Mission Chinese Food
- Cheeryvisage May 21, 2012 09:53 AM
Mission Chinese is officially open tomorrow. Eater has an article on the restaurant with the menu already: http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/05/...
Has anyone been to the SF location? Anyone going to the NYC one soon?
Interested in hearing everyone's thoughts.
Looking forward to it, but will probably wait until closer to July to try after some of the buzz has died down.
Have been to the SF location once. Thought it was good, especially the kung pao pastrami as it punched me in the face with its spicy, salty and sour flavors. Some people dismiss Mission Chinese Food because they're comparing it to other Szechuan restaurants. Best way not to be disappointed is to appreciate it for what it is and not compare it to Szechuan Gourmet, Legend, etc. I don't know what the NYC prices will be, but the SF location's prices are extremely reasonable considering they use higher quality meats and donates 75 cents from each entree to charity.
I will wait a while before trying the NYC location as I like to give the place some time to get their rhythm going. And hopefully it won't be as packed in the coming months as I'm guessing it will be tomorrow.
I lived in the Mission a few blocks from SF location and ate there every other week or so (mostly delivery). My favorite dishes were the Kung Pao Pastrami and the Thrice Cooked Bacon. The SF location had some inconsistency, especially with the level of spiciness that could go too far, but very unique and bold flavors.
As Miss Needle says, leave your expectations at the door. This isn't trying to be authentic Szechuan or even really Chinese food. If anything it's an updated take on Americanized-Chinese. But don't think about it too much - just enjoy it. Hope you like spicy food.
Was at the family dinner last night. Thought it was really something else. I won't spend that much time on the decor, given that it's pretty much subjective - either you like the neon or you don't. Nor will I comment on the service, given that I was known to the house and that there were serious industry folks dining there during the seating I was at (so I'm assuming they were on their A game).
I can comment on the food however. Here's what my friend and I got:
Mongolian Long Beans
Chongqing Chicken Wings
Salt cod fried rice
Egg custard (with apple and trout roe)
Wild Pepper leaves soup
Fresh tofu poached in soy milk with edamame
Beef cheek dumplings
Now, I'm something of a Szechuan freak and while I'm certainly no expert, I do know how the dishes are supposed to taste (I've been to pretty much every Szechuan restaurant in Manhattan and made a point of seeking out regional food when I visited China). Danny's approach is a little different: same flavor profiles, different techniques. For instance, Chongqing chicken tastes exactly like what you would expect (dry, intense heat) but rather than having small crispy nuggets of meat he fries an entire leg, which IMO can lead to more even cooking results (sometimes, different size chicken pieces mean some are just fried to a crisp). Anyway, on to the food.
There really was only one miss here, which was the wild pepper leaves. The broth just didn't stand up to anything (especially when had after the mapo, which had so many numbing peppercorns) and as such it felt superfluous.
That said, the other soup, the bitter melon, was really good - a smokey, meaty broth with perfectly cooked pieces of melon that provided a welcome respite to the heat. I don't know how they managed to get such a smoked bacon/ham hock out of the broth while still maintaining its lightness, but this dish really worked.
As the only real vegetable course, the Mongolian long beans were quite nice. Cut up to size, they were apparently cooked with roasted chili though I didn't taste any (which again, given the heat levels from some of the other items, was totally okay). The garlic shoots and horseradish leant this dish a nice textural contrast.
The chicken wings were really great. Thoroughly coated in a dry fiery rub and served nestled in a bed of chilis, this dish was a winner. What really sold it to me and my friend though was the fact that with it comes fried tripe. I'm sure I've had it before but it was the first time that I was conscious of eating it. It's like the best super bowl snack ever - crispy and chewy all at once, I'm sure it'll win over even non-offal fans.
The salt cod rice, while definitely more successful than the wild pepper leaves, was another dish that was largely uneaten. Both my friend and I had a serving of it, and it was a fine fried rice with an interesting flavor profile. However, given the strength of the other dishes, and the amount of food the two of us had, we just didn't go for it. If you're in the mood for rice though, by all means order it (it also does a really good job of tempering some of the heat from the spicier dishes).
The savory egg custard really blew us away. In a meal mostly comprised of bold, aggressive flavors, I was really surprised by the nuance this dish possessed. To begin with, it was a perfectly cooked custard, with just the right amount of wobble (wiggle?) and snap. On top of that (the custard itself had a nice, clean flavor) trout roe, diced apple the size of trout roe and sea urchin. The technical abilities of the kitchen really shown here - the dish was a perfectly layered and balanced one, and it was nice that everything was more or less around the same size. In a decidedly comfortable atmosphere, a rare taste of luxury.
Another starter that we got that again surpassed expectations was the fresh tofu poached in soy milk with edamame, broad bean paste and dill (the menu says perilla but I know we had dill). Right off the bat, I'm going to say that the addition of dill was inspired. I feel like dill usually gets the short end of the stick and I certainly never expected it to appear during this dinner, but it's grassy herbal notes really complemented the milkiness of the dish overall. Moving on the tofu itself, like the custard it had just the right amount of snap in it when you pushed your spoon down while still possessing an overall soft texture. The broth here, a very small amount, complemented the tofu well (obviously, it was soymilk) and the broad bean paste, which you could add to your liking, completed the dish, adding a pungent salinity to an otherwise mellow dish.
As good as that was though, the clear winner of the night was the mapo tofu. How long have I waited for this dish, ordering it in vain at the various Szechuan restaurants across the City? Finally, a mapo that was equal tofu and pork, tongue numbingly delicious. Danny does not skimp on the ma la here, and it shows - there's peppercorns just floating in the oil/broth. Having already mentioned the quality of the tofu above, I'll say this: rather than use ground pork, as most places do, Mission Chinese takes a page out of Ssam bar's book and uses chinese pork shoulder (in the form of a loose sausage a la Ssam bar's rice cake and sausage dish), which is incredible. The pork doesn't get lost here and the slightly firm protein provides a wanted textural contrast to the silky tofu (something that smaller bits of pork wouldn't have been able to provide). Further, while there is plenty of hot chili oil, the dish itself never felt greasy. The oil really serves as a broth here, enhancing the flavor rather than drowning it out. I really loved this dish.
Lastly, our ultimate starter was the lamb cheek dumplings in red oil. It should be clear by now that Mission Chinese truly understands the benefits of competing textures - this dish featured a somewhat typical poached dumpling offset by the crunch of peanuts and vegetable shoots. The richness of the lamb was balanced by the black vinegar sauce the dumplings were in (think like a soup dumpling type of sauce) and a little bit of heat came from numbing peppercorns. A solid dish to be sure, but not as unique as the egg or the tofu.
Overall then, it was a truly great meal. Obviously, my meal cannot be representative of the experience of the restaurant as a whole for the simple reason that I didn't experience the restaurant. I was at a soft opening and the service and atmosphere that I encountered will probably be different starting today. Further, given the hype surrounding the place, the kitchen might get slammed and the flavors might come out differently (for your sake, and for theirs, I hope not). All that aside, what I experienced made me a convert. I have never been to the San Fran original so I cannot compare, but from what I had on Sunday night I highly recommend this place. Like I said in the beginning, the flavor profiles are all right there, it's just that the techniques are tweaked to produce some incredible results. Further, there's a real appreciation for harmony - be it flavor or texture. Mission Chinese is not about just throwing you a bunch a heat or vinegar and saying, enjoy the burn later. Sure, some dishes do exhibit that characteristic spice and acid (thank goodness that they do!) but the intent is never to beat you into submission. Restraint isn't the right word here, it's more about finesse. Count me a fan.