Traveling can be full of surprises, both bad and good. We were recently surprised in San Francisco to find out that Mission Chinese Food was closed for a summer holiday. Then, we were surprised again a couple of weeks later when we got into the normally crowded New York City location with a minimal wait.
We had wanted to check out Danny Bowien’s restaurant for a while, but the timing was never right. We suspected that we would dig the spicy fusion food since we love flavorful, creative food and have been enamored by Sichuan spiciness since our trip to Chengdu, China in 2010. Long story short, our suspicion was correct.
Mission Chinese Food’s New York City location is on the Lower East Side, right on Orchard Street among the Jewish clothiers and former tenement buildings. It looks pretty basic from the outside.
We jumped at the chance when we saw the relatively short line on a hot July Saturday evening.
The inside of the restaurant is totally different from the outside. Since we were on the early side, we were seated on the tail end of the restaurant’s first seating. We got the end of the large communal table in the funkily decorated room, which had a great view of the bar.
We started reading the menu and realized that we had a problem The two of us, even with our hungry appetites, couldn’t order everything that we wanted. If we did, then we’d be ordering the entire menu. We ordered drinks as we narrowed down our options. Daryl ordered a glass of the Gotham Projects Riesling, and Mindi ordered a Sixpoint Crisp Lager, both on tap. We narrowed down our food options, and happily waited for the feast to begin.
Although we had gotten right in, all of the tables were full. Everybody was glad to be in the air-conditioned food mecca, even the servers.
Food at Mission Chinese Food
Soon, the food started coming at a rapid pace. First out was the smashed cucumbers with salted chili, sesame paste and fresh garlic. Fresh and crunchy, the dish’s flavors got our mouths primed for the spicy food yet to come.
We were especially curious about the Kung Pao Pastrami with thick chunks of pastrami, peanuts, celery, potato and explosive chili. Our curiosity was quickly sated, as this dish came out second. We loved the clever dish that took a Chinese standard and added an ethnic element from the neighborhood.
Next out was the Chongquing chicken wings with explosive chili and even more explosive nuggets of crispy beef tripe. The server had warned us that this was the hottest dish on the menu, which was anything but a deterrent for the 2foodtrippers. Of course the wings were hot, but the dish also had a complexity of flavors beyond “hot”. Plus, the crispy beef tripe pieces were little gems in the plate that added a spicy sweetness.
Daryl needed some rice and a napkin to counterbalance the heat from the wings.
Mindi passed on the rice and instead enjoyed a T-100 with rum, cantaloupe, soy milk, almond and black pepper. It was liquid refreshment with a kick.
The fun continued as the noodle dish arrived. We had been tempted to order ramen since we love ramen. (See our previous post about Tokyo’s Ramen Street.) But, we instead ordered a dish unique to Mission Chinese Food – egg egg noodles with a soft hen egg, ginger, scallion and black vinegar.
The final dish that came out was ironic insomuch that we thought it would come out first. Our dessert became Beijing vinegar peanuts with smoked garlic confit, anise, fennel seeds and rock sugar. Not a problem.
The impromptu meal was a good surprise and quite a feast. It’s a good thing we took some pictures before it was all gone.
We have several standby’s in New York for inexpensive, delicious food. Mission Chinese Food is now on this list. We will be back.
Mission Chinese Food is located at 154 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002, USA & 2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.