With its outpost finally open in New York and the city’s obsession with the gastronomic genre otherwise known as Asian Hipster Cuisine, Mission Chinese Food is the city’s latest, with its installment of fiery, Asian-inspired eateries that will have you ooh, ah, and simultaneously humph, too. Stockpiling nods from Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, and New York Magazine, the space is often swarming with crowds that appear to have nothing better to do with their lives than sit around clad in their polka dots and baseball caps, waiting for a meal you would think was being handed out for free. (Think homeless shelter, but better suited for the ironic and hip).
A keg flowing with free beer for those who wait, can pacify the frustration, so do the Congqing Chicken Wings with spicy chili and crispy beef tripe, passed around on occasion, as you learn that your hour-long wait is probably going to be more like a two-hour long detention. But unlike the overweening air you get from any of David Chang’s establishments, the folks who run the show at Mission exhibit no pretension, their friendliness coming across as genuinely appreciative. This is almost off-putting, considering the mutually conflicting condition of heaven and hell one has to endure prior to sitting down.
Thus, an untainted critique is almost impossible to provide, given the grueling sense of excitement that surrounds the experience of managing to finally eat. Despite that, the food is full of life. Invigorating, it redefines the cuisine associated with convenience and acid reflux, elevating Chinese food with texture, spice, and heat.
More than the heavily-praised cumin lamb breast, and thrice cooked bacon everyone is raving about, the technique of which the vegetables are rendered steal the show. Eggplant is luxuriously stir-fried with garlic and tomatoes, its consistency kissed with Thai basil and the crunch of sunflower seeds.
The Mongolian Long Beans, albeit quite spicy, retain an energetic bite and chew that will leave you rethinking string beans and their typically muted impression.
Mission Chinese Food
154 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002