Lunar New Year, we checked in with Martin Yan, the best-selling cookbook author and pioneering TV personality who recently added the title of restaurateur to his long list of credentials. It’s been two months since Yan opened M.Y. China in Downtown’s Westfield San Francisco Centre, a splashy contemporary Chinese restaurant that strives to educate stateside diners on all 16 regional cuisines of China. Yan was actually filming abroad when the restaurant first opened, but we recently caught up with him to see how things were going and get his thoughts on the rash of new high-end Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.In honor of the
Zagat: People have been squawking a lot about the price of the dim sum at MY China. How do you respond to folks that say it’s so much more expensive than typical Chinatown or Outer Richmond joints?
MY: I feel that any meal that falls short of expectations is always expensive, and any meal that exceeds expectations is always worth the money, regardless of the price. Factors such as prime real estate in San Francisco, higher minimum wages and fluctuating food costs all contribute to the price of every dish. Most restaurants would LOVE to charge less as the perception of value would be higher. Unfortunately, the expenses of running a restaurant govern the prices.
Case in point, there are restaurants in Chinatown that charge $ 9.95 for a crab, and just across the street, you pay $ 40.00. Yet, the latter restaurant sells tons of crabs every day – and much more than the one that charges $ 9.95.
Zagat: How would you say MY China differentiates itself from the other high-end Chinese spots - Hakkasan, Yang Sing, even Koi Palace?
MY: Hakkasan is an elegantly appointed, beautiful restaurant, while at M.Y. China we target a more general clientele and the family diners. The menu was designed to be all encompassing, accessible and good value. You can have just dim sum; you can come for a bowl of noodles; or you can order Peking duck for two. Our menu can accommodate many different styles of dining, even at the same table!
We are thrilled that many local chefs and restaurants are looking to San Francisco to usher in a new age in Chinese cooking. Hakkasan is a world class operator, and our opening on the same day should be a great omen for foodies in the city. I'm proud to be an active part of this chapter in Asian dining.
Zagat: Why do you think Chinese food is suddenly hot?
MY: Chinese food has actually been popular for a long time – and longer than many other Asian cuisines such as Thai and Japanese sushi. In fact, there are more Chinese restaurants than all the fast food outlets combined. Chinese food has become mainstream.
Zagat: How is the Chinese food scene in the SF Bay Area different than Chinese food in other US cities and abroad?
MY: We have a densely populated Chinese community here in the Bay Area. It has automatically elevated the quality of supply and demand through intense competition.
Zagat: I'm sure you've had your fair share of TV-filming bloopers and mishaps? Can you share one of them with us?
MY: We have a great production team with tons of experience. We do a lot of homework before production; therefore we expect fewer mishaps during production. We normally tape four studio shows in a single day. I do recall one show where I got a bit distracted and accidentally cut my finger. I went on to finish the show, without the audience noticing my mishap. But I nearly fainted!
Zagat: You’re on the road a lot and of course, when you’re in town, you probably spend a lot of time at MY China. Where else do you like to go to eat out when you’re in the Bay Area?
MY: I like to eat at Roy’s for the creative use of Pacific Island flavors. Koi, for their diverse variety of seafood, which is like no other place. And Gary Danko, whose dedication to his craft truly shines through at his restaurant.
Catch Martin Yan in person on February 26 at MY China where he’ll be greeting tables and celebrating Chinese New Year with guests.