By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
In a city as big as New York filled with over 4,000 restaurants, there are bound to be a few places more popular than we can begin to imagine. Mission Chinese Food located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is just one of those restaurants, but despite it’s popularity I hadn’t been until this week. DJs Matt, Jordan, and Molly joined me and they hadn’t been before either.
We shared the little fried fish appetizer, which is served with seaweed, potato chips, and malt vinegar aioli. For $10, it wasn’t quite worth it. The basket was mostly chips and even then there just wasn’t a lot of food to the dish. The fish itself was mostly forgettable. The malt vinegar aioli was nice, but mixed with the saltiness of the fish it was a bit too salty.
Molly had the Fresh Rice Noodles, which is served with country sausage X.O., basil, mint, salted chili, and citrus for $12. She felt it was a bit too spicy, but also admits to not having a high tolerance for heat in her food. Jordan said his meal tasted good, but the portion size was too small for him.
Matt had the Taiwanese Clams served with soy caramel, basil, Yukon gold potatoes, lotus root, and fried garlic, which also cost $12. He felt that “the Taiwanese clams themselves were pretty savory, even a bit flavor-heavy in ways that sort of drowned out the texture.” While he said he wouldn’t take points off for this, he did say it seemed unusual.
I had the Kung Pao Pastrami, which comes with peanuts, celery, potato, and explosive chili for $12.50. The waiter brought out some rice for me since my dish came with explosive chili, which was nice. The dish itself was delicious. The pastrami was cooked perfectly and was quite juicy. The vegetables were fresh tasting and the chili was truly fantastic.
I was worried that the heat of the chili would be too overpowering for me and I would be unable to taste the other flavors, but that wasn’t the case at all. With that said, however, I did think the dish had a poor meat-to-vegetable ratio and I some most of my time searching for more pastrami to no avail. It was only $12.50 though, and I’ve been places where the dish had the same ratio and cost twice as much.
The restaurant boasts a full bar as well as a specialty cocktail list. Matt and I both ordered cocktails, which cost $12 each. His drink was a bourbon cocktail and mine was gin. $12 is a pretty common cocktail price in this city, but Mission goes above and beyond by serving them in large glasses. The bartender also didn’t skimp on the alcohol, as our drinks were plenty strong. I was surely impressed with this aspect.
As a whole, I think our group enjoyed the ambiance of Mission. The restaurant definitely comes off a bit divey, or hole-in-the-wall, and the owners play off of that well. Matt said he enjoyed this aspect as well as their “tongue-in-cheek nods to ’90s nostalgia” by playing old tunes and sporting Michael Jordan posters.
The restaurant was dimly lit and the chairs were a bit uncomfortable, however. Because Mission is so popular, this also isn’t the type of place at which you can sit down and hang for a while. We arrived right at 5:30 when it opened so we were seated right away, but the line formed quickly afterward.
The service is family style, so it can take a while. Again, because we arrived early, we didn’t have trouble on this front, but I can imagine that, as the restaurant gets busier and the night goes on, they might have some trouble bringing out dishes quickly. Our waiter was attentive and the owner of the restaurant came up to our table afterwards and introduced himself. He also asked us about our experience, which I’ve only seen a number of times.
Overall, my experience at Mission Chinese Food was a good one. I did enjoy my dish, my drink, and my time there.