You wouldn't expect, probably, that one of the standout dishes on an already great menu at Brandon Jew's new Chinatown restaurant would be his take on fried rice. But the simple, homestyle dish gets a welcome and ridiculously delicious revision in Jew's hands. And combined with a bevy of also stellar, banquet-style items (don't miss the hot and sour soup or the delicious BBQ pork with steam buns), it's a key piece of evidence that Mister Jiu's will turn out to be one of the standout if not the standout openings of the year.
"When we were putting the opening menu together," Jew says, "I asked myself I wanted Mister Jiu's to be one of those restaurants that serve fried rice." Obviously the answer became yes, and we should all be grateful.
Jew's take on fried rice, he tells SFist, all started with his mother. "Growing up, my mom would make fried rice all the time with bacon and leftover steak," he says. "So this is kind of a nod to my mom's fried rice."
He says that fried rice evolved into an important food memory for him and his wife, when he became an adult. "When we were super poor, I'd make fried rice with whatever leftovers we had in the fridge. So I thought, hey, I can have it on the menu as an homage to that time, and make it more than regular fried rice."
And more it is. Jew sources beef tenderloin off-cuts from Cream Co., dicing the beef into small cubes and rendering the fat to cook the rice in. It's finished with egg and house-made oyster sauce with oysters all shucked and smoked in house, and combined with black bean, sugar and soy and topped with shaved tuna heart from Sicily.
As Jew correctly sums it up, the dish is a "trifecta of beef, tuna, and oyster, which give it a lot of funk and flavor almost like an umami-bomb surf and turf."
The umami funk of the dish is indeed what sets it apart from any fried rice you've likely ever had, and Jew's effort to perfect this dish and make it a standout is evident in every bite. And don't be afraid of that tuna heart, as one of my dining companions was that shit is delicious.
Just as delicious but more subtle is Jiu's whole salt-baked trout. The fish is first wrapped in lotus leaves that impart hints of flavor to some perfectly tender and juicy fish, and it's served with the salt crust cracked open and the leaves peeled back, and topped with a condiment of charred scallions tossed with mortared ginger and soy, as well as trout roe. It's a celebratory fish, and that's what Jew was after in creating this restaurant to modernize the idea of the special-occasion Chinese banquet for a new generation of diners. And doing it in a dining room as pretty and well appointed as this, with its view of the TransAmerica Pyramid, isn't going to hurt either.
For budgetary reasons, SFist editors and contributors occasionally accept complimentary meals from restaurants and their publicists. More often, we pay out of pocket for our meals. While we refrain from writing formal reviews, we make every effort when giving opinions about restaurants to be objective, and to focus more on food and ambiance than service in order to make up for any possible bias.