Celebrity Chef Martin Yan brings beautiful Chinese culture to his restaurant

I don’t know what caught my eye more, the open kitchen with chefs chopping and frying or the small ivory snuff bottles on display. The chef who introduced the US to Chinese cooking in the early 1980’s with his TV show Yan Can Cook and a personality that made you want to stir fry, opened M.Y. China Restaurant in San Francisco. M.Y. stands for Martin Yan.

After checking in with the hostess, to the right, which can’t be missed, is a circular bar with a hanging bell, an 1800-pound bronze Chinese bell. Just how did the restaurant find this massive center piece? It was explained to me the bell was designed for a monastery in China but was too heavy to hang. It was then sold at auction and with some careful planning, arrived at the restaurant.

1800 pound bell sets the tone

Soon, I was seated in the main dining area and ordered small bites of smoked Seabass served chilled and accompanied with tangerine soy sauce.

Smoked Seabass with Tangerine Soy Sauce

As I dipped the fish into the flavorful sauce, I couldn’t help but stare at a prominent wall in the dining room with rows of monk statues. Each of the 18 monks wearing green coverings in various stages of dress, had their own look and expressed their personalities.

The many poses of Monks

My next course of dumplings arrived and after eating the perfectly steamed dough with juicy pork filling, I explored more of the restaurant decor. In a glass case on the wall were numerous ivory snuff bottles. Very interesting how each bottle had a person’s profile picture, male or female or vibrant flowers. Surely, they had survived years of use.

Ivory Snuff Bottles

And nearby were antique wooden molds with handles and I learned they were moon cake molds. Moon cakes have been made for centuries for festivals in Asia and the center of each had intricate patterns. Well preserved when you consider all the festivals.

Traditional Moon Cake Molds

Our meal ended with sugar egg puffs which were dough like profiteroles and quickly fried to be light and airy. The puffs reminded me of delicate fried cotton candy only better and topped with sugar. Rich dark chocolate fondue, raspberry coulis and Chantilly whipped cream were served alongside to make your own cream puff or simply pour on the puffs. I must say the sugar egg puffs were a delightful ending to the meal.

Martin Yan designed the restaurant so people could watch the chefs at work rather than a typical restaurant which is behind swinging but closed doors. The ambiance brings Chinese culture and cooking to the forefront.

Chefs prepare meals in open kitchen

M.Y. China Restaurant

845 Market St

San Francisco, Ca 94103