He promised the sugar egg puffs would be special. :( Now I have to go get those Meyer Lemon tarts!

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