Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mission Chinese Food || 5.19.12

So I've got a friend.  A great friend.  He's one of those friends that everyone should have.  A foodie forward, game for anything & actually on top of his shit friend.  One that instinctively knows which events will be awesome, which restaurants are worth checking out, and which bars have the best cocktails.  So when I told said friend I was coming to New York on an impromptu trip, he lined up a pretty spectacular meal, one I'll remember for quite some time, and one that makes me want to book another round trip flight to the big apple ASAP.  So thank you Jared & thank you VICE and your Munchies series for making this all happen!

Mission Chinese Food, a much applauded San Fran classic was making it's move to New York and my friend had snagged 2 seats for their preview dinner.  Mission Chinese is by all accounts a dive pop-up that cooks out of another kitchen, Lung Shan in off hours.  The chef, Danny Bowien is a Korean, adopted at birth by non-Koreans in Oklahoma City who never cooked Chinese food until he opened the doors to his restaurant. That seems like a recipe for disaster, non?

Nope, it wasn't.  Bowien, like many of his contemporaries, understands the changing nature of the food landscape and completely embraced the unique melting pot of cultures that helped form him into the chef he is today.  Classified as "Recognizably Chinese" Bowien's menu draws on traditional fare, but pushes it a step further by infusing his own take on the subject.  This was wild-y evident in what was easily my favorite dish of the night... Kung Pao Pastrami!

Celebrated by the likes of James Beard, Food & Wine, Zagat, Bon Appetit & GQ, this is clearly not someone to be missed.  Now, onto the eats!!

White Soy, Cumin, Chili Vinegar
Salted Chili, Sesame Paste, Fresh Coriander
 We started off the meal with a few small nibbles, the long beans were a touch on the vinegary side for a first bite, but as the food progressed I certainly appreciated a bite or two to cool off my mouth.  The smashed cucumbers on the other hand were phenomenal!  I think I could have easily eaten a plate full of em and called it a day! Well worth the snackage.

 MAPO TOFU (12.5)
Pork Shoulder, Doubanjiang, Sichuan Pepper
 Jared's "must have" when ordering, this was silky and delicious but MAN was it spicy. Being the little lightweight that I am, I could only manage through a few bites before I had to stop.

Slow Cooked Mackerel, Chinese Sausage, Lettuce, Egg
 When ordering the Mapo Tofu, you MUST order this delicious rice dish as well. Unless your stomach is lined with wildfire you'll appreciate the salty sweet of this dish to offset. The fish flavor was very light and paired perfectly with the slightly sweet & smoky Chinese sausage.

Peanuts, Celery, Potato, Explosive Chili 
 Like I said earlier, FAVORITE DISH. And surprisingly not nearly as spicy as the Tofu, even with the words "explosive chili" in the title.  Then again, I mostly ate the Pastrami & Peanuts, skipping the bright red peppers when possible.  Truly an amazing plate of food and one I'd come back for time & time again.

Black Vinegar, Rock Sugar, Peanuts, Numbing Peppercorn
 Very solid dumpling dish, the lamb cheeks were tender and flavorful, the broth a perfect vinegary spice and the dumpling wrappers very light. But with everything else the menu had to offer, this was just a good dish, not great.

Shanghainese Rice Cakes, Tofu Skin, Bitter Melon, Chili Oil
 Another one of those "must gets" when coming. For anyone who's never tried a rice cake before, this is the perfect dish to pop your rice cake cherry.  The chewy cakes mixed with the smoky & meaty bacon and the spicy chili oil was a perfect combination.  We did find ourselves dipping the rice cakes into the leftover Smashed Cucumber sauce which was also amazing.

Chicken Terrine, Dry Spiced Chicken Hearts, Vegetable Noodles
 The next morning my friend IM's me... "when did we get chicken hearts?!" The answer was here. A cold and refreshing dish, this was very delicate & complex in flavor.  It was a nice unexpected treat!

Pulled Pork Trotter, Chinese Celery, Cheung Fun, Crispy Fish Skin 
 By this point in the evening we were already stuffed to the brim but there were two more dishes that we HAD to try.  The Tea Smoked Eel was a nice and light ending to the dinner (granted we probably should have ordered it as an appetizer.) Good but nothing super special here.

Sea Urchin, Trout Roe, Apple, Citron 
 And finally, we ended on the Savory Egg Custard which was just... WOW. Wow wow wow is all I can say. If you go, definitely treat yourself to one of these.

Mission Chinese Food (NY)
154 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
(b/w Rivington & Stanton)

*And seriously, what's the best part about a massive Chinese Feast?  The leftovers of course...

Or as Anthony Bourdain calls it: The Best Hangover Cure


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