Mau in the heart of the Mission originally opened a little less than a year ago by partners Hung Dang, owner of Tin Vietnamese in SoMa, and husband and wife Luke Wendler and Annie Abbott, longtime Mission residents. Originally conceived as an multi-Asian street-food restaurant, they initially hired former Slow Club Chef Sante Salvoni to head up the kitchen. However, that experiment inexplicably lasted only a month before they let go of Salvoni, closed for a week and morphed into an outpost of Tin Vietnamese last November.
We live fairly close by and had walked past Mau several times, noting that it wasn’t very crowded initially, but it is now one of the more popular places in the Mission with a constant and loyal patronage. We have said in the past that ethnic Asian food, such as Vietnamese, is much better in the South Bay, where there is a denser population of many Southeast Asian countries. But we have to admit that Mau does offer some tasty Vietnamese fare, offering one of the more upscale affordable dining options in the Mission.
We like to grab seats at the counter where our Trumer Pils beers come fast and cold:
A view down into the kitchen show all the Vietnamese cooks busily filling orders:
Not available at Tin, the Five Spice Quail is one of the best appetizers to order in the Mission. This is the third location we know of that serves the California state bird fried (with the other two at State Bird Provisions and Dixie), but this one is definitively Asian in style. Two portioned house-marinated quails are steamed, then crispy-fried and served on top of a watercress and tomato salad. The fish-sauce based house vinaigrette serves as a dip for the chicken and as the salad dressing:
The Banh Xeo crepe made with mung bean powder is stuffed with fresh mung beans, shrimp, calamari, pork and onions. Served with Vietnamese rau (herbs and vegetables), sliced carrots and nuoc cham (sweetened fish sauce dip), it was a decent enough version of the half moon crepe:
The inside of the Banh Xeo shows that there is a lot more mung beans than protein. We would have also preferred some lettuce leaves to use as wraps:
We also ordered the Catfish Claypot, flavored with a caramelized fish sauce, garlic, shallots, and scallions:
The real revelation for us, which has now become our favorite order, is the Garlic-Sauteed Greens of the Day which has always feautred a huge pile of excellently cooked bok choy:
The Garlic Noodles is also excellent and serves as a great pair with the garlic greens (these two dishes alone could comprise a meal):
The quirky interior decor includes loud yellow and black graffiti-type art and a frame with a picture of Muhammad Ali’s name:
The rest of the menu is comprised of typical Vietnamese food such as spring rolls, rice plates, claypots and vermicelli noodles in broth (Pho, Bun Bo Hue, …) and in bowls (Bun Thit). The Five Spice Quail is a must order, as are the Garlic Greens — it would be great if they could add more unique items such as these.
Mau literally translates to quick, and although this is not a fast-food restaurant, with efficient service and skilled cooks, it doesn’t take long to get items ordered. Judging by the popularity and the crowds, the Mission was indeed missing a quality Vietnamese restaurant. It makes us wonder if Charles Phan had opened another Out the Door or Slanted Door instead of Wo Hing General Store, then it would probably still be open today.