M found a reservation a few days ago for “opening night” at Mister Jius. No brainer, I said… So last night we enjoyed one of the best Chinese “banquets” in these parts in a very long time - I felt we could have been in Hong Kong. My only negative is I suspect getting reservations is going to get real hard very quickly.
First, a number of random quick comments:
This is a strange place. At first glance (none of the front and wait staff and only half the kitchen appear Chinese, lots of pastel cocktails, the prices), this can create angst that this is going to be y.a. grossly Americanized high end, date place. But it is not. I can best describe it as just as advertised, sophisticated banquet style Cantonese. First night diners appeared to be 50% Asian.
And, thank goodness, no small plates. You get to chose 5 items, 4 from “salad/soup/rice&noodles/veggies”, the early courses, and one main.
Priced like good mid-high range SF restaurants, considerably higher than even the best other Chinese (like Dragon Breaux). Our tab before tip was almost exactly $200 for 2, including the special pork dish (at $25 extra) and one beer and one fine tea, but no cocktails or wine… This is not a typical Chinatown or Clement Street place.
If asked, I enjoyed it much more than several visits long ago to Jai Yun, in part because of the shorter list of dishes and our ability to chose, and in part because of the quality and interest of what we got.
Nice short list of teas. I had a Snow Jasmine that became increasingly delightful as water was re-added. Unfortunately, unlike at Dragon Breaux the tea leaf basket cannot be removed easily from the water after a minute or so. Apparently the tea is flavored by layers of jasmine blossoms for a day and then removed.
Service approached being excellent, knowledgable and helpful, surprising for a first night after only a week of soft opening.
So the dishes we had:
Salt & Pepper Monterey Squid. Not what one expects. Very lightly battered. Interesting dipping sauce. Includes fennel in the fry. Maybe a cross between an Italian frito misto and the usual S&P.
Oyster and Clam Custard. Would have been the highpoint of any other meal (but there was the pork, see below). Superb soup-custard with oysters embedded and small pieces of clams all over the top. Marvelous flavors and textures. Reminds of chawanmushi and some Chinese clams in egg custard (Cooking Papa), but very different and more sophisticate and deep complex of flavors.
Cold Noodles & Crab
I like sesame sauces and this one was good, but the weakest dish of the night. Nowhere near as spicy and lacking in the complexity of flavors that one can get in Sichuan versions that this is clearly derived from. I guess the chef didn’t want to detract from the fresh Dungeness crab pieces.
An interesting dish with significant portions of sea urchin on top and inside the rolls. Didn’t get the impression the rice noodle had just been prepared, maybe because it was trimmed for appearance, but that could have been wrong and the noodle was excellent. Overall a dish I will come back to.
BBQ Pork. There are 2 extra cost main courses. The Tea-smoked duck needs at least 4 people (at $40 for half a duck) and looked good. We chose the Heart Arrow Ranch BBQ Pork and it was phenomenal, now on my very short list (2 or 3) of best dishes in the Bay Area at this time. Slices of char siu pork belly and “black garlic spareribs” were dreamy delicious. We just had the pork belly at Cooking Papa (also on a short list) and enjoyed these slices even more. Each slice had a bark, somewhat like great Texas brisket BBQ but with the best Cantonese spicing. And the unexpected tastes of the ribs were even more wonderful. Don’t miss this.
Photos in the order described above.