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.
I was at the F&F event on Saturday night. The food was extremely tasty and extremely spicy - with a strong Schezuan influence. The space is small and dimly lit, but very warm and welcoming.
The Long Beans, Thrice Cooked Bacon with RIce Cakes and Kung Pao Pastrami are not to be missed. On my way out the door, I chatted with Danny Bowien, who was disappointed that we hadn't tried the Ma Po Tofu, he said that this was the dish that inspired him to open the restaurant. He sent us on our way with a quart of Ma Po and some vegetable fried rice. I ate the tofu the next day and it was packed with flavor, pork and spice.
I noticed there were a few SF transplants brought to NYC to open this space. The service was good, but I'm hoping will tighten up over the next few weeks. I think it's worth a trip. I'll plan on returning in a few weeks.
Actually I just read in the New York Times they will take reservations... for the bar seating only. Interesting. We actually prefer eating at the bar sometimes, so this is good news for us.
"Unlike most restaurants, it will take its day off on Wednesday; it will accept reservations for 12 seats at the bar, but not for tables in the tiny restaurant; and 75 cents from each entree will be donated to the Food Bank for New York City. Once the restaurant receives approval to sell spirits, 75 cents from each cocktail will go to a different charity. "
I tried some that a friend brought in from dinner the night before. The lamb dumplings were delish, the wrapper was firm and the filling lamby and rich with great peanuts. There was a rice cake dish that was tasty. I love their chewy texture it was very spicy and salty. It had gobs of very very smokey bacon or pork belly. The pepper leaf soup was so bitter and astringent that I couldn't eat it. There was a funky dish with sliced medium rare kidneys that I couldn't get around. The green bean dish was pleasant with ground pork and soy, understated compared to other dishes. Overall the dishes were very aggressively seasoned and salted. Very unusual combinations with lots of nice vegetables used like baby turnips, broccoli rabe, radishes etc.
Dill is used in some Asian cuisines, it is common in Northern Vietnam, China and Tibet.
It's an interesting experiment to see the food rate bicoastal, but these aren't dishes or approaches that are not unique in NY (we have Sezchuan, lamb cheek dishes, and Red Farm using pastrami). Mapo Tofu is another dish New Yorkers seem to talk about more than San Franciscans. To pull this off they're going to have to make really great food - whereas I think part of the original appeal in SF was the pop up aspect, with an ever changing lineup of playful small, sometimes trendy, dishes.
Tried Mission Chinese for dinner on Tues., but long wait...so walked in for lunch yesterday--not crowded at all. Low-key dining room, with mixture of communal tables/a few 2-top and 4-tops. Fabulous food--I had my friend Zhan, a Chinese native, along, and he gives it 4 out of 4 stars. We ate:
Smashed cucumbers in garlic sauce (good, but would do the pickled vegetables next time; more variety, & the sesame paste dominated this dish a bit)
Kung pao pastrami (sounds like a gimmick, but this nod to the LES/Katz's location is terrific; spicy mixture of veggies, cabbage, and perfect pastrami bits).
Braised wintermelon (fine combination of sweet/salty).
Stir-fried sweet peas (among the best Chinese dishes I've ever had, and that includes many memorable meals in Hong Kong and Shanghai, plus Chinatowns in NYC, SF, etc. Just fabulous: big tender peas, a few wilted pea shoots worked in, all converging in a sauce that I picked up my bowl to drink at the end).
They were out of fresh tofu, which I'd been looking forward to since Weinfeld's report. Otherwise they had the full dinner menu. Don't miss it!
Went there for lunch today. Ordered the savory egg custard and the lamb cheek dumplings.
The savory egg custard, which is advertised on the menu as featuring sea urchin, came out with a single raw scallop instead, and no explanation or adjustment in price ($13). It was ok, but I think would have worked better with the sea urchin.
The lamb cheek dumplings were quite tasty and spicy, although the wrappers were a little thick/heavy for my taste.
Based on my (admittedly small) sampling, I felt the food was decent, but it didn't change my life. Prices are pretty reasonable. It's a good neighborhood place. I don't know that it's worth going out of your way to go there, though.
Had a pretty large, late lunch (2/3 empty at about 2) yesterday with a buddy of mine. Pretty impressed and quite excited to return.
Sichuan pickled veg - enjoyed the peanuts along with the veg, which seemed to be mostly napa cabbage and some carrot pieces. Looking at the menu now, didn't notice the beer at all. Oh well.
Mouthwatering chicken - probably the most intriguing version of this dish I've ever had. Usually it's poached chicken (sometimes on the bone, along with those dark bone fragments) mixed with some green onion slivers in a chili/sesame sauce. The Mission Chinese version was way more refined, with what appeared to be sou-vide rolls of chicken (mimicking the poached texture-- and I'm not usually a sou-vide chicken fan) as well as perfectly cooked bits of dark meat and a few chicken hearts thrown in. This was topped with a chili oil and sesame seeds. Also included a big pile of exceedingly thin sliced carrots and daikon. Awesome. Absolutely get this dish.
Savory egg custard - a good counterpoint to the uncontrollable ma la in the other dishes. Like other posters and SENY have mentioned, they're subbing in scallops right now and not telling anyone. They deserve public shaming for such a transgression. It's also dotted with trout roe. Good choice if you're looking for something mild.
Lamb cheek dumplings in red oil - 6 (I think) gamey, rough-ground lamb dumplings were good, but felt amateurish in comparison to the exquisite skill evident in a lot of the local dumpling spots. The thick skins were folded into little pope-hats. I like peanuts in a lot of Sichuan dishes, but here they felt superfluous. Probably wouldn't order this again.
Mapo tofu - this is about as good as advertised. Silky tofu, strongly spiced with a good amount of ma la and tons of pork. The texture of the gravy reminded me of Brunswick stew, almost chili-like. Not as oily as you'd anticipate. Another must order. We cleaned our plates of any leftover gravy.
Thrice cooked bacon - super smokey Benton's bacon flavors every other element, from the sometimes too-thick cut rice cakes to the bitter melon and tofu skins (a really appreciated addition, as I'll eat anything with tofu skin). If any dish slowed us down from eating everything there and then, it was this. Intensely filling. You should order it.
Finally, stir-fried sweet peas we ordered on a lark. I'm not as in love with it as some of the other CH posters on this thread are-- maybe bc I've never been a huge english pea fan-- but I appreciated the flavorful pea leaves and you could definitely pick up a significant amount of metallic tang from the peppercorns throughout. Would probably have preferred a more traditional Sichuan veg dish, but this was fine.
Reasonably priced and very chilled out atmosphere at lunch. Intense ma la in nearly every dish, though on a scale of Sichuan spots in town, it was not the highest. Chengdu Heaven still kills it (though I'm long overdue for a revisit) and a recent meal at Sichuan Gourmet blew them all away. With my flexible schedule, I anticipate returning often to eat through the menu.
Gone a couple times now and it's been a bit of a mixed bag for me. Much to love (the price, the free beer while you wait - while that lasts...) and some things not so great.
Mapo Tofu - excellent, well balanced. Spicy, but it doesn't get in the way of the flavor. Predominant flavor is the floral overtones of the peppercorn. Great texture, like a spicy Chinese bolognese.
Lamb Cheek Dumplings - also excellent. Cheeks rule.
Salt Cod Fried Rice - good, very filling. Works more as an accompaniment to other dishes.
Wild Pepper Leaves - I liked this dish more than some of my companions did. A little salty, but good flavor.
Kung Pao Pastrami - I dunno, it didn't click for me, I though the spice level was a bit high, Not too spicy to eat (I have a pretty high tolerance) just unbalanced with the other flavors.
Braised Wintermelon with Salted Duck Egg and XO Sauce - A bomb, f minus. First, it wasn't what the menu implied - it was a soup. Maybe had the menu said "soup" somewhere I'd have been less annoyed with it. That said, it wasn't even a good soup. The broth tasted of... hot water. With a little chili spice. Maybe there was a whiff of XO - that dried seafood flavor - way, way, way in the background, but certainly nothing notable. It looked as if a regular eggs had been whipped into the soup (and tangled up with whatever vegetable was in there) a la egg drop soup, and they weren't particularly ducky - seemed like a normal chicken egg, frankly, and not even a salted one at that. When I see "Salted Duck Egg" in a Chinese restaurant I assume they're talking about, y'know, Xian Dan - the cured, preserved duck eggs. If there was any in this dish, coulda fooled me. Too bad, because what the dish sound like on the menu - wintermelon tossed in XO sauce with xian dan - sounds like it'd be pretty damn good. Instead it was flavorless, watery broth with flavorless chunks of wintermelon and some straggly strands of eggy something floating in it. Two of the three listed ingredients just weren't really there in any way I could sense.
I'll definitely be returning a few more times to sample more from the menu - the Mapo Tofu and Lamb Dumplings will be in the regular rotation for sure... Might give the KPP another try as well, could have been we got a slightly overspiced one - you never know. They could be working out balance issues on the heat levels as they go along, get feedback from customers...
Came here for dinner last night. Ordered way too much food, and the bill was amazingly reasonable. Spend something like $65 for food for three people, including 2 sides of rice, with enough leftovers for a second meal. I only wish my heat tolerance was higher, as I felt that MCFNY was right on the edge for me.
Smashed cucumbers - While this small dish was good, it served more as a counterpoint to the intense ma la of other dishes. I wished the chunks were maybe cut a bit smaller. I really liked the sesame paste but I can see how others might not, instead preferring scallion or ginger sauce on their cold cucumbers.
Stir fried peas with pea shoots and ramp pickles - It was a huge pile of peas, served in a pretty big soup bowl, we had a ton left over, great flavor and a little bit sweet, a good contrast to the other dishes since it was not spicy, but even with three of us, we barely made a dent, as the dishes we chose were so filling.
Kung pao pastrami - I thought this dish was awesome, and we were with someone who'd had the same dish in SF. He proclaimed the NYC version even better, due to the quality of pastrami. I really, really hope that they are getting theirs from Katz's Deli just up the street. Overall, bold, fatty, so spicy! Both this and the thrice cooked bacon seemed to have great "wok hay" with all the flavors coming in together, and the distinct elements of the dish having that texture and taste of being cooked quickly in intense heat.
Lamb cheek dumplings - I liked but did not love these dumplings, although I thought the sauce was pretty great, and the peanuts soaking in the black vinegar based sauce were delicious. The dumplings themselves didn't seem to be all that extraordinary. A bit of Szechuan peppercorn here, but not too much. My husband adored these, though.
Mapo tofu - Made with great ingredients (ah, that pork sausage) and careful, loving preparation. Not the best mapo tofu I've ever had, but quite delicious and complex. I'd eaten so much spicy stuff before this arrived, though, that it was hard to pick out the different components of the mapo tofu sauce. We noticed that the tofu appeared to have a bit of a skin on it -- like it had been fried very lightly before being incorporated into the rest of the dish. Unlike other mapo tofu versions, the tofu stayed pretty much intact as we dug into the bottom of the bowl, an interesting textural contrast to other restaurants' versions.
Thrice cooked bacon -- Good lord, was this good. Bacon, black beans, tofu skin, rice cakes. I loved how the rice cakes soaked up the fatty and smoky flavors of the bacon. And the bacon itself was very nice, cut into chubby strips. My favorite part, though, was the small pieces of tofu skin, here and there. Also, there was quite a bit of Szechuan peppercorn in this dish, meaning that after a while, I felt like my palate was completely blown and I couldn't taste very well. This is a great dish, but should probably be eaten last. Extremely filling, especially if you eat a lot of the rice cakes. I can foresee craving this dish, especially in the winter. (This may be blasphemy and don't tell my husband but I think this beats Ssam's rice cakes & pork sausage.)
The space is odd and you can see the skeletal remains of what used to be a beer garden -- lots of wooden pillars and windows. As expected, it is pretty loud. We were seated at a corner banquette, and the tables next to us were very close. I was amazed how many people they squeeze in. What appeared to be a 2-top was claimed by a party of 3. The communal table which looks like it only seats 10 or so, actually had 14 people sharing space. Food comes out whenever it's ready (and given how many stir fried dishes we had ordered, it came out lightning fast) and we quickly ran out of table space.
I spotted Chef Danny Bowien in the kitchen last night, cooking. I have a feeling that our thrice cooked bacon was cooked personally by him -- there's a window separating the hallway from the main kitchen area, where you can see the chefs at work. Chef Bowien seemed glued to a flaming wok for most of the night. Just watching him work was a treat.
I too thought the thrice cooked bacon with rice cakes was excellent. Excellent and very flavorful , also extremely spicy. My small dish which they call "married couple's beef" was a chilled dish of beef tongue, heart, tripe, chili , peanuts and garlic,was quite refreshing. It came after the larger dish. The dishes come out randomly, whatever is ready. The bar is quite small. I believe there were only 6 seats. So when you have 3 dishes and a bowl of rice and a beer,it is difficult. I had to spread out a bit. The pastrami dish is another excellent dish. They do not get their pastrami from Katz's.( as per Katz's). But it is good pastrami. They have some japanese dishes on the menu, such as ankimo sashimi, and the desert egg custard is a chilled chawanmushi. The Chawanmushi had salmon roe, raw scallop, apples and pineapples. I thought the apples were daikon, but i was still trying to gain my taste buds back after being blown away by the spicy dishes. This dessert was quite enjoyable and refreshing.
The place closes at 3 then reopens at 5:30. People start lining up at about 4:45. They take bar reservations i am told, and if you are a single they squeeze you right in , no wait on a weekday.
Those that wait in line, will give their name, and have to come back. Tonite most of the people who entered at 5:30 to give their name for a table, were told to come back at 7PM. My meal was enjoyable, parking on Orchard St. is easy, the prices reasonable, the portions big and they supply containers for take home. Laboratorio Gelato is 2or 3 blocks away , good to get some sorbet to cool the mouth down .
I finally made it there tonight. Incredible.
Got the Smashed Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce, Tea Smoked Eel, Chilled Buckwheat Noodles, and Kung Pao Pastrami. The Eel and KPM were by far my favorites.
I also can't get over how inexpensive it was -- it was the cheapest dinner I've had in a longtime.
I got there at about 7:40; they said the wait would be 1:45. Got a table at 8:25. I waited at
Spitzer's Corner which is around the corner -- they have a pretty good beer selection.
MP will have to do something about their air conditioning situation. They had a ductless unit, two window units, and about half a dozen fans mounted on the wall. It's got to be cheaper to just install a central air unit (and much quieter).
It's served cold, with everything wrapped together like a sushi roll. The celery helps make it crunchy.
It's aslo a good balance to majority spicy menu (not that there is anything wrong with lots of spicy things).
Even though it's listed as a "small dish" it's pretty substantial -- enough food for 3 people to split.
They told me 1:30, then quickly said it would more like be 1:45. At all restaurants, the wait time never factors in the fact that many people ahead of you will give up. Maybe I'm really lucky, but at every restaurant I find that the actual wait time is about half of what's quoted.
The temperature inside the dinning room was fine.
The wait is worth it, and Spitzer's Corner was a pretty good place to sit it out.
And they do take reservations.
I agree that wait times are rarely as advertised (and we've waited much longer than that before); we just weren't really committed to going there anyway last night (more like a duck our heads in and check it out), but it's definitely tops on the list of to-gos. Can't believe how inexpensive it is.
I have to concur with just about everyone here - the hype is 100% deserved.
After a couple of disappointingly non-spicy Chinese outings in the past week or so (Legend, which is certainly supposed to be spicy but wasn't remotely so, and Yunnan Kichen, which perhaps is not supposed to be spicy?), Mission totally delivered just the right level of spice and was packed with flavor. Hot enough to feel it, without crying or compulsively downing all the drinks on the table. Success!
Everything we had was good, and I'd order any of it again, especially considering the gentle pricing. Lots of complexity and personality in each dish, but good balance across the board.
The dish that really blew us away was the Kung Pao Pastrami. Wow. When I came across one of the fatty bits and it exploded in my mouth with that ultra beefy spice, it took me right to Texas BBQ brisket... only with Sichuan style heat. Its a dish that sounds like a fusion joke, but it's absolutely a must-have.
The mapo tofu was super porky and rich, and probably the spiciest of the dishes we had by a slight margin. I have never seen so much pork in a mapo tofu.
The double cooked pork (bacon) had a great smokiness than permeated all of the rice cakes. My BF, who usually rolls his eyes when I order rice cakes, declared these the best rice cakes he's had (in terms of texture - I'm not sure I agree but they were tasty).
The tea smoked duck was great, and a good reprieve from the spicy stuff. As were the cucumbers (they had a nice nuttiness from tahini I think).
The only disappointment was that there were no lamb dumplings on the menu. I was totally psyched for some gamey, spicy lamb.
I will definitely be back here soon, lines or not. It won't replace Grand Sichuan's tounge and tripe salad for when I really want to burn my face off, but that pastrami is utterly addictive.
very surprisingly impressed by my meal tonight. wait was 45 minutes...host was a nice guy. the place is great...looks like an izakaya. it was cramped but everyone was friendly. service was VERY friendly. im always surprised when a place thats packed has friendly servers.
ordered perfectly...the smashed cucumbers, the thrice cooked bacon, kung pao pastrami, and the salted cod fried rice. i think we ordered very well...the cucumbers and the fried rice were practically refreshing against the heat of the other dishes.
the cucumbers were enjoyable. not a must-have but cool and refreshing and garlic-y. the thrice cooked bacon was just perfect. it was heat without being overwhelming. we asked for the heat to be dialed down if it was possible and the heat level was perfect. the bacon tasted like smoked ham and the spicy rice cakes and black bean sauce was just delicious. one of the best dishes ive had all year. the kung pao pastrami...it was great actually but not nearly as spicy as i expected it to be. the pastrami was perfect as was the roasted peanuts and greens. the fried rice wasnt fish-y at all. not a standout dish but it was necessary to balance out the meal.
great spot, great service, great prices, good vibe...im a huge fan.
I went again recently for lunch and thought the spice level had been toned down from my first visit. Still delicious, and a fabulous price, but yeah, the pastrami was not spicy (and sadly not as fatty), and the bacon was less spicy (but also less dry, which actually made it better). Only the mapo tofu still had a good kick. I guess the kitchen can be a little uneven.
We also tried the peas (I didn't think this was worth it - its really just some peas), and the Catfish a la Sichuan, which wasn't as spicy as the name would imply, but was delicious. The catfish was really a soup, so a little hard to share. Its the kind of dish you want to have your nose in the whole time, since its so fantastically aromatic.
Man, you guys are making me plan another trip to NYC to eat. This place sounds amazingly interesting.
wow, this is the second time recently when i've coincidentally gone to a restaurant for the first time on the night before the NY Times review came out...
i like the place...friendly staff...and the spiked yummy off-kilter food...and the fact that they serve Satoh shochu in teacups...food:
-- smashed cucumbers...i liked it, but i like the versions at Cafe China and Legend better...
-- mapo tofu...pretty great...loved the pork shoulder and the heat...
-- chicken hearts w/ chicken terrine and paper-thin sliced veggies...eh...not bad but i wouldn't order it again...
Will surely return...
6 visits in, and I'd say this is one of my favorite openings of the year. Sweet, friendly staff and good, reasonably priced food make it so.
Comparing the salt-cod fried rice here, at $11, with one of the fried rice dishes (Chinese sausage) at Yunnan Kitchen (at $13) is like night and day. At MCFNY it just sings, while at YK, it kinda just sits there.
I've been through just about the whole menu, and while there has been a clunker here and there, most everything else has been delicious.
And as far as the reservations go, our rather large party was seated at a regular table as opposed to the bar or high tops.
I have not eaten here, nor at the SF location. However, reading both this thread and the equivalent SF thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/719092) I note that many folks like MCF's version of ma po tofu / mapo dofu a lot. I also see what is purported to be Danny Bowien's recipe for this dish on Chow: http://www.chow.com/recipes/29102-ma-...
Out of curiosity I am wondering:
1) Is what folks eat at MCF a dish that would correspond to what the recipe describes?
2) Do folks here consider or prefer mapo tofu as a meat dish rather than a tofu dish (which is what the original really is)?
3) I see comments like " Finally, a mapo that was equal tofu and pork..."; or "Great texture, like a spicy Chinese bolognese..."; or "The texture of the gravy reminded me of Brunswick stew..."; all of which seems to suggest to me that the posters appreciated the much higher ratio of meat to tofu in the dish as put out by MCF. Would this be so?
Interesting. So he took out the beech mushrooms and changed the spice mixture quite a bit, then put in kombu. The rest look to be the same, more or less, with slightly different ratios and/or positioning in the recipe. The meat/tofu ratio is still relatively very high (1 lb pork : 1 lb tofu) in the May 2012 recipe.
Yes, it seems so - which is why I asked so as to check that notion. I myself much prefer it as a tofu dish with just some meat for the traditional dish.
I myself on occasion make a tofu-meat dish that is only mildly chili-hot with about a 1:1 ratio of ground BEEF to tofu and where I often leave out the sichuan peppercorns and use hoisin sauce, chili-garlic sauce and maybe oyster sauce. I wouldn't call this "mapo tofu", of course. :-)
My office has been closed for Christmas week so this was a perfect time to hit Mission Chinese. I had wanted to go before but the persistent stories of 2 hour waits for dinner deterred me. On a gray bone chilling day right after Christmas we waltzed right in for lunch at 12:30. You already know about the ambiance and the walk to the dining room past the kitchen and down a narrow hallway so lets go straight to the food.
Chili Pickled Long Beans In Red Oil
Long beans, cumin and chili and a bit of seaweed. Very good but an absolute salt bomb. About 40% above what a salt freak like myself considers comfortable. Fix that and I would order it every time.
Beer Brined Sichuan Pickles - napa cabbage, carrot, chili oil, sichuan pepper
Not pickles as most of us understand them, actually pickled cabbage. Refreshing and tasty. When we started eating this dish every 4th bite was hot enough to take the top of your head right off. After we got past the first level things calmed down. Belatedly we realized that this was a mixing problem. Some very hot spices had been shaken on top. Unlike Sichuan cumin lamb where you can see them shining evilly on top these were invisible, a snare for the unwary. I’d happily order this again but I’d stir it first.
Thrice Cooked Bacon - Shanghainese rice cakes, tofu skin, bitter melon, chili oil
It seemed more like Canadian bacon actually. Smokier than most Sichuian pork belly but otherwise similarly spiced. Served with a type of half dollar sized thin Chinese rice cakes which I’ve had a number of times before. Very good but not a revelation.
Stir fried Pork jowl w. radishes.
A relatively mild dish but with nice depth of flavor. Not as much jowl as I’d like – the meat was more of a flavoring than anything else. Pleasant.
Service was friendly and attentive, the quarters cramped to the point where we were regularly bumped by people making their way to and from their tables. Not that I blamed them. When it came time for us to leave we inadvertently bumped some people as well. It can’t be helped.
Having finally eaten here I can honestly say I liked the food a lot. I can also say that it’s possible for a place to be very good and yet also be overpraised. Man, is that ever the case here.
It sure isn’t Bowien’s fault. He seems to be a nice guy, unassuming, who puts out good food at very attractive prices. He doesn’t play the David Chang game of pretend modesty either. He is what he seems to be.
The food press, OTOH, is batshit crazy. Lets use Pete “I know fuck-all about Sichuan food” Wells as an example. In his original 2 star review last July Wells went completely wild:
“Mr. Bowien does to Chinese food what Led Zeppelin did to the blues. His cooking both pays respectful homage to its inspiration and takes wild, flagrant liberties with it. He grabs hold of tradition and runs at it with abandon, hitting the accents hard, going heavy on the funk and causing all kinds of delicious havoc.”
Let me be absolutely straight in my criticism of Wells. If someone went off to some hole in the wall Chinese place in a remote area of Queens and had these dishes served by an ethnic Chinese staff they’d think they were a bit unusual but well within the range of ethnic cooking. They would not think that Jesus, Buddha, and Moses were all in the kitchen performing miracles.
Wells is grading Bowien on the non-Chinese chef curve. That’s not Bowien’s fault but Wells ought to be embarrassed. He’s not. In fact, he put Mission Chinese on his list of “best new restaurants of 2012” in an article he wrote on December 24th.
The company was pretty august too. Gwynnett St.. Empellon Cocina. Blanca. Atera. The Nomad. Guess where Mission Chinese placed?
First. Numero Uno.
“True, I gave more stars to other restaurants. Mission Chinese Food, which got two, is young and probably still growing. The same dish might taste very different from one night to the next. But both versions would taste like nothing else in town. And no other restaurant I reviewed this year left me feeling as exhilarated each time I got up from the table. The chef, Danny Bowien, seems to have found a secret stash of flavor that he applies to food that may start out as Chinese but that leaves the kitchen as pure Mission Chinese.”
This is critical hyperventilation at it’s worst. Batshit crazy.
If I were the NY Times critic I’d give Mission Chinese an enthusiastic one star. I’d give Pete Wells a “Satisfactory.”
im actually sad to report an inconsistent meal on christmas at mission chinese. decided to avoid the ridiculous wait and ordered food to take home. everything was good but not great (and i actually love this place).
the ma po tofu was nothing like it usually was. i really disappointed as i find their version to actually be the best in the city...with firm tofu and hunks of braised pork. the sauce was way off and had no heat at all.
im going to blame it on the holiday but i really hope the food doesnt get inconsistent as they get bigger.