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Mar 13, 2011 04:09 PM

Mision 19 in Tijuana Gets Some Big Attention From the New York Times

From the front page of the Food Section this week:

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  1. I saw that, wasn't it a great article. I've got a group of Mexican folk art friends here in SD that saw it too. We're in the process of arranging a trip down to try itl Exiting times in good old Tijuana, no?

    1 Reply
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Went there last night we ordered the duck, pork belly (both delicious), a steak (good, but a little over cooked), and the fish of the day (whitefish which was way too over cooked and tough, not flaky the way it should be), and two bottles of local wine. The wines were good but the price of the wine on the menu didn't reflect the 150 peso corkage fee. When we got the bill, the waiter showed us where on the wine menu it says that EVERY bottle of wine gets 150 pesos added to the price...JUST ADD IT TO THE PRICE ON THE MENU! They also knew that the fish was overcooked (we left most of it on the plate untouched) and we still had to pay for it. There were 4 of us and we will not be going back to this restaurant nor will we be recommending it to anyone.

      Don't patron this place, it is deceptive in pricing and the food is just average.

      Casa Placensia, La Diferencia, El Taller are all better options all-around.

    2. (This is a long - very, very long - post)

      I had dinner last night at Mision 19. It was delightful, not to mention delicious. We were a party of 8 there to check out the Baja/Med farm-to-table menu. Mision 19 sources their ingredients in a 120 mile radius, which also makes them the only restaurant in the greater San Diego/Tijuana area sourcing and using products from both sides of the border, an interesting if not unique concept.

      Located on the 2nd floor of the VIA CORPORATIVA building ( the first and only green, LEED gold building in Tijuana) Mision 19 is reached by taking high tech elevators. Last night there were elevator operators programming them to ensure people were getting to the right location up or down. The building itself is an impressive construction of glass and concrete with a very modern and contemporary feel to it. Spaces within the building are wide open and designed to bring in light. Next to Mision 19 is a small, mixed media gallery space displaying the artwork of contemporary local artists. That feel is carried over into the restaurant with a very contemporary decor, floor to ceiling glass walls and both rustic and rich woods to soften the concrete; it worked very effectively to create a space that was inviting, relaxing and not stuffy in the least. It's a dining room well designed for sharing a meal with friends.

      While waiting for some of our party to arrive we started off with cocktails...lovely and creative cocktails from a short and sweet list. Quite literally sweet as all the cocktails rely heavily on the local produce, including the always ripe and intensely flavored Mexican fruit. By the time we were done, our table had ordered 5 of the 6 drinks on the menu, which were:

      * Martini Tamarindo, a very elegant and somewhat understated vodka martini, but there was nothing understated about the flavor. The salty/sour tamarind was nicely set off by the sweetness of the coco y piña espuma (coconut & pineapple foam). A drink that goes down way too easily and way too quickly.

      * La Fresa took fresh strawberries and blackberries and muddled them along with some basil and Cuban rum. While this cocktail was a bit to sweet for my tastes, the flavor of the strawberries was intense and the combination with basil a good one. And I should say that the person who ordered the cocktail was very pleased with it and did not have a problem with the level of sweetness, which was a result of the fruit not added sweetner.

      * La Pera de Loteria was a light and very refreshing blend of pear puree, ginger and vodka with a thin slice of pear floating on top. It was also a surprisingly delicate drink and turned out to be the table favorite

      * El Mescalero used a puree of kiwi, mango and banana as it's base, was blended with some mescal and served up in a martini glass rimmed with sal de chapulines (salt with ground grasshoppers). The El Mescalero was the most complex cocktail flavorwise and a real winner for us.

      * Horchata-Guayaba relied on a stellar housemade horchata, fresh guava juice and vodka for the kick. Like the La Fresa this drink was a little on the sweet side but it didn't stop any of us from enyoing this cocktail and it was probably the second favorite at the table.

      * The one drink we didn't try was a martini variation using cucumber.

      All the purees used in the drinks were done in-house and not from concentrate, box, bottle or can and it was clear to us the extra time and care used in crafting the components for the cocktails was a key to their success. All 8 of us liked every single drink we ordered and would have no difficulty ordering any of them again, nor, based on how successful the ones we ordered were, would we hesitate to order the cucmber drink. Since this is a farm-to-table restaurant and the availability of produce will change throughout the year, I would expect the cocktail menu to change along with the seasons and availability of fresh produce.

      A tasting menu of 4, 6 or 8 courses is available. However, since they'd made the mistake of giving us the menus before telling us about the tasting menu, and since we'd already had a chance to look the menu over, we all opted to order off of it. As a result we ended up getting to try a healthy cross-section of what is offered. And I'll state right up front, there were no clunkers in anything we ordered. There were, of course, so items we preferred over others, but every single dish we tried was well thought out, well composed and executed quite well.

      So, on to the appetizers. The options are both interesting and extensive. The chef's signature app are the pinchos, generous pieces of octopus and calamari presented on skewers anchored into blocks and served with 3 side sauces. It's a dramatic and whimiscal presentation. And while several people at the table talked about ordering it, ultimately no one did. The other 2 interesting options we talked about ordering, but did not, were the oysters and the pork belly with masa crepes. Here is what we did end up ordering:

      * Tuna Parfait, presented in a tall, narrow glass the parfait was a layered affair beginning with a soft avocado meringue and ending with pulverized chicharron. In between were minced cubes of briny yellowtail tuna, minced serrano chile, some Asian seasoning, and probably a couple of other things I'm forgetting. When it was delivered to the table the server instructed me to stir it to combine so that I could get all the flavors in 1 bite. I did and it was good. It's a slightly rich dish due to the avocado and chicharron but really a very enjoyable tuna app.

      * Tostaditos de Tiraditos de Lengua arrived at the table on an oblong plate. The tiny masa tostadito shells were overlapped on the bottom and then topped with thinly sliced tongue, and(among everything I can remember) arugula, radishes and very cute little beech mushroom and then dressed in a light vinaigrette. Even though I was really happy with my Tuna Parfait, I thought this was the best app we ordered.

      * I didn't to taste the Enselada de Betabel Dorado y Alcachofa,tho' my friend that ordered it liked it. Betabel Dorado are golden beets and alcachofa artichoke. It's not a large salad but from what my friend said, it was a good one.

      * The other app I didn't have the opportunity to taste was a soup of miso and edemame. Like my parfait this also arrived in a tall, narrow glass. The woman who ordered it was very happy with her choice. And, no, I don't remember what else accompanied the soup.

      * Enselada de Nopales provided us with one of the more interesting ingredients of the evening. The nopales were perfectly cooked. They retained some crunch and had a soft and rather gentle flavor, until you hit the bite of chiles lurking inside. The salad was accompanied by some shrimp as well as a chunk of cheese, and it was the cheese we all found so interesting. Encased in a thin rind, the cheese was soft with small curds. It tasted remarkably like really fresh and creamy cottage cheese with a rind. The name (or orgin) of the cheese had been on the menu and none of us could recall what it was. Ni modo, it was a great pairing and contrast with the nopales.

      * The final appetizer was a delectable dish of foie gras. Unfortunately, in spite of 2 people ordering it and my tasting it, I can't tell you what was in the dish. Partly because I can't remember, but mostly because all the ingredients in it actually worked pretty well with each other so that only the foie gras stood out. There was a slight sweetness to the dish which actually worked nicely against the soft creaminess of the foie.

      Thankfully, the entree menu was shorter than the appetizer menu, but certainly no less interesting. We did not order:

      * Pork loin & Glazed Rib combo

      * Duck Breast w/Kumquat Reduction (tho' 2 of us were close on this one)

      * Lamb

      * Steaks, of which there are a large variety including, Arrachera, Rib-Eye in various sizes, Filet in 2 sizes and a Cowboy steak for 2. The steaks also included a laundry list of sides and sauces.

      We ended up ordering:

      * Milk-fed Baby Chicken roasted and served with truffle, thyme and fingerling potatoes. The chicken was tender and very juicy and the both the truffle and thyme flavors were distinct but not overpowering.

      * The fish of the day turned out to be a moist white fish of which none of us were familiar. It might be a case of not recognizing the name in Spanish, but even the native Spanish speakers in the group hadn't heard of it. In the end, it didn't really matter what it was, it was just plain delicious. Sometimes you just need to make a leap of faith when ordering something unfamiliar. This was a terrific leap of faith that worked out well.

      * Four of us ended up ordering the chef's signature entree, which is shortribs wrapped in fig leaves and served with mole negrao, cracked cacao beans and kabocha squash puree. After eating it I think all 4 of us could see what the fuss is about this dish. The beef was fall-apart tender and the flavors all very well balanced. The shortribs come perched on a bed of crisped up swiss chard which kind of melts into the beef. For the most part the fig leaves melt into the meat as well amping up the flavor, though among the 4 plates there were a few tough leaf ends that hadn't softened up enough. But those were easily removed and it certainly did not detract from the dish. At least 2 of us order the dish because by the time we'd reached the entrees, we had already decided we need to return. Ordering the chef's signature entree would free us up to explore the rest of the menu on return trips ;-)

      One of the things all of us really liked about Mision 19 was that the portion sizes were sane and manageable. Neither the apps nor the entrees were overwhelmingly big or oversized. This, of course, left room for dessert! And like the earlier menus, the dessert and coffee menu was short and interesting. We passed on most of the coffee drinks, save one. 2 people could not resist trying the house-made chocolate ice cream over which a shot of espresso was pressed out. This was good, really good and if you're eating late at night and a hit of caffeine won't distrub your sleep patterns, go for it; it's excellent.

      I think we made a pretty good dent in the dessert list by ordering:

      * The 4 housemade ice creams, which came in small cones. A little messy to eat but creamy and fun. The flavors we had last night were pistachio topped with cherries and ginger, nata (cream) with meyer lemon, chocolate with caramel bacon, and a 4th which is escaping me now.

      * Chocolate Textures turned out to be a tour de force of all the things you can do with chocolate. I didn't manage to snag a taste, even though I was sitting next to the person that ordered it!

      * And finally, Creme Brulee with Coyotas de Piloncillo. The Coyotas were small cookies a little bigger than a quarter and filled with a puree of piloncillo (dark brown sugar with a molasses-like flavor). The creme brulee was an itty bitty serving but since it was so rich (and very creamy too) that was a good thing. I thought the cookies would be similar to gingersnaps but I was not even close. They were flakey, rather like a flakey empanada dough. Each cookie was served with a mermalada (marmelade) that had been made in-house; orange, apricot and piloncillo. All 3 were outstanding but I really enjoyed the piloncillo the most because it was different.

      A cheese course is also available if a sweet ending to the meal is not one's preference. Last night there were 8 selections; most of them (5 IIRC) were local to the northern Baja region. The cheese course can be ordered as a selection of 2 or a selection of 4 and will come accompanied by 3 mermeladas made in house. I was tempted but wanted something sweet.

      I think what we all liked about Mision 19 was the flavors in all the dishes we tried were clear, distinct and original. Chef Plascencia's style and food sense is evident and it's definitely clear this chef is in control of his kitchen and his ingredients. None of the flavors were fighting with each other for dominance, nor did any one or two flavor predominate over the others. Everything worked so well together. Personal preferences will certainly dictate what the individual diner likes best but, I'm pretty sure there is something to make almost everyone happy.

      Service was very good. There was sufficient waitstaff to handle the busy dining room and it was very apparent time had been spent training them. The young woman that handled our table was well versed with each menu item and could explain exactly what it was, where it came from and how the dish would be prepared. She was pleasant and engaging without wanting to become our next best friend. Supporting waitstaff was quiety and unobtrusive. And there was no rush to end our meal in order to turn the table. Our check did not arrive until we asked for it (which is very typical in Mexico).

      There is a perception that Tijuana is unsafe territory. Several years ago at the height of it's narco wars this might have been true, but it is definitely not true now. Those wild and crazy days seem to have subsided. I want to stress that at no time, from the time we cross into Mexico to the time we crossed back into the U.S., did we ever feel at risk or unsafe. I would have absolutely no hesitation to cross and go back, nor would anyone I dined with last night. Obviously, each person has to determine their own level of comfort with personal safety. The chefs and owners of all the new restaurants that are springing up are doing all they can to ensure the safety of their diners.

      We parked at San Ysidro, walked across and got a cab to Mision 19. Because it's in a new building it is helpful to have the address and phone number with you as not all cab drivers - or their dispatchers - know exactly where it's located. The restaurant called cabs for us for our return to the border and we were dropped off at the end of the pedestrian line for U.S. immigration. Luckily for us, at 10:45 pm on a Saturday night there was no line and we breezed right through. You will need a passport or Sentri pass for re-entry into the U.S.

      The final tab for our party of 8, including tax, was $397. It included - 8 cocktails, 5 glasses of wine, 9 appetizers, 7 entrees and 6 desserts. By the time we added our gratuity it worked out to $60USD per person. That is a tremendous value for the quality of the meal we had. I also know that I would be very hard pressed to find a dining experience in San Diego at the same price point. Mision 19 is one of the best deals in the region. Our cabs were $8 each way, figure $20 including tip for the taxis.

      Chef Plascenica describes his food as being artesanal Mexican from Tijuana and his heart and I think that's a pretty good way to sum up our experience at Mision 19

      Mision 19

      Mision San Javier 10643

      Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana

      VIA CORPORATIVO building

      +52 (664) 634-2493

      19 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        wow that sounds amazing! Good job describing it. Would it pretty easy for someone with limited Spanish be able to work though the menu? Were the wines local?

        1. re: lyn

          We had a wonderful, if you couldn't tell ;-). I got a little carried away.

          Yes, they have local wines from the Valle de Guadalupe. And if they don't have what you're looking for, there is a wine shop in the atrium on the same level as Mision 19. You could pop in there and pick up a bottle to take with you. I did notice a server took several decanters and a venturi into one of the private dining spaces, so it seems like they were going to decant a bottle or two of wine for that group.

          The chef speaks excellent English and several of the other staff do as well. Our waitress asked us if we spoke Spanish or not. And when the other half of our party arrived she asked if they understood Spanish or not. Don't let a potential language barrier deter you, I think you'd get along just fine and I rather supsect the staff would make sure you were well taken care of in that regard.

          If this restaurant was in SD, I could see myself eating there on a regular basis.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            maybe you should cross post this review on the SD forum as I never would have seen it if not for the frugal foodie yahoo group. I am not too worried about the language barrier-somehow my food Spanish is pretty good! It is just when things get more complex I get lost. After 3 years of HS Spanish and a few semster more in college, food related terms seemed to the only thing that stuck.

            1. re: lyn

              I'd love to post it on the SD board but the moderator of that board is not very flexible about allowing Tijuana posts on that board.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                How about Mision 19 Chula Vista/San Ysidro? He he he. :)

                1. re: Gypsy Jan

                  Jay Porter already refers to the greater area as Tigueo, which I think is pretty good.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    Credit for coming up with "Tijuego" must properly go to Jair Tellez (a familiar name on this board, as he is the chef/owner of Laja and Merotoro), who did so one night over beers and mescal. Which did, in turn, inspire a group of us to put together the website , an events, culture & food site focusing on "the whole naranja". Hopefully the idea catches on :-).

                    1. re: jayporter

                      Jay, I have just one word to describe - AWESOME

                      What a great, focused site. I've just spent the last 20 mintues poking around on it and found all kinds of interesting stuff. Even tho' I'm probably considerably older than the sites target market, there is a ton of great info on it for everyone.

                      Great job

                      1. re: jayporter

                        Love the Tijuego site, and....had a great meal the other night at El Take it Easy. Bring back KFB! haha.

                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                          That's great to hear, thanks, sorry to miss you. Pastured chicken is out of season now but look for sesos (calf's) starting Friday....

              2. re: DiningDiva

                Hi Dining Diva,

                The answer to your problem is the Ready Lane, open in Otay Mesa and soon (hopefully) to open in the San Ysidro border crossing as well.

                Get you Passport Card and come on down!


                1. re: Gypsy Jan

                  GJ, I saw that and belive me I've thought abou it :-) It also makes access to, what is it, freeway 200?, much easier too. I've been scoping out possible weekend getaways. I'm not too crazy about that up and over crazy merge to get to the cuota when you cross at San Ysidro. I'm feeling like this may need to be a Baja summer.

                  I also saw your post about breakfast at Splash on BN (yes, I lurk there) and, manoman, if I hadn't been at work... ;-).

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    If you go to Splash and want a breakfast partner, let me know!

                    I think this is their website:

                    And you can send an email to me

                    Cheers, GJ

            2. re: DiningDiva

              Sounds like a fantastic time of great food and drink!

              1. re: Beach Chick

                It was, you should go. Really nice dining experience. I would be a regular if it weren't for that pesky border crossing business ;-)

              2. re: DiningDiva

                Pardon the inherent lameness in the question, but the menu does not list too many vegetarian choices - do you think with notice they could prepare a vegetarian meal?
                In SD the majority of places have at least one vegetarian appetizer and entree, and even if they dont list it, they will prepare something if we call them in advance - I am not sure if this policy is true in TJ also.
                I don't mean the above as any kind negative cross-border comparison - just trying to get some reference points as a vegetarian who would love an opportunity to try Mision 19, but has not fine-dined in Mexico before, and is trying to plan a trip there.
                Any advice would help!

                1. re: ipsit

                  Ipsit, I think if you contacted them ahead of time and asked what they could do, you'd be okay. Not sure you'd be so okay just walking in. I think there are a couple of options on the app menu that might work, but I don't recall if there was a veg option for entrees. I was there again at the end of July and just don't remember a veg entree, but then I wasn't particularly looking for one either ;-). I'm pretty sure the kitchen could handle your requests, but you never know until you ask.

                  If you need the contact info shoot me a message via SDChow and I'll get it to you. Not everyone at the restaurant speaks English, but there are enough people that do that could help and the chef speak excellent English if language is an issue.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    I imagine the contact info you included in your review on this thread is still current?
                    Hopefully they can work something out for us, and I will be certain to report back once we go

                    1. re: ipsit

                      Yes, that is correct, I forgot I posted the contact info ;-)

                      If you do end up going, be sure to take the address and phone number with you. Most taxistas do not know where it is. The building is still fairly new and a little bit off the beaten path. The address and phone number have been helpful in gettng there each time I've been.

              3. My wife and I, along with three friends, had the absolute pleasure of dining at Misión 19 yesterday. It was outstanding on every level. The physical layout and aesthetics of space are modern and urbane. The wait-staff were gracious and presented dishes with choreographed precision that didn’t feel stuffy. The food was beautifully plated and of remarkable quality and taste. We all ordered different items and none of us had a disappointing dish or even one that was just OK. It was todo bien y muy fina.

                Along with some innovative cocktails and local wines (from two of my favorites, Roganto and J.C. Bravo), it was one of the best restaurant experiences I can recall. We were there for three and one-half hours. Our waiter, impressed that we had driven two hours from Los Angeles solely to eat a meal there, invited to the kitchen before we left to meet the chef and see the behind-the-scenes-action. I don’t think we could have had a better experience.

                We then went to the adjoining wine store, Artnoc, sampled a few wines by the glass, and picked up a few bottles to take home. My wife and I bought a red table wine from Barón Balch'é and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Mogor-Badan. We had a cab called, which came quickly from the nearby Hotel Lucerna, and in a few minutes were crossing through customs (which, on a Saturday, is a complete miracle, as the pedestrian wait can sometimes be well over an hour).


                Thanks to those who reviewed this great restaurant previously (including StreetgourmetLA's extensive review on his blog) and motivated me orchestrate a visit.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ringo Gato

                  Ringo Gato

                  That is so awesome that you made it out to Mision 19; you're one of the OG Baja food and wine adventurers.

                  J.C. Bravo is one of the top wines in Mexico for me; I had a blast at his new tasting room this past weekend. He's now making a great Palomino, one of the original varietals planted by the Spaniards.

                  The wine shop is called Contra, one of three; there's a Mexico City branch and the one at El Viento in El Sauzal as well as the Tijuana shop.

                  Thanks, and keep spreading the good word about Baja.

                  1. re: scottca075

                    You're right, that was a very good article. Thanks for posting it.