It’s time to take a new look at sweet-and-sour chicken and kung pao chicken (with “pizazzy mala peanuts”). Get fired up to try the brand-new MAMAHUHU from Brandon Jew (Mister Jiu’s), who partnered with Anmao Sun and Ben Moore on the project. This Inner Richmond, fast-casual spot is just next door to Wing Lee and across the street from Green Apple Books, a vibrant neighborhood that Jew lives in and knows well.
At Mamahuhu, Jew is taking some Chinese-American classics, like broccoli and beef, and giving them an ingredient and technique upgrade and San Francisco sourcing spin, like making a grass-fed beef gravy and adding king trumpet mushrooms to Chinese and American broccoli. As for the sweet-and-sour chicken, wait until you taste the sauce. It’s no longer a sickly-sweet and cornstarch-laden syrup with red food coloring, now made with hawthorn vinegar and honey (Jew tells me the sauce was originally made with the hawthorn berry, which gave it its red color, and is an ingredient used in Chinese medicine and herbal remedies). He’s using Mary’s chicken, which comes with an awesome rice flour coating that gets a puffy crunch (you may want to skip this one for delivery and save it for dining on-premise). You’ll also enjoy that tangy sauce with the egg rolls, which have an almost-custardy interior.
There’s an abundant serving of mushroom mapo tofu, with so much depth of flavor (thanks to the doubanjiang bean paste) and a balanced heat (with some numbing Sichuan mala action); and happy family, with wild-caught shrimp, free-range chicken, shiitake, and “stay humble veggies,” a Cantonese stir-fry dish. You could order these house specials à la carte (they range from $16-$19), or you can order any of them as a combo, with jasmine rice and wok’d greens for $15 (fried rice is $3 extra, an egg roll is $2, and supreme broth is $5). Considering Mamahuhu is located in rice plate central on Clement, it’s makes perfect sense, and is an ideal option for solo diners.
Sides include wonton soup with schmaltz ($12), a variety of vegetables ($5-$10), including mala YOLO celery ($5) with cold celery and celtuce topped with a crunchy and spicy topping that is totally like chef-driven chile crisp. The jade fried rice ($10) is more about quality than quantity (it comes in the standard smaller delivery box, not the large one), with Niman Ranch pork, wild-caught shrimp, organic egg, and kale, giving it a dark green hue.
I want to return just for the chop suey sundae ($7), with toasted rice soft-serve, Hodo soy milk, jasmine tea jelly, black sesame sago, and an almond cookie on top.
There’s also tea and tea sodas; Very, Very Far beer on draft (from Off Color Brewing); and three wines. The restaurant originally offered delivery, but is on pause while they ramp up dinner service on-site.
The 35-seat space is so charming and casual-chic, with wood booths and banquettes, vibrant artwork (look for the horse and horse and tiger and tiger, which is one meaning of “mamahuhu”—the other is “so-so”), soft-pink floors, and nice punches of color. Studio BBA is behind the eye-catching design (the space was formerly an organic produce market), which really over-delivers on the fast-casual format with so many nice materials and stylish choices. Which is just like what the food is designed to do—offer an affordable experience with the best quality, sourcing, and housemade touches. Personally, I like seeing chefs pushing and coming up with creative solutions within these kinds of budget constraints. Whether you can afford to dine at Mister Jiu’s or not, Mamahuhu is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
The restaurant is starting with dinner service Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm (nightly service is coming soon), and will resume delivery service on Caviar and DoorDash, and then will launch lunch service. The opening is Wednesday January 15th. 517 Clement St. at 6th Ave.
Mamahuhu’s stylish dining room (designed by Studio BBA). All photos: © tablehopper.com.