There are certain moments that we wish we could experience again for the first time, like a few years ago when we got retweeted by four people or the one time we actually had the perfect comeback. But going to Mister Jiu’s is different. We don’t need a DeLorean or a malfunctioning hot tub to remember how excited we were the first time we ate here because it’s just as excellent every time we come back.
Mister Jiu’s is a Chinese American spot that’s been around since 2016, and even if you only casually pay attention to SF restaurants, you undoubtedly know about this place. We’ve loved it from the moment it opened, but since then Mister Jiu’s has gone from the cool, new spot in Chinatown to being one of the first restaurants we recommend to everyone for pretty much any scenario.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
A lot of this has to do with the space itself. Mister Jiu’s has one of the coolest dining rooms in the city. You enter at street level and walk past a glowing bar before being led down the hall. And then, suddenly, you’re overlooking Chinatown from a few stories up in a huge room filled with golden lotus chandeliers. It feels like this could only exist as a grand movie set on a soundstage somewhere. But it’s here, in our Chinatown, in this reality, and even though we know exactly what to expect every time we show up, we still get a rush when the room opens up like Baz Luhrman was directing our entrance.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
As great as the dining room is, the other reason we tell people to come here is because the food is equally as impressive. The menu is full of dishes like fried rice, scallion pancakes, and pork buns—and here, they all have a twist that makes each something you can only get when you eat at Mister Jiu’s. The crispy and chewy scallion pancake is more like fried bread or a beignet, the Peking duck is served with peanut butter hoisin sauce, and the cheong fun is topped with salty sea urchin, instead of being filled with shrimp or beef. The same thing can be said for nearly everything else on the menu.
Between the incredible food and the dining room that would make Jay Gatsby envious, Mister Jiu’s is one of the best places to eat in SF. It’s the rare spot that’s perfect for almost any occasion: nice enough for an important date or a big birthday where a group orders the entire menu, but casual enough that you could come with those same people just because everyone’s schedule actually lined up for once. Fortunately, it doesn’t take 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to get back to how all of you felt the first came you came here, all you have to do is book a table.
Dutch Crunch BBQ Pork Buns
These would be incredible baked pork buns even without the Dutch crunch crust, but the sugary, crumbly coating makes them even better. It also makes them the most San Francisco pork buns you can find anywhere.
Sourdough Scallion Pancake
The scallion pancake is more like a funnel cake than a traditional scallion pancake, and it’s incredible. The bread is slightly tangy - crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside - and the combination of soubise and crispy onions that come with it is like Ruffles dip for people with trust funds. Of the small bites, this is the best.
Sea Urchin Cheong Fun
The topping on this changes up with things like sea urchin and caviar, and the sea urchin version is far superior because the caviar can sometimes get lost with the chewy rice noodles. Order this.
Crispy Scarlet Turnip Cakes
We would eat these for breakfast every day in place of hash browns, even though this place is only open for dinner. They’re crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and come with olives and mushrooms that work really well together.
If they put heat indicators on the menu, this would be about a 3/10. It’s a slow burn that hits a few seconds after you eat the eggplant, and it’s the perfect amount to go with the basil and fish sauce. This is excellent.
This mapo tofu is unlike any version we’ve ever had. The bottom of the bowl is filled with silken tofu, and then it’s topped with short rib that reminds us of chili with bits of steak thrown in. It’s got some serious heat that kicks you in the back of the throat, and even though it causes the occasional coughing fit, it’s still one of the best things on the menu.
These are so juicy that they’re almost like soup dumplings. The pork filling has a good amount of heat with plenty of ginger that cuts through the richness.
Salt-Baked McFarland Springs Trout
Beware of the tiny bones in the trout, but otherwise, this is a perfectly cooked fish that’s sweet and mild and picks up the flavor from the banana leaf that it’s cooked in. The scallion ginger sauce that it comes with should be bottled and sold for profit, and the addition of trout roe takes this over the top. Get this if you’re here with a group.
Steak Fried Rice
If you’re focused on this fried rice and nothing else, this might be the best fried rice you’ve ever had. But if someone slid it in front of you anywhere else, you’d just think it was very good fried rice.
Liberty Farms Roast Duck
The skin on this Peking duck isn’t super crispy, but it’s still a fantastic dish as a whole. It’s served with duck liver mousse and peanut butter hoisin to put on the pancakes with green onions and cucumbers, and you’ll want to monopolize all of it, but so will everyone else at your table.