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Mission Chinese - Put down the Kool Aid

Ok, So i FINALLY went here last night. I felt I was prepared - I was not expecting anything traditional but some sort of new/unique interpretation of Chinese food. What I felt I got was slightly tweaked versions of real dishes that were so-so and just left me feeling like I was at a not great regular Chinese restaurant.

I got:

Pork Jowl
Fish Frangrant Eggplant
Cumin Lamb.

The cumin lamb was probably the worst version of it I've had at any restaurant ever. It wasn't terrible but it was only OK and its usually quite good anywhere else that bothers to make it. Pork Jowl I thought was kind of boring and the eggplant I thought was just a mediocre version of egglplant in garlic sauce. Again, it wasn't new or innovative, it was just an ok version of a real dish. Why are people waiting on line here? What is with all the type? Am I taking crazy pills? I would never order any of the dishes I got again and with that type of a miss rate I have no desire to go back to give it a second try on the chance I did a terrible job ordering the first time. Any others in the same boat?

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  1. I'd try the kung pao pastrami or the thrice cooked bacon if you're looking for something more unique.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      As is the tofu poached in soy milk (I've never seen it on a menu before).

    2. I'm not one to go crazy for very hyped restaurants but I still found the mapo tofu to be just outstanding. The kung pao pastrami was good also. I went at lunch and was seated immediately, which might have improved my mood and my readiness to like the food.

      1. Take the place for what it is: Americanized Oriental food. That's Danny Bowien's own description. The Kung Pao Pastrami and Thrice-Cooked Bacon are unique, as Kathryn mentions. Delicious and inventive takes. One issue is that the music can get loud at times but I am glad I first heard "Senegal Fast Food" there!

        6 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl

            For those interested there was a long thread on the SF Board some years back about MCF when it initially opened. There were some humorous yet very heated exchanges about why MCF is bad according to those who have been eating Chinese and Cantonese food overseas.


            The takeaway from that thread is that Mission Chinese is basically Chinese food re-interpreted, while retaining similar yet misleading names, but totally different style, approach, and execution. This style of food is obviously not for everyone and can thrive in the USA, but probably not much at all in Taiwan, SE Asia, Hong Kong, China. However when Bowien was a guest chef at an event in southern China, he cooked some high end stuff with fusion touches that had little to no resemblance to MC/MCF....yet the HK bloggers ate it up and enjoyed it....so Bowien understands his audience, just like Chang. Surely the stuff he cooked in southern China would also sell well here, but perhaps that's going to be another project another time, since MC/MCF continues to sell.

            At least I know where to get my dan dan noodles, and not get a version called dan dan noodles but is 1) cold 2) contains sesame paste and 3) fairly one dimensional in flavor.

            1. re: K K

              As I see it, there are two issues here:

              1) Is it good or bad food -- on a basic level, is everything properly cooked, does it taste good, etc.; and

              2) Is it unique -- are they doing something that's actually notable -- plenty of places can manage to cook food well.

              1) The general consensus seems to be yes. While there have been some complaints about it being too salty (first time I went the pastrami was a bit salty), but Renguin is the first person I've heard to have had such a downright negative view of the food. I think his experience was an outlier (and he/she could have ordered better) .

              2) I think some people have overblown how unique it is. They took the classic Americanized chinese food menu that hasn't been changed since the 1950s, and updated it -- dishes are supposed to be recognizable. For example, they've turned Beef with Broccoli into Broccoli Beef Brisket with Smoked Oyster Sauce. Kung Pao Pastrami is pretty much your standard meet with stir fried vegetables, except that they use pastrami. And instead of having vegetable/chicken/shrimp/beef fried rice, they do it with mackerel. I do think the changes are enough to qualify it as unique (relative to Americanized Chinese Food) -- and they do have what seem to be original creations, like the poached tofu in soy milk -- but they're certainly not trying to reinvent Chinese food.

              1. re: von_levi

                I liked my one meal at Mission. The Thrice Cooked Bacon was way too salty, and when I returned it, they said it was normal. But overall it was all fun and pretty good.

                1. re: von_levi

                  There's a third issue--is it Chinese? I think this is where P.F. Chang falls off the boat.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Well, MCF is very clear about the fact that it is not Chinese, but American Chinese, or "Americanized Oriental Food" as they describe it on their website. Same could be said of P.F. Chang.

          2. You ordered very questionably.

            1. You made the mistake of ordering real Chinese dishes at a restaurant that specializes in distinctly Sino- American food.

              2 Replies
              1. re: swannee

                Yeah, it's all Renguin's fault. Bad Renguin!

                1. re: knucklesandwich

                  No one actually said that. What I said was that all that have liked it are entitled to their opinions as well. No need for us all to put down any kool-aid. I've eaten at MCFNY quite a few times and my experiences have all been pleasant.

              2. Danny Bowien is a Fing rock star whether anybody likes it or not, the guy is Rick Springfield in 1981

                4 Replies
                1. re: AubWah

                  Rick Springfield: a guy who gave a lot of people some superficial short-term pleasure, made no lasting cultural contribution, and eventually vanished without a trace, virtually forgotten, leaving nothing significant behind.

                  Really makes me want to wait two hours to eat in this place.

                  1. re: Sneakeater

                    "...some superficial short-term pleasure, made no lasting cultural contribution, and eventually vanished without a trace, virtually forgotten, leaving nothing significant behind."

                    You've just described most of my favorite meals.

                    I enjoyed MCF for what it was.

                  2. re: AubWah

                    Euu... AubWah, MCF is a decent place. You're making it sound awful.

                    1. re: knucklesandwich

                      I love Rick Springfield and was listening to him last night

                  3. I've had one dish from Mission Chinese, the chilled dan dan noodles, and based on that and that alone, I concur with the OP. It is an attractive dish - soba noodles lightly dressed with a sesame sauce and ringed by pickled mustard greens, tiny carrot rounds, some other greenery (the menu sez pea shoots, but it was something else, more cabbage-y), and yuba. The supporting players tasted pleasant enough, although once I learned to make my own pickled mustard greens (it ain't hard), I have ceased to be impressed by anyone else's. The problem was the spicing.

                    I'm not a true heat-head, I freely admit. I am crazy about X'ian's cold skin noodles, and Legend's Sliced Conch Peppery Flavor, and Ollie's on 42nd St.'s Tears in Eyes mung bean noodles. But I don't automatically like spicy food just for being spicy. And the spiciness in Mission's noodles did not win me over. For starters, it's inexpertly applied. There were clumps of spice powder lying in wait throughout the dish. It is no fun at all to bite down one of those, and I can't imagine anyone would do so on purpose (I could be wrong - maybe it's desirable and I just don't get it). But what really repelled me was the overall unpleasantness - it's not so much warming or numbing (which I like) as burning, almost poisonous. I even had a few minutes of worry that I'd inadvertently ingested dishwasher soap, that's how non-culinary the taste was. But I'm alive, so obviously Mission isn't serving anything dangerous.

                    Because I want to like the place, I'll go back and try some more stuff and hope that it's more to my liking. I'm particularly interested in the fried rice (which I'll get sans sausage), so if anyone's had that, I'd like to know your thoughts.

                    1 Reply
                    1. We tried Mission Chinese for the first time last weekend. We ordered:

                      salt cod fried rice
                      mapo tofu
                      cumin lamb
                      egg noodles with hen egg, ginger, scallions and ham
                      kung pao pastrami
                      smashed cucumbers

                      I generally liked everything, particularly the fried rice, noodles, and the mapo tofu. The kung pao pastrami was mostly celery, not enough pastrami or peanuts. The cumin lamb was tasty but rather fatty. The heat wasn't quite on the same level as Szechuan Gourmet but the saltiness was almost overwhelming.

                      I'd probably go back to try some of the other dishes but I'm not rushing. I loved the vibe and the service but it's definitely not worth the long wait (for me anyway). The good news is that we didn't have any trouble getting a reservation for a group a few weeks in advance.