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Shiso Restaurant, Outer Mission, report, and a reality check....

susancinsf | Aug 31, 200501:08 AM

About a week ago, Fortune Cookie, the (disappointing, generic but short-lived) Chinese place that replaced the (late, very much still missed) Lotus Garden, on Mission near Cortland, disappeared. Instead there was a bright yellow awning announcing Shiso Restaurant.

Hubby and I had a busy day with no time to cook and decided to walk over for dinner to try it out. For no particular reason I had assumed it was a Chinese restaurant, but as soon as I walked in I wondered if I could have been mistaken: the general ambiance and wall decorations looked Japanese to me (not that I am an expert). Besides, isn't Shiso an herb mostly used in Japanese cooking?

Not sure what to expect, we sat down at what used to be our favorite (Lotus Garden) table in the window. Imagine our disappointment when the server brought over Fortune Cookie menus! I asked if there wasn't a new menu. Unfortunately the server didn't speak much English and had a heavy accent, but I think he said that the new menu would be introduced September 5th, and that in the meantime the new chef would be cooking from the old menu. He also told us he was one of the owners, not a server, but was hiring a server soon, (this apparently was a way of apologizing in advance if the service wasn't to our liking), and in response to my questions about what type of food Shiso would serve, that the menu would be Chinese, with lots of 'beautiful vegetables and less oil'. My question as to the region or regions that would be represented on the menu led to a look of confusion followed by "San Francisco" but then the information that he was from Hong Kong and the chef/co-partner had previously cooked in Japantown...

But about the food: We ordered mongolian beef, Singapore noodles, prawns with walnuts, rice and pot stickers, all from the Fortune Cookie menu. Surprise: only the pot stickers disappointed (filling was dry) and the rest of the meal was *much* better than I had at Fortune Cookie (not that I went there more than once...). The noodles and beef had a nice balance of flavors and were genuinely spicy, and the prawns were fresh and well prepared....If this meal was any indication, Shiso will be a big improvement over the last incarnation...Cost was very reasonable: with enough food left over for lunch tomorrow, we paid $45 including tax, tip, tea and two beers...

So, reality checks are needed. Could it be that there is finally a good Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood? What type of food will they really serve? I will go back to check out the new menu, whatever it turns out to be, but hope other hounds will as well. If you go, please do report back!

Shiso Restaurant
3452 Mission St
San Francisco

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