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Mission Chinese Food New York


I have to admit to having something of a double standard when it comes to snapping pics of restaurant food and posting them on my blog.

On vacation, I will happily — nay, gleefully — take pictures of food. I will obnoxiously angle for the perfect shot, shoo away the anxious fingers of my dining companions, and blatantly ignore the wide-eyed stares of other patrons. The staff is generally stoic about my behavior. I find that they tolerate it even though I wonder if, when they talk among themselves, they wish that I wouldn’t do it.

I don’t care. I’m on vacation, gosh darn it!

However, I do care when it is in my own backyard. Taking photos of food in NYC turns shameless vacation-me into sheepish, overly apologetic local-me. When I take pictures of what I eat in New York, I always cringe a little inside.

Oh the hypocrisy!

Maybe the double standard comes from the fact that I will probably return to these restaurants. Or that wait staff seem to appear at one restaurant, and then they magically pop up at other ones, so that you end up seeing the same faces again and again. Or maybe it is because New York City is a mecca for photo-snapping foodies and like every other snooty local, I don’t want to be associated with a bunch of Yelpers.

What is it that they say about not peeing in the pool you swim in? Or not pooping where you eat? Something like that feeling.

However, I do make two exceptions. Like when friends are in town. “Take a picture!!!!” I will squeal. “I’ll take one for you!!!!! Let’s get the server to take a picture of us!!!!!!”

I just get so excited about their visit that I want to immortalize the moment in digital form, food included.

And sometimes, I just can’t resist taking pictures of what I eat when the food is exceptional. Really, truly exceptional.

Like it was at the newly opened Mission Chinese Food New York. This eagerly anticipated restaurant took over the cursed space left by Bia Garden, Michael “Bao” Huyn’s ill-conceived Vietnamese beer garden (note to prospective restaurant investors: don’t open a beer garden dedicated to a country that has no craft beer).

Mission Chinese New York is the first branch of Danny Bowien‘s famed and acclaimed San Francisco food destination Mission Chinese Food.

He was also in the house the day that I had lunch with my friend Kelly.

That lunch? Phenomenal. Just wow. Wow. It was . . . oh, man. It was good. Really, really good.

It was so good that I broke my no-photos-in-NYC rule.

In the words of the Mouse over at the blog, Live2EatEat2Live, the socks came off 😉

And for Mike over at testerfoodblog, this post is for you!

What we ate:

Szechuan pepper corn Micheladas

Fresh tofu poached in soy milk with broad bean paste, soy beans and sesame leaves

Thrice-cooked bacon with Shanghainese rice cakes, tofu skin, bitter melon and chili oil

Kung-Pao pastrami with peanuts, celery, potato and explosive chili

Wild pepper leaves with pressed tofu and pumpkin in salted chili broth

Where we ate:

Mission Chinese Food New York, 154 Orchard Street (between Rivington and Stanton), New York, NY 10002

* Mission Chinese Food also donates $0.75 of every main course to the Food Bank of New York City. So not only is Mission Chinese super good for getting your om noms on, but it’s good for the community too!

** Just a quick note to my dear readers, the dissertation has been a little overwhelming lately, so I might not be posting or commenting as frequently! Many apologies!

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82 Comments

  1. I have to check it out. Recently been to Full House Cafe on Bowery, it’s upscale from the usual Chinese and dimsum and food is great. You pay a bit more but It’s more quiet, very clean, and has different size tables – small as well as the big round ones for huge groups. I love it!

    • Mission Chinese was pretty awesome. I always seem to miss out on going to the one in SF and was thrilled to the gills to hear that they were opening another one on the LES.

      Best thing? No line!

      No line . . . yet 😉

  2. Steve

    Wait…there’s such a thing as TRIPLE-cooked bacon? Why has this been hidden from me for so long?

    • It’s poached, steamed, and FRIED which makes it silky smooth AND crunchy!

      So, you and Michelle are coming to NYC soon, right?

      🙂

      • If we weren’t leaving for Europe in about 8 weeks, I wouldn’t be able to keep Steve from catching the first flight out (and, yay, they just resumed direct flights from here). But we’re coming before too long. Stretchy pants and all!

        • Oooh! Europe! I am very excited for you too. They do lovely things with pigs over there 🙂

          Whenever you decide to come to NYC, we’ll eat!

  3. Looks luscious! Do you think you can replicate some part of the meal for us in the blogosphere? Pictures are OK. Everyone takes them everywhere with the ubiquitous cell phone, local or not. For the D, set small, short term goals and allow yourself a break, like going to Mission Chinese. Don’t look at the “allness” of it or the D becomes a mental breakdown! I like they donate money to the Food Bank.

    • I was just thinking that! I need to get my hands on Mission Chinese cookbook that was recently published. These dishes would be awesome to try out making at home.

      I love how they give back to the community too. The Mission Chinese in SF has given back over $125K!

      Thanks too for the tips about relieving stress. I need them!

    • The Kung Pao pastrami was awesome. I popped a particularly fatty piece in my mouth (no lipophobia here). It was like a smoky, meltingly succulent pork butter bomb. Almost illegal, it was so good!

      Testerfoodblog made it from the Mission Chinese cookbook that was published recently. It makes me think that I should try it at home too!

  4. Gosh darn it all woman! You need to put a warning on your blog – “Do Not Read If You Are Hungry”. I feel like jumping in the car and driving down to NYC for Chinese. Thrice cooked bacon??!! Kung Pao pastrami?!! My mouth is watering. I just drooled on my iPad. I need professional help…..and some pork products.Sending you happy thoughts as you deal with your dissertation. 🙂

  5. I’m a believer thanks to you. The triple-fried bacon, and the yummy tofu dish have piqued my interest. Thanks for a great post!

    • I thought it was great. A little non-traditional maybe, but who cares if it tastes awesome!

      I can go to Hot Kitchen for traditional 😉

  6. This was torturous for me, I’m still on that cleanse and every picture and description made want to eat it right away. I’m so envious! I’m totally putting this on my list for the next NY visit. Which should be coming up fairly soon….

    • I know! I think that’s why the photos are a little blurry. I was trying to sneak them in before the staff saw me!

      I couldn’t resist though. Too darn good!

  7. Awesome review! And perfect articulation of my own public food photography shame.
    Oh, and darn it, I love it that you used the word ‘nay’. 🙂

    • There is nary a day without a nay 😉

      Yes, I felt slightly awkward snapping pics. I think that’s why they’re all a little blurry! It’s funny, when I went to Barcelona a couple of years ago, I totally didn’t care. Snap, snap, snap! I’m one of those tourists 😉

    • It’s not a bad thing 🙂 Good food should be documented.

      Bad food is sometimes fun to document too.

      Fried food is the best to photograph! One of these summers, I am going to make it to the Iowa State Fair and I am going to take a zillion photos of me eating fried foods on sticks!

    • It is really great! The space they took over was designed to be kind of a “hidden” space. So the outside looks like a crappy Chinese takeout place, but then the host comes out and walks you through the kitchen, what used to be the freezer, and into the covered garden where the tables are.

      Go, go, go!

  8. That looks and sounds fantastic! Not that I’m anywhere near close enough to NYC to pop on in for a visit of my own, so I guess I’ll have to live vicariously through you.

    I very rarely snap photos of restaurant food. I always want to, but I don’t want to be “that guy.” Or, you know, “that girl.” Guess that’s more accurate. 🙂 In any case, it sounds like this meal was worth it!

    This post does make me think of a kinda funny video I saw the other day:

  9. Robin

    So awesome- that looks fantastic. I love getting good recommendations for city eats so I don’t have to rely on yelp- haha- “yelpers”- love it.

    • I actually really have a problem with most Yelpers. Maybe it’s the academic in me, but I always think, “Who are you? What is your background? Why should I trust you?” Also, I cringe when I see how much is wrongly attributed, and how many spelling errors and gross generalizations there are. It just instills zero confidence in me.

      And then there is the taste issue 😦

      I suppose people can levy the same criticisms against me, but I’m working on a big fancy dissertation on food and French literature so nyah, nyah, nyah!!!!!!!

      (insert sound of blowing raspberries here)

      I have just impressed you with my maturity level, right? 😉

  10. THAT BROTH. Good lord just looking at that photo makes my mouth water. Can’t wait for the next time I’m back in the States to hit this place up.

    • It was so good! There were thin slices of pumpkin in the broth. Drizzled on top? Pumpkin seed oil! Divine!

      You should definitely go when you are back in the States!

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  13. Great pics and post. Some dishes look slightly different from SF version. Makes me hungry to go up to the Mission and get some MCF!

  14. I have the exact same problem with taking pictures in restaurants, I find it really embarrassing taking photos (but generally will when I am abroad). Everyone over here does it, but I find that slightly odd, I would never take a photo of food (or public transport, which people also take lots of random pictures of) just for the sake of it, there would have to be a blog-like reason for it.

    • I agree. I’m not sure what it is about being abroad that makes me less shy about whipping the camera out. I think that it’s probably because I travel places where there are not as many rabid bloggers? Or maybe it’s because I travel in August and all the rabid bloggers are out of town? Or maybe I just re-categorize them in my head as vacation-snaps, so I don’t have the same embarrassment . . .

      I don’t know why people take pictures of public transportation either. One thing that I have noticed lately are tourists who stand in the middle of a busy avenue, put their camera-phones on the pavement, and try to snap pictures of taxi cabs. Uh, stupid maybe?!

    • It was! I couldn’t resist 🙂

      Although clearly my iPhone’s oleophobic coating was no match for massive amounts of Chinese chili oil!

    • I know 😉 I can’t wait still they start delivering because then I can order all that triple-cooked bacon for myself and I don’t have to share it with anyone!

  15. I had that triple-cooked pastrami at the one in SF. It is OFF THE HOOK. I’m glad you loved this place as much as I did.

  16. Yum! Thanks for sharing … next time I’m in NYC I might have to try Mission … and take the socks off 🙂

  17. I think iPhone users have it a bit better. You carry an iPhone around and it can be pretty much ignored. I use an SLR and it only serves one purpose at the dinner table. I’ve progressed in a huge loop with taking photos of food that I haven’t made myself. I guess it’s only because I’ve read too much about it that I am now shy or embarrassed to pull out my camera before eating. I just don’t do it anymore. My friends and family will often remind me or encourage me to snap a photo if the food is particularly beautiful, only because they know I want to. But some places I get bashful. It may be a case of not pissing in the pool you swim in though.

    I take photos of all my food on vacation. But when on vacation, its different because you can even take photos of you standing beside the most mundane items.

    • So true! I have to admit that I haven’t yet managed to figure out how to improve on my iPhone shots. I have a friend who is a photographer, and hers turn out amazing! Mine turn out . . . well, I’m just happy they turn out kind-of okay 🙂

      It’s true about vacation shots. I think that when servers and staff see that you’re a tourist, you get a total pass!

      • My sister has an SLR camera that doesn’t get much use these days due to “upgrading” to an iPhone. She takes great photos with it too so I think it’s doable.

        One of the things I love about traveling is being an unashamed tourist.

  18. i understand what you mean — when i’m in another city, i go crazy in restaurants with photos, but when i ate at Mission Chinese here in NYC, i had my fancy camera with me, but i didn’t take a single photo of the food (actually i did take photos of the room when i was done eating, because i liked the style). that being said, i LIKED Mission Chinese, but the food was really over the top. i think it’s the kind of place you need to go with a bunch of people and share lots of dishes, like maybe a bite or two of each. it’s not the kind of food i just want to sit down and eat a plate of. it’s just too much, too intense, too spicy, and those are words i almost never speak. i like spice, but even those peanuts were practically insane. i just wanted to try a little bit and that was it, not eat a whole bowl of them. same goes for everything i had except for maybe the Chinese broccoli dish. sounds like we don’t see eye-to-eye, but the point is that i’d never go back here unless it was to impress some crazy out-of-town foodie who loves really spicy food. i’d much rather eat at a place like nearby Yunnan Kitchen where the chef doesn’t have to try so hard, or i’d rather just go to Chinatown. btw, do you remember there was another restaurant in this space, that Vietnamese-style taco place… i’m forgetting the name now. i think that was the most recent one here before Mission — they had a restaurant hidden in the back, or you could just order the tacos at the counter in the front.

    • It’s okay to not see eye-to-eye. I promise I won’t come after you with a piece of Kung Pao pastrami 😉

      I can understand feeling like the food is over-the-top, but I do really like the food. Maybe it is because I grew up eating Cantonese food all the time, so now I want something really spicy, oily, super salty and completely different.

      But I can totally see how it might seem that the kitchen and the concept are trying too hard. I just hope that they don’t get lazy or cocky like the Momofuku gang and start churning out really mediocre food for jaded palates at ridiculous prices (currently, the prices at MCF are really modest!).

      That bring said, Yunnan Kitchen is terrific. And much calmer!

      Yes, that unfortunate space housing Mission Chinese had a series of flops starting with Bia Garden, then Huyn’s equally as ill-conceived Chinito (the Vietnamese taqueria you mentioned) and Andy & Bao, which no one even remembers because it folded so quickly.

      Rhong-Tiam tried to resurrect the space but that failed too.

      It looks like Bowien has a hit there now! Maybe he broke the curse?

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    • Enjoy! I would recommend getting there very early. Email eservations are only for the very few spots at the bar and are hard to come by.

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